Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Interview with Aubrey Coletti, author of the Academy series

Aubrey Coletti is a singer-songwriter, dancer, and the author of Altered and Shattered, Books One and Two in The Academy Series. She can be found on her website

Connect and socialize with Aubrey on Twitter or Facebook.

Connect & Socialize!


About the Books:

When Toni, Joseph and Charlie arrive at their new boarding school, they are glad to leave their families — and respective problems — behind. Isolated as boarders, they meet a handsome senior with a personality like iced snake's blood, teachers with a penchant for physical punishment, and four other outcasts who reveal that their being brought to the Academy wasn't random at all. When the arrivals discover that their new school is engaged in "behavior modification" through electric shocks, isolation, restraints, and an ever-evolving set of methods to "fix" them, they declare war on their Academy. During their campaign of sabotage, they fight, hate, scorn, love, and begin to uncover the reasons why they were brought to the school. But as their war against the school escalates beyond their control, will they become the very things the Academy believes they are: dangerous, delinquent — and mad?

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Discuss this book in our PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads by clicking HERE

School’s in session at J. Alter Academy, and for Toni, Joseph, Ann, Charlie, and their boarder friends, that means they are still at the mercy of its draconian ways. While suffering the harsh consequences of their attempted escape, the seven teens must also contend with the formidable Headmistress and her taste for human experimentation — with the boarders as her favorite subjects. The seven friends play a delicate, dangerous game as they seek to discover the secrets behind their school and their own unique abilities. Yet as they move closer to uncovering the truth, will one of them be forced to pay the ultimate price?

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Can you tell us what your book is about?

“Altered” is the story of a group of teens sent to J. Alter Academy — a school that uses draconian behavior modification techniques to “fix” their problems — who decide to fight back. “Shattered” continues their story, as they try to figure out why they were chosen for their school in the first place, what makes them special.

Why did you write your books?

Two reasons; the characters came from the people around me, my family, and my friends. I had the characters developed somewhat even before I knew where the story was going. But it was when I found out that schools and behavior modification centers and camps existed — and still exist — that do the things detailed in the book to real teenagers that I realized I had a purpose to writing. I’m someone who deals with mental illness, who has a family history of mental illness, and who has friends with mental illnesses. And to find out, as a teenager, that there are still places where kids can be shocked, deprived of food, held in dangerous choke holds, kept in stress positions, cut off from their families, subjected to mental and physical abuse in the name of un-scientifically supported “treatment” — legally? It was horrifying. Realizing places like this exist, and exist near to where I lived, that gave me the setting for the characters. Everything grew from that.

Can you tell us a little about your main and supporting characters?

There are three characters we meet at the beginning who have been brought to the school; Toni, Joseph and Charlie. There is another who is in their same year who has always lived in the town and is starting the school; Ann. They are the main POV characters. Charlie is very quirky, cute, and intelligent, but also chronically terrified: she’s been sent to the school because all other treatments for her schizophrenia have failed. Joseph is witty, sarcastic, funny, and passionate; he has been sent to J. Alter Academy because of his behavioral problems and history of starting fires. Ann is feisty, fiery, and impulsive — because she’s also been labeled a problem child due to her drinking, she is not living in her own home. Toni is sassy, clever, and incisive; she considers herself “normal” but is hiding a secret that bubbles up in her panic attacks. Once at the school they meet Anton, Lieutenant, and Melvin, who are the ringleaders of the little group fighting back. These friends have to square off against the principal, Mrs. Carter, who believes she is doing what’s best for the children even when literally shocking them; and the Headmistress, whose reasons for creating and controlling the school are much more complex and mysterious.

Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?

Oh, definitely influenced by real people! But once you take your characters and place them in a situation different from your own, they really develop beyond what you can control or even conceive. For example, one of my oldest friends was the prototype for Toni. She was initially wary about how her character didn’t have some of the unique “abilities” of the other students. But by the end of the book my friend really loved her, and felt the character was so much her own person that she could view Toni as a separate being (albeit one who used some of her coolest lines!)

Open the book to page 69.  What is happening?

Toni and Charlie have just seen two of their friends taken away to be disciplined with skin shocks. They are trying to avoid the attention of the guard on the bus, and to sneak a look at the note Anton has slipped them telling them where to meet that night.

Is it hard to promote a Young Adult book and where do you start?

For me it is, because while Young Adult is hot right now (rightly so, I’d say, since adolescence is such an exciting, intense time, and thus is already a perfect stage for drama and change) most of the market is taken up by large, traditionally published books. And for a book published by a small press, it’s hard to make a dent. Especially with mine, I think, since “Altered” and “Shattered” involve a couple of genres; YA, thriller, science-fiction, romance. It mostly comes down to asking for reviews, and talking to everyone you know. The main way we all decide to read books is whether people we know recommend them. So you have to really let everyone you know know about your books, because you can never tell who might become a fan!

What would you do with an extra hour today if you could do anything you wanted?

Work on the third book in The Academy series! Seriously; I am always in danger of procrastinating, so any extra time I can use I spend working. Or trying to.

Which holiday is your favorite and why?

Oh, so many! But it has to go to Halloween. Dress up, candy, witches and pumpkins — all the things I love. It’s like a national cosplay day. Whee!

What do you like to do for fun?

Read! Also belly dance — I love dancing period, hip-hop, jazz, etc. But belly dance is specifically the type of dance I think I’m best at, perhaps because it already combines multiple styles of dance from many different countries and cultures. Like a delicious, tasty, dance soup. I also write songs, swim, and bake. And TV! I am addicted to TV. My favorite show of all time so far is “Nikita” and I’m on the final two episodes. I hope it ends well!

What kind of advice would you give other fiction authors?

Never be afraid of criticism from those you trust, but also have people who love your work read it to keep you going. If you can find someone who loves your work — maybe not even a close friend, but someone who appreciates you mainly for your writing — they can keep you going even when you feel stuck, or tempted to give up. Their love of your characters helps you create them, makes them feel real, and that can give you a sense of responsibility towards them that can keep you working. And remember, the ones who matter are the ones who connect with your work. We’ll all have to face the fact that not everyone will love us, because people’s tastes differ. But if you have fans of your story and characters, think of your writing as a gift to them, something you’re doing in concert with them. Because it’s the love of readers, as much as your own work, that takes words written on a page in a book and breathes life into them, and makes them feel whole, real, and meaningful.

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