#fridayreads Terese Mason Pierre Interviews YA author Teresa Toten
Young Adult Author Teresa Toten
Another Friday, another awesome interview by a teen writer. In this edition of #fridayreads, Young Voices's own Terese Mason Pierre has asked young adult author Teresa Toten some great questions about writing and being an author... Read on!
Born in Croatia, Teresa Toten developed her broad taste in reading as a result of her non-English speaking mother’s habit of filling shopping bags full of books from wildly different sections of the local library. Teresa always wanted to be a mermaid or an astronaut. When that didn’t pan out she turned her attention to writing.Her first job out of graduate school was freelancing for Radio-Canada International in Montreal.
She’s an award-winning author of The Game, the Blonde series, Piece by Piece: Stories About Fitting into Canada and The Taming with Eric Walters. Her latest book The Unlikely Hero of Room 13b won the Governor General’s Award, the Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Award, is the CLA Honour book for 2014 and is nominated for the OLA White Pine Award and the TD Canadian Children Literature Award.
Terese Mason Pierre: Do you often include aspects of your life in your work? Do you include events you've experienced? Do your characters mirror your family/friends? Do themes reflect your personal values?
Teresa Toten: I have ripped off hundreds of cringe-worthy scenes from my life. No friend or enemy is safe from my pages. Potentially every casual encounter and even every young adult standing in a book signing line could be inspiration or fodder. I don’t have much of an imagination so I steal from everything and everyone around me.
Terese Mason Pierre: Should authors of children and young-adult books consider themselves role models? How much so?
Teresa Toten: Social media, author tours, and traditional media have rightly or wrongly, made this a very real question. I try to conduct myself in public and private under the holy trifecta of--Integrity, Authenticity and Openness--and hope that my readers will forgive me my flaws and screw ups because they are legion!
Terese Mason Pierre: Is there a topic or genre you wouldn't write about under any circumstances, no questions asked? Why not?
Teresa Toten: Nope. I’ve just written a psychological thriller which was waaaay out of my comfort zone. And I loved it! I really enjoy the buzz of being out of my depth, about the challenge, and about taking stock of what I’m writing and why I’m writing it. I read and love great work no matter what the genre or topic. The learning curve is very steep when taking on a new form but it’s exhilarating as well. A little fear is a good thing.
Terese Mason Pierre: In his famous essay, "Death of the Author," the French literary critic Roland Barthes says that to give a text an author is to impose a limitation on it, and that the author exists only to produce, but not explain, the text. He writes that the meaning of the text completely depends on the impressions of the reader, because we can never know the author's true intentions. What are your thoughts on his view? How much do you agree or disagree?
Teresa Toten: True, true, true!! How many times have you ‘reread’ a book and it seems totally different that in the first go round? It’s what the reader brings to the relationship of reader/writer that is ALL important and that is totally out of the hands of the writer. I believe in the core of me that once the book is birthed and out there—it is no longer my book. Whatever you think of it is correct and that includes all those painful Goodreads posts. What I thought or intended is now completely irrelevant to your experience. It’s your book not mine.
Terese Mason Pierre: What are your short- and long-term goals for your books? Do your goals or your definition of success evolve? Is there an endpoint where you can say, "I've succeeded"?
Teresa Toten: Honestly it’s the same goal I had from the publication of my first book almost 20 years ago. I want my books in as many young adult hands as is humanly possible. It was the goal, it is the goal, and it will always be the goal. The very best books make me feel a little less alone in the reading no matter what the story. That is what I aspire to and if I hit it, I want you to feel it, many, many of you!
Terese Mason Pierre has attended eleven schools and spent almost two decades around deep thinkers, great teachers and cats. She often jumps at the opportunity to take leadership roles in her community and share her ideas, sometimes to her disadvantage. She plans to become a physician in the long term, so she can have a reason so use her stethoscope, and she's already reached her short-term goal of becoming a writer, with poems, short stories and one electronic novel in her repertoire. Currently, she attends the University of Toronto, where she's majoring in Bioethics and English, and is a member of two creative writing groups and a choir.