The series, which revolves around a young girl who travels through time when she puts on vintage clothing and accessories, is a bestseller with readers 8 to 12 years of age.
Bianca lives in a cozy studio apartment in Brooklyn, NY, that houses her very extensive and much-loved vintage collection.
The Biancha Turetsky Interview
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Bianca Turetsky Books
Bianca Turetsky Transcript
Tim Knox: Hi everyone welcome back in to Interviewing Authors, Tim Knox here. Bianca Turetsky is my guest today. Bianca is the author of the series called Time Travelling Fashionista. This is a young adult series about a young girl name Louise Lambert who travels through time every time she puts on various outfits and accessories. She goes back to the Titanic and back to the time of the Pharaohs. Just a really fascinating series that’s aimed at the young-young adult audience, 12 and under, and Bianca talks a lot about what it’s like to write for this audience, how she relates to this audience, and how she just keeps coming up with these wonderful books. So if you’re interested in writing for the young-young adults this is a great interview for you to listen to. She also talks about things every author should be interested in: how she writes, when she writes, how she comes up with ideas, etcetera, etcetera. So let’s get to it. Bianca Turetsky on today’s Interviewing Authors.
Tim Knox: Bianca, welcome to the program.
Bianca Turetsky: Thank you so much, Tim.
Tim Knox: So nice to have you here. Before we get started give us a little background information on you.
Bianca Turetsky: Well I am living in Brooklyn now. My third book just came out. I grew up nearby in Connecticut and I am a writer, swimmer, a vintage fashion enthusiast, a cat owner.
Tim Knox: Now your series is The Time-Traveling Fashionista, which we’re going to talk about. It sounds like your interest in fashion and some of the other things you’re into really kind of culminated in this series of books. Is that what got you thinking or started to be a writer?
Bianca Turetsky: Well I always wanted to be a writer actually since I could write. I wasn’t sure what genre I wanted to write or, you know, there was a moment where I thought I wanted to work in magazines. I wasn’t sure how I was going to be a writer but I always knew that I wanted to be one.
Tim Knox: You just wanted to live in New York City and be a writer.
Bianca Turetsky: Yeah.
Tim Knox: Isn’t that every writer’s dream?
Bianca Turetsky: It sounds like a good plan, yeah. It is actually.
Tim Knox: You graduated from Tufts. What was your major?
Bianca Turetsky: English literature.
Tim Knox: And you ended up working for a filmmaker for a while.
Bianca Turetsky: I did, yes. I worked for a filmmaker named Julian Schnabel. I worked with him on a few movies. He’s also a painter and sculptor and I ran his studio for about 11 years. So I was doing that and writing as well. Now I’m just writing full-time.
Tim Knox: When did you start writing? Did you always write, even when you were young?
Bianca Turetsky: I did. I wrote a lot when I was young. I wrote little stories, little poems. I always kept a diary. I got into the habit of writing every day from a really young age.
Tim Knox: Do you remember the first thing you wrote that you actually showed someone or shared with someone?
Bianca Turetsky: I remember the first thing I got published. I was in the second grade I think and it was a poem for… a local library had this Journal that they put out and there was this big ceremony and it was just the best feeling. From that point I was like this sounds good to me. It took 20 years to publish the next thing but it was a good start.
Tim Knox: What was the first book that you formally published?
Bianca Turetsky: The first book was the first in the Time-Traveling Fashionista series.
Tim Knox: I want to talk a little about that because are you three books in, three or four?
Bianca Turetsky: Three books in, yes.
Tim Knox: How did you come up with the concept of the Time-Traveling Fashionista which is basically the lead character, Louise – every time she puts on a different accessory or outfit she travels through time?
Bianca Turetsky: Yeah well the story came to me actually… it was based somewhat on a personal experience. I mean I didn’t time travel but as I mentioned I love vintage clothing. I got an invitation to this fashionista vintage sale and I went and there were these two really fabulous women who own this shop. I tried on a dress that belonged to a woman named Ms. Baxter and they started telling me a little about the woman and her life. I thought how cool would it be to actually be able to go back in time to the last time the dress was worn. From that little spark I started writing the first book in the series.
Tim Knox: I really like the concept. Time travel has been done over and over but to do it by… now the genre that you’re in; is this Young Adult?
Bianca Turetsky: It is. It’s either Young Adult or Middle Grade. I’m not quite sure what but I would say 8-12 is where my main audience is.
Tim Knox: What attracted you to write for the young Young Adult?
Bianca Turetsky: It was just the story kind of dictated the voice. I never thought about writing this genre. I always read a lot in it but it wasn’t something I initially set out to do but I knew that this story was too good to not finish so I ended up writing it and this ended up being the audience. That was kind of serendipitous. It wasn’t a plan.
Tim Knox: How did you come up with the character of Louise?
Bianca Turetsky: She is loosely based on myself I say. She grew up in this suburban Connecticut town called Fairfield and she’s on the swim team. We share a few traits.
Tim Knox: A little auto-biographical.
Bianca Turetsky: A little bit.
Tim Knox: It’s kind of funny. Whenever I talk to male authors and they base their hero on themselves, it’s always the much more muscular fighter types. It’s not the fat guy sitting behind the keyboard. I find it interesting when we do that. Well let’s talk about how you got that first book published. Once you had the finished manuscript, what was your route to actually getting it out there?
Bianca Turetsky: It took me about a year to finish the first draft, which is extremely different than the first book. After I had a draft I sent it to a few agents and the agent I ended up taking on was a friend of a friend. You need to have the book done but it was nice to have a personal connection to her. She definitely read it and she liked it. With her we ended up editing for another year before taking it out to publishers.
Tim Knox: Once it went out to the publishers what kind of response did you get?
Bianca Turetsky: It took a little while. I mean at the time it felt like it was taking forever. In retrospect I was very lucky. We sent it to a few people before it ended up finding a home at Poppy, which is a subset of Little Brown. They ended up being the perfect people for the job. I feel very lucky.
Tim Knox: Let’s talk a little bit about that process. As you know and I know a lot of authors, especially new authors, feel that I’m going to write this book, I’m going to immediately get an agent, I’m going to immediately get a publisher, it will be in bookstores within the next three weeks. It really is a much longer process than that. It took you…
Bianca Turetsky: It’s years, yeah.
Tim Knox: Even after you got an agent you edited for a year. How did you spend your time while you were waiting for the book to come out?
Bianca Turetsky: Well I spent a lot of that time editing. I had no idea how much rewriting goes into a book and how many people. It’s really not a one person job.
Tim Knox: Do you hate the editing process?
Bianca Turetsky: I don’t hate it, no. The difference in quality from what I turned in to what ended up happening makes it all worth it. You’re so close to it and you’ve been looking at it, the same words for a year that you can’t even see straight anymore. So just having another set of eyes on the page really makes a huge difference.
Tim Knox: When you wrote the first book did you think it was going to be a series? Did it occur to you then?
Bianca Turetsky: Yeah the first book, they ended up buying two books. So I had one and I knew I was going to be writing a second one. After that they bought a third one. I did write it with that in mind.
Tim Knox: How long is the series going to last? Are you going to be writing about Louise Lambert when you’re in your 80s?
Bianca Turetsky: I would love to. That’s fine with me.
Tim Knox: You’ve built quite a following. This isn’t really my genre to read but I did read some experts. It’s really very entertaining stuff. I don’t think you dumb your books down. You write to the intelligent level of the intelligent reader, don’t you? A lot of people who write in the Young Adult tend to… I don’t want to say water down the prose but they don’t write as intelligently as they might should.
Bianca Turetsky: You know, I don’t know. Maybe that has to do with the fact that when I was writing the first book I wasn’t thinking about it in that way. I was just thinking about it as writing a book. I wasn’t thinking as writing a book for someone who’s eight or someone who’s seven. It was just the story that I wanted to get across. So I can continue to write that way and write something that I would want to read.
Tim Knox: Your character, Louise, she travels through time. How much research do you do as far as if she goes back to the Titanic, for example? How much research did you do to make sure that you get your facts straight?
Bianca Turetsky: I do a ton of research. That ended up being really fun. These books are actually historical fiction, which is another thing I never set out to write. I would never in my life imagine that I would be writing historical fiction because I was such a terrible history student when I was a kid. That’s actually been one of the fun things about this is this coming at history through a different lens, through fashion, through these personal stories. It’s been getting kids, particularly girls, really interested about learning about these time periods. They write to me after about how they went on to do more research and how they are liking history now, which has been such a bonus. I didn’t expect that to happen. I take the research part very seriously and it’s time travel; it’s a fantasy but once she goes back in time I want those details to be really accurate.
Tim Knox: Right and you give a lot of attention to the fashion of the day.
Bianca Turetsky: I do. That’s probably my favorite part to these.
Tim Knox: You’re such a girl.
Bianca Turetsky: It’s so fascinating and it makes me so nostalgic for these dresses that I wish I could have worn because the time that went into each garment compared to today when everything’s so mass produced and cheap and fast and, you know, it’s a whole different way of dressing.
Tim Knox: You have an affinity towards the vintage clothing, right?
Bianca Turetsky: I do, yes.
Tim Knox: Tell us a little about that.
Bianca Turetsky: I’m not quite sure why. I always liked it from when I was Louise’s age – 12 – I was shopping at… at the time there weren’t really any great vintage stores. There wasn’t eBay or Etsy so I was shopping at the local Goodwill or Salvation Army on a treasure hunt trying to find some special piece. That’s just kind of continued on to this day. Now I live in New York where there’s a million great vintage stores, which I have to avoid.
Tim Knox: A little bit like crack once you try one on. I want to talk a little bit about your process and how you write. Do you get up every day and write on a schedule? Do you have a minimum word count? How do you approach the actual writing part?
Bianca Turetsky: I don’t have a minimum word count. I have a lot of friends who do write that way. It’s funny. I’ve only been writing full-time for a few months now so I’m still trying to figure out what my schedule is. When I had a job, a day job, it was very clear. I would wake up an hour or two before I had to go to work and write and I knew I only had that amount of time so I did it every day. Now all of a sudden when I have all day, I feel like I’m probably writing as many words as I did then. I definitely write every day. I try not to beat myself up about a word count but it’s something… my advice is if you are writing just get in the habit of doing it every day. It’s like anything else like playing the flute or learning a language, you just have to practice and get into a routine. So I’m still figuring out my exact routine now but I do write for a few hours every day no matter what.
Tim Knox: So you’re writing full-time now. How scary was that to jump off that ledge and go into full-time authorship? Do you feel pressure now that you’ve got to write a book?
Bianca Turetsky: I do. It was scary. I do feel pressure. It’s what I’ve wanted for so long that I feel very fortunate but it’s a different kind of pressure. I spend a lot of my day writing but I also spend probably more of it with marketing and PR and answering emails and reaching out to schools. It’s become a business. I’m trying to not let that part of it take away just the pure joy of writing a book.
Tim Knox: Do you find the marketing part of it just kind of arduous? Do you enjoy it? A lot of authors don’t and they don’t realize they’re going to have to market their own work.
Bianca Turetsky: You do. I didn’t realize that going in either. You know what, at first I think a lot of authors are probably introverts and it’s not the most natural position to be promoting yourself and selling yourself but it’s gotten much easier for me. I feel very passionately about the books and no one feels as strongly about them as I do and I know that so I really just force myself to get out there. In terms of school visits and library talks, the first year I was shy. I wasn’t comfortable with public speaking and now it’s maybe my favorite part. I love it. I love meeting the kids and hearing their thoughts on the books and going out to schools. It’s been surprisingly amazing, that aspect of it and doing events. I think everything is just practice and getting comfortable and doing things a little outside of your comfort zone.
Tim Knox: Do you do a lot with the social media?
Bianca Turetsky: I do, which lately I’ve been thinking I need to just put that into an hour time block on my schedule because I think you can get really distracted with it and think that you’re being productive when in reality a little is good but to spend your whole day doing it is not necessarily the best use of time. For me, my audience is very active on social media so I could spend all day just replying to tweets and Instagrams and emails. I have spent days like that but I think that I need to put it into an hour block. But I’m on Instagram, I’m on Twitter, I’m on Facebook. I have a website that I try and update. That is a full-time job in itself.
Tim Knox: Right. What are you working on now?
Bianca Turetsky: I am working on trying to get the film version of the Time-Traveling Fashionista made.
Tim Knox: Tell us about that process. How fun is that?
Bianca Turetsky: Well it’s fun but it’s another thing that’s a very long process and who knows? A lot of stars have to align for that to work out. So that requires another… I have another agent, this guy named Howie Sanders who works at UTA. He’s just responsible for the book-to-film deals and so I am working on making a little three minute video called a sizzle reel, which is just kind of how I see the book as a film and then I’m going to go out to L.A. and take meetings and try and get that going.
Tim Knox: Look at you – I’m going to go to L.A. and take meetings. Isn’t that cool? It sounds great. I want to go! How exciting is that for you? You’ve done a little bit of work in film before but to actually, just the prospect of seeing your work on the big screen or TV that has to be pretty exciting.
Bianca Turetsky: That’s like my ultimate dream. That would be amazing. I feel like, you know, the books were such a visual… a lot of times when I was writing it was just like I was watching a movie in my head and just trying to copy down what I was seeing as fast as possible. So many of the girls are like when’s the movie coming out? That’s ultimately the way to sell books.
Tim Knox: It seems like a natural fit for the movies.
Bianca Turetsky: I really hope so. In that case maybe I could write the books until I’m 80. Otherwise, I might start working on another series but I’m going to try and get this going first.
Tim Knox: Exciting stuff. Let’s talk a little bit more about the actual selling of the work because a large part of our audience are authors who have written books that they are trying to get out there. A lot of them these days are going the self-publishing route. Let’s talk a little about that because you’re traditionally published. Have you self-published anything?
Bianca Turetsky: I haven’t and to be honest I’m not that familiar with that market. I know that a lot of people are doing it now and it’s an interesting new frontier but I’ve gone a pretty traditional route with finding an agent, finding a publisher. I don’t know that much about it.
Tim Knox: Well the traditional route seems to be working well for you.
Bianca Turetsky: I imagine there’s pros and cons on both sides. It is nice to have a big company behind you, getting the book out. The book they ended up making was really incredible, the design that went into which is something that I have no capacity to do. They set me up with a really great illustrator from Spain who does these fantastic fashion illustrations that are in all of the books. There’s things that I could not have done on my own.
Tim Knox: Have you thought about dipping your toe into another genre?
Bianca Turetsky: I really have found that I love writing for this audience. It’s crazy how fresh it feels to me to be 12 years old. I remember it so clearly and I have hopefully a little bit of perspective on it now. It’s really a natural fit for me and I don’t really have any ambitions at this point to write an adult book. I might actually, I was thinking maybe even younger like a picture book or something like that could be fun. I love writing for kids and that’s been a pleasant surprise. I knew I wanted to be a writer. I didn’t know where my voice would feel the most natural and it turned out to be for this age group.
Tim Knox: That’s probably what keeps you looking so young is you think through the mind of a 12 year old.
Bianca Turetsky: I hang out with a lot of 12 year olds or I think like a 12 year old, yeah exactly.
Tim Knox: Exactly. Do you plan on having kids of your own someday that you can read these books to?
Bianca Turetsky: I would love to, yes.
Tim Knox: Do you read to your cat now? I talk to someone who actually reads out loud to his dog.
Bianca Turetsky: Really?
Tim Knox: Yeah.
Bianca Turetsky: No, my cat doesn’t sit still long enough. I have a lot of friends with kids who I go over and read to. I love reading to little kids. I’m an honorary aunt to a lot of children right now.
Tim Knox: Very good. Bianca Turetsky, you’re doing very well in this genre. If someone is thinking about getting into writing for the Young Adults, either the teens or the earlier like you do, give us a little advice for those folks. What is it that they should do? A lot of people tend to have a tendency to kind of just jump on the bandwagon of what’s hot. Your thoughts on that?
Bianca Turetsky: I mean I think the first thing you need to have is a story that you’re very passionate about telling and I think if you go into writing because you want to make money, it’s completely the wrong field to be going into. It takes so long to write a book that you really have to love the story that you’re working on. I would say to read as much in the genre as possible and books that have worked. I read a lot. The books beside my bed now, it’s a combination of Young Adult and Adult. I kind of alternate one for one. Read Harry Potter. Read John Greene. Read the authors who have been able to do it very successfully just to get an idea of what that should look like but I would never write a book like Harry Potter just because Harry Potter was so successful.
Tim Knox: Right, you’re not going to write the next 12 year old vampire…
Bianca Turetsky: Or something with vampires, exactly. No, though I might be in better shape if I did but it’s been done. You need to find your own story.
Tim Knox: Do you remember the moment when you were writing that you realized who your audience was going to be, that you were writing for this younger audience and did that alter your voice at all in the book?
Bianca Turetsky: You know what; I try not to step outside of myself too much when I’m writing and project on to who’s reading it, which gets harder as the series go on. I’ve met so many of the readers and they’ve given me their opinions. I try to filter all of that out when I’m writing because otherwise it’s just too hard to try and please this imaginary reader.
Tim Knox: Right, your avatar. That’s the big word now.
Bianca Turetsky: Oh yes, exactly.
Tim Knox: What’s it like getting feedback from 8 year olds?
Bianca Turetsky: It is adorable.
Tim Knox: Got to be better than getting feedback from adults.
Bianca Turetsky: It’s really the best. They often send their own little fashion illustrations. Things are in color, crayons. They’re so excited and it’s just really the best. I can’t even describe. I try and respond to everything because it just makes me so happy. Writing takes forever. It’s really lonely. It’s nice to hear back from readers and see that it resonates.
Tim Knox: Kids can be so brutally honest but they can also be so brutally appreciative. They’re not going to be as negative as some readers would be.
Bianca Turetsky: Not as critical, exactly. And if they are they probably won’t take the time to draw you a picture about it.
Tim Knox: They’re not going to blast you anonymously on Twitter.
Bianca Turetsky: Right.
Tim Knox: Bianca Turetsky, the author of The Time-traveling Fashionista series – your website is TimeTravelingFashionista.com, is that right?
Bianca Turetsky: Yeah, exactly.
Tim Knox: Alright and I assume we can find you on Twitter and Facebook.
Bianca Turetsky: Yeah I’m on Twitter as @BiancaTuretsky and I’m on Facebook as well.
Tim Knox: Very good. We’ll put links to everything. I want to encourage folks to check out your website because I was very entertained. The design there fits the theme.
Bianca Turetsky: Yes, the illustrations have definitely taken the book to another level. Did you do the fashionista quiz? What kind of fashionista are you?
Tim Knox: I have not got there yet but I’m kind of afraid to figure out what kind of a fashionista I would be. It could be very scary. Bianca, this has been wonderful. We will get links posted and get your interview up and continued success. Let me know when the movie deal is and if you need someone to stand behind your chair on the movie set and hand you martinis, I’m your guy.
Bianca Turetsky: Thank you so much, Tim. This was fun.
Tim Knox: Have a good day.
Bianca Turetsky: Okay, you too.