Cynthia J. Omololu stopped by the blog and it’s a good thing. We have no Friday Sourcebooks book giveaway today since the contest ends in 2 days. I decided not to read any submissions during this, the last week. What to do? Get DIRTY! Cynthia is author of DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS, the new YA novel from Walker & Company released on February 2, 2010. I pretty much chewed her ear off. Poor thing. She did however shut me up with an offer to have a contest. And, you know how much I love contests! Read on.
Congratulations on DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS! What’s it like now that the book is actually out in the wild?
Thank you! It’s been totally amazing. The day that I actually saw it on the shelves at a local bookstore was monumental for me. I love getting email and comments from people who have read the book, particularly those who have had hoarding in their lives in one way or another. In addition to all of the YA readers, my local indie bookseller says that it doesn’t make it to the YA shelf because they are handselling it to adults that come in the store. I’m thrilled that it seems to be finding a crossover audience, even though most adults tell me that they read it with a hint of shame in their voice. Like reading YA is some kind of sin. I think they’re just jealous that we’re having all the fun.
So, I’m totally fascinated by Lucy and what she must be going through. But also the idea of how you think your life is normal until one day you realize it isn’t. How is that for her? Does she experience that kind of ah-ha moment?
She does, but not until she’s older. Like you said, as you are growing up, you don’t realize that things are abnormal until you get out into the world. For Lucy, she didn’t have many friends when she was young, so it was babysitting that really showed her another way to live. That’s when she decides that she wants a bed that doesn’t have to be cleared of belongings just to go to sleep. Not as easy as it sounds with a compulsive hoarder running the house.
I’m a big Clean House fan. Ever watch that show? I’m always fascinated by the teenage children who seem to take on the characteristics of the parents becoming blind to the cycle. Does Lucy suffer the same fate?
My big fantasy is that Niecy Nash gets a copy of the book and loves it –hey, if you’re going to dream, dream big. Both Clean House and Hoarders on A&E have a lot of things in every episode that are very similar to the book. For a long time, Lucy tries to ignore the house, which works to a point. The problem is that everybody else sees what’s really there, so they never under any circumstances have anyone over.
What made you want to tell Lucy’s story in this way? I mean, you could have told it the easy way–but you complicate things with the mother’s death AND Lucy trying to undo years of disarray. That’s deep. Why take the story to that level?
Thanks! I read a magazine article about some adults that had grown up in hoarded homes and that gave me the idea for the book. As my agent says, “That’s a nice situation you got there, what’s the story?” I wanted something that would give Lucy a “ticking clock” and having her mom die in a place that wasn’t easy to get to just sort of grew out of thinking of different scenarios. The action takes place over 24 hours and the ending, while controversial, it really is the only way Lucy’s story could end.
What do you need us to know about Lucy’s mom?
That hoarding isn’t a lifestyle choice – it’s a mental disorder. There are a lot of flashbacks in the book (for those who fear the flashback, I’m told it’s not painful in DLS) that give you a pretty good insight into how their relationship has evolved over the years as the problem grew out of control. I was very conscious of making the mom a well-rounded character, even though she spends the majority of the book dead in the hallway.
Writers are going to love this one. You met your agent at a writers conference in an elevator. Care to elaborate?
I really did! I had a book almost finished, and I was interested in signing with Erin (as an aside – apparently you should actually finish the book before you look for an agent. Who knew?). She was speaking at a conference in Kansas City, and even though I live in Northern California, I cashed in some frequent flyer miles and went out there. She spoke, I thought she was awesome but was totally afraid to go and talk to her. On the last day, I found myself alone in an elevator with her, and struck up a really lame conversation about clothes and she said that she liked my pants. I told her where I got them, she said thanks and that was it. When it came time to query, I reminded her that I was the “tall gal with the stripy hair and the fabulous trouser jeans from the elevator.” It worked – she remembered me and the rest is history. Sometimes, taking a risk can work out as long as you don’t sound too crazy.
OK, tell me about your dog and those streaks?
Oh, I love my big hairy dog. His name is Koda and his most favorite food in the world is edamame. If you are eating some, he will beg and beg until you toss him a pod. He pulls the beans out and leaves little empty hulls all over the house. The stripy hair was a little “pick me up” when my son was born almost 13 years ago and it’s become a reluctant trademark. I tried to dye it back but it caused a huge family/friends uproar so I think I’m stuck with it. It’s been so long that stripes have been in style, gone out of style, and come back in again. I’m six feet tall, so the stripes just make it really easy to find me in a crowd.
Best of luck with DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS and thanks for stopping by the blog!
Thanks so much! It’s been a pleasure.
About DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS
Everyone has a secret. But Lucy’s is bigger and dirtier than most. It’s one she’s been hiding for years—that her mom’s out-of-control hoarding has turned their lives into a world of garbage and shame. She’s managed to keep her home life hidden from her best friend and her crush, knowing they’d be disgusted by the truth. So, when her mom dies suddenly in their home, Lucy hesitates to call 911 because revealing their way of life would make her future unbearable—and she begins her two-day plan to set her life right.
Find Cynthia J. Omololu Online
So you think you have the DIRTIEST room around? Prove it. In the comments section, post a link to a photo of you in YOUR dirty room or your friend’s dirty room!
The winner will be the person with the dirtiest room. Or, the most creatively dirty, dirty room person. What’s the prize, you ask? A signed copy of DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS + Look right–how cute is that teddy bear?
Contest ends 11:59PM EST on March 4, 2010.
Winner will be announced on Friday, March 5, 2010.
Thanks to Cynthia for these awesome prizes! Good luck getting DIRTY!