Her name might conjure up the image of a go-go boots-wearing ’60s pop singer, but Tellulah Darling is a local writer of Young Adult novels whose latest book, Sam Cruz's Infallible Guide to Getting Girls, hits shelves this week. She’s also the alter ego of screenwriter and Vancouver Film School instructor Deborah Peraya and goes by the name “Mom” to her 10-year-old daughter. Darling, sans go-go boots, talked with the Courier about her inner minx, the pitfalls of technology and why smart, mouthy teens rock.
1. Tellulah Darling is a great name. What’s the story behind it?
Growing up, I was convinced that one day I would be highly successful in some vague yet creative way, which would result in my living in a NY penthouse and throwing salons for glittering artiste types. Tellulah Darling evolved as the sassy minx who would be throwing these bashes. My YA novels are romantic comedies, first and foremost. They are about love, passion and humour. For me, Tellulah Darling is an extension of all that. It’s my promise to my readers that if they come hang out with me, we’ll have a lot of laughs, a lot of love, some sass and hopefully some sweetness, too.
2. Do find you’re a totally different person when you’re writing as Tellulah Darling?
Tellulah doesn’t need to wonder if she forgot to throw the laundry in the dryer or have a bad hair day. She has a small team of experts catering to her needs, which allows her to be fun and fabulous. Getting into her head means I put aside all my real cares and responsibilities and stay in the zone of telling the most entertaining story possible. Some people meditate, I put on my Tellulah brain.
3. What do you get out of writing YA fiction that you don’t get from screenplays?
As a former drama queen who spent a lot of time in my head, both replaying situations and making up new ones, it might not be a big surprise that writing first person about teens, where I get to spend a lot of time in their heads, is really appealing to me. Screenwriting doesn’t give me that.
4. What’s the most common misconception people have about YA fiction?
That it’s childish. The YA novel world is incredibly rich and diverse and, I believe, captures every facet of what it means to be a teen in a way that isn’t happening in film or television yet.
Storytelling is drama and conflict and making crazy intense emotional connections and for me, all those things are so characteristic of the teen years. There are so many primal, important issues we’re figuring out about ourselves and our place in the world. Yet, it’s a time of a wonderful freedom because we don’t necessarily have the adult responsibilities still to come. So we can be childish and playful in a very special way. And in terms of love, the teen years are so passionate. I remember having this incredible sense of immortality and possibility and yet I felt every emotion so profoundly. For both the romance and comedy, I think it’s a wonderful time in a person’s life to explore. Plus smart, mouthy, teen girls rock.
5. In the movie Young Adult, Charlize Theron plays a YA author stuck in a severe and somewhat sad state of arrested development. Do you find that you regress to your teen years when you write for them?
“Regress” makes it sound like a backwards evolution. I prefer immerse. I let all the awkwardness and trauma come rushing back to me and mine the wreckage to fuel my characters. All kidding aside, what is wonderful is that as a “grown up,” I’m no longer actually stuck in the middle of those complex and challenging years. I can draw from my experiences but also allow my characters to come to a place of growth and self-awareness that I definitely never achieved at their age.
6. Technology has drastically changed the ways in which teens communicate with each other since you were their age. Do you have to study up on texting lingo or anything when writing about teens?
I vet my books with this amazing teen friend of mine. And one of the things she advised me was to stay away from technology, lingo and pop culture references that are very “of the moment.” She said it was much better to go retro than try to feel hip and just end up looking dated. That works for me.
7. What’s the most difficult aspect writing for a younger audience?
That no matter what the content, and underneath all the comedy, I’m grounding my stories in relevant and important issues that ring true for all of my readers, teen or adult. There is a lot of crossover.
8. What’s the most embarrassing fashion trend you followed when you were younger?
Where to start? Of course, I thought I was wonderfully trendy and cool. And given how fashion trends come around, maybe I would be again.
9. Are you dressing up for Halloween?
Although Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, I wasn’t going to dress up, because I’m on handing out candy duty. My daughter has launched a strongly worded campaign to change my mind so it might happen. But I’m not sure yet what I would dress as.
10. Why should people come out to your book launch at Our Town Cafe on Oct. 17, 7:30 p.m.?
I guess “to buy my book so my family stops asking when I’m going to get a real job” isn’t the right answer? I’m kidding, they’re incredibly supportive. Come out if you want to discover a great new romantic comedy, have a few laughs and mingle with a bunch of fun people. I’ve picked the tamer passages from the book so it’s all-ages appropriate. I’m all about talking books with other avid readers and would love to meet new bookworms, especially teens, to swap suggestions with. Seriously, it’ll be a whole cultural experience.
For more info, go to tellulahdarling.com.