Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Welcome Wendesday NOBODY BUT US author Kristin Halbrook

Maybe I'm too late. Maybe Zoe's dad stole all her fifteen years and taught her to be scared. I'll undo it. Help her learn to be strong again, and brave. Not that I'm any kind of example, but we can learn together.
When the whole world is after you, sometimes it seems like you can't run fast enough.
Maybe it'll take Will years to come to terms with being abandoned. Maybe it'll take forever. I'll stay with him no matter how long it takes to prove that people don't always leave, don't always give up on you.

Oh, readers. This was yet another one of those books where I thought, well, I'll just peek, just get a sense of how the story feels. And holy hotcakes! Could. Not. Stop. Reading. Seriously. You must check out this book. Not convinced? Read our interview with author Kristin Halbrook -- her answers are every bit as engaging as her novel!

I'd first like to thank Honestly YA for having me! It's a privilege to chat with you.

Well thanks so much for spending the time with us and answering our questions. Ready to get started? Here we go...

1. We always start with the same curiosity: What book spoke to you most during your teen years?

This is such a tough question. I read widely through my youth, from the classics to litfic to commercial fantasy to historical romances. I find a lot of people can point to one or two books they particularly loved during high school, but I'm not one of those people. I loved so many!

2.  Do you have a book (or books) that you reread regularly? If yes, what book or film and why?

I do! My go-to books for when I'm exhausted and need a bath and some down time are the Anne of Green Gables books. I love the prose and Anne is such a spunky character. I know the books so well that I can skim them for my favorite parts and feel like I've been hanging out with an old friend again. Other books I love to reread are the ones that make me ugly cry. That's my favorite response to media (all my favorite movies make me ugly cry, too). So, Meg Rosoff's How I Live Now, Melina Marchetta's Jellicoe Road and Ruta Sepetys' Between Shades of Gray are ones I frequently revisit.

3. What YA novel or novels have you read recently that you most want all your friends to read?

Steph Kuehn's Charm and Strange is haunting and gorgeously written (and made me ugly cry). I loved Sarah Skilton's Bruised because her characters are so well drawn (and feature a genuinely kick-ass heroine!). Marissa Meyers' Lunar Chronicles books are pure escapist fun. And I adored Rachel Hartman's Seraphina for its brilliantly conceived and thoughtful fantasy world (I totally had tears in my eyes when it was announced as the Morris Award winner--I'm a total softie, can't you tell?).

4. What made you want to write teen fiction? Is there any link to the stories you read growing up?

When I began writing seriously, I started with adult upmarket/literary. I thought that was where my voice would be and, while I enjoyed it and can see myself writing adult some day, it turned out that my strongest voice came through when I experimented with teen fiction. I've always loved interacting with teens--I did my Master's work in Secondary Education--and writing for them, writing stories about teens like them, is the best. I don't really think there's a link with what I grew up reading, only that I still find myself looking at the world with the wonder and energy and angst of many teens. So it's easy to relate.

5. Tell us about NOBODY BUT US. Where did the inspiration for this story come from?

Initially, there was Will. NOBODY BUT US began as a way for me to explore what might happen to someone who has aged out of foster care, but isn't very well prepared for the world. What kinds of things would he or she do? What would her or his personality be like? Is there a way for this character to be full of faults, but also good-intentioned and deserving of compassion? I wanted to tell a story of two realistic teens that are doing the very best they can in a world that has let them down, and tell it in a way that allows the reader their own take-away. Judging from the range of responses to the book, I think I've done an okay job with that. :)

6. You’ve elected to tell the story in alternating perspectives between Zoe and Will. That’s pretty unusual to see. What prompted you to approach the story that way? What made the dual perspective important?

Using dual POV for NOBODY BUT US was a grueling and wonderful challenge. I learned so much through that process and have become a better writer for it--even though I had many moments when I wanted to tear my hair out. It was important to me to show examples of the different ways people can respond to and are affected by abuse. I also wanted to let the reader into both characters' heads to see what they thought of each other--and of themselves when they're with one another--especially since they make so many missteps along the way. My hope was that by getting close to the characters, the reader could start to understand why they do the things they do and develop empathy for their struggles.

7. On your website, you’ve shared the playlist from NOBODY BUT US. Is music an important part of your writing process? And did the playlist come about before, during, or after the writing?

I most often draft without using music, but I'm always listening for songs that have the feel of the story and the direction it's taking. The drafting stage is when I begin to build my list. I'll listen to those songs to get myself into the right frame of mind for particular scenes. The playlist really comes to life in the revisions stage, though. I tend to add the most songs at this point and listen regularly as I edit and revise. When the book is done, I'll continue to add and delete songs until I feel the list is just right for the story.

8. From inspiration to final draft, writing a novel is a ton of work. What was it about this story that made you want to see it through?

I got to know these characters too well to let their story die. My heart broke for them, I cried at times, I needed to share their struggles.

9. We’ve got a lot of aspiring authors visiting our blog. Would you share with them your path to publication? (And any words of encouragement would be great additions *s*)

I can honestly encourage aspiring authors to never give up! It might not be the first novel you write that will see the shelves at the bookstore, it might not be the tenth, even. But every novel you write is an essential learning experience that will make you better. Think of those early drafts as an apprenticeship. Writing is accessible to all, which is so, so awesome, but it's also very hard and requires a lot of work! So keep working at it. I speak with experience here, because it wasn't my first agented book that made it on the shelves or even my second. NOBODY BUT US is the third book to sell. Along the way, I've improved my craft a lot.

10. What’s next for you?

My next YA contemporary comes out winter, 2015. It's about small town secrets, the people who get away with everything, and a girl who desperately needs to remember what happened one terrible night. As always, I have other projects in the works, too, but can't share much about those just yet. ;)

Oh, yay! Very much looking forward to another terrific book from you! Thanks again, Kristin, for visiting today!
And for those of you nutty enough to still not have read NOBODY BUT US, you can find it here:

Barnes and Noble

And keep up with Kristin here:


Above, Kristin talks about getting to know characters too well to let their story die. Have you read any books lately where you were heartbroken to let the characters go? What were they? Share in the comments!



CareyCorp said...

Thanks Kristin! I love contemporaries with dual POVs. I'm adding this to my list.

Kim said...

This is a really interesting post! I absolutely loved Nobody But Us. It's definitely my favorite YA contemporary that I've read this year, so it was really interesting hearing about the writing process :)