Yesterday I reviewed Hate List by Jennifer Brown and today I am here with an interview with Jennifer Brown. So without further ado I give you Jennifer:
What gave you the idea to write Hate List?
I think a lot of things came together at just the right time for me. I was bullied in junior high and part of high school, and that bullying was something that has definitely been on my mind for a lot of years. I've never really understood the bullying mentality, and have always wondered what makes some people act so cruelly. Strangely, after writing a "bullying" character and getting to know "the real girl behind the bully," I think I started to see it a little better, how she's flawed just like everyone else and that sometimes you can bully without really meaning to bully, and how sometimes you can get caught up in a situation where you're bullying even though you know what you're doing is wrong.
Also, as a parent, I have found myself very interested in school shootings and what we can do to stop them. I want schools to be a safe place for my kids to go. And I hate that so many people have suffered because of these truly senseless acts. I've asked myself a lot of questions about this over the years, and it, too, has been something on my mind.
The "spark" event, however, that brought all these things together, was the Nickelback song ("If Everyone Cared") that's quoted in the front of the book. The song got stuck in my head one night while I was sleeping, and when I woke up in the morning, I had this idea for a book, where I could ask all my questions and see if I could work out some answers. More importantly, I had my characters, who I could "see" in my mind when I listened to the lyrics of that song.
As a reader I found myself emotionally affected by Hate List, how did Hate List affect you emotionally as the author?
It did bring up some old memories and make me sort of face down the things I'd been hanging onto for a lot of years. For that reason, it was emotionally tough. But I'm glad I did it, because I do feel like I got some answers that help me look at people and situations more compassionately than I did before.
I'm generally an upbeat person, so it did at times feel a little "heavy" to me. Fortunately, I write humor for my local paper, so every week I was forced to put away the heavy stuff and write something nice and light. The humor was a lifesaver in that regard.
What do you hope people will get out of reading your book?
First and foremost, I hope for enjoyment. Reading provides so much enjoyment in my life, I want to share it with others. That's probably the main reason I even became a writer in the first place -- to share my enjoyment of the written word. But I also hope that HATE LIST makes readers think. Not feel guilty or anything, but just to think about how their actions and words can make big differences in this world.
I never set out to excuse school shootings, or to say they were somehow deserved because the shooters were possibly bullied. And I tried very hard in HATE LIST to show how not only Nick and Valerie were misunderstood by the people who tormented them, but also how the "tormentors" were misunderstood as well.
As a teenager were you yourself bullied the way that Nick and Valerie were?
Yes, and some of the scenes in HATE LIST were directly inspired by things that happened to me (the scene at the movie theater, for instance, is based on some things that happened to me). While I was tripped a few times in front of people, there wasn't a lot of physical bullying going on in my case, but there was a lot of name-calling and teasing/tormenting and public humiliation. Junior high was very difficult for me. It got better midway through high school, though, and by the end of high school, people were kind of over it. Finally.
Do you have any more books in the works?
Yes, I've been working on another YA novel about a girl who's being abused by her boyfriend. It's tentatively scheduled to come out in Spring 2011.
When you're not writing what kind of things do you like doing?
I'm a stay-at-home mom of three, so there's not a ton of time for extracurriculars. I love to play board games with my kids. I love outdoor sports during the summer. And I'm a huge reader. I read for at least two hours every day.
Do you have any must-haves for when you are writing?
Not really. I like to have music (preferably something in a foreign language so I'm not distracted by lyrics) and something to drink while I'm writing, but I can pretty much write anywhere, anytime, under any circumstances. I'm great at drowning out peripheral noise (I credit the "pod learning" classrooms of one of my elementary schools for helping me hone that skill) and am able to sink into work fairly easily.
Any advice for aspiring authors?
Say you're giving up as often as you like (it's nice and cathartic to do that every so often, especially if you fling a manuscript on the floor dramatically while you say it), but don't actually give up. Ever. If you hang in there through all the rejections (and, yes, there will be many), you will succeed and it will be worth it in the end!
Thanks heaps Jennifer! Be sure to check out Hate List if you haven't already.