Saturday, 11 July 2009

Interview with Sara Hantz

Sara Hantz, author of The Second Virginity of Suzy Green, was kind enough to offer up some of her time to answer a few questions on her novel and on the subject of sex in YA.

How did you come up with the idea for The Second Virginity of Suzy Green?

This is a tricky question because there wasn’t any one thing that inspired me. I had a title in mind, which I loved - Virgin on the Ridiculous - and I wanted to write something around that (as you can see it’s not the title I ended up with, but that’s okay because I love the new title even more). I remember brainstorming with one of my crit partners and she told me about virginity clubs and I researched them on the net and came up with the idea of someone lying about being a virgin so they could join. And the rest of the story sort of evolved through my planning.

For me, the novel reads like we shouldn’t necessarily teach our teens abstinence – that they should wait until they are married – but that it should be their own choice instead. Was this the message you were trying to convey?

Yes, that’s exactly it. In my opinion, as parents it’s our job to lead by example and to be there to support our teens when they need us. But it’s their life, and they should be the ones to make their own choices. It’s hard to watch someone doing things you’ve done in your past that you regret. We can advise, but then we have to sit back and let them experience life on their terms.
Whenever Suzy mentions her sexual experience with Ryan, it’s always clear that it was because she had very strong feelings for him, and that she wouldn’t have had sex otherwise, that she’s not promiscuous. Was it important for you to get that across, that Suzy’s sexual experience was based on feelings?

It was important, because that’s her character. She wouldn’t just have sex to experiment, unlike her best friend Maddie who had sex just so she would no longer be a virgin. I don’t judge Maddie for this. It happens.

Jamie, the virginity club leader, seemed like a bit of an odd character. Where did you get your inspiration for his character? Is he based on real life virginity club leaders, with similar moral beliefs?

No he’s not based on any real life virginity club leaders. I don’t actually know any. He was a product of my imagination. I exaggerated his pompousness for humour and to show that things aren’t simply black and white.

Among other things, your book is about the choice to have or not have sex, yet there are no actual sexual encounters that happen within the time frame of the book. Did you purposely steer clear of scenes of a sexual nature? Why?

I did steer clear of sexual scenes, so that it would appeal to a wider age range.

What is your opinion on virginity clubs generally?

If they’re not too didactic then they can have a place, especially for teens who are finding themselves pressured into having sex when they’re not ready.

What’s your opinion of how today’s YA novels are dealing with the topic of sex?

I think sex is dealt with very sympathetically in today’s YA novels. I wish when I was younger there were books like that for me to read. I’m sure it would have made me better informed.

Do you think there is a limit on what should be covered in YA novels?

Yes, I do. I wouldn’t want to see explicit sex scenes.

What books did you read as a teenager, and how well do you think they dealt with talking about sex?

By the time I was a teenager I was reading mainly adult books because there wasn’t such a good selection of YA books.

What do you think about parents not allowing their teenagers to read novels with a certain sexual content?

I think parents who do that should think again. On TV, in the movies and in books, sex is prevalent and it’s far better for teens to grow up with an understanding of sex and the consequences of being sexually active than to be sheltered from it.

Thank you, Sara, for such a great interview! Anyone have any other questions for Sara? If so, ask away; Sara will be popping over today to answer any questions you guys may have, so get thinking!

10 comments:

  1. Fascinating interview - thank you so much, both of you!

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  2. You're very welcome! :)

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  3. Hi Sara, I wanted to ask about the explicitness of sex in books (as you may know, my book Screwed is very explicit!). You say you don't think sex scenes should be explicit in YA fiction, but you also say that teens should be allowed to read books with a sexual content because they shouldn't be sheltered. Where do you draw the line between the inclusion of sex as a theme in a book and its actual description? Do you think it is better to infer rather than describe or can that be misleading?

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  4. Such an awesome question, Joanna! I'll send Sara an email, and see if she minds popping back.

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  5. Hi Joanna
    I haven't read Screwed so I don't know now explicit the sex is. I guess when I'm thinking explicit sex it's that which you'd read in a erotic novel, and in my opinion that's too explicit for a teen novel. I think it's fine to describe sex, but less explicitly than above, but for me what's more important is to explore the emotions which are part of the whole experience.

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  6. I just wanna say that it's becoming more and more clear to me that positions on sex in YA novels are as varied as parenting styles. :op

    Hey Sarah, I don't ask this with a mean tone at all... just curious, so I hope it comes across that way: You say you don't think that parents should teach abstinence, but lead by example. What example is that? What should parents be doing to guide and give proper advice if it isn't encouraging abstinence? Again, just curious, and I realize that the answer is your opinion :o)

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  7. Thanks for your reply, Sara - and I agree that an exploration of the emotions behind it is vital, especially when writing for teenagers.

    I Heart Monster, you'll definitely find as wide a range of opinions from writers as you find from parents ;-) LOL!

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  8. Great interview. It's interesting to hear everyone's opinions.

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  9. I'm glad you liked it! :)

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