Friday, January 8, 2010
Interview: Jennifer Hubbard (Author of The Secret Year)
A Brief Biography (from Amazon):
Jennifer R. Hubbard grew up in New England and now lives in the Philadelphia area. She is a hiker, a chocolate lover, and a night person who believes that mornings were meant to be slept through.
She's been writing since the age of six, when she used to write and illustrate her own picture books. In high school, she considered it fun to come home from school and write novels in discount spiral-bound notebooks.
She had her first short story published when she was seventeen. Her short fiction has appeared in literary magazines. Her first book, the contemporary young-adult novel THE SECRET YEAR, will be published by Viking.
What inspired the premise of THE SECRET YEAR?
I’m not sure where the idea came from. I had an idea about a secret relationship that ended in death, with a notebook about the relationship left behind. I wasn’t sure what was in the notebook or why the relationship had to be secret, so I wrote the story to find out.
Colt is a bit younger than Julia; does this detail serve a particular purpose in the novel?
I think it enhances the inequality in their relationship, the sense Colt often has that he is one step below Julia. On the surface, the characters use that inequality for dramatic effect, while deceiving themselves about the real impact it has on them. But I would love to hear readers’ thoughts on that.
I felt that the order in which passages of Julia’s diary were revealed were integral to understanding Julia and Colt’s relationship; did you outline/plan this from the beginning or was revision and rewriting a major influence?
As I wrote, I found that many of the journal passages from Julia’s past related to whatever was going on in Colt’s life when he read them. When I noticed that, I immediately thought it was a good idea to continue, and so it went from being an unconscious strategy to a conscious one.
Did you do any research while writing TSY? If yes, please explain.
Much of what appears in TSY is based on “incidental research”—things I’ve experienced myself that I used in the book. I’ve lived most of my life near rivers and creeks; I’ve shot a target rifle; I’ve seen bittersweet in the late fall. But for the details of Julia’s fatal accident, I did do some research on auto crashes, and statistics on survival related to the use of safety belts and airbags.
What was the most difficult aspect of writing TSY?
Getting the ending right. I probably rewrote that more than any other part of the book. Originally, the book went on too long, and started introducing new plots rather than just wrapping up the storyline of this one. I also had critiquers arguing about whether Colt should end up with Kirby, or Syd, or nobody.
Did you always want to be a novelist?
I always wanted to write. For years, I wrote and sold short stories, and though I tried novels, I wasn’t sure I would be able to write a publishable book-length manuscript. It took practice.
What jobs did you have on your way to being a writer? Did they help you in any way as a writer?
Every job and every experience helps in some way, I think. You have to have something to write about. Most of my day jobs have involved science, but I’ve also worked in a restaurant and done baby-sitting.
When and where do you usually write?
Evenings, weekends, and days off. I usually write on the computer in a spare bedroom of our house; it has become my writing office. But if we’re traveling, I write longhand in notebooks. The last time I was on a writing retreat, I wrote on a borrowed laptop.
Is there something that is a must have for you to be able to write?
Ideas! I prefer to write here in my office, on my computer, with my music on. But I can write elsewhere if I have to; all I need is something to say and a way to write it down.
What author or book most influenced you as a writer or in general?
In terms of influence, probably Jack Kerouac. There’s something about the spontaneity of his voice that excited me as a writer. But I love to read, and I read widely; there are very few genres that I never read. On my shelves right now, I have chapter books, middle-grade novels, YA books, adult classics, adult bestsellers, poetry, short stories, literary magazines, essays, and plays. I have books about history, travel, business, science; I have humor and biographies.
Can you tell us anything about your next YA novel(s)?
Only that I continue to work with contemporary, realistic stories.
The Hiding Spot is dedicated to my personal hiding spot, books. Is there a place, activity, or person that is your hiding spot?
I love the woods, where I hike regularly.
Anything else you would like to share with us?
Thanks for having me, and asking such great questions!