I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jennifer Brown about her debut YA novel, Hate List. If you have read my review of Hate List you will know that I seriously advocate this book. It takes a hard look at the aftermath of a school shooting for all involved. As you follow along, you get to see the humanity of the shooter, Nick, as well as what finally pushed him over that ledge. You also follow Valerie, his girlfriend, and get to see the heartbreaking reality that is her life. The strength that she shows in this book is astounding, and I urge all of you to read it.
LFW: What gave you the idea to write "Hate List"?
JB: I was bullied in junior high and high school, so bullying is a subject that is important to me. And as a parent, I think one of my worst nightmares is a school shooting.
But what happened was one night I got the Nickelback song, "If Everyone Cared," stuck in my head while I was sleeping, and when I woke up, it had all come together. All the things I'd been thinking and wondering about, my fears as a parent, my experiences as a bullied kid, and my questions. I had Valerie in my head, and I just sort of knew her story.
LFW: How hard was it to write, Hate List, especially when you've mentioned that some of the scenes in the book were drawn from your past?
JB: It got a little tough at times. I found myself re-living some of the same feelings that I did when I was a young teen. And the seriousness of the subject also tended to weigh me down from time to time. But, fortunately, I write a weekly humor column for my local newspaper, so I was forced to lighten up once a week. I also began writing a lighter novel at the same time, just to give me something to work on that was a little less serious. It turned out to be a good balance.
LFW: How long did it take for you to write this book from start to publication? Did you scratch anything from earlier versions that you wish could have been used in the final version? (If so, can you tell us about them?)
JB: It took me probably about six months to write the rough draft. It sold pretty quickly, but then the process of revising and so forth took most of a year. So it was about two years or so, I'd guess, from start to finish. It was all such a flurry of activity, it's hard to really remember. I wish I'd written it down.
I did scratch some things that I really liked from the original version, but overall I'm happy with the way the book turned out, so I can't say I wish I could put them back in.
LFW: Are you going to write a secondary book following Valerie after school? If not, where do you see her going, will she go to college or university, heal or come to terms with her past?
JB: No, I don't plan to write Valerie's journey after school. I kind of tend to see her as having already lived through the toughest time of her life, and everything being way too normal for her from here on out to make an interesting book. I do see Val as having come to terms with her life, having gone on to college, and eventually using what happened to her to reach out to and help teens in trouble. If you think about it, the poor girl can probably relate to just about anything -- anger, isolation, loss, broken-heartedness, guilt, bullying, divorce... the list goes on and on!
LFW: I know you go to a lot of schools and talk about Hate List. How do the students react to the book?
JB: I get a lot of different reactions. But the reaction I get most often is one of... understanding what the main characters are going through, which kind of breaks my heart. I've had many students come up to me after a presentation to privately share their own stories of being bullied, which just shows me that bullying is still a major problem in schools.
LFW: (At your current age) In the style of Brad Paisley, if you could write a letter to yourself as a teen, what would you say?
JB: That even though right now high school is the whole world, in just a few years it will mean little to you. It will be forgotten. That things do get better and people will stop being outright mean and that you just need to believe in yourself more and believe in what the haters say less.
LFW: Do you have any current projects in the works? If so, any hints as to what they are about?
JB: I am currently working on a new YA novel about a girl who falls in love with the new boy at school, only to find out a little too late that he's got a seriously abusive side.
LFW: How do you balance your writing career with your family life?
JB: Family always comes first, without a doubt. I still do all the things I did as a full-time stay-at-home mom. I still do all the cooking and cleaning and taking care of the kids. I still volunteer every week at the elementary school, both in the classroom and in the library. I still go on field trips and do the baseball/football/basketball mom thing. Writing comes in the empty spaces between those things. The nooks and crannies of free time. One of my strengths is extreme flexibility. If I have to get up at the crack of dawn to write, it doesn't bother me. If I have to stay up until 2AM to write, it doesn't bother me. If I have to write in 10-minute fits and starts, that's okay, too.
LFW: What is your favourite line from anything you've written?
JB: The first line. I love writing first lines, because that's where all the possibility is! There's such a rush of energy and excitement and magic when you get that first line on paper and you know you're the only person in the world who knows how the rest of the story goes, and you just can't wait to share it!
LFW: Last, but certainly not least, is there anything else you'd like to mention? (Anything I may have neglected to ask?)
JB: Thank you so much for having me!
Thank you Jen for taking time out of your hectic schedule to answer these questions! I hope that your book reaches a lot of people and will help others realize that bullying is not the answer. If you want to know more about Jen, you can follow her on her website linked here. Thank you for stopping by! :)
You didn't think I'd forget about the giveaway, did you? :)
In honour of having Jen Brown here, I thought I'd show my appreciation and host a giveaway for her book, Hate List.
Rules and Regulations
- Contest is open INTERNATIONALLY (As long as the book depository ships to your country)
- Contest will end July 16, 2010 at 5pm EST. Contest has ENDED. Thank you to all who participated!
- Please comment on THIS post to enter. Thank you! :)
Original entry (+1)
Tweet/sidebar/blog post (+1 for each)
Leave email address (+1)
Add up total (+1)
That should leave you with a total of up to 9 entries each.
This is my first author interview, and I hope to make it a regular feature on the blog. Thank you all for reading and commenting. I hope you all are having a great start to your weekend! :)