Shootin’ The Breeze With Jennifer Archer

After reading Jennifer Archer’s upcoming book, Through Her Eyes (due out April 5, 2011), I had a lot of burning questions. Lucky for both me and you, fellow readers, Jennifer Archer so graciously answered a few of my burning questions.

BookBandit (BB): Can you tell me about yourself and about your writing?

Jennifer Archer (JA): I’ve loved books since before I could read. My mother has photographs of me sitting in a chair with my nose in a book when I was about a year old. I think that my love of books inspired my interest in telling stories of my own, and helped me develop what I call a writer’s mind. Here’s an example of what I mean by writer’s mind: for as long as I can remember I’ve always asked myself “what if?” I’ll drive through a town or a city and see a particular house and think “What if I lived in this place in that house? What would my life be like? What is life like for the person that lives there now?” Or I’ll read an article or hear a news story about something that happened to someone else and ask myself “What if she made a different choice? Or what if the phone rang before she left the house, and she had paused to answer it instead of rushing out the door and into the path of the oncoming vehicle?” Stories simply develop by asking what if …

BB: What’s the biggest, hardest difference writing for a young adult audience rather than an adult audience?

JA: My biggest challenge in writing for the young adult audience is staying in tune with current teen culture so that my characters don’t use outdated language. Reconnecting with my teen self so that I am able to remember all of the emotions, joys, and worries that go along with being that age can also be a bit of a challenge at times. However, the memories don’t take long to come flooding back.

BB: What was the inspiration behind Through Her Eyes?

JA: Sometimes I’m not sure what inspires a story, and that is the case with Through Her Eyes. I do know that I’ve always been fascinated with photographs – how they capture a moment in time. Old photographs are especially intriguing; when I look at old pictures of people, my writer mind kicks in. I always wonder what that person from the past was thinking during that moment that picture was taken – what was going on in their lives? I’ve often thought it would be so cool to be able to step into that moment and become a part of it.  And for yours, I’ve thought how creepy it would be to look into an old photograph I’ve seen a hundred times before, and see a familiar face staring back at me that wasn’t there before – one belonging to a missing person from the present.  I was able to explore varied versions of both of those scenarios when writing Through Her Eyes, and it was great fun!

BB: Do you think the book, the overall story, would have played out differently if main character Tansy hadn’t found the objects right away, had found them a few months after having moved into the house?

JA: If Tansy had gone down into the cellar and found Henry’s treasures months after moving into the house, rather than right away, the story might very well have  unfolded in a different manner. Tansy would have made friends at school by that time and would not have been so lonely.  For that reason, she might not have had as strong a connection to Henry through his poetry and been as drawn to find out what happened to him. His power over her mind and heart  might’ve been less strong.

BB: Of all the objects that could have belonged to Henry, that Tansy could have found, why did you choose a crystal and pocket watch?

JA: Well, I don’t want to say too much and give away any secrets to anyone who hasn’t read the book yet, but I will say that the crystal is connected to the mystery of what happened to Henry in a tangible way. As for the pocket watch, to me it represents time – how the present is tied to the past.

BB: Tansy’s mom is a writer. How many of her traits, as a writer do you share?

JA: Tansy’s mother, Millie, has a way of getting so caught up in the story she’s writing that everything else in her life gets shoved aside to a certain extent. I think that’s the case with most writers, and I admit that it certainly is the case with me! Also, when Millie is in the middle of a project, she tends to go through moments of self-doubt and frets, thinking it’s the worst thing she’s ever written. I’m sorry to say that I also struggle with those same insecurities with every book I write!

BB: What kind of research did you do for Through Her Eyes?

JA: Tansy is a photographer, and my knowledge of photography was minimal when I started writing the book, so I did a bit of research on cameras and how someone might set up a darkroom for developing film at home. I also visited a couple of small Texas towns and spent a day at the high school in one of them, sitting in on classes and hanging out in the hallway. Because some scenes in the story take place in the 1930s, I researched the clothing styles, teenage slang, and popular music of that time period, as well.

BB: Besides Tansy and the “ghosts” I found Bethyl Ann to be one of the most interesting characters. I especially find it interesting that she refers to the people around her – with the exception of her parents – as natives. Why is that? Does she view herself as not being one of them?

JA: She came as a complete surprise to me – I had not planned her character and didn’t know she would be a part of the story until she showed up in that first school restroom scene spouting Shakespeare! I found Bethyl Ann to be very lovable and good-hearted, but she is also highly intelligent and I think she feels a little bit superior to most of the other students at Cedar Canyon High. I can’t say that I blame her, because most of them either don’t treat her very well or they basically ignore her. Bethyl Ann definitely does feel like somewhat of an outsider in Cedar Canyon, despite the fact that she was born and raised there. By birth, she is one of the “natives,” but she feels like more of an alien, at times.

BB: Speaking of Bethyl Ann forever quoting Shakespeare, why was that an important element to her character, and did you already know those quotes off-hand? If not, did you have to do any additional research to work them into the dialog?

JA: I’m not sure why Bethyl Ann always quotes Shakespeare – she simply arrived in my mind doing so! As I said, she’s very intelligent and she loves literature. I think she finds wisdom – often in a humorous way that Shakespeare probably didn’t intend – in lines from his plays that speak to whatever is going on around her.

BB: What, if any, advice do you have for hopeful writers?

JA: Make time to write, every day if possible. And read as much as you can, as well. You will learn about the craft through writing and reading then you will in a classroom. That said, it doesn’t hurt to take a class in creative writing, either!

***

Do yourselves a favor – as soon as Through Her Eyes hits shelves, make sure to read it. It won’t disappoint! In the meantime, make sure to check out Jennifer Archer, and Through Her Eyes Book Trailer!

Thank You to Jennifer Archer, for taking the time to answer a few questions!

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Pet Peeves

I have a lot of them. Especially when it comes to books. For example I hate when I have a series of books and all are paperback, all but one.  Just knowing that that one hardcover book doesn’t fit it with its paperback companions unnerves me for some reason. I’m not an overly organized person, so one would assume that those small details wouldn’t bother me. But I found that it’s those little things that bother me most in this world.  And often times, I find myself singing (quietly, that is) “One of these things is not like the other.”

I also hate when book covers feature pictures of their characters, yet the character description (within the book) doesn’t fit the cover’s portrayal. I read a book early last year where this was the case.  I was reading The Upstairs Room by Johanna Reiss. The cover portrays the two characters, sisters, hiding in a secret room from the Nazi invasions that have been taking place all over their country. The cover portrays the youngest character as having long, wavy hair. However, when reading her description is different. She’s described as having short, and if I remember correctly (it was a while ago) dyed hair. Originally I thought that the cover was portraying a different moment in the characters lives, a moment when they weren’t in hiding. But after reading the secret room’s description, I felt the cover could have only depicted their hiding spot. This didn’t make or break the book for me, but I couldn’t shake the disconnect between the cover and the actual description. It still bothers me.  

Recently, I’ve come across another pet peeve. I don’t particularly like or care when an author puts down a state to compare it to another, supposedly better state. To further illustrate what I mean here is, let’s say two characters are talking about their hometown of California, and one complains that they don’t like living there anymore (the reasons why doesn’t matter) and the other one states “well at least you don’t live in New Jersey.”

 I don’t like this in general, but I get extremely irritable when that state being put down is New Jersey. Ha ha I get it, we’re the armpit of the United States, but really Jersey isn’t all that bad. When I read books that do this, my opinion of them immediately plummets downward. I completely understand loving, admiring, and thinking the state that you live in is the best, because it’s provided you with great experiences and memories (hopefully). But other people in other states, states considered less glamorous than others, share those same sentiments.

Another issue that bothers me, and I feel rightfully so, is when a one shot book (meaning it’s not part of a series/trilogy) leaves you with so many unanswered questions. After reading books like this, not only am I left feeling utterly confused about whether or not I enjoyed the book as a whole, but it leaves me feeling like I just wasted a whole lot of time. And I hate to waste time. And as mean as this is, I feel that it’s just shoddy writing.

I know I have a lot of pet peeves (I told you that in the beginning, did I not?), I feel it’s important to say I have even more things I love about books and reading. I have found out within the past two weeks just how much I love finding a book – a really big book – and realizing that it isn’t one book – but all four in the series. A perfect example of what I mean is Francesca Lia Block’s Dangerous Angels. It’s a 400+ page book that contains all the books in her Weetzie Bat series.  Personally, I really like these books because knowing they’re all in one book, and knowing I’m the kind of person who can’t put down a book – even if I hate it – means I’m more apt to read the entire series. I have a really bad habit of starting a series and than either walking away from it, or taking a really long time to get around to reading the next.

I also like the series bound under one cover books because they tend to be less expensive than buying all the books separately. Especially if they are paperback, which I found they often are.  As someone who loves buying books, but can’t buy every book in creation I feel that this is a good compromise to buying a book and owning every title in a series.

I have also discovered my love for books that include pictures of some sort – and I am not referring to picture books. There are many young adult books that not only include the text of the book, but also pictures, lists, tables, etc.. I am currently reading a book  and it features music playlists. I feel that these things really enhance the story, and allow readers a glimpse into the life of the writer. With the music playlists, I found myself thinking “Hey! Maybe the author listened to these songs while he/she wrote this book.” It’s not much, but sometimes you could easily gain a sense of who someone is by their music tastes.  I also think it helps bring writers and readers a bit closer. When a reader sees something like a music playlist and spots one of their favorite songs/bands/musicians it’s easy to feel that you and that author have some connection – granted not a big one, but a connection nonetheless. Music is all about bringing people together, and I feel that this really shows that sentiment.

I’m sure that I’m not the only person that has a whole list of pet peeves when it comes to books and reading. And I’m sure that most of your reasons why you love books/reading outnumber the actual pet peeves. I’d love to hear what everyone else has to say.

Books & Chocolate Part II – The Books!

As posted previously I participated in the Books & Chocolate swap. At the time of posting I had received the chocolate portion of the swap, and was patiently awaiting the arrival of the book.

Well I’m happy to report that the arrival of the, not book, but books! Megan over at Amethyst Daydreams was very generous and gave me two books I am really looking forward to reading:

Bewitching Season by Marissa Doyle and Forgive My Fins by Tera Lynn Childs.

Stay tuned readers, as both of these are sure to be reviewed in the future.

And to Megan, my swap partner – THANK YOU! I loved the gifts, and really appreciate how thoughtful you were!

Through Her Eyes

Through Her Eyes* by Jennifer Archer (will be released April 5th, 2011)

Tansy Piper has been uprooted and moved from city to city, from home to home. With no roots to plant of her own, she has called Boston, Seattle, and even sunny California home. But the newest place her novelist mother has brought them will never be Tansy’s home. Cedar Canyon, a small Podunk town located in Texas’ panhandle holds tight to it’s outdated traditions and even tighter to the local gossip and ghost stories. Tansy will never consider this place “home.” But when Tansy finds out the house her mother claims is the perfect setting for her next horror novel – The Screaming Meemies – Tansy finds herself stuck in her own horror story.
 
Not only is she stuck in the middle of nowhere, but she also has to face being the new girl once again. You’d think she’d be used to it, but being the lonely outsider is something no one, not even Tansy could get used to. What Tansy doesn’t realize is that those are the least of her teenage horrors. It seems that Henry Peterson, the disturbed teen who once lived in the house and who committed suicide by plummeting off a bridge, is trying to send a message to Tansy. A message that doesn’t necessarily involve her, but her Alzheimer ailing grandfather Papa Dan. How is Henry trying to contact Tansy?
 
 Not through apparitions or random haunted house noises. No, it seems that when Tansy looks through her viewfinder she sees a world that once was, a world where Henry was alive and as well as well could be. Startling though, it’s when Tansy looks at the photographs she’s taken though the found crystal pendant she’s suddenly transported to another time – a time when Papa Dan was simply Daniel, a time where Henry Peterson lived and breathed, a time when she’s able to witness everything that happened so long ago through another person’s eyes. For Tansy this is all so intriguing, not scary at all. What really scares her is the idea of staying there … forever.

Debut young adult author Jennifer Archer has firmly planted her feet in the world of young adult fiction with her gripping first novel. Through Her Eyes is an eerily haunting ghost story that readers will not be able to tear themselves away from. Archer has managed to fill her upcoming book with elements most ghost stories seem to lack: fear, anticipation, and building suspense. Full of rich descriptions and depictions of the past and present worlds Tansy straddles, Archer excels at painting a vivid mental image. Like Tansy, readers will lose themselves in a world long past.

What’s appreciable about Through Her Eyes is that it isn’t the typical ghost story, nor does it rely on age-old scare tactics. There’s no ghostly haunting or possessions, but rather uncanny symbols Archer used for personify the ghosts. Through Her Eyes will leave readers with an unsettling fear because it is so realistic, forcing readers to think about what they would believe and/or do if they were in Tansy’s shoes. It’s the reality of losing one’s self and mind to something so unexplainable that will send chills up and down readers spines.
 
Well crafted and well written Through Her Eyes is evenly paced with chapters that flow smoothly from one to the next. Archer seamlessly breaths life into her characters, giving them defined depth and meaning – even the ghostly characters that fill the pages. Especially Tansy who is portrayed as being realistically honest and believable, a character that exudes an array of emotions. Readers will instantly connect with her and the cast of both living and dead characters that surround her.
 
* I just have to mention the cover for Through Here Eyes. Even though it’s simple, I feel that it’s so representative of the book as a whole. And just look at those piercing green eyes! 
 
 

 

 

Way Back Wednesday: Jessica’s Mermaid

February 23, 2011

Title: Sweet Valley Kids: Jessica’s Mermaid #49

Author: Molly Mia Stewart, Created by Francine Pascal

Published/Publisher: 1994 by Bantam Books

Recommend: Yes

Summary: All day Jessica’s been crying “horse on the playground,” “look, a giant sea squid.” So it’s no surprise when she claims she sees a mermaid on the class field trip no one believes her – but this time, she’s telling the truth.

Rating: 5/5

Brief Memories: I remember there was the Sweet Valley High television show, and even though I didn’t read the books (Sweet Valley Kids, Twins, or High – yeah I was born in the early 80s, so when these books were at the hight of their popularity I was little, read vicarously through an older cousin) I knew about them, and thought to myself “why don’t they have a Sweet Valley Kids” television show.

Book of the Week: Daffodil

Daffodil by Emily Jenkins

Published: 2004 by Farrar, Straus, Giroux

Reasons why I liked this book, and chose it as Book of the Week:

On the first page there’s a weenie dog. I’m slightly obsessed with weenie dogs. That’s enough to make me love this book.

Daffodil is a real individual even though she’s one of a set of triplets.

Her and her two sisters are all named after flowers: Daffodil, Violet, and Rose.

Because of their names, their mother likes to dress them in colors that correspond with that name.

Daffodil has a real sense of humor. For instance, when her mother buys her a new dress she compares the color of it to that of the color “pee” as she says.

I found  it extremely funny how people would try to guess Daffodil’s name based on the color of her dress. Some of the names they guessed were: Forsythia, Mustard, and the Yellow Rose of Texas to name a few.

This showed the importance of not judging people by their outwards appearance and by what they are wearing.

It was good to see a book that showed that children share the same emotions as adults – frustration, irritation, etc..

This book is a great example of how important it is to be yourself, and not doing things that make you feel otherwise.

They say clothes make the person, and because of that it’s an example of how people judge and treat based on that. I also love how this book shows the importance of not judging someone based on superficial appearances.

The writing is imaginative and fun.

The illustrations are vivid and do a great job at depicting each individual girl.

Daffodil isn’t a jealous person. Even when her sister’s get dresses Daffodil thinks are prettier than hers.

It’s a book that shows the importance of expressing ones feelings, even if you think expressing them may hurt someone else.

I love how it shows how even children no matter how young they are can make decisions and have valuable opinions to share.

Books & Chocolate, A Girl’s Best Friend(s)

Not sure if I mentioned it or not previously, but for Valentines Day I participated in a books and chocolate swap. And I have to say, I’m so glad I did.

After receiving the person’s information for whom I was swapping with I immediately set out to find just the right book and just the right chocolates. My swap partner for this swap was Megan from Amethyst Daydreams.  I sent out her swap gift on a Monday, and to my surprise I had found a package of my own waiting for me the very same day. Overly excited I tore into the package and found not one, but four Cadbury Dairy Milk bars, plus a Wonka bar on top of that.

Anyone knows me knows of my love of English chocolates. I love English chocolate so much, I discovered that that is enough of a reason to ever move to England. But that’s besides the point.

Megan also sent a lovely card wishing me a happy Valentines Day and a note telling me that my book is on its way. I haven’t received the book yet, but I’m super excited to see what it is. I’m 100% positive I will love it just as much as the chocolate. (And since I know you’re all curious, I will post about the book once it arrives.)

I just want to send a big THANK YOU to Megan for being an awesome swap partner and for being so incredibly thoughtful.  And I hope that she is enjoying her swap gift as much as I am mine. Also, another big THANK YOU to Julie over at One Book Shy of a Full Shelf for hosting and organize such a great holiday swap.