Sweet Sixteener Brooks Benjamin recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Ronni Arno about her debut contemporary MG novel, RUBY REINVENTED (November 3, 2015 from Simon and Schuster/Aladdin).
About the Author:
Ronni Arno writes middle grade and young adult novels, because she thinks kids are cool, and so are the books they read. Ronni lives on the coast of Maine with her husband, two daughters, and a dog named Hazel. Her debut, RUBY REINVENTED, publishes with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin on November 3, 2015. Her next book publishes with Simon & Schuster/Aladdin in Summer 2016. When she’s not writing, Ronni stalks her kids for story ideas, kayaks, and eats chocolate… but not usually at the same time.
About RUBY REINVENTED:
When twelve-year-old Ruby learns that her supposed BFFs are only friends with her because her of her famous parents, she finds a place as far from fake and phony Hollywood as she can get: a Maine boarding school. In her panic to distance herself from her star-studded folks, Ruby tells her new friends that she’s an orphan. She feels awful lying to her weird but wonderful roommate Summer (the first real friend Ruby has ever had), but not awful enough. In fact, now that nobody’s comparing her to her perfect parents, Ruby can finally let her own talents as a dress designer take center stage. But when Ruby finds herself connecting with a boy who really did lose his parents, she’s torn between who she is and who she’s pretending to be. And with Parent’s Weekend approaching, she must find a way to keep her secret… without losing her new best friend, the trust of her first crush, and the chance to shine as the designer of her own fashion show.
Brooks: How did working with your critique partners (CPs) benefit you?
Ronni: I belong to an online critique group called MGBetaReaders and they are simply the best. Everything I write goes through these brilliant minds, and their feedback is priceless. They see things I don’t, and they are brave enough to ask tough questions. These people make my work infinitely better.
Brooks: Did you have a lot of fashion design experience before writing RUBY REINVENTED?
Ronni: Hahahahahahahahahahaaaa! Oh wait. You’re serious.
Not only didn’t I have any fashion experience, but I am a fashion failure. My go-to outfit consists of jeans, a (mostly) clean sweatshirt, fuzzy socks, and hiking boots. For special occasions I swap out the sweatshirt for a sweater. That simple act always gets the same response from my kids. “Mom, why are you dressed so fancy?”
Any and all fashion that I wrote about in RUBY REINVENTED had to be researched. I went online and looked up sewing patterns, the names of skirts, and even different types of shoes. It was fun and I learned a lot, even though I still own (and wear) way too many sweatshirts.
Brooks: How did you find your agent/editor?
Ronni: The old-fashioned way! I queried my agent, Sarah Davies, in January of 2014. She was at the top of my list, and I crossed my fingers extra hard when I hit send on that email. Fortunately, she pulled me out of the slush pile and signed me by the end of the month. She then took Ruby out on submission, and we signed a 2-book deal with Alyson Heller of Simon & Schuster/Aladdin. I feel so blessed because both Sarah and Alyson are brilliant, hard-working, and incredibly supportive.
Brooks: Imagine your perfect reader. How would you describe that person?
Ronni: I picture my perfect reader as age 9-13. He or she is glued to my book because they find something in there that they can relate to. Something that lets them know they’re not alone in the world. They keep reading even though it’s past their bedtime because they feel like the characters in the book are good friends, and they’re not ready to say goodnight to their friends.
Lightning Round Questions
Favorite writing snack? Chocolate.
Oddest job you ever had? Writer!!!!
Music to write by? None. I like to write in silence, although I like to listen to music when I’m plotting (80’s rock, baby).
What were you listening to when you were 16? Bruce Springsteen, Duran Duran, The Police, David Bowie, Van Halen, Billy Joel, and okay, I’ll admit it… Lionel Richie.
Favorite Broadway musical? Wicked.
If you could ask Ruby to design anything for you, what would it be? Something comfy that’s a tad bit eclectic, maybe a sporty dress that could be worn on a hiking trail by day, and a party by night. Since Ruby thinks clothes should match someone’s personality, I think she’d agree that something comfortable, versatile, and a little weird would be perfect for me.
Brooks Benjamin lives in Tennessee with his wife and their incredibly spoiled dog. His first novel, MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS will be released by Delacorte/Random House on April 12, 2016.
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