Thursday, June 24, 2010

Spotlight On: Jennifer Brown - Interview & Giveaway

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)
Non-follower (+1)
Follower (+3)
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! :)


Natalie (Mindful Musings) said...

+1 I've been wanting to read this one for a long time. I think it's great that an author took something negative in her life (bullying) and turned it into something other teens can learn from!

+3 Old Follower
+1 Tweeted it here
+1 email: n_monzyk_27(at)yahoo(dot)com

+1 7 total entries (this one included)

Anonymous said...

+1 I really want to read this one! It sounds really good.
+3 old follower
+1 tweeted:
+1 twilightforever.edward(at)gmail(dot)com
+1 7 total

elizabeth said...

+1 This book has been on my wishlist forever! Thanks for the chance to win it :)
+3 Follower
+1 email address: swordsforfighting at yahoo dot com
+1: Total= 6

buddyt said...

+1 I think this is a very interesting topic the author has chosen to explore. We tend to forget the effect such tragedies can have on others not directly involved.

+3 old Follower
+1 Email - buddytho {at} gmail DOT com

+1 Total entries = +5

Thanks for opening the giveaway to worldwide entries.

Carol T

xxsquigglesxx said...

Please enter me!

+1 original entry
+3 follower
+1 Tweet:
+1 xxsquigglesxx(at)
+1 Total entries = 7

Katrina said...

I would love to win!

+3 Old follower

ykatrina at hotmail dot com

Angel said...

Thanks for the great interview and contest!
Original entry (+1)
Follower (+3)
Leave email address (+1)
Add up total (+1)

Total entries = 6

Martha Lawson said...

I would love to win and read this one.+1

I follow on gfc +3

mlawson17 at hotmail dot com +1

+1 for totaling

6 total entries

Kelsy Alexandra said...

+1 This book sounds soo good!!!
+3 old follower
+1 6 total entries

Thank you:)

throuthehaze said...

+1 I have been wanting to read this book!
+3 old follower
+1 throuthehaze at gmail dot com
+1 added


EVA SB said...

+1 Excellent interview. This sounds like an interesting read though not an easy one.
+3 I'm a follower
+1 I tweeted
+1 I posted to my sidebar
+1 Total 8 entries

Spav said...

+1 This book has been on my wishlist for quite some time. I would love to win it!

+3 Old follower
+1 Tweet:
+1 Sidebar:
+1 Blog Post:
+1 Email address: spav05(at)gmail(dot)com

+1 Total: 9 entries

Sandy! said...

+1 Thanks for doing it International =D I'd love to read this book

+3 Follower

+1 Blog post (


+1 7

tetewa said...

Enjoyed the interview, sounds good! +3 follower

Ruth (Book Focus) said...

+ 1 Congrats on your first author interview! :) That's really cool - and I've heard some good stuff about HATE LIST, so yay you for giving a copy away. ;)
+3 Follower (on blog and on twitter)
+1 Tweeted:
+1 kiwibooklover at gmail dot com
+1 Total: 7

Thanks for the giveaway! :)

Cass said...

+1 I love the summary- I'm really anticipating reading this one. :)

+1 new follower

+1 tweeted:

+1 email cc932005[at]hotmail[dot]com

+1 counting total: 5 entries

mariska said...

I've been reading so many great reviews about this book. count me in !

Original entry (+1)
Follower (+3)
Tweet (+1) :
Leave email address (+1) : uniquas at ymail dot com

Add up total (+1)
=> 7 Entries

Kaya said...

Count me in please!:)

Original entry (+1)
Follower (+3)
Leave email address (+1)
Add up total (+1)

Total= 6
Email: k_anon(at)hotmail(dot)co(dot)uk

Melissa said...

+1 This book looks amazing. So many teens suffer from bullying (both boys and girls), and I think that it's great to have a book that speaks to them. Of course, it would be a lot better if bullying no longer was a problem, but I think it's getting worse with the internet.

+3 Follower
+1 Tweeted:
+1 email: melissa {at} yabookshelf {dot} com
+1 Add up entries = 7

Natasha said...

Count me in!
Original entry (+1)
Follower (+3)


Teresa said...

What a powerful topic! Thanks for a great interview. I can't wait to read the book. Certainly a topic we need to talk to kids about. Has bullying increased or are we just more cognizant?

dor said...

+1 This sounds great.
+3 Old follower....dor
+1 tweeted
+1 dorcontest at gmail dot com

+1 Total is 7

dorcontest at gmail dot com

Sylvia said...

+1 Hate List reminds me of Nineteen Minutes, which I loved! So ever since I've heard about the Hate List, I've been wanting to read it. I hope I win!
+3 I follow:)
+1 sylvia_uy4(at)yahoo(dot)com
+1 total entries

Total: 6

Thanks so much for this contest!

april_hunter24 said...

+1 ive not read this book yet but it looks interesting so if i win... (wink wink)
+1 non follower
+1= 4

Celeste said...

+1 I would love to read this book, I think I can relate to it because been bullied was something it was done to me too.
+3 follower

+1= 6

tina werner said...

+1 please enter me, thanks for the chance to win!

+3 follower
+1 email: stampitchick at yahoo dot ca
+1 tally= 6

k_sunshine1977 said...

i want to read this - it sounds like a real tug-on-your-heartstrings kind of book....

k_sunshine1977 at yahoo dot com

Original entry (+1)
Follower (+3)
Leave email address (+1)
Add up total (+1)

= 6 entries (if i did the math right)

Kemendraugh said...

This looks great! Great interview too.
+1Original entry
+3 Follower
+1 email

= 5

PeechieKeen said...

I just want to say that I love the cover! +1

Anonymous said...

+1 Wanted this for a long time, never really got the chance to get it though. I really liked the idea for this one.
+3 New Follower.
+1 email: ricettebunny(@)live(dot)com
+1 6 entries total.

Anne J said...

+1 I'd love to read this, it sounds great
+3 old follower
+1 tweet
+1 email ajolly1456 at gmail dot com
+1 7 total entries

Vidisha said...

Original entry (+1)
Follower (+3)
Leave email address (+1)
Add up total (+5)