Friday, January 11, 2013

Interview with Jacquelyn Mitchard

I'm so excited to welcome Soho Teen's very first author Jaquelyn Mitchard. Jaquelyn has written a number of YA and Fiction novels. Jaquelyn's first novel The Deep End of the Ocean, was named by USA Today as one of the ten most influential books of the past 25 years – second only to the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I had a chance to talk to her about her latest novel What We Saw at Night.

How did you come up with the idea for What We Saw at Night?
When I was a teenager, we used to say, in the stone age of Facebook, which we called telephones, "Its 's good...up all night…" I was thinking about Allie. I kept wondering about, what if that was not a choice? What if you stayed up all night every night because you could only live in darkness? You would see different things from the things you see in the daylight world. Darkness is romantic, terrifying, the soul of mystery. Even in old church lore, the late, late Mass called "matins," which means "morning," used to be said between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m. These are the ancient hours of the wolf. The "matins" prayers were supposed to guard against the evils of the night, which is when most bad deeds still take place. What if sunset was your sunrise were innocent? It wasn't your fault or even your idea?

Tell us a little about XP and how it came about?
XP means "Xeroderma Pigmentosum." So, right, I couldn't say that either. But it's very serious, a genetic condition that's like a deadly allergy to light. As Allie says, life is the toaster and you are the bread. People in olden times never lived long lives with XP. Even now, they usually do not live past 40. And all sorts of things were associated with XP. Like being vampires, because they hid from the light, because their eyes were weak, because they were so pale, and the sun literally destroyed them. It wasn't even until this century that XP was really understood.The comparisons with mythological creatures of the night were inevitable. I wanted these kids to be mythically strong and free, but also incredibly vulnerable. They break my heart, they look into the dark and they laugh and love. They are so vulnerable. They still fight back.

What is Parkour and how did it make it into What We Saw at Night?
If you've ever seen a youtube video about Parkour (this is from a French movie, and In Laura Croft, Tomb Raider, the Minecraft game and in the movie, that is what she is doing -- Parkour. These are strong kids, athletes, fierce, bursting with desire and energy -- despite what life handed them. My son told me about Parkour -- which is this fascinating discipline of speed and strength. You learn to conquer any obstacle by leaping over it, or rolling under it, or jumping from one level to another. I thought it was just hotdog stuff. Then I learned the amount of training in strength and endurance and speed. Unreal. AND THEN, my son told me he had done it a few years before, including jumping from the third story of a building and landing safely. I was horrified. I was also hooked. If you knew Juliet, and Allie and Rob, this would be irresistible to them.

We know that Allie likes Rob who likes Juliet who loves adrenaline. Will there be time for love?
Love! Love, yes, absolutely! What there is no time for is romance or dating or gossip or anything trivial. Just love like adrenaline, straight to the heart. And oh wow, you don't know what is coming with THIS love ...

Allie’s mom is very involved in her life and very untraditional. Where did you get the inspiration and what are some of your favorite moments with her?
Well, I have two favorites. One is when Allie's mother gives her birth control pills and Allie is thinking, hey, do you know something I don't? Because she isn't even remotely having sex. She wonders if her mother is thinking, hey kid, make the most of're going to die young. Or just being the proactive nurse manager that her mother is. My other favorite moment is when they have a huge monster fight, and then Allie's mother tells her that she loves Allie even more than she could love God. She is not a traditional mom...well, she might more part of a new tradition of mothers. She's a single mom. She's strict and she's completely independent. She adores her daughters, but she is chill. She really knows what's going on. I really admire her. As for her name. Her name is, uh, Jackie...I have no idea why. Who would come up with a name like that name?

What’s it like to be the first author for SohoTeen?
It is thrilling to be the first author for Soho Teen. Whose book launch party featured a punk band and the-artist-forerly-known-as-the artist-formerly-known-as-Prince songs? Mine. The editor played a red guitar. Take about untraditional and just so cool. The cover is my favorite cover of a book of mine, ever. Isn't it stylish?

What are your thoughts on YA becoming so popular in the last few years?
It's not only 'The Hunger Games' and 'Twilight,' although those were the great pyramids, the opening notes of the symphony. It's that Young Adult novels have great stories, fresh, big, things happening. The plot is not, like, modeled after the plot of what could be any adult novel. Like, after divorce, a woman returns to her hometown and reunites with her brother and the guy she loved in high school...I'm asleep already. Kids live epic lives. These are epic stories. Adults want to be in on it. Who doesn't?

What book are you looking forward to in 2013?
'Just One Day' by Gayle Forman, who wrote 'If I Stay.' And even more, 'Exposure,' the second book in the Twisted Lit series by Kim Askew and Amy was just was the lead story in Forbes Magazine, about Shakespeare making a comeback.The first book in the series was 'Tempestuous,' a re-imagining of 'The Tempest,' and this may be among the funniest books I've ever read, and these women are major talents. And...I'm their editor, which, if I did not say this, I would be coy. And I'm not coy.

What are your next projects?
Next up in my YA life is next year's WHAT WE LOST IN THE DARK, the second story about Allie Kim and her exploits and her loves and her terrors. In my adult book writer's life, I'm finishing MERCY, the story of a former Chicago cop who rescues a little boy from the Christmas Eve tsunami in Brisbane, and accidentally, if you will, kidnaps him. He becomes the boy's father, and slowly realizes that the boy, while human, has an extraordinary power over the emotions of any living thing, animal or human.

In my real life, I'm raising nine children, all apparently my own, who range in age from seven to 28, and an arrogant dog, a pet spider. I am taking up karate. I'm entirely serious here.

I'm a contributing editor for More magazine, and will complete my MFA studies this spring and begin teaching in an MFA program.

I like to keep busy, you think?

Jacquelyn Mitchard is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean, the very first Oprah’s Book Club pick, as well as more than twenty other critically acclaimed books for adults and teens. A nominee for several national and international awards, she served on the 2004 Fiction Jury for the National Book Award. She is a longtime journalist and regular contributor to Real Simple and Parade magazines. Most recently, she has been named the Editorial Director of Merit Press, the new young adult imprint at F+W.


  1. What an awesome way to put it. Kids to "live epic lives". Thanks for the interview. I do need to check this one out.

  2. Okay, now I'm intrigued. My brother has a friend who does parkour, and I haven't seen it featured in a YA novel yet. Also love the young ones who hang out at night - I'm a sucker for that in books (and life), no matter if it's for insomnia or some other reason. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I've anjoyed several of Mitchard's novels, and I'm looking forward to this. Parkour is so cool! I actually did read a book with a little parkour in it -- I just don't remember which one right now.

  4. I got to meet Mitchard at a reading in Houston a few years ago, she was awesome! I have read The Deep End of the Ocean, but I'm not sure I'm going to read this book. I enjoyed the interview.