Remember back when I was an Apocalypsie, just a fresh-faced 2012 debut YA author with a song in my heart and a half-deflated balloon in my hand? Well, Diana Renn was too (probably without the balloon), and here we both still are, still publishin’ books. Her newest YA novel, LATITUDE ZERO, came out last month, and here she is to chat about bikes, condors, and Spongebob Squarepants.
Give us the LATITUDE ZERO spiel.
LATITUDE ZERO is a murder mystery involving bicycling culture. It starts out in New England, where 17-year-old Tessa Taylor “bandit rides” with her boyfriend on a cancer-fundraising bike race. She makes a bad decision and causes a crash that leads to the death of Ecuadorian cycling start Juan Carlos, a guy she happens to know through Jake. But clues emerge to suggest there may be more to Juan Carlos’s death than she first thought. Struggling with her own grief and guilt, she tries to get to the truth, and ends up investigating in Ecuador, going undercover as a bicycle advocacy volunteer. She’s soon in over her head, though, as the people behind Juan Carlos’s death are suddenly after her too.
Being as cryptic, spoiler-free, and out-of-context as you can, what is your favorite scene in the book?
I’m really proud of my bike crash scene. People who ride seriously have asked me if I was personally involved in such a crash. I’ve never been in a crash myself (yet!) so I’m glad that I was able to capture the adrenaline rush and fear and disorientation Tessa experiences when she goes down and surveys the aftermath.
Pick a character and tell me how you came up with their name.
Juan Carlos Macias-Leon is my Ecuadorian cycling star. I picked fairly common names for him, but he is most often referred to by his nickname, “el Condor,” which is the official bird of Ecuador. He’s earned this nickname because of his ability to attack hills — soaring up and flying down — and the grace with which he rides his bike. At one point Tessa compares el Condor to her boyfriend, Jake. Jake rides his bike like a machine, but el Condor rides the air.
Softly brewing coffee. It makes me think of ideas percolating in my head. Though of course, when I sit down to work, I realize it really was just coffee.
What sound or noise do you hate?
The closing song for Sponge Bob Square Pants. I have a young son, and occasionally need to rely on the little yellow guy (Sponge Bob, that is) to occupy him when I’m under tight deadlines. The closing credits mean my writing time is up – usually just when I’m on a roll or about to solve a problem!
What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I often wish I’d gone into film. I’d be a movie director. I love film, I tend to think and write visually, and as a result I sometimes have to remind myself not to over-describe when I write. I think the collaborative aspect of film production appeals to me too. That’s something I love about publishing, working creatively with a whole team.
Diana Renn writes contemporary mysteries for young adults. TOKYO HEIST (Viking/Penguin), an Indie Next Pick, was published in 2012, and her next novel from Viking , LATITUDE ZERO was released July 3, 2014. Diana has published numerous short stories and essays, and she is also the Fiction Editor at YARN (Young Adult Review Network), an award-winning online magazine featuring short-form writing for teens. Diana lives outside of Boston with her husband and young son. She is an avid cyclist.
But there’s more! Diana is giving away both a signed copy of LATITUDE ZERO plus a paperback of TOKYO HEIST! To enter, fill out the form below–and for a couple of added bonus entries, follow Diana on Twitter and/or like her on Facebook. Good luck!
Contest closed. Congrats to the winner, Ella M.!