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Yolanda Shoshana
talks to Ally Carter

Cheating at Solitaire is Ally Carter’s laugh-out-loud debut novel. The book tells the story of self-help guru Julia James, who makes a career out of being single. When Julia’s newest book hits the stand, the unthinkable happens and Julia’s credibility hits rock bottom.

I recently caught up with Ally Carter to discuss her new novel.

YS: Where did you get the idea for Cheating at Solitaire?

AC: I was cooking supper one night-spaghetti and "meatball" just one- and I thought I was so funny.  My first thought was that that would be an excellent title for a cookbook.  Then, I took it one step further and imagined what type of person would write a cookbook like that, and that's how Julia, the self-help guru on how to be happily single was born.

YS: How much of you is the main character?

AC: Like most writers, I draw a lot from personal experience.  Many of the things Julia says and does have come either from my own experiences or from those of my friends.  It was a lot of fun to think back on some of those conversations and pull out my favorite bits to incorporate.  Hopefully the story will ring as true with readers as it rings with me.

YS: You named Julia after Julia Sugarbaker from Designing Women. Why is that?

AC: When I was in college, Designing Women was on TV about a dozen times a day.  My roommate and I used to watch it all the time, and by far my favorite character was Julia, strong-but-feminine, savvy-but-compassionate and capable of giving one heck of a speech!  That's the type of character I wanted to write - a younger Julia,-a Julia for my generation.

YS: The concept of your book would make great romantic comedy. Do you think we will see it on the big screen?

AC: Thank you!  The story actually started as a screenplay because that's the kind of writing I was doing at the time.  Then, when I started writing novels my agent urged me to pull the story out of the box in the back of the closet and dust it off. I'm so very glad I did. 

YS: You have a young adult book, I'd Tell You I Love You But Then I'd Have to Kill You, coming out in the Spring. How did you make the transition from chick-lit into young adult?

AC: It was actually very easy for me.  I am a huge fan of the great YA work that's out there right now, so it was fairly effortless once I knew who my main character was.  After that, I just had to sit back and see where she took me. And if you've ever been in a car with a fifteen-year-old who has her learners' permit, you know that can be an interesting ride.

YS: What advice can you give an aspiring writer?

AC: Write first because you love it.  If you don't, then you'll be dealing with all the rejection and the criticism for what?  Something you're only moderately enthused about?  Life's too short for that.

YS: When it comes to your writing, what do you know for sure?

AC: When I'm in the process of writing, I always start with a main character and a central conflict.  As I go through the story, subplots may come and go, but that person and what he or she needs stays true to my original vision.  On a personal note, I know for sure that not everyone is going to love every book I write.  I know that just because I've had a good year this year doesn't mean I'll ever enjoy this kind of success again.  And I'm sure that no matter what I write or what my sales look like I've done something I can be proud of.  I know for sure that seeing my words in print is something that can never be taken away from me.

For more information about Cheating at Solitaire:

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