YA author Simone Elkeles is beloved by readers of all ages. Her most recent novel Chain Reaction was named a Top 10 Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Readers by Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA). Today we're thrilled to be able to bring you an early look at the author's next project, the Fullriders series about high school football players whose lives are more complicated than anyone could imagine ...
You’ve just announced that you’ll be writing about a diverse team of high school football players who seem to have it all, but that’s just on the surface. So we’ve got to ask, what inspired the idea?
I’m from Chicago and football is in my blood. My grandfather was a 40-year season ticket holder for the Chicago Bears and took me to games when I was a kid. I love the game so much that I wanted to try out for my high school team, but none of my friends would do it with me and I didn’t want to be the only girl trying out so I didn’t do it. I always wanted to write a book about football players, because I think people have a perception of who these guys are and I want to break the stereotype and show a side of football players that people might not know ... in addition to showing what it’s like when my characters fall in love!
These guys come from diverse backgrounds; can you share a sneak peek at some of the guys (or the backgrounds) that you’re thinking of?
For the Fullriders series, some of the characters are boys and girls of different backgrounds and races — but not all. You’ll see teens who are of mixed-races, because that is something I haven’t written before and have always wanted to write since a lot of my fans can relate.
What are three adjectives you’d use to describe the first Fullriders heroine? And are these the same adjectives you’d choose to describe yourself?
3) Oops (I know “oops” isn’t an adjective, but my heroine seems to always be in a constant state of “oops, I shouldn’t have said/done that,” which is definitely entertaining. I guess you can substitute “oops” for “entertaining”.)
I would say I’m all of these at different times. I’m competent at certain things, I’m intensely independent, and everyone who knows me would probably agree that I’m entertaining and super funny. I love making people laugh, so I pretty much do and say crazy stuff in order to get a reaction.
Can you share a scene or a moment that made you grin while you were writing?
I always love the first moment the hero and heroine meet each other. It’s so fun for me, because I know where they are is definitely not where they’re going to end up! I hate giving up scenes because so much will change from the draft I’m working on to the final book. All I can say is that the first meeting right now is at a hardware store, where the heroine works. The heroine is not pleasant to the hero because she thinks he’s someone from a rival high school buying spray paint in order to vandalize her school.
Have any elements of the series changed since you started writing?
I change things all the time. At first my heroine had two parents, but I killed off her mom five years before the book starts.
A football team has a whole lot more players than the Fuentes family does. If it were completely up to you, how many Fullriders books would you write?
Wow, that’s a great question. I’d love to write the series until I run out of ideas or get sick of the setting, but right now there are four stories that I have blurbs for. Personally I love reading books in a series, and am so sad when the series ends. For example, I’m still pining for another Chicago Stars book from Susan Elizabeth Phillips. She said she’s done writing them, but I would buy them all if she decided to write more!
Last year you mentioned in a live chat that you have been working on a story about a girl who falls for a guy that’s recently out of rehab, will this be part of the Fullriders series?
No, that book will not be part of the Fullriders series. I dated a recovering alcoholic and drug addict when I was a senior in high school. I don’t think there are enough books about kids who have been alcoholics and drug addicts since they were 10 or 12 and start to fall in love as high school students while dealing with their addiction. I have no clue when I’ll write that book, but one day I will!
As a big football fan so we can only assume that you relied on some of the know-how you picked up to craft the Fullriders series, what is one tip you’d give to someone who isn’t a fan of the sport?
There are people who aren’t fans of football? They obviously don’t live in Chicago then, haha! I’m just kidding. For people who aren’t fans of football, don’t worry — my book is about football players but the Fullriders series not a series about football. Just like Alex and his gang in Perfect Chemistry, football is about brotherhood and loyalty and commitment to the other players on the team. When a newcomer comes into the fray (as is the case with the first book in the series), he has to earn his place on the team. The boys on the team have their own set of unspoken rules — it’s not so much about “football plays” as it is about the culture of football. If you like my Perfect Chemistry series, you’ll like the Fullriders series as well!
Do you have any prospective titles that you guys are kicking around?
Seriously, I haven’t thought about titles at all. I have no clue what the title of the first book will be, and haven’t been approached by my publisher to come up with one yet. Titles are tricky and make me nervous! I’d even be okay with Fullriders: Book 1!
What’s an element of this story that you are looking forward to — pardon our pun — “tackling”?
I love the romantic scenes in books, and always look forward to writing those. In those scenes the hero and heroine have to put down whatever invisible walls they hold up and become real and vulnerable to the other person. The hero and heroine in the first Fullriders book will have a very romantic scene, but one of them is holding a secret and it’s not a good one. When the other person finds out, they will feel very betrayed! (Sorry for the cryptic language!)
The actors in your book trailers and the models for your covers so far have been extremely good-looking! Have you cast anyone for your upcoming series?
To be honest, all of my book covers are stock photos that my publisher buys the rights to. I have always wanted them to hire models but have been shut down. I’m always nervous about my covers and get scared every time I get sent a mock-up from my publisher. Luckily they’ve chosen great ones for my Perfect Chemistry series! I have had the BEST time picking actors to play my heroes for my book trailers. Alexander F. Rodriguez, Giancarlo Vidrio, and Gabriel Chavarria have played the Fuentes brothers in my book trailers. They are not only gorgeous Latino men, they are the nicest boys you’ll ever meet. For the Fullriders series, I have no clue what my book cover will look like. For the book trailers themselves, I don’t have any actors in mind as of yet. Jeremy Chavarria (Gabriel’s brother) has volunteered to play one of the Fullriders. He’s adorable, a senior in high school, and an amazing football player. I also want Evan Ross as one of the Fullriders (from 90210). He would be a perfect fit!
There's no word yet on the publication date for the first Fullriders book, but we promise to let you know as soon as it is announced. And if you're craving more genre coverage, be sure to head over to our Everything Young Adult Page.