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in writing for the young adult audience is staying in tune with current teen culture so that my characters don’t use outdated language.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!