Published by Macmillan
Published: February 3rd 2015
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If seventeen-year-old Skylar Evans were a typical Creek View girl, her future would involve a double-wide trailer, a baby on her hip, and the graveyard shift at Taco Bell. But after graduation, the only thing standing between straightedge Skylar and art school are three minimum-wage months of summer. Skylar can taste the freedom—that is, until her mother loses her job and everything starts coming apart. Torn between her dreams and the people she loves, Skylar realizes everything she’s ever worked for is on the line.Nineteen-year-old Josh Mitchell had a different ticket out of Creek View: the Marines. But after his leg is blown off in Afghanistan, he returns home, a shell of the cocksure boy he used to be. What brings Skylar and Josh together is working at the Paradise—a quirky motel off California’s dusty Highway 99. Despite their differences, their shared isolation turns into an unexpected friendship and soon, something deeper.
1. I was lucky enough to win a copy of I’ll Meet You There and read it back in the summer. It is one of those books that just stays with you (4 months later it still kills me in the best of ways!). You can 100% tell that you put your heart in soul into this book. The emotions just leap of the page. What was that like for you? How was the experience of writing it?
In some ways I feel like IMYT kind of ruined me—it’s raised the bar so high in terms of what the journey of writing a book can be. I literally started sobbing when I finished the last line of the first full draft, in part because it had been so hard to write the book and there were so many points when I thought I couldn’t do it, and also because I loved my characters so much and was able to guide them to where they needed to be. I’m really freaking proud of this book. There were so many highs and lows throughout the process, what with the research and interviews and stories I was being told. Mostly, I just wanted to write something worthy of the subject matter. I’ve talked before about how incredibly difficult it was to deal with such heavy topics as PTSD, death, the war in Afghanistan, poverty and how working on this book forced me to come to terms with my dad’s PTSD. I also wrote the bulk of this book in the months after my grandfather died. He was my main father figure all of my life, so it was hard. That was how I was able to enter into some of Sky’s feelings about losing her dad. I think the coolest thing about the book was how my writer’s group realized that Josh was such a huge character before I did. He was kind of buried in my subconscious and they held him up to the light. I’ll love them forever for that. Writing IMYT opened my mind and my heart and there are so many pieces of me in there that I honestly am not sure where reality stops and fiction begins.
2. Personally I fell in love with your writing when I read Something Real earlier this year. It was such a great story really relevant to everything in pop culture with great characters. I’ll Meet You There is definitely a different book but that is still very relevant to now. What was it like to explore too different parts relevant to today’s world?
I want to write books for my time and, hopefully, they will also stand the test of time. It’s so exciting to deal with relevant subject matter because it allows me to enter into the conversation about issues I care about. Knowing that I can shed light on things like trafficking or veterans issues or children’s rights through my work keeps me focused on what matters and gives me perspective. I believe we all have a responsibility to serve society in some way. As a writer, my goal is to give people hope, to let them know they’re not alone, and to open their eyes to groups of people or things in our world they weren’t aware of. I also, of course, want to entertain and give people a chance to escape, to be voyeurs. Because my books are also marketed to teens, I’m very aware of the opportunity I have to inspire them and get them thinking—but, of course, I want to do that for all my readers, regardless of their age! One of the best things about dealing with relevant topics is that I get to learn about those things in depth. I’m a better person because of the research I had to do for I’ll Meet You There and Something Real. Sadder, in some ways, but better for it.
3. There is no denying that Sky and Josh are very flawed characters. The two of them have been through a lot in their young lives. Even with their flaws they were relatable and likable. How was it getting into the head of these two amazing characters?
Everyone has flaws, Sky and Josh no more than anyone else. You know, my characters are complicated people who screw up and hurt others and themselves—just like we all do. I think readers will connect to Josh and Sky because they put it all out there—all the messy, ugly things we don’t want other people to see. If I had met Josh Mitchell on the street before writing this book, I would have had this whole preconceived notion of this jarhead guy, right? But because I had to get in his skin, it helped me to see how profoundly fascinating Marines and Soldiers are. There are lots of poets in those ranks, and people who are hurting and fighting wars on the inside just as much as on the outside.
To me, Sky and Josh are real. The level of intimacy I had to have with them in order to understand who they were—and particularly to understand Josh—required me to get in the trenches with them. Sky and I have several parallels, so I had to take a look at some things in my own life and find those places where I completely got her. But she’s very much her own person—she’s much tougher than I am. I wonder if I’ll ever, ever again have such a satisfying experience as I’ve had working on Josh. He taught me so much about what it means to have courage and loyalty and selflessness. It was really hard being in his head because it’s a scary place to be. And he’s such a guy’s guy—I had to rely on my research and my guts when it came to him.
4. Tell me about the setting! The hotel that a lot of the book takes place in is pretty awesome. How did you come up with the idea? Is it a kind of setting you have wanted to use for a while or something that just came to you?
The motel was the genesis of the story. I don’t remember exactly when it popped into my head, but as soon as I thought of it, I knew it would be such an intriguing setting for a book. Once I started creating Creek View, it took on a life of its own. Ray’s, the trailer park, the abandoned gas station…they really just appeared out of nowhere, like they were hiding in my bones. I also relied on memories of my many trips up and down the 99 and being a native Californian who went to high school in Central California. Then the town sort of ran with it. Originally, the motel was a really negative, crappy place, but I think my writer’s group pointed out that Marge, instead of being a terrible boss, could be a more positive person. And once I realized that I could go there, the Paradise became this really special haven for Sky and Josh. It was one of my writer friends’ ideas to have themed rooms. Then I just went to town! (The Tom Cruise room is my favorite, no contest. But the Viva Mexico room is a close second). As cliché as this sounds, it really did take a village to write this book. So many people supported me along the way.
5. Since I read I’ll Meet You There pretty early, okay, August of 2014 early, I’m kind of dying for your next contemporary. Anything kind of hint you can give us on that? Or even what you are currently working on?
I had one idea that I played with for most of last year that crashed and burned spectacularly and that left me feeling a little freaked out, to be honest. The whole time I was working on it, I had this niggling feeling that I didn’t love it. Right now, I’m working on my next fantasy series, which I’m keeping under wraps but will hopefully be able to shout from the rooftops about by summer. In terms of contemporary, I do have this one idea I’m really intrigued by, but it’s hard because it feels like nothing can compare to this experience of I’ll Meet You There. I know, I need to get back on the horse. Part of it, too, is that I just finished getting my MFA and I’ve got all these ideas swirling around in my head about being experimental and such. I don’t know. I have to say that whatever I write next must have a voice that grabs me, like Josh did, and won’t let me go. I’m kind of interested in some Jandy Nelson type magical realism, too. And love, of course. Whatever I write will have lots of that because, to me, that’s what this whole living thing is all about.
6. And I ask all interviews this question since my blog deals with clothes and accessories too. What is the one accessory or clothing item you personally could not live without?
Socks! I know that’s so boring, but being a native Californian who now lives in freezing cold Brooklyn, my feet are blocks of ice and when I’m cold I can’t write. I also have this gorgeous infinity scarf that my husband bought me at Anthropologie and it’s my favorite thing in the world to wear. I always feel like a jetsetter fashionista when I wear it.
A HUGE thank you to Heather and Macmillan for this amazing blog tour experience. You can read my review of I’ll Meet You There HERE.
If you would like to win a cop of I’ll Meet You There, please enter below. The giveaway is US/Canada ONLY and provided by the publisher. Winner will receive a hardcover copy of I’ll Meet You There. Runs February 3rd at 12am to February 8th at 11:59pm EST.
Blog tour stops can be found HERE.