Welcome to Awesome Books Week on my blog, where I am celebrating THREE (3!) contemporary, realistic YA novels I’ve recently loved by featuring an interview with each of their authors and hosting a giveaway of their books on my blog. That’s right! It is not enough to just post an interview. I want to give you a chance to OWN these stories because I don’t think your library is complete without them.
Want to know how you can win The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don’t Mind (Kirstin Cronn-Mills), Harmonic Feedback (Tara Kelly) AND The Lighter Side of Life and Death (C.K. Kelly Martin)? Find out at the bottom of this interview with Kirstin Cronn-Mills!
Every so often a book comes along at it just slays you with its candor and I absolutely LOVE when that happens. For me, the book that came along and slayed me but good with its complete and utter honesty was this one:
Meet Morgan. Morgan lives in Central Nowhere, Nebraska. Morgan wants to get the hell out of boring Central Nowhere, Nebraska, and write The Great American Novel (but in the mean time, she writes fortunes). Her family life is not that great–with the exception of an incredibly warm and loving relationship with her Grandmother–and she’s caught between her drab boyfriend, Derek, her sexy coworker Rob and her semi-friend Tessa. Her love life is hectic, to say the least, and not at ALL boring.
The Sky Doesn’t Hear Me and the Hills Don’t Mind isn’t just a great book, it’s a fantastic one. Simply fantastic. Fantastic. Wonderful, awesome, best. There needs to be more protagonists like Morgan in YA novels. She is achingly real, quirky and a powerhouse of emotions looking for an outlet, navigating high school and relationships honestly and sometimes, explosively. She is also hilarious.
Kirstin Cronn-Mills has written a brave book, in my opinion. Morgan’s complicated family dynamics, friendships and relationships were handled very thoughtfully and with a tremendous amount of nuance. Everything played out just how it would play out in life–sometimes it’s fireworks, sometimes it’s not. Those quiet moments of reconciliation, those big ones–bawling your eyes out one moment and then moving onto the next moment like it never happened–are so honest and true and it’s refreshing to see them in fiction. This book understands the shifts that can happen in the space of a breath and doesn’t pander in any way shape or form. I adored it and I adore Morgan. She is a truly memorable character.
Read my full review of the novel here.
I’m so thrilled to have Kirstin here on this blog to talk about Sky and her writing process, and I hope you enjoy what she had to say as much as I did!
Can you tell us about Sky’s journey to publication?
SKY’S journey was rather unique–I submitted a different book to Andrew Karre (now of Carolrhoda Lab, then of Flux), but he didn’t think it was right and asked what else I had. So I sent him a rougher (much rougher) version of SKY, and we shaped it for publication.
Did you always know you wanted to write YA fiction?
I had no clue. : ) I was a poet from the time I was ten, and wrote poetry all through my first two college degrees (I know–two). Then, when I was doing my third (crazy, right?), I didn’t do anything but write a dissertation and academic papers. Then my son was born, and nothing happened for a looooong time, poetry or otherwise. Then, in 2001 or 2, a high school classmate called me (I hadn’t talked to her since graduation day) and proceeded to tell me the reason she was so mean to me in jr high/high school: she had a crush on me. My first two thoughts: “Wow, that explains a ton!” and “Wow, that would make a great YA novel.” I’d never even *thought* of writing a novel. I wrote about 10 pages in 2002, and started to make progress on it in 2003. And now it lives on bookshelves, amazingly enough.
It DID make a great YA novel! Morgan has such a raw and edgy voice. On one page, she’d make me laugh. On another, she’d have me sniffling. She also had some extremely interesting habits–from writing fortunes to going up on the hill to shout her feelings at the top of her lungs. Did these habits come with her character from the get-go or were they something you discovered about her as you wrote?
Both the fortune-writing and the shouting were things that came into Morgan as the drafts progressed. The book always had fortunes as chapter heads–I have a poem in my master’s thesis that’s composed only of fortunes strung together, and I always wanted to do more with that idea. When I started SKY, I used the fortunes as something to keep me going, but Morgan didn’t write them until mid-to-late revisions. The shouting came in at the very end, and it’s one of my favorite things about her. I consider that character quirk a gift from the Universe, because there’s no way I could have thought of it! It just . . . appeared one day. Weird, but true.
The best stories are weird but true! I loved how on one side, we have Morgan, who is desperate to get out of town, and then you have Rob–a love interest and pretty good guy–who DID leave and came back. Morgan insists her only option is escape. Rob suggests that Central Nowhere and places like it are worth coming back to. If you could give your 0.02 on the matter to both of them, what would you say?
I would tell them that home is where you decide home should be. Home is inside you. Escape is also an internal job–you can escape in the middle of a crowded room, and the crowd can still be there. At the same time, the landscape you grew up in is *also* inside you, and as much as Morgan thinks she’d like NYC, she might discover there’s not enough sky there, and that she can’t find north very easily in Manhattan. Or maybe that’s just me. : \ I have trouble in northern Minnesota, too–WAY too many trees for me up there! I need my sky. :)
Nicely said. As I said in my review, Sky was so realistic. The family dynamics and the relationships were neither underplayed nor overplayed. The felt very honest and on-the-mark, which is what I look for in realistic YA novels. What do you look for in realistic YA?
I look for an absence of times where I say “No parent would do that!” or “No kid would do that!” I also tend to believe in complication–the more complicated a family/a life is, the more it seems real to me. Life is so rarely easy. If the complication is over the top, it turns me off, but I appreciate characters with nutso lives.
I LOVE the title. It is so fantastic. And! It’s also a line in the book. I loved coming across it; it gave me chills. So what came first, the line or the title?
Funny you should ask–the line came first, but when I wrote it, I thought, “Oh hell, they’ll make me throw it out. It’s sooooo cheesy.” I was SHOCKED when Brian said “hey, guess what the title of your book is?” It also used to appear on page 3 or 4, so I had to move it way back in the book so it wouldn’t seem so obvious.
Hah! Awesome. What has been your unlikeliest source of inspiration?
Almost everything inspires me–I’m easy that way. Let’s see–probably an all-start wrestling match that was my son’s eleventh birthday gift (WWE’s Summer Slam). It gave me great ideas for my 3rd novel’s male protagonist, who used to have WWE dreams, but now has high school wrestling dreams. And no judging for letting my kid go to a WWE match, OK? I know–gross–but it was his birthday.
Totally not judging! I think that gets you cool points, personally. :) Who was your favourite character to write and what was your favourite scene to write?
Morgan, hands down. She’s everything I wasn’t in high school–mouthy, bitchy, snarky. Her insecurity and her word nerdiness–those things she shares with me. But all the rest of it is all her, so I loved being someone I never was. Favorite scene–hmmm. I like a lot of them. When I was first drafting the book, I got to about March in their school year and went, “Oh, shit, they have to go to prom, don’t they? AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! Don’t make me write about prom! NOOOOOOOOOO!” But I knew I had to, and I really do like the scene where Morgan and Tessa are dancing. I wish that scene could have happened at my high school–I wish the real Tessa had come out to me during high school. I would have let her know she was safe with me, though maybe she knows that now that she’s read the book (she liked it, too, a HUGE relief). Back to the character question for a second–I did love letting Elsie be a concert pianist. My real grandma had enough talent to do that (she could do all the things Elsie can do), but she stayed home, got married, and raised kids. It was fun to fulfill my grandma’s wishes, even on the page.
Aw. (I loved the Prom scene so much too–one of my faves.) If there was one book out there that you would urge every aspiring writer out there to read–fiction of non-fiction–what book would that be and why?
You ask hard questions, don’t you? Let’s go with non-fiction: I’d recommend BIRD BY BIRD by Anne Lamott and ON WRITING by Stephen King. The writing advice in both (nuts and bolts stuff, but also philosophical stuff) is fantastic. I still go back to them, and I use them with my creative writing classes. If you don’t know what KFKD is, go find out! (hint–it’s in BIRD BY BIRD)
Can you tell us what you’re working on next and where can we find you online?
At the moment I’m polishing my second novel–guy wants to be a radio DJ, falls in love with best friend, but wait, there’s a huge obstacle, or is there?–and drafting my third, a dual-narrator novel set in the Black Hills, and it includes GHOSTS, of all things. Readers can find me at kirstincronn-mills.blogspot.com (look here first) or kirstincronn-mills.com (I desperately need a new web site!).
Sounds very, very intriguing! Thanks for stopping by, Kirstin!
And so begins my AWESOME BOOKS WEEK! Like I said, I love the books I’m featuring on my blog SO MUCH, I have decided to give ALL THREE OF THEM away to ONE lucky winner. If you want to be entered to win the random draw, all you have to do is comment on one or all of the interviews:
If you comment on one interview, you will be entered once. If you comment on two of them, twice. All three interviews? Three times! *NOTE: All entrants are limited to three entries each.
Increase your chances at winning by commenting on them all when they go up (just be consistent in entering your name and email address so I can count the entries accordingly).
Please note this contest is open to residents of the US and Canada only (sorry International readers). A random winner will be selected August 1st, 2010 and contacted via email for their shipping deets. They winner will have 24 hours to claim their prize or there will be a redraw.
Dear FTC, The Sky Always Hears Me and the Hills Don’t Mind was bought by me and I was not compensated for this review or interview. I just love talking about the books I love. xo, Courtney