Welcome to Kicking Back with Kick-butt!
We’re talking with Paula Chase, the author of
When best friends Tai and Mila are reunited after a summer apart, their friendship threatens to combust from the pressure of secrets, middle school, and the looming dance auditions for a new talented-and-gifted program.
Fans of Renée Watson’s Piecing Me Together will love this memorable story about a complex friendship between two very different African American girls—and the importance of speaking up.
Jamila Phillips and Tai Johnson have been inseparable since they were toddlers, having grown up across the street from each other in Pirates Cove, a low-income housing project. As summer comes to an end, Tai can’t wait for Mila to return from spending a month with her aunt in the suburbs. But both girls are grappling with secrets, and when Mila returns she’s more focused on her upcoming dance auditions than hanging out with Tai.
Paula Chase explores complex issues that affect many young teens, and So Done offers a powerful message about speaking up. Full of ballet, basketball, family, and daily life in Pirates Cove, this memorable novel is for fans of Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish and Jason Reynolds’s Ghost.
Let’s talk to this amazing author about her incredible book!
This is Paula. Everyone say, “Hi, Paula!”
Welcome to Kick-Butt Kidlit, Paula! Tell us about yourself!
Hi, thanks for having me. I find myself talking more in GIFs and emoji’s lately. I wish I could say it’s because I write for kids, but it’s because I spend way too much time on social media and in an assortment of Groupme chats and I’ve found it a more pleasant way to communicate. So if I could find the perfect ones to let you know who I am I think they’d be the Spongebob on fire GIF because I have a full time day job, a high school aged daughter, am married and I write books. Emojis that best describe me are the rolling on the floor laughing emoji, a bunch of random colored hearts and the kissy-winky emoji. And now you know who I am. I think.
Strangely enough, I do think that provided some great insight! (Thumb’s up emoji.)
Where did the idea for SO DONE come from?
My book ideas don’t so much come from anywhere as they’re a response to things I want to process from a young person’s perspective. SO DONE was about sorting through the emotions of feeling left behind and being tired of being under the control of your best friend. The devil is in why she feels left behind and why she’s tired of something that’s essentially been the structure of the relationship since it’s beginnings. That’s the fun of telling a story – those details.
What were three interesting things you discovered while working on SO DONE?
You can’t hear a thing a person says to you if you have ear buds in plugged into the sounds of waves crashing. And…did you mean about the book? Wait…okay. I discovered that my characters could go a long way to help adults understand that when kids act out it’s usually because of something going on in their environment. Adults should already know this, but I think we’re constantly caught up in our own stuff and brush off that kids have stuff too. Also, that middle grade fits me. I really enjoy writing for a younger audience. And finally, I discovered that I’m not at all squeamish about covering topics that some might feel belong in YA instead of MG.
I definitely agree that there’s a lot of tough topics out there that MG readers NEED to be reading about to be given that opportunity to know that they’re not alone. I’m glad that there’s authors like you out there providing that outlet for them.
Your book focuses on the friendship between the two main characters, Jamila and Tai. What’s the most appealing part of writing about the inner workings of a friendship for you? The most challenging?
Every single one of my books is a friendship story. Friendships fascinate me because they’re complex. We don’t realize that until we’re older. We don’t realize that sometimes friendships end and that’s okay. The most challenging is being fair to the friendship. I don’t want to create a one-dimensional character who is a pain in the butt just because another character needs something to rise against. And it can be hard to flesh out to fully formed characters and their motivations within that friendship.
Why were you drawn to writing middle grade?
After I wrote my YA series people kept telling me that my voice matched middle grade better. And they’re right. Since I had a character already in that age group, I just thought about what her story was and So Done came about.
Any hints about your next book project?
It stays revolved around characters from The Cove. This time it will feature the boys, Simp and Rollie, and expand more on their friendship, which has its own issues. But I want to stress it’s not a “boy” book. I want us to get rid of that notion. Still, I’m excited to explore Simp and Rollie’s friendship because it’s good for readers, boys and girls, to have books that have boy characters diving into emotional territory usually reserved for girl characters.
That sounds awesome! I think readers will be excited to have a chance to dive deeper into those characters.
What has been the most surprising part of your publishing journey?
That I’m still on it. There’s nine years between my last YA book and So Done. There were a lot of times, in those years, that I thought maybe I was done writing books. I’m glad that wasn’t the case, but those years were a drought in more ways than one.
What are you reading right now?
Due to the sheer lack of time I go through binges – which is supposed to mean I get it done in one weekend. But this one got interrupted with life. I finished Everything I Know About You and Two Naomis and am still reading Where the Watermelons Grow. There’s some really great MG out there. Barbara Dee and I are hitting the road with a panel about covering tough topics in MG. So hopefully we’re coming to a fest or conference near you.
Ooh, yes! Come to Canada!
What’s your favourite piece of kick-butt advice?
Living life one day at a time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. By that I mean, we should all live in the moment because tomorrow isn’t promised. But that doesn’t mean you stand by and let things happen. Having goals and trying to reach them is what life is all about. The journey is the fun part!
Thank you so much for joining us, Paula!
Kick-butt Kidlit friends, make sure you check out SO DONE. It’s on shelves NOW!
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Click here to enter to win a copy of SO DONE! Contest ends October 15th!
Thanks for reading and stay tuned for more fun interviews!