Here’s a complete list of this week’s interviews:

Monday:

Tara Altebrando at Chasing Ray
Shirley Vernick at Bildungsroman
Jack Ferraiolo at The Happy Nappy Bookseller
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen at Writing & Ruminating

Tuesday:

Sean Beaudoin at Chasing Ray
Neesha Meminger at The Happy Nappy Bookseller
Rachel Karns at Bildungsroman

Wednesday:

Sarah Stevenson at Chasing Ray
Emily Howse at Bildungsroman
Ashley Hope-Perez at The Happy Nappy Bookseller
Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich at Vivian Lee Mahony (Hip Writer Mama)

Thursday:
Tessa Gratton at Writing & Ruminating
Micol Ostow at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Maria Padian at Bildungsroman
Genevieve Cote at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Vera Brosgol at lectitans

Friday:

Genevieve Valentine at Shaken & Stirred
Stacy Whitman at The Happy Nappy Bookseller
Alyssa B. Sheinmel at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Matthew Cody and Aaron Starmer at Mother Reader

Vera Brosgol is the creator of Anya’s Ghost, a young adult graphic novel about Anya, a teenage girl who wants nothing more than to be normal. When Anya falls down a well and meets the ghost of a girl who died a century ago, she quickly discovers that her new friend can help her with her social life and her schoolwork. As is always the case, this friendship is more complicated than she initially realizes.

Vera was kind enough to answer seven questions for me for the SBBT.

Why did you choose to create Anya’s Ghost in black and white?

I honestly didn’t think it needed color. Full-color can really add a lot to a story especially when it takes place in an interesting location or fantastic world, but for this particular one I feel like it would’ve been superfluous. The monochromatic palette served the mood of the story, I think. And it would’ve made the coloring take twice as long.

In addition to creating comics and graphic novels, you are a professional animator. In Anya’s Ghost and the art on your website, you create a sense of movement in still images. How do the skills required for comics and animation overlap?

I’m actually a story artist rather than an animator, though I went to school for animation.  [K: My bad!]  In college I learned that the part of the process I enjoyed the most was the storyboarding part, so that’s what I went into. I didn’t have the patience for animating! I think animation made me a much faster and more flexible artist – when you have to do thousands of drawings you can’t fuss with them too much. It also taught me how to be efficient in communicating with a drawing. I started focusing less on making a pretty picture and more on telling some kind of story with it. That definitely carried over into my illustration and comics work. I feel like the same part of my brain gets used for storyboarding and comics.

Like you, Anya came to America at the age of 5. A lot of Anya’s concerns over her appearance and behavior are magnified by the fact that she comes from a Russian family. How do you think having this extra level of being different affects common teenage concerns?

It’s just one more thing making life difficult. Anything that makes you in any way different from everyone else makes you a target, and when your skin is bad and your clothes are fitting weird you don’t want to pile anything else on top of that. I didn’t have a hard time about being Russian but I was constantly aware that my home life didn’t exactly match that of my friends, and a part of me definitely wished it did. Of course it depends on where you live. I went to a high school in Brooklyn where there was a huge immigrant population and being from another country didn’t cause problems – at most it just dictated what group you’d be friends with.

While Anya’s worries are common to most teenagers, Anya’s Ghost adds a supernatural element to issues of friendship and peer pressure. What do you think is powerful about using the supernatural to tell this kind of story?

Part of the reason I added the paranormal element to the story was to make it more fun for me! Regular old school drama is all well and good but I don’t really get excited unless there’s something weird or creepy going on. And Emily served as a way to reflect all of Anya’s bad traits back at her, so that she could get a good honest look at herself. That would’ve been possible to do with a non-ghost character but it made sense for me to do that with someone who literally didn’t have a life of their own.

On your website, you feature fan art for other works such as Scott Pilgrim and The Hunger Games. Who are some of your favorite artists and writers? What about their work inspires you?

I’m a big fan of Fred Moore and Earl Oliver Hurst, both of whom drew lovely lady illustrations. Jillian Tamaki is one of my favorite modern illustrators – I love her embroidered Penguin covers and her amazing ink work. There’s a Czech illustrator named Stepan Zavrel who did the most amazing watercolors – I’d love to get some of that looseness into my own work. And I’m friends with some phenomenal artists – Jon Klassen, Chris Turnham, Steve Wolfhard, Emily Carroll… so I am constantly inspired by them. Writer-wise, I really like Haruki Murakami’s books. Before that I read Dracula and Geek Love. Right now I’m working through the Song of Ice & Fire books. I usually want to draw a picture to go along with whatever I’m reading just to get it out of my head!

A lot of your art, such as your collaborative Tumblr blog Draw this dress! and your many circus-themed pieces, draws on vintage imagery. What is it about these images from the past that appeals to you?

I love fashion. I wanted to be a fashion designer when I was little (as well as an animator and a children’s book illustrator and probably a vet or something). Though really I think what I meant was costume design – I love anything that tells a story and clothes can absolutely do that. Vintage clothes tell you about the kind of person who wore them, what their life was like, what was going on in the world at the time… it’s really easy and fun to insert a character into them, which is what Draw This Dress is all about. Modern fashion can be a lot of fun too but there’s definitely more variety if you’re borrowing from the past.

When you were in high school, you created the webcomic Return to Sender. What did you learn from this experience that has helped you in your career?

Haha! I kind of learned what not to do. I did that comic before school and the whole thing was a very fussily-drawn, poorly-planned experiment. I generally knew where the story was going but putting it up online one page at a time was not the best way to do tell it – once a page was up it was up, there was no going back and reworking things to improve the story. Maybe for a comic strip that would’ve been okay but I was essentially trying to make a graphic novel. It reached a point where it had gotten sloppy and I got too busy with school to deal with fixing it so I just stopped. I’m much more careful with plotting now and try to think of a book as a whole, rather than a series of installments. And I stopped using those darn Micron pens!

Thanks, Vera!

Hi there! It’s time once again for our semiannual (because we do one in winter, too, see?) smorgasbord of interviews with authors and illustrators. Every day this week, I’ll be posting links to interviews elsewhere, and then on Thursday, I’ll be sharing my very own interview with Vera Brosgol. Enjoy!

Today’s Interviews:
Tara Altebrando at Chasing Ray
Shirley Vernick at Bildungsroman
Jack Ferraiolo at The Happy Nappy Bookseller
Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen at Writing & Ruminating

Jo Knowles is a writer of many dimensions. She does freelance work, a large part of which is for educational use, teaches at Simmons College, and helped an incarcerated woman achieve her dream of becoming a published writer. Her first novel, Lessons from a Dead Girl, was published in October 2007, and her next, Jumping Off Swings, will be released on August 11 of this year.

Jo was kind enough to answer some questions for me as part of the Summer Blog Blast Tour.

In Lessons from a Dead Girl, Laine’s sister Christi and Leah’s sister Brooke are usually present, though not featured prominently. In your bio on your website you say that your sister read to you and that even now when you read your sister’s voice is often the one you hear. How has having a sister influenced your writing?

Growing up, my sister influenced me in lots of ways. She did everything first, and I followed. I remember when she went to college and took a creative writing class, she’d call me at home and read her stories to me and I would think: Someday, I want to write like that. I wish my sister would take up writing again because I know she would be a star.

One of the most important scenes in Lessons from a Dead Girl features Laine and Leah teaming up in a horse show. How did your own experience with having horses and a pony as a child influence this scene?

Well, like Lucky, my own pony, Smoky, was ornery, old, small and sort of embarrassing. But he was mine and I adored him. He was so tiny he fit in the front of my friend’s horse trailer where you’re supposed to store the hay and stuff, so even though I’d give him a bath and get him all pretty, he’d end up a dusty mess by the time we got to the various 4-H shows we went to.

Like Laine, I felt pretty out of place at those shows among all the fancy horses, but I also felt a little pride in being there, too. It felt good to mix things up. And I was grateful to my friend’s parents for letting my pony hitch a ride in their trailer. But unlike Laine, I got to keep the ribbons I won. 🙂

In earlier interviews at Cynsations and Debbi Michiko Florence’s blog, you talk about the timeline for publication of Lessons from a Dead Girl. How does that compare with the timeline for the publication of your second book, Jumping Off Swings?

Well, once again it’s a fairly long timeline, because at some point I stopped submitting SWINGS to work on other projects. There were certain pieces of the story that just weren’t working, and I really needed to set it aside for a long time before I could look at it with fresh eyes to figure out what the problems were. Ellie’s chapters were originally written in free-verse, and I don’t think that worked so well. I also totally re-worked Caleb’s mom and Josh’s dad, thanks to my editor’s suggestions. Sometimes, hard as it is, you just can’t rush the process. Or at least I’ve learned that’s true for me.

In addition to writing fiction, you are also a freelance non-fiction writer. What is the most interesting thing you’ve had to write about as a freelancer? What is the hardest?

I wrote a nonfiction book for teens about Huntington’s Disease and that was by far the most interesting project I’ve worked on. Part of the assignment was to write about a famous person who had the disease, so I read Elizabeth Partridge’s biography of Woody Guthrie (This Land Was Made for You and Me), which was amazing. As far as the hardest thing, I’d say writing about chronic illness or potentially fatal diseases. Knowing that your readers are probably going to be people who’ve just found out they or a loved one has the disease can put a lot of pressure on you to get it right and to be positive, but realistic. You want to make sure your words motivate your readers to take care of themselves, but you also don’t want to scare or depress them. For the most part, I really enjoy learning new things with each project, and also knowing that hopefully the work is going to help people.

You’ve said in interviews that you are more of a "pantser": you finish the first draft of a book before outlining it. How does this compare to your process for writing non-fiction?

It’s almost the exact opposite, actually. Most of the time, I receive a “research report” from the marketing team, listing the key points they want me to cover, so I usually use this list to form an outline. With writing nonfiction on a very short deadline, I can’t afford the luxury of going down dead ends. I have to be as efficient as possible. So, I start with a page by page outline, organize my research and dig in.

You have kept a LiveJournal since 2004. How has that affected your experience as a professional writer?

Oh, in so many wonderful ways. I’ve met TONS of friends through LJ. Many I’ve gone on to meet in person. There is a wonderful writers’ community in LJ that has helped me during what seem like countless ups and downs over the past five years. When I moved to Vermont five years ago, I left many close friends and a strong writing community. Then, two months after we moved, my brother died. I was already feeling quite isolated, so add to that the extreme grief I was suffering and the isolation became almost unbearable . I finally decided to start an LJ account in hopes that it would help me keep in touch with the small handful of friends I knew who had accounts. As I made more connections, I felt a new community growing up around me. Even though it’s “virtual” I’ve met enough of my online friends in person to know they are all real and wonderful, nurturing people.

You try to read a book a week and recommend that aspiring authors do the same. How do you decide which books to read? What are your sources for book recommendations?

Well, my friends’ books are my first priority, so I always try to keep up with those. But I also like to read books that are getting lots of buzz, so I can stay in the loop. 🙂 I love my agent’s taste as well, so whenever he says he likes a book, I try to get right on it. My to-be-read pile is always overflowing, which is fine by me. I know a lot of people who read a book a day, but I’m a slow reader. 🙂

Thanks so much for the interview, Jo!

Today’s SBBT schedule:
Barbara O’Connor at Mother Reader
James Kennedy at Fuse Number 8
Maggie Stiefvater at Writing & Ruminating
Rosemary Clement-Moore at Bildungsroman
Jo Knowles at lectitans
Melissa Wyatt at Chasing Ray

Don’t forget the Guys Lit Wire Book Fair for Boys!

Monday, May 19th
Adam Rex at Fuse #8
David Almond at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
R.L. LaFevers at Finding Wonderland
Dave Schwartz at Shaken & Stirred
Elizabeth Scott at Bookshelves of Doom
Laurie Halse Anderson at Writing & Ruminating
Susan Beth Pfeffer at Interactive Reader

Tuesday, May 20th
Ben Towle at Chasing Ray
Sean Qualls at Fuse #8
Susane Colasanti at Bildungsroman
Robin Brande at HipWriterMama
Susan Beth Pfeffer at The YA YA YAs
Debby Garfinkle at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy
Jennifer Lynn Barnes at Writing & Ruminating

Wednesday, May 21st
Delia Sherman at Chasing Ray
Ingrid Law at Fuse #8
Polly Dunbar at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Tera Lynn Childs at Bildungsroman
Siena Cherson Siegel at Miss Erin
Barry Lyga at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy

Thursday, May 22nd
Elisha Cooper at Chasing Ray
Dar Williams at Fuse #8
Jennifer Bradbury at Bildungsroman
E. Lockhart at The YA YA YAs
Mary Hooper at Miss Erin
Charles R. Smith, Jr. at Writing & Ruminating
Mary E. Pearson at A Chair, a Fireplace and a Tea Cozy

Friday, May 23rd
Varian Johnson at Finding Wonderland
Jincy Willet at Shaken & Stirred
John Grandits at Writing & Ruminating
Meg Burden at Bookshelves of Doom
Gary D. Schmidt at Miss Erin
Javaka Steptoe at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

It’s that time of year again – time for the Summer Blog Blast Tour!  I’m not interviewing anyone this time around, but I’ll be posting links here daily.  To whet your appetite, here’s a list of planned interviews:

Monday

Adam Rex at Fuse Number 8
David Almond at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast
R.L. Lafevers at Finding Wonderland
Dave Schwartz at Shaken & Stirred
Elizabeth Scott at Bookshelves of Doom
Laurie Halse Anderson at Writing & Ruminating
Susan Beth Pfeffer at Interactive Reader

Tuesday

Ben Towle at Chasing Ray
Sean Qualls at Fuse Number 8
Susane Colasanti at Bildungsroman
Robin Brande at Hip Writer Mama
Susan Beth Pfeffer at The YA YA YAs
Debby Garfinkle at A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy

Wednesday

Delia Sherman at Chasing Ray
Ingrid Law at Fuse Number 8
Polly Dunbar at 7 Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Tera Lynn Childs at Bildungsroman
Siena Cherson Siegel at Miss Erin
Barry Lyga at At Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy

Thursday

Elisha Cooper at Chasing Ray
Dar Williams at Fuse Number 8
Jennifer Bradbury at Bildungsroman
E. Lockhart at The YA YA YAs
Mary Hooper at Miss Erin

Friday

Varian Johnson at Finding Wonderland
Jincy Willet at Shaken & Stirred
John Grandits at Writing & Ruminating
Meg Burden at Bookshelves of Doom
Gary D. Schmidt at Miss Erin

 

Today’s Interviews
Tim Tharp at Chasing Ray
Justina Chen Headley at Big A, little a
Ysabeau Wilce at Shaken & Stirred
Dana Reinhardt at Bildungsroman
Julie Ann Peters at Finding Wonderland
Cecil Castellucci at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Bennett Madison at Bookshelves of Doom
Holly Black at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Justine Larbalestier at Hip Writer Mama
Kirsten Miller at A Fuse #8 Production (Part Two)

Tomorrow’s Interviews
Justina Chen Headley finishes out the week at Finding Wonderland

Today’s Interviews
Eddie Campbell at Chasing Ray
Sara Zarr at Writing and Ruminating
Brent Hartinger at Interactive Reader
Justine Larbalestier at Big A, little a
Cecil Castellucci at Shaken & Stirred
Ysabeau Wilce at Bildungsroman
Jordan Sonnenblick at Jen Robinson’s Book Page
Chris Crutcher at Finding Wonderland
Kazu Kibuishi at lectitans
Mitali Perkins at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Laura Ruby at The YA YA YAs

Tomorrow’s Interviews
Tim Tharp at Chasing Ray
Justina Chen Headley at Big A, little a
Ysabeau Wilce at Shaken & Stirred
Dana Reinhardt at Bildungsroman
Julie Ann Peters at Finding Wonderland
Cecil Castellucci at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Bennett Madison at Bookshelves of Doom
Holly Black at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Justine Larbalestier at Hip Writer Mama
Kirsten Miller at A Fuse #8 Production

The Summer Blog Blast Tour continues here at

 with Kazu Kibuishi.  

Kazu is the creator of the online comics “Copper” and “Clive & Cabbage,” the graphic novel Daisy Kutter: the Last Train, and the editor of the Flight anthology series.

I’ll have a review of Daisy Kutter later this week.

And now, the interview!

Both in the back of the Daisy Kutter trade paperback and on your website you include glimpses into your comic-creation process.  What goals do you have in providing this look behind the scenes?  What kind of response to this unique perspective have you received from fans?

I didn’t have any specific goals in mind but I did get a lot of people asking about the process, so I decided I should include some of that stuff in the book.  If it does help others get better or faster at drawing comics or inspire them to get started, then great!   It can only help the rest of us in the comics industry. 

In Daisy Kutter, you seamlessly integrate an Old West setting with futuristic technology.  Why did you choose to put these two elements together?

I just love drawing robots and creatures.  When I decided to work on Daisy Kutter, I knew it would be a western, but the idea of not being able to draw robots and creatures saddened me, so I just incorporated them into her world.

The Daisy Kutter TPB has the number 1 on its spine.  Do you have plans for more stories featuring Daisy?

Yes.  I even have at least two stories in mind.  I’m just not sure when I’ll be able to tackle them.  She’s a wonderful character, though.  I love writing and drawing her adventures.

On your blog you mention that Flight was born at the Alternative Press Expo.  Would you give us more insight into how that happened?

The first year I attended the show, my friends and I didn’t have very much to sell at our table.  We decided that we should put something together for the next year.  It was supposed to be a small, black and white book, but as soon as the wheels started turning, the project just got bigger and bigger.  The next year we showed up, but without an actual book. We set up a booth at the show with the intention of pitching the project to various publishers.  Luckily,  Erik Larsen from Image Comics saw us there and said he would publish it immediately.

Daisy Kutter was picked as one of 2005’s ALA Best Books for Young Adults and Flight Vol. 3 was a finalist for the Cybils awards.  What were your intended audiences for these books?

It’s hard to say who the intended audience was for Daisy Kutter.  I think I was trying to do something different than what I was known for, which was mostly very kid-friendly material.  However, no matter how cool or edgy I try to be, my comics usually tend to be considered kids’ material anyway.  As for Flight 3, I leave the book in the hands of the artists, so the intended audience covers a broad range of people.  I only have control of choosing the artists and putting the material together when it’s done.  I do, however, encourage the artists to make the material appropriate for all ages.

Your new graphic novel, Amulet, is set in a fantasy setting.  How is the world-building for this story different than what you have had to do for your other work?

Since Daisy Kutter was all about someone reconciling their differences with their past, I didn’t give much thought to the world in which Daisy lived.  All of the focus was on the emotional journey of the character and the world only worked to service the themes and mood of the story.  While this is true to a certain extent for Amulet, once the fantasy stuff started kicking in, I realized I needed to take the world-building much more seriously.  In fact, I began to realize most fantasy literature was comprised almost entirely of world-building, especially when writing about children.  Young characters tend to have very little in the way of emotional conflict, since they’re so new to the world, so I needed the fantasy world to provide most of the conflict for me to work with.  Alledia, the world in which the kids travel to, became a living, breathing character in the book.

There has been much discussion among librarians, educators, and children’s literature experts about how graphic novels can be an integral part of reaching reluctant readers.  How do you think webcomics can play a part in this process?  What are some webcomics you would recommend for younger readers?

Hmm, I actually think webcomics wouldn’t be all that effective in getting reluctant readers to begin reading.  Chances are, if the kid is online looking for a webcomic, they’re already reading plenty of information.  However, if one were to print the webcomics in book form, then I can see how they could help.  The web is a wonderful place to get comics started, and offers the artists a chance to gain confidence and a readership to keep them going.  That said, I do recommend Ben Hatke’s “Zita the Spacegirl” and Kean Soo’s Jellaby, both of which are among the best comics for younger readers being produced today.

——-

Thanks for joining me, Kazu!

Eager for more?  You can read Kazu’s other Summer Blog Blast Tour at Finding Wonderland.

Today’s Interviews
Mitali Perkins at Hip Writer Mama
Svetlana Chmakova at Finding Wonderland
Dana Reinhardt at Interactive Reader
Laura Ruby at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Holly Black at Shaken & Stirred
Hilary McKay at Bookshelves of Doom
Kirsten Miller at Miss Erin
Julie Ann Peters at A Fuse #8 Production (Part Two)
Carolyn Mackler at The YA YA YAs
Jordan Sonnenblick at Writing and Ruminating

Tomorrow’s Interviews
Eddie Campbell at Chasing Ray
Sara Zarr at Writing and Ruminating
Brent Hartinger at Interactive Reader
Justine Larbalestier at Big A, little a
Cecil Castellucci at Shaken & Stirred
Ysabeau Wilce at Bildungsroman
Jordan Sonnenblick at Jen Robinson’s Book Page
Chris Crutcher at Finding Wonderland
Kazu Kibuishi at lectitans
Mitali Perkins at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Laura Ruby at The YA YA YAs

[NOTE: This entry is backdated because I was away from the computer on June 19.]

Today’s Interviews
Laura Ruby at Miss Erin
Bennett Madison at Shaken & Stirred
Shaun Tan at A Fuse #8 Production (Part Two) (Part Three)
Chris Crutcher at Bookshelves of Doom
Holly Black at The YA YA YAs
Kazu Kibuishi at Finding Wonderland
Christopher Golden at Bildungsroman
David Brin at Chasing Ray
Kirsten Miller at Jen Robinson’s Book Page
Sara Zarr at Big A, little a
Sonya Hartnett at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

Tomorrow’s Interviews
Mitali Perkins at Hip Writer Mama
Svetlana Chmakova at Finding Wonderland
Dana Reinhardt at Interactive Reader
Laura Ruby at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Holly Black at Shaken & Stirred
Hilary McKay at Bookshelves of Doom
Kirsten Miller at Miss Erin
Julie Ann Peters at A Fuse #8 Production
Carolyn Mackler at The YA YA YAs
Jordan Sonnenblick at Writing and Ruminating

Today’s Interviews:
Tom & Dorothy Hoobler at Chasing Ray
Mitali Perkins at Big A, Little a
Sara Zarr at Interactive Reader
Justina Chen Headley at Hip Writer Mama
Justine Larbalestier at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Dana Reinhardt at lectitans
Brent Hartinger at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Laura Ruby at Writing and Ruminating
Jordan Sonnenblick by Bildungsroman
Ysabeau Wilce at Finding Wonderland

Tomorrow’s Interviews:
Laura Ruby at Miss Erin
Bennett Madison at Shaken & Stirred
Shaun Tan at A Fuse #8 Production
Chris Crutcher at Bookshelves of Doom
Holly Black at The YA YA YAs
Kazu Kibuishi at Finding Wonderland
Christopher Golden at Bildungsroman
David Brin at Chasing Ray
Kirsten Miller at Jen Robinson’s Book Page
Sara Zarr at Big A, little a
Sonya Hartnett at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast

The Summer Blog Blast Tour begins here at

 with Dana Reinhardt.

Dana is the author of two novels for young adults: A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life and Harmless.  

In Brief Chapter, Simone, the adopted child of an ACLU attorney and a political cartoonist, meets her birth mother, Rivka, for the first time.  The things she learns in her encounters with Rivka challenge her concepts of belief and family.

In Harmless, three girls are caught at a party when they shouldn’t be.  Their lie to explain their whereabouts balloons, resulting in the arrest of an innocent man and their town and school rallying around them.  Emma, Anna, and Mariah learn that a lie that may seem harmless can do a lot of damage.

I’ll have reviews of these two books later this week.  

And now, the interview!

You mention in your bio on your website that you worked as a reader for a young adult line at a mass-market paperback house. How has this experience influenced your writing career?
 
That was a long time ago… so much has happened in my professional life since then, but it did teach me very clearly what a good book was not.  

In A Brief Chapter In My Impossible Life, Simone’s mother is a lawyer for the ACLU and Simone helps her with her work. Did your law school experience help you with writing these parts of the book? How?

 
My background in law probably had a much bigger influence on my writing than working for the publishing house did. For one thing, it helped me hone in on what I issues I felt passionate about. But also, building a legal case is nothing more than compelling story telling. You arrange the facts in the way that sets forth your argument and generates sympathy for your side of things. Whether it’s a judge, jury or a reader, your task us the same– make that person care about your characters and feel invested in the outcome.
 
Simone’s birth mother, Rivka, was a Hasidic Jew. Brief Chapter contains a lot of information about Hasidism and Judaism more generally. Did you have to do any research for this part of the book? How did you gain knowledge about these faith traditions?
 
Well, I’m Jewish so I had a basic knowledge of Judaism going in. My husband is a rabbi school drop out, so what I didn’t know, he often did. We have a library filled with books on every conceivable Jewish topic from history to religion. But still, there were things beyond his expertise and beyond what I could find in our library, and for that I turned to friends or friends of friends to answer more specific questions of life among the Hasidim. I was also lucky to have a copy editor who is an Orthodox Jew.
 
In Brief Chapter, Simone is an adopted child and struggles to reconcile her love of her adoptive family with her feelings about her birth family.  How did you prepare to write about this struggle?
 
I don’t think I did anything to prepare for this part of the story other than to fully know and understand my characters by the time they came to confront these emotional landmines, and with this knowledge, I sort of sat back and let them work through these challenges in a way that seemed natural to who they are. I know that sounds terribly hokey, but it’s true nonetheless.
 
 Harmless is told by three narrators, with their perspectives alternating. How did you plan the story? Did you know early on which narrator would reveal each part of the story?
 
I didn’t plan out who would reveal what part of the story, I just let them take turns talking and kept the narrative moving forward rather than having them go back and give their exact version of the events someone else had described. I think different perspectives on the truth can be revealed in ways other than repeating different versions of the exact same events. I had ideas going in about what role each girl would play in the lie, and how each would deal with the pressure of keeping secrets, and none of these ideas panned out. They each went in directions I hadn’t anticipated.
  
The main characters in Harmless attend a small, private day school. Why did you choose this setting instead of a public school or larger private school?
 
I wanted to tell a story about good kids doing something bad. I wanted the main characters to be the kinds of kids people tend to assume are immune to making such enormous mistakes. I wanted to show that kids in private day schools don’t have all the answers.
I also wanted these girls to feel they had a lot at stake in perpetuating lies, and sometimes a smaller, more insulated environment creates a sort of pressure cooker where it’s easy to lose perspective on what really matters.
 
What is your favorite genre of books to read? How has that influenced your writing?
 
I don’t have a favorite genre, I just like books that are well written and have a good story and say something honest. I like books that are complicated and unexpected. I like to feel like the characters are alive while I’m lost in the story.  I aim to do all these things when I write.
I’m not saying I accomplish these things, I’m just saying this is what I aim for.
——-

Thanks for joining me, Dana!  

Eager for more?  You can find Dana at Interactive Reader on Wednesday and at Bildungsroman on Friday.

The Summer Blog Blast Tour is underway! The tour lasts from today through next Saturday. Each day I’ll be posting a round-up of the interviews.

Today’s Interviews:
Gene Yang at Finding Wonderland

Tomorrow’s Interviews:

Here at

 , I’ll be talking to Dana Reinhardt, author of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life and Harmless.

Tom & Dorothy Hoobler at Chasing Ray
Mitali Perkins at Big A, Little a
Sara Zarr at Interactive Reader
Justina Chen Headley at Hip Writer Mama
Justine Larbalestier at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Dana Reinhardt at lectitans
Brent Hartinger at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Laura Ruby at Writing and Ruminating
Jordan Sonnenblick by Bildungsroman
Ysabeau Wilce at Finding Wonderland
For the full schedule of interviews, click here!

Far too often I’ve heard a student say, “I don’t read.”  To the end of hearing those words replaced with “I love to read,” I’m joining Colleen Mondor’s Summer Blog Blast Tour.  Here’s the scoop on the tour from Colleen herself:

Starting next Sunday, with an interview posted at Finding Wonderland with 2006 NBA finalist and Printz Award winner Gene Yang, there will be multiple blogs in the kidlitosphere conducting multiple interviews for the following week. We will average ten interviews a day with authors like Justine Larbalestier, Brent Hartinger, David Brin, Hilary McKay, Christopher Golden, Kazu Kibuishi, Chris Crutcher, Holly Black, Kirsten Miller and Shaun Tan. Between Yang’s interview on Sunday and the last one with Justina Chen Headley on Saturday there will be over 50 author interviews posted. These authors include multiple genres (SF, Fantasy, Mystery, Romance, Drama), multiple formats (prose, graphic novel, manga) and for mutliple audiences (boys and girls, straight and gay). Many of the authors agreed to more than one interview although fans should not be worried – the bloggers were careful to make sure that different questions were asked each time. In the end we hope to provide a wealth of information about how these authors create, the kind of books they write and what they have to offer to new readers and long time fans.

We plan, quite simply, to rock the literary world.

Here’s my schedule:
Monday, June 18
Dana Reinhardt

Thursday, June 21
Kazu Kibuishi

I’ll post links to the other interviews as they appear.  The full schedule will be available at Chasing Ray tomorrow.  

Thank you so much to Colleen for organizing the tour and inviting me to participate, to the other bloggers for sharing their interviews, and to the authors for answering our questions!