Chelsea Pitcher is a native of Portland, OR where she received her BA in English Literature. Fascinated by all things literary, she began gobbling up stories as soon as she could read, and especially enjoys delving into the darker places to see if she can draw out some light.
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?
Don’t get into this business because you want money, fame, or critical acclaim. Do it because writing is what you love. Do it because it’s in your blood, your soul, your wiring, and if you ever try to stop, you aren’t satisfied. Because everything that comes after—the revising, editing, polishing, agent-searching, querying, subbing to editors, and revealing to the public—will test you. But if you truly love what you’re doing, you’ll be just fine.
What's your favorite book and why?
I have about a dozen favorites, so it’s hard to pick! But right at the top of the list is Holly Black’s TITHE. As someone who read a lot of faerie lore growing up, I felt she really did the mythology justice, while adding her own delightful twists. The teen characters are realistic and relatable, and the faeries are frightening and alluring at the same time. It’s pretty much fantastic!
Where did you get the idea for The S-Word?
I first started thinking about The S-Word at a time when the media was talking a lot about bullied teens taking their own lives. It was devastating to hear about, and I felt really powerless—What could I do? I started writing as a response to everything that was happening, and as a way of trying to understand. Why would an entire school stand by and watch someone’s life get destroyed? Why wouldn’t anyone step in? These are the kind of questions I wanted The S-Word to examine.
Did you hit any snags while writing The S-Word? What were they and how did you fix them?
There’s a scene toward the end of the book that wouldn’t be nearly what it is today without the brilliance of my editor. He pushed me to write the scene I was afraid to write. It scared me, emotionally, because to write that scene would be to put myself in it, to really feel the emotions, the fear, the chaos. But eventually, I came around. The fact that it unnerved me became proof that it was the scene I needed to write. When you’re scared, you know you’re getting close to the truth.
Which one of the characters in The S-Word is your favorite and why?
I had a great time writing Jesse. He’s the one that really surprised me. A lot of the characters have secrets, but Jesse’s was wholly unexpected. When he popped up in that first scene in the costume room, I thought, here’s a fun character who can add a bit to the mystery. But Jesse didn’t agree. He said, “Oh, honey, there’s so much more to me than that.” Who was I to disagree?
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?
Oh, it’s a story as old as time: Girl starts writing as soon as she can pick up a pencil. Girl graduates to writing bad teen poetry (this period lasts a while). Girl tries her hand at short stories, finds herself too rambly. Why not write a novel?! she thinks. Years of unreadable dreck ensue. Girl tries to get published. Girl tries to get published. Girl tries to get published. Girl learns about editing, revising, and trusting others to critique her novel. Girl can take criticism! Her skin is thick as steel (except for when it isn’t). Girl stops fussing over the same old novel and writes something new. Girl gets agent. Girl gets book deal! Happy ending (or, as I like to think of it, beginning.)
What are you working on now? Sequel? Something new?
I’m working on a story where the descendent of Morgan le Fey works as an amateur detective for the Weird Sisters in late twenty-first century Los Angeles. It’s a YA mystery with a neo-noirish vibe, like The S-Word, but it’s also an urban fantasy with elements of dystopian. (Sure, that’ll be easy to pitch.)
Was it hard getting into the harsh realities of high school? Did you have a lot of experiences of your own to pull from or did you just make a lot of it up?
I drew on personal experiences for some of it, but mostly I just looked around at what is happening in the world. Not just to teens, but to all people. Our entire society feeds off of making fun of people. Judges on American Idol-type shows get famous simply for being ruthless. Tabloids make millions ridiculing celebrities. Laws are constantly being passed (or proposed) to keep people with certain sexualities or genders from having equal rights. When I started to think about how, culturally, we place people into categories of “valuable” or “not-valuable,” it was easy to imagine how high school students would do the same. Scary. But easy.
What do you hope YA readers will gain from reading this novel?
I think different people will take away different things, but the one message I truly want to impart is that you’re not alone. No matter what the situation, no matter how dark, dangerous, or disturbing your life is, there are people who understand. And there are people who will love and accept you for who you really are. It isn’t always easy to find them, but you will. I promise.
What's the best place to eat in Portland, OR?
I’m a sucker for Thai food, and one of my favorite places is Thai Herbs in Multnomah Village. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gone there and gobbled up their amazing salad rolls, yellow curry with tofu (LOVE tofu) and delicious Pad Thai. Okay, now I’m hungry…
The S-Word: First it was SLUT scribbled all over Lizzie Hart’s locker.
But one week after Lizzie kills herself, SUICIDE SLUT replaces it—in Lizzie's looping scrawl.
reputation is destroyed when she's caught in bed with her best friend’s
boyfriend on prom night. With the whole school turned against her, and
Angie not speaking to her, Lizzie takes her own life. But someone isn’t
letting her go quietly. As graffiti and photocopies of Lizzie’s diary
plaster the school, Angie begins a relentless investigation into who,
exactly, made Lizzie feel she didn’t deserve to keep living. And while
she claims she simply wants to punish Lizzie’s tormentors, Angie's own
anguish over abandoning her best friend will drive her deep into the
dark, twisted side of Verity High—and she might not be able to pull
herself back out.
Debut author Chelsea Pitcher daringly depicts
the harsh reality of modern high schools, where one bad decision can
ruin a reputation, and one cruel word can ruin a life. Angie’s quest for
the truth behind Lizzie’s suicide is addictive and thrilling, and her
razor-sharp wit and fierce sleuthing skills makes her impossible not to
root for—even when it becomes clear that both avenging Lizzie and
avoiding self-destruction might not be possible.
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