This week I'm introducing you to high school Samantha Verant. Sam is a Blue Boarder, blogger, and Twitter friend, as well as an awesome "as-needed" critique partner. She's funny, sassy, has an incredible story to tell, plus..get this..she lives in France. So when I wake up at crazy a.m. for school she's usually still on Twitter! Be sure and check out her deets below, you'll want to follow her.
Tell us about your high school, public or private, size, demographic, location?
I went to three different high schools – a private girl’s Catholic school located in the North Shore of Chicago’s suburbs (think John Hughes land, but in poly uniforms and brown socks), The Chicago Academy for Performing and Visual Arts (a.k.a. The Academy) – which was like ‘Fame’, save we didn’t dance in the hallway singing hot lunch jam, and a regular public high school outside the suburbs of Boston. Regina, the all-girl school, was by far the largest, coming in with about six hundred students. The Academy was the smallest – one-hundred students. And just the right size, Cohasset High School (CHS) had four hundred students. I guess I went a little Goldilocks in high school. Wow - sounds a bit like my college experience!
Were there cliques at your high school? What were they? Who did you hang with?
The Academy definitely had its cliques. The ballet dancers hung with the ballet dancers, the artists with the artists, and the actors with the actors. There was some overlap, but not much. I was lucky at both Regina and CHS. Really, you were just friends with people or you weren’t. People weren’t classified as popular or losers. Of course, there was high school drama and a couple of very mean girls (I’m looking at you Sarah D.), but there weren’t cliques, per se. I was, for lack of better words, a social butterfly, but always had a core of five-or-so close friends. Like glue, we’re all still friends today. They kept me around; I was the weird one, always ready with a wacky story.
Above: With Tracey from Regina. We’ve been besties for over twenty-five years.
Did you have a memorable teacher? Good or bad? How did they influence you?
I had many memorable teachers, but there are two who influenced me more than the others. The first was my English teacher (and also drama coach) at CHS. Mr. Emmons and I are now Facebook friends. And I feel so weird calling him Ron. :0) Anyway, he was one of those kick ass cool teachers who actually gave a damn, the kind who was personally invested in the success of his students. The other teacher was Ms. Lucas, also at CHS, and my art teacher. It was because of her I traded in arias and monologues for a paintbrush and pastels, ultimately deciding to major in art (advertising design) at Syracuse University. Because of them, and many years later, it seems I've found an outlet for all my creative endeavors. Now, I can paint worlds, sing on the page, and act out scenes with words.
(Art teachers make a huge difference!)
Just don’t ask me to dance the ‘lambada,' plot, and chew gum at the same time. Oh snap, we want the vlog of that!
Did you have an inkling as a teenager that you would become a writer?
No, I thought I’d be an academy award winning actress or a singer. Such a shame I was a lousy actress. I can still do a mean karaoke, though. As for my writing, I’ve been told I have a great voice. But more on that later.
I could have been a cast member on GLEE! Maybe. Not. Besides school plays, I kind of went numb on auditions.
What book had the biggest impact on you as a high school student? How?
Well, it wasn’t Grapes of Wrath, that’s for sure. A bunch of us rented the movie and bought the Cliff Notes. Looking back, the books I was drawn to were supremely messed up. Like Flowers in the Attic. I also ‘borrowed’ my mom’s potboilers. A little Jackie Collins, anyone? Yep, I went right from Judy Blume’s Blubber to Wifey and Forever.
On a more serious note, my dad had me read a classic a week every summer. Which could have been torture for some, but not for yours truly. I loved, loved, loved to read. An advanced reader, I picked up my first books at the age of three. Yep, I was one of those geeky kids who couldn't wait to get the summer reading list.
What band could you not get enough of in high school? Were you an album or a CD kid? Cover art you remember?
I was an album kid, usually ‘borrowing’ the cool stuff from Dad- New Order, Talk Talk, David Bowie and Roxy Music. I also loved alternative music- like Romeo Void, Siouxsie and the Banshees, General Public, and Heaven 17, to name a few. Of course, I loved me some Madonna, The Beastie Boys, The Go-Gos, and Bananarama, too. I made a lot of mix tapes for my friends.
What was the fashion rage - the one article of clothing you either got, or didn’t get that rocked your world?
At the time, brands like Guess and Girbaud Jeans were the rage, along with some Madonna inspired items like lace tanks, mini skirts and jelly bracelets. Man, I was such a child of the eighties. I remember a skirt I absolutely loved. It was the same one Molly Ringwald wore in the Breakfast Club. I also wore a lot of black. Still do.
What hobbies, activities, sports were you involved in that influence your writing today?
Not only was I a cheerleader, I was involved in both the art and theater clubs. (I’m full of hypocrisies, see?) But I think theater had the biggest impact on my writing, giving me the means to bring characters to life. I put myself in the scenes, become the characters, and write from their point of view, thus giving them (and hopefully my writing) a distinct voice. I use art to color my worlds! Again with the theatre - I'm starting to feel like an anomaly on my own blog!
Good kid or wild child or a little of both? Details? (Mwaahaa)
Besides mouthing off and not cleaning my room, I never really got in trouble. Still, good grades and all, I was more on the wild side. What my parents didn’t know wouldn’t kill them. I hung out with a fast-moving champagne drinking crowd of Gossip Girl like kids in Chicago. We’d go to teen parties and then hit the nightclubs, dressed to the hilt – heels, mini-skirts and so much make-up you’d need a sander to scrape it off. If asked, I was twenty-three (you never said twenty-one). As for employment, I was a back-up singer for…WHAM! That last bit...Wham...priceless.
Girls gone wild. (That’s me, trying to look all Robert Palmer girl on the far right).
Did you have a favorite phrase or slang word?
I use cheesy and weird a lot. You should hear my French husband say weird. It’s hysterical – as in you’re word. Even funnier? Kadunkadunk. Nope, being an English teacher is not in my future.
If you could say one thing to your high school you, what would you say?
Hey, you’ve always been involved in the arts, and you’re wildly weird and creative, but instead of aspiring to be an actress or singer or artist, why don’t you give writing a shot? Focus, would you?
Thinking of the characters you’ve written, is there one who embodies more of your high school self than others? What attributes do you have in common? Differences?
Okay, so I totally relate to one of my middle grade characters: Maverick Mercury from KING OF THE MUTANTS. See, he’s on the search for his true identity, something that took me many years to find. But unlike Maverick, I don’t have a tail (that you know of) and I’ve never been a sideshow attraction (even though I’ve felt like one at times.) I also wrote an edgy YA where a girl dies and comes back to life as a goddess. Supernatural powers aside, every girl has an inner goddess, but not every girl realizes it. (I’m still trying to find mine!) And I’m really excited about an MG I’ve been working on since 2007. It was my first book, but it’s always held a place in my heart so I’m rewriting it. I’m an animal freak! My pet project, SURVIVAL OF THE WEIRDEST is a fantastical adventure about two kids who play a role in saving the earth’s creatures from extinction. There is so much of me in this book! And finally, I’m working on a series of stand-alone YAs, dealing with obsessive love…and death. The first one is entitled FLYING BACKWARDS. It asks two simple questions: if you could travel back in time to change something in your past, maybe save somebody you love, would you do it – no matter the consequences? And what if the future isn’t so bright? Okay, fine. I may not be able to travel back in time, but I do love hummingbirds and I did change the outcome of one particular event…
How do we find you now?
So glad you asked!
Well, I now live in France, where I’m married to a Frenchman I dumped on a platform at Gare de Lyon twenty-two years ago. I apologized to him three years ago. (There’s a story in this. In fact, I tell it in my memoir, entitled SEVEN LETTERS.) I spend my days step-mothering two tween-aged French kids who lost their mom to cancer in 2006 – kids who don’t speak English, kids who think McDonald’s should get a Michelin two-star rating. When I’m not renovating kitchens or cooking or pretending I don’t understand the kids when they mouth off, I write. Like so many of my friends, I used to have an agent. Unfortunately, she left the business, and, to make a long and stress-filled story short, now I don’t. I’m making other plans now.
As for my MG and YA works, I’m thinking I may need a pen name. Any ideas?
You can stalk me at the following places (Be forewarned: I stalk back):
MY FACEBOOK PAGE (Go ahead, like it!)
In sum, thank you so much, J.Ro! This was a lot of fun. Let’s do the time warp again! It’s just a jump to the left… You too, Samantha - I laughed so hard reading some of these answers. And hey, send me a mix tape would you?