Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Author Interview with Jennifer Hubbard

This month I bring to you Jennifer Hubbard, author of two YA books- THE SECRET YEAR (Viking) and TRY NOT TO BREATHE (Viking). THE SECRET YEAR is about a boy who revisits the year of his secret romance when he gets ahold of his girlfriend’s journal after her sudden death. TRY NOT TO BREATHE is about a boy recovering from a suicide attempt. A fan of Jennifer’s writing style, I also visit Jennifer’s author blog frequently for her perspective on a variety of topics related to writing and her life as a writer. Jennifer lived in New England as a child and then went to Philadelphia where she attended college and majored in science. She lives in Philadelphia today.  

Any childhood memories of New England you’d like to share?                         
One image I associated with my childhood is Mount Tom, which you could see from our first house. I’ve now lived in Pennsylvania longer than anywhere else, and that’s probably my home now, but there’s something anchoring about seeing Mount Tom. It has a very distinctive profile, that mountain. It looks like a mountain that partly melted and had its top smushed to one side.

In THE SECRET YEAR and TRY NOT TO BREATHE, you write from a male perspective, and you pull it off very well. How do you pull off writing a convincing male perspective?                                                           
I think of my characters as people first. I grew up having male friends and relatives, reading male writers. I don’t think it’s strange that I have the voices of male characters as well as female characters in my head.

In THE SECRET YEAR, Colt relives the steamy relationship he had with Julia as the reader looks on. What are elements that make a romance captivating to readers?                                                              
I believe romance in general is captivating because it plays such a big part in our own lives. The quest for a mate—whether for one night or a lifetime—is something we spend a lot of time and energy on. It’s a near-universal human experience. We want to be loved; we want people to find us attractive. Most of us can identify with the feelings of longing, doubt, jealousy, anger, and elation that Colt goes through in The Secret Year, and that Ryan experiences in Try Not to Breathe.

It’s funny that you use the word “steamy” for The Secret Year. There is an intensity between Colt and Julia, but those scenes are not particularly graphic. I usually say, “It’s all done with atmosphere.” In other words, there’s more focus on emotion than on body parts.

I notice that THE SECRET YEAR has two different book covers. Was this a marketing decision?               Yes. Books are often rejacketed in paperback, or for new editions. Although I love the original hard cover of The Secret Year, I’m happy with the paperback cover as well. Not only because it’s beautiful, but because variety gives more people more chances to find the book. There’s also a Walmart edition with a third cover. And at some point there will be a Turkish edition; I look forward to seeing that cover.

What inspired you to write TRY NOT TO BREATHE, a book about the aftermath of a boy’s suicide attempt? I like that you wrote a book about an “issue” without making it an “issues” book. How were you able to do that?                                  
The flaw in an “issue” book, or “problem novel” as it’s sometimes called, is when the character is just a prop to explore an issue. I try to make my characters fully fleshed—flawed, multidimensional, with some sense of humor. They sometimes do the right thing and sometimes the wrong thing. And their problems are complex. We do see a resolution to the story in the novel, but it doesn’t mean all their problems are forever fixed, or that their lives are neatly tied up with a bow.

In TRY NOT TO BREATHE, Ryan accompanies Nicki to see several psychics so Nicki could attempt to reach her dead father. How did you do the research on how psychic sessions are conducted?                   
I read several nonfiction books and articles by people who consulted psychics, investigated psychics, or worked as psychics (those who believed they had powers, and those who didn’t). I’ve also heard a few readings on TV and radio, and talked to a couple of people who’ve had private consultations. And I had my Tarot read once.

There is no one universal way that readings are done. Different psychics use different practices, and they don’t all claim to have the same powers. Technically, the psychics that Nicki consults claim to be mediums—that is, to be able to communicate with the dead.

What were your favorite books/authors in kidlit and YA while growing up?                                                                                                                            Beverly Cleary, Ellen Conford, Lois Duncan, Judy Blume, K.M. Peyton, Marilyn Sachs, Zilpha Keatley Snyder, Paul Zindel ... you can see they range from funny to serious. I preferred contemporary realism but was OK with some paranormal elements, as in the work of Lois Duncan and Zilpha Keatley Snyder. I usually liked to feel that the events in a book could happen to me; that explains my fondness for realism. 

Any other projects you’d like to talk  about?                                                        
I’ve had short stories published in a 2011 anthology called Truth & Dare, and in Hunger Mountain and Cricket magazines. I’m currently working on another YA novel.


Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Thanks for hosting me!

Lynn Proctor said...

sounds like a really deep issue--would love to read it

Cynthia said...

Jennifer: You're so welcome! It was my pleasure.

Lynn: Both books are great.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Great interview. The Secret Year sounds great and I love the covers.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

Thanks, Lynn and Lynda!

Unknown said...

I really love that second cover for THE SECRET YEAR :) To me it feels a lot more natural to write from a girl's POV, but I'd like to try writing from a boy's POV.

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