What was your inspiration for The Sweet Dead Life?
I got an email from my editor at Soho Press asking if I was interested in writing a book about a down on his luck stoner dude who comes back from a fatal car accident as his dying sister's guardian angel and solves a huge family mystery. That was basically it -- this one intriguing sentence. Of course I said yes! And then I said, you know, I think this book is going to be set in Texas, which I had no idea how he would take since I figured he probably hadn't envisioned it in the northern suburbs of Houston. But when I sent him the sample chapters, he said yes, too and on we went from there! Ultimately, it became more than the sum of its parts. I mean originally, we'd pitched this project as FALLEN meets VERONICA MARS meets PINEAPPLE EXPRESS and other Judd Apatow movies. So we both knew there would be strong comic elements. But once I began writing, there was suddenly this much bigger, more poignant story of siblings and love and family and good and evil and blackmail and poison... along with breakfast tacos. Very Texas, I guess you'd say. We were creating this Texas makeover of the angel book and being careful to create an original world and not one attached to any specific faith philosophy. And then I fell in love with my narrator Jenna. After that, it was a labor of love. Plus there are cowgirl boots. And guac.
I'm lucky to know you personally so I'm wondering how much of your personality is in this book?
Well, I suppose there's some of me in every book I write. But I did have the opportunity here through some - not all- of Jenna's observations to let you see my sense of absurdism. And my belief that we make our own family, particularly if the one we're given has issues -- well, that's in there, too. I guess after that, I'll have to leave it you to decide which of Jenna's opinions - and she has MANY- are also my own. :)
What was the hardest part of writing The Sweet Dead Life?
Honestly, there were very few hard parts. I think there was some thought about hey, I've written this angel book that's based on a mystery and not on romance: How's that going to work out? But it's exactly that aspect that reviewers like Kirkus and Booklist have loved. So I guess it worked out just fine. The harder part actually came writing the sequel, which is called THE A WORD and will release in May 2014 and continue Jenna and Casey's adventures and the larger mystery that's been unleashed. Plus Jenna will have a romance in book 2 ! If you are a careful reader of TSDL, you will know who it will be with! THE A WORD is going to be a little darker and longer and a 'bigger' book overall. Plus a new angel will come into the picture. So the stakes were raised all around.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your books?
I think I sort of covered that above in the personality question, but beyond that I hope readers will enjoy a mixture of humor and pathos - of fantasy set in a very real world setting. Because I guess that's how I see life: this wonderful mixture of funny and awful and great and horrible all rolled into one, and we as humans have to have hope in each other to get us through.
I know you can't have favorites, but what was your favorite moment in the book?
I do love all of TSDL, but one of my favorite moments is the scene where Jenna finally learns and accepts that her brother is an 'A-word' now. And then even after that, she subjects him to this haphazard, self-created 'A-Word test.' It is funny and poignant and I love it. Because accepting that Casey is a 'you know what' now, also means accepting that he's, well, dead.
Tell us something readers might not know about you?
Hmm.... I bet you might not know that I was first chair viola in the high school orchestra! And you definitely might not know that I coached JV girl's volleyball my first year teaching. Yup. Both true.
Shoes, purses, or books?
Um, all. Of course. Really, my new Michael Kors nylon tote was not only affordable but also big enough to carry books AND shoes.
OMG did that really happen to me?
The funny one that comes to mind is one you actually know! It's when you and I were tweeting about the aforementioned Covert Affairs and @chrisgorham (who is our favorite actor on the show) tweeted back. It was one of those random celeb moments that I love. Also when my 50 pound log of doom dog crashed through my very expensive leaded glass window. But that wasn't as fun. There are many others that are much funnier. But they can't be repeated here.
When I'm not writing I spend my time ____?
Besides hanging out at book events with Maria Cari Soto? I read, watch trash TV (actually I LOVE all TV, including Covert Affairs which can't return soon enough), plan trips (we just went to Ireland and I'm hoping Italy is next), and drink wayyy too much caffeine.
To learn more about Joy visit: www.joypreble.com and follow her on twitter at @joypreble
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