I'm so happy to be taking part in the 2014 YA Contemporary Scavenger Hunt, part of the YA Contemporary Challenge hosted by Katie's Book Blog and Montana from Book Belles!
I had the good fortune to be assigned to interview Jennifer Brown, author of Torn Away.
An Interview with Jennifer Brown
I grew up in Alabama, where tornado season requires a trip down to the basement at least a couple of times a year. Do you have strong memories of tornado season from childhood?
I’ve lived in Kansas City my whole life, so not only do I have memories of having to trek down to the basement for shelter a few times a year, I’m still doing it! It’s just a part of living in the Midwest. And, in fact, it’s so much a part of living here, that I think, like Jersey, I have become desensitized to it. When I see footage of tornado destruction, it’s always a jarring reminder that, “Oh, yeah…that could actually happen here.”
Did you make any strange or unexpected discoveries while researching Torn Away?
Actually, my biggest discovery came with how the book was inspired. I visited Joplin, MO, just weeks after a tornado devastated their town. I was shocked at the resilience of the people of Joplin. Even though so many in their town had lost pretty much everything, they were strong, and dedicated to rebuild. I wanted to create a character with that same resilience. I wanted to know if it was possible to rebuild absolutely everything, even the things you’ve lost in your heart.
Authors so often use weather to reflect characters' emotions or to create tone. In this case, weather was so integral to your story--did that affect your thinking about weather as a symbol?
You know, I never really thought about it before, but you’re right—weather can be a powerful symbol in story. I’m not a big “scenery” writer, so I’m not sure if it will ever be a huge symbol in my stories, but, having written Torn Away, I will definitely be more aware of opportunities to make it so.
I hear that you started out as a humor writer, but Torn Away treats such serious events. Did you still find a place for humor in Jersey's story?
It’s hard to weave any sort of humor into a book that deals with tragedy, but sometimes I think it’s necessary in order to portray reality and also to give readers a break from all the sads. So, yes, I did create some lighter moments between Jersey and her friend and neighbor, Kolby. They had a great connection, and great chemistry, that lent itself to levity easily.
Each book is different. Though you've authored several books, did Torn Away teach you something new from a craft perspective?
I don’t think I’ll ever be done learning the craft. It’s just impossible to know it all! Torn Away was a pacing challenge for me from the beginning. I just couldn’t really tell where the bulk of the story was supposed to happen. In my first draft, I had a beginning that rushed, an end that rushed, and a middle that kind of plodded. I had to work hard to fix it so readers wanted to go with Jersey throughout the whole journey and not get stalled out in the beginning or feel cheated at the end.
Leave a comment on the blog post – What was the last book that you couldn’t tear yourself away from? U.S. entries only. One winner will receive an autographed hardcover of Torn Away.
More about Torn Away
Jersey Cameron has always loved a good storm. Watching the clouds roll in and the wind pick up. Smelling the electricity in the air. Dancing barefoot in the rain. She lives in the Midwest, after all, where the weather is sure to keep you guessing. Jersey knows what to do when the tornado sirens sound. But she never could have prepared for this.
When her town is devastated by a tornado, Jersey loses everything. As she struggles to overcome her grief, she's sent to live with relatives she hardly knows-family who might as well be strangers. In an unfamiliar place, can Jersey discover that even on the darkest of days, there are some things no tornado can destroy?
In this powerful and poignant novel, acclaimed author Jennifer Brown delivers a story of love, loss, hope, and survival.
Buy it here!
More About Jennifer Brown
Two-time winner of the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Award (2005 & 2006), Jennifer's weekly humor column appeared in The Kansas City Star for over four years, until she gave it up to be a full-time young adult novelist.
Jennifer's debut novel, HATE LIST (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2009) received three starred reviews and was selected as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults, a VOYA "Perfect Ten," and a School Library Journal Best Book of the Year. HATE LIST also won the Michigan Library Association's Thumbs Up! Award, the Louisiana Teen Readers Choice award, the 2012 Oklahoma Sequoyah Book Award, was an honorable mention for the 2011 Arkansas Teen Book Award, is a YALSA 2012 Popular Paperback, received spots on the Texas Library Association's Taysha's high school reading list as well as the Missouri Library Association's Missouri Gateway Awards list, and has been chosen to represent the state of Missouri in the 2012 National Book Festival in Washington, DC. Jennifer's second novel, BITTER END, (Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2011) received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and VOYA and is listed on the YALSA 2012 Best Fiction for Young Adults list and is a 2012 Taysha's high school reading list pick as well.
Jennifer writes and lives in the Kansas City, Missouri area, with her husband and three children.
The Fourth Annual S3Q2 & Friends Retreat took place in Beverly Shores, IN, this September.
Graduating classes at Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA Program in Writing for Children and Young Adults have a tradition of naming their classes. Mine was known as The Super Secret Society of Quirk and Quill, S3Q2 for short.
Since graduation, we've managed to get some of our original classmates together with other VCFA friends for a weekend writing retreat that's both productive and quirky. I mean, this year we were visited by a peacock.
We had a blast, and I wrote more than 10k words over the weekend.
For my full report on the weekend and WAY more pictures, please visit my post at Quirk & Quill!
S3Q2: Ginger Johnson, Larissa Theule, Varian Johnson, Rachel M. Wilson, & Jen Taylor Schmidt
And Friends: Amy Rose Capetta, Mary Winn Heider, Rachel Hylton, Katie Bayerl, Marianna Baer, Steve Bramucci, & Carol Brendler
THE GAME OF BOYS AND MONSTERS is available wherever spooky ebooks are sold for only $0.99.
It’s a 48pg. standalone short about the darker side of the fantasy of the dangerous boyfriend. Harper calls it “an eerie and utterly compelling short story about best friends Leslie and Evy, whose friendship changes when the enigmatic Marsh brothers move to town.”
I’m full of love for this story, and I hope you’ll love it too!
And if you want to try playing Evy's game for yourself, you can do that at the Dark Faerie Fall Carnival here!
On the Friday after Don't Touch released, my wildly supportive Chicago friends gathered at The Book Cellar!
My friend Sky, who works there, gave the kindest introduction, we screened the trailer for the first time, and I gave a reading and answered questions.
My buddy Lucas (pictured below with duck face) happened to be visiting from LA, and some surprise VCFA friends made it in from the burbs!
We stayed until closing at 10pm! I'm so grateful for all the positive energy and love of that night!
You may be thinking, hey, Rachel, wasn't your hair red in Birmingham only three days ago?
Right you are. I'd had it red for a show, but my friends Jen & Kassi (who also happens to be a hair stylist) surprised me with a new do at the salon and, yes, more champagne.
My family and friends made this a really special night. Two of my high school French teachers, an English teacher, and the school librarian came out, some of whom I hadn't seen in a decade or more!
One of my former teachers gave her students extra credit for attending, and several of my high school friends had kids in tow. Afterwards, my family and three of my besties from high school and their families went out for dinner and a champagne toast!
So much love all around! Next up, the Chicago launch . . .
It's here, and it's beautiful!
Special thanks to director Matt Miller and the entire team at Capgun Collective and Whitehouse Post! To our brilliant composer, Christian Moder, and vocalist, Katie Todd. And to our amazing actors, Mia Hulen as Caddie, Brando Crawford as Peter, Clare O'Connor as April, Paige Collins, Ryan Goldsher, Daniel Kyri, Hannah Toriumi, & Aidan Traynor.
We shot enough footage for a short film, and we found movie-worthy talent, so if the Don't Touch trailer looks and feels like a mini movie, I'm officially #sorrynotsorry.
I love book trailers and knew I wanted to make one for Don't Touch, but I knew I'd need help from someone more filmically inclined. When I asked my bud Matt Miller if he'd like to help, I fully expected him to be too busy. After all, his Teachers webseries had been picked up for pilot and he'd just signed on with commercial production company, Cap Gun Collective.
As it turns out, not only was Matt up for directing my book trailer, he brought a bunch of his highly skilled friends with him.
We held a casting session to draw from Chicago's fantastic pool of talent and found the perfect Caddie and Peter, along with some other fine young actors to play students: Paige Collins, Ryan Goldsher, Daniel Kyri, Clare O'Connor, Hannah Toriumi, and Aidan Traynor.
Here's Matt with our Caddie, Mia Hulen. Yes, he's that tall, and yes, she's that tiny.
Peter was played by Brando Crawford, who was happily familiar with the term "adorkable" and who savvily borrowed these glasses for the audition and shoot.
I mean . . . if these guys aren't adorkable, I don't know what is.
The shoot went splediforously well. We were able to shoot on The Vittum Theater stage, a classic theater with a beautiful proscenium arch, where I've had the pleasure of acting a few times. Matt and our producer, PJ Fishwick, found some perfect Alabama-esque woods and railroad tracks. And another friend found us a house in Winnetka with a pool!
Then, I got to hang out with Matt and our brilliant editor, Travis Hockswender, at the WhiteHouse to check out the rough cut.
Composer, Christian Moder, wrote original music for the trailer. For lyrics, we settled on a Hamlet stanza and a few extra Don't Touch-ish lines, and a phenomenal vocalist, Katie Todd, total rock star, recorded them right in front of us.
I whispered to Matt, "I feel like I'm on a reality TV show." You know, where they make the Bachelors or Bachelorettes scribble down some lyrics and go in a recording booth even though they all have terrible voices? This was like that in terms of fanciness and coolness, but the exact opposite in terms of suckiness. In fact, I'm in love with the track they created: "We Fall." And it may even make its way toward being a full song.
I can't wait to share the trailer with you, but with so many talented people doing us favors, we need to wait a teensy bit longer for the finished product. As Matt might say, "soon, my sweet doves, soon!"
Some of my friends have begun to receive their pre-orders in the mail, which is wild!
I'll be having two launch events this week, in Birmingham and Chicago!
If you want a signed copy but can't make it to one of these events, you can order a personalized copy from The Book Cellar. Just make a note specifying how you would like it signed when you order.
I have a bunch of fun links to share:
I shared a "Recipe for Don't Touch" with HCC Frenzy--that's Harper Collins Canada--featuring Miss Piggy and her lavender evening gloves!
I'm psyched to have made EpicReads's list of The 20 Most Anticipated YA Books Publishing in September. This list is based on Goodreads adds, so it keeps fluctuating, but various points, Don't Touch has been was way anticipated.
I’m giving up The Debut Dish with That Artsy Reader Girl, along with Erica Cameron, Austin Aslan, and Paul Williams.
I also visited the Big Blue Marble Bookstore blog for an interview with the brilliant Cordelia Jensen, author of the forthcoming YA verse novel, SKYSCRAPER. Cordelia asked some thoughtful questions that surprised me, so I really enjoyed this one.
Sue from YA Hollywood made a fanmix for Don't Touch that I absolutely love! You can see the tracklist at her Tumblr.
And while I’m doing sharesies, I love this review from Ellis of Finding Bliss in Books. PLUS, she loved the book so much that she’s running a giveaway of a hardback copy. Here's what Ellis had to say:
If reading awesome reviews is your thing, here are a few more, from Hiver & Cafe (isn’t that name the coolest?), I Swim for Oceans, Island Geek Girl, Reading on the Farm, Ms. Martin Teaches Media, and Awkwordly Emma.
Stay tuned during launch week for the Don't Touch book trailer and a Fantastic Flying Book Club Tour!
I'm offering up one last annotated ARC and a pair of purple evening gloves like Caddie's.
There are lots of ways to win including some freebie entries, so hop in there and spread the word!
News, events, fun stuff, serious stuff, and online doings. I kept a personal blog for years at The Storybook Girl, and I'll slowly be migrating some of those posts to this blog.