Today we have Joy Preble here for an author interview as part of the blog tour for The Sweet Dead Life!
1. I read that you used to be an English teacher - how did that influence you in your own writing?
Novel study certainly gave me a wide and varied background in the world of storytelling. I have a broad knowledge of world literature that makes me aware of the talented shoulders on which I stand and the basic story patterns and tropes that exist and have been used. But I would honestly say that my own writing had a larger effect on my teaching of lit! And teaching Creative Writing allowed me to teach myself on the job. So it mostly worked the other way! I do have to say that being a working writer did result in a healthy bit of skepticism of many of the rigid essay structures taught by some of my colleagues. I’d hear teachers lecturing about how students must have EXACTLY a certain number of sentences per paragraph or how they have to remove every single ‘to be’ verb or some such other arbitrary nonsense that was directed with mostly good intent and I’d think, whoa! That is so screwed up! Even though I knew that their focus was to give non-writers a template.
2. Without spoiling anything, could you tell us what was your favorite scene to write in The Sweet Dead Life?
That’s a hard one because I adore every single scene in this book! But definitely one of my favorite scenes is the one where Jenna discovers that her brother Casey is actually now a guardian angel and even when she believes him, she still subjects him to a haphazard and funny series of tests to prove that he is indeed an ‘A-word.’
3. What is the best writing advice you've ever received?
I’ve received lots of great advice but one of the best suggestions comes from my critique partner, author Kim O’Brien, who when I was writing my first novel, told me to break it down into writing 25 pages at a time. Because it’s scary to think about writing a 250 or 300 page novel. But 25 pages isn’t scary. And once you write 25 pages 4 times, you’ve got 100 pages! After that it feels easier... well sort of.
4. If you had to pair up your main character Jenna with any other character from any other book, who would it be and why?
Jenna and Tess Edwards from the Dreaming Anastasia series would probably burn each other out with their honest assessments of the world. I would hope they would both appreciate how brave and loyal they are.
5. What comes easier for you, description or dialogue?
In The Sweet Dead Life, dialogue always flows easiest, particularly for my narrator, Jenna. She is enormous fun to write and since I just finished the sequel, which will be out in May 2014, Jenna is firmly tucked in my brain. She has a very specific way of speaking and seeing the world and so her dialogue always comes fairly quickly.
6. How do you go about naming your characters?
Good question! It depends on the book. For TSDL, I look on line at certain local place websites that I will not divulge! But they are real places and I mix and match names for exactly the Houston, Texas feel that I need. So far it’s working. Plus I’m a huge fan of Nameberry. If you flip through lists like Hipster Names on Nameberry, you will seriously find most of the names currently given to characters in YA books you love!
7. What is one message you'd like readers from The Sweet Dead Life?
Hmmmm.... That family is what you make of it. That good and evil have some grey areas. And that the most unlikely people can become heroes when their sisters need them.
Thanks for the great interview answers, Joy!
Make sure to check out all the other stops of the tour, and keep your eye out for The Sweet Dead Life, which will be released May 14th.
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“I found out two things today. One, I think I’m dying. And two, my brother is a perv.”
So begins the diary of 14-year-old Jenna Samuels, who is having a very bad eighth-grade year. Her single mother spends all day in bed. Dad vanished when she was eight. Her 16-year-old brother, Casey, tries to hold together what’s left of the family by working two after-school jobs— difficult, as he’s stoned all the time. To make matters worse, Jenna is sick. When she collapses one day, Casey tries to race her to the hospital in their beat-up Prius and crashes instead. Jenna wakes up in the ER to find Casey beside her. Beatified. Literally. The flab and zits? Gone. Before long, Jenna figures out that Casey didn’t survive the accident at all. He’s an “A-word.” (She can’t bring herself to utter the truth.) Soon they discover that Jenna isn’t just dying: she’s being poisoned. And Casey has been sent back to help solve the mystery that not only holds the key to her survival, but also to their mother’s mysterious depression and father’s disappearance.