A few weeks ago, I read and reviewed Carrie Jones' novel Tips On Having A Gay (Ex) Boyfriend. It is one of the books nominated for the Cybils in the YA category. It was such a great book, that I knew right away I wanted to interview Carrie Jones. And luckily for me, she agreed. Here is her livejournal blog. Here is her official site. And here is my review of Tips On Having A Gay (Ex) Boyfriend.
What inspired you to write Tips On Having A Gay (Ex) Boyfriend? (Or how did this novel come about…)
Two things really:
1. I’d heard about a girl who had been hate-crimed (Yes, I did just make that a verb) because her boyfriend was gay. This made absolutely no sense to me. Obviously, hate crimes never make sense, but why would someone be cruel to a girl because of her boyfriend’s sexuality? It really bothered me so I started writing.
2. Then I found an old love note from my high school boyfriend who is gay. I started thinking about how I felt when he told me. Those two things blended into Tips. IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: Be cautious when reading love letters from gay ex-boyfriends if you yourself are not gay. They tend to make you look at your straight partners a little funny and you might spend long hours wondering why you no longer get cool love letters like that.
How long did it take to write? Were there any surprises along the way on its journey to publication? What do you know now that you wish you had known then? (If anything…)
I wrote the first draft during National Novel Writing Month (November 2005). At the same time I was getting my Masters in Writing for Children and Young Adults at Vermont College.
I submitted it that winter to Flux, sort of on a lark. I hadn’t let anyone see it. I’d briefly revised it. Andrew Karre called and asked to see the whole thing. That was a big surprise.
Then he asked if I could add 10,000 words. I think I added about 15-25,000 in one week.
That was an even bigger surprise.
What do I wish I’d known then?
That sleep is a writer’s best friend. That and strudel.
I think you did a great job with Belle. Her reaction, her response, felt authentic. Did you find it hard to balance Belle’s reaction to Dylan’s news? Was it tough to balance her anger and confusion alongside her continued love, respect, and tolerance for him and his sexuality?
Showing that Belle still cared about Dylan was terribly important to me. The book is really about acceptance and understanding. I’ve been hearing so many stories about angry women. That’s okay. It’s really okay to be angry about things, but it starts to feel like people expect that to be the only emotion involved in this kind of story. It’s not.
People can love other people even after they’ve felt deceived. They can love and respect other people even if they don’t understand everything about them. That’s really an important aspect of Tips, and the sequel, Love (and Other Uses for Duct Tape).
Is there anything you’d like to tell teens going through such emotionally turbulent situations?
Oh gosh. Everyone’s situation is different but here:
TIPS FOR TEENS GOING THROUGH EMOTIONALLY TURBULENT SITUATIONS:
1. It’s okay to be in an emotionally turbulent situation.
2. Look on the bright side. If things are emotionally turbulent, at least you know that you have emotions and you are not, um, a robot or something.
3. Although it would be cool to be a robot because you’d never forget anything.
4. Unless of course your programming froze up like one of those old Apple computers from the 1980s.
5. There could be good things about forgetting things though like you would never have to remember the trauma of running the wrong way in the first-grade relay race, or the time the tampon fell out of your locker.
6. Wait. These are supposed to be tips. Okay.
7. Real Tip: It’s okay to feel whatever you want to feel.
8. Real Tip: It’s good to talk to someone about stuff.
9. Real Tip: It’s also okay to not talk to someone about it.
10. Real Tip: When going through an emotionally turbulent situation always wear deodorant because, let’s face it, emotionally turbulent situations make people perspire a little bit more than usual. Believe me. I know.
Who has been your biggest supporter on your journey to publication?
The refrigerator. It’s always willing to open up and show me the light.
No, seriously. I always hear stories about writers not feeling supported and understood, but I’ve been tremendously lucky. Nobody has ever done that to me. Nobody has ever scowled or smirked when I say that I write children’s books. Nobody has ever told me that I’m crazy or that I’ll never get published.
I am incredibly lucky. My family and friends are all really, really kind and good and patient. They may forget my birthday on to put the toilet seat down but they are always enthusiastic and supportive about writer things.
What do you love about being a writer? What do you find the hardest? The easiest?
I love making up stories, being in charge of that story.
I have a really hard time with schmoozing. It makes me squirm. I like meeting people. Actually, I love meeting people but I hate meeting people when I’m carrying my own personal agenda.
That said, I think the easiest part is public speaking. That’s a big surprise too. I get terribly nervous before I have to do it, but once I’m up there it’s fun and easy.
You write young adult books, what do you love about the genre? Do you have any favorites past or present?
I write nonfiction picture books, too, actually. The first one comes out in Fall 2008. It’s with David Godine.
But I do love YA.
Reasons I love YA?
1. I love the chances the genre allows you to take.
2. I love the immediacy of it, the point of view.
3. I love that it allows you to search for answers.
4. I love that it forgives you when you don’t find those answers.
5. I love that when you write YA and don’t say “Y.A.” you can say “ya,” which sounds like I’m saying “you” but with an accent.
Like someone can say, “What do you write, Carrie?”
And I can answer, “Oh, I write ya.” And they can feel all important. “You write about me?”
Favorites? Oh, I am no good at favorites. No good at all. I love everything really for all sorts of reasons. I’m a bit of a book whore.
You have two books coming out in 2008. LOVE (AND OTHER USES FOR DUCT TAPE) is the sequel to Tips On Having A Gay Ex Boyfriend. And the second 2008 release is GIRL, HERO. Can you tell us anything about your upcoming novels?
LOVE is a continuation of Belle’s story. It deals a lot with forgiveness. Belle’s need to forgive and society’s desire to not allow her to forgive. It also deals with sex. It comes out on my birthday, March 1, which is really pretty cool.
GIRL, HERO is about Liliana Faltin, freshman. She writes letters to John Wayne, a dead movie star, as she tries to deal with father issues. She’s looking for a hero. She ends up being a hero to herself, which is cool although it sounds sort of schmarmy. This one comes out in July 2008.
Then I have another YA called NEED. Bloomsbury is releasing that one in January 2009. It’s a contemporary fantasy set in Maine. Zara White is sort of stalked by a pixie king. She is a big Amnesty International activist type person and she has to deal with how far she’ll go to keep the people she loves safe, which is an interesting question in the post 9/11 era.
Another young adult book with Bloomsbury comes out after that.
How excited were you to find out that your book had been nominated for the Cybils?
I was super excited. That and being nominated for YALSA’s quick picks for reluctant readers absolutely made my year. I feel lucky to have TIPS be noticed at all. Flux is pretty new and small and it’s making some high-quality books, but it still feels miraculous to be noticed when there’s so many brilliant books out there from really well-known, established publishers.
I think Flux is doing an amazing job.
Does award-season (best-of season) make you nervous or excited as a writer?
I pretty much a realist when it comes to my own work so I try to pretend it’s not happening, except when my friends win awards. Then I get all psyched and do happy dances in the kitchen.
This one is for both you as a reader and an author. Do you write fan letters (or emails) to authors you admire? And have you received any fan letters from readers?
I am shy about writing people or gushing about them in person. You know when they have those tables at events and you are supposed to go up and have the author sign your book? I have a hard time doing that.
So, no I haven’t written any fan letters. I should. I feel bad now.
And I have received fan letters. They are the best things ever. You asked about the award season? Part of the reason why I don’t care so much about awards is because of the incredible letters I get from readers that say that TIPS helped them through some tough stuff. I mean, I never imagined anything that good happening. It’s like a miracle that my book could ever help people.
If you had twenty-four hours, a time machine, and a limitless supply of money, what would you want to do?
This is the hardest question I’ve ever had.
1. Stop Hitler?
2. Stop the genocide in Darfur?
3. Stop one genocide somewhere by just shoveling money at everyone.
I don’t know if that’s even possible. I wish it were possible.
1. Pay off the World Debt of all nations. I think this one is possible.