ALL FOUR KIDS: AN INTERVIEW WITH SASHI KAUFMAN, AUTHOR OF THE OTHER WAY AROUND

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Today, we welcome OneFour KidLit author Sashi Kaufman to the blog to discuss her debut novel, THE OTHER WAY AROUND. Here’s the book’s official blurb:

Cover TOWAAndrew has seen a flash of his future. (Dad: unfinished PhD. Mom: unfulfilling career. Their marriage: unsuccessful.) Based on what he’s seen, he’s uninspired to put a foot on the well-worn path to the adulthood everyone expects of him. There must be another way around.

After a particularly disastrous Thanksgiving (his cousin wets Andrew’s bed; his parents were too chicken to tell him his grandmother died), Andrew accidentally (on purpose) runs away and joins the circus. Kind of.

A guy can meet the most interesting people at the Greyhound station at dinnertime on Thanksgiving day. The Freegans are exactly the kinds of friends (living out of an ancient VW camper van, dumpster diving, dressing like clowns and busking for change) who would have Andrew’s mom reaching for a third glass of Chardonnay. To Andrew, five teenagers who seem like they’ve found another way to grow up are a dream come true. But as the VW winds its way across the USA, the future is anything but certain.

The path of least resistance is a long, strange trip.

I was lucky enough to nab an advance reader’s copy of this book and was mega-impressed by the fresh, authentic voice and colorful cast of characters. THE OTHER WAY AROUND asks all the big questions about how one should live one’s life, and is a great book for reluctant readers, who will be hooked from its first line (see below!).

IWG: Congrats on your debut! Tell us a little about what inspired your book. 

SG: Thanks! I’m a middle school teacher so my first inspiration for the book came from my students.Specifically this one type of student I seemed to end up with a fair amount; boys who were very smart, great vocabulary, often good readers and always terrible students. It was like they were mature enough to understand that a certain amount of your schooling is jumping through hoops and a lot of b.s. but not mature enough to get that you can really limit your options if you totally blow it all off. These kids were rejecting this mainstream version of how to be a successful human but they weren’t replacing it with anything. I always wanted to prattle on to them about how much I loved where I went to college (Go Oberlin!) because it was a place where things that were alternative and different, awkward and weird were cool. But it’s really hard to explain to an 8th grader. By taking Andrew, my main character, on this journey with the Freegans and forcing him to experience dumpster-diving and veganism, cooperative living, and organic farming I think I was attempting to bring those two worlds together.

IWG: Your book has one of the most memorable first lines I’ve read in a while: “When do girls fart?” It’s a beginning that immediately puts one in the mindset of your teenage boy protagonist. Tell me a little bit about how you came up with this opening. 

SK: Well thanks; glad you liked it! I don’t remember how I first knew that Andrew was going to start out as one of a handful of boys in an all-girls school. But, as soon as I did know that I figured this was going to be an issue. I mean really, when was the last time you heard a girl, or woman, proudly rip a good one? But it has to happen right? *Smiles devilishly* Anyway, in addition to teaching English I’m also a science teacher and I really enjoy teaching my kids about the human body. I kind of enjoy watching them squirm as I preach the inner workings of their intestinal tract.

IWG: Was it difficult writing from a male POV or did it come pretty naturally?

SK: Writing the male POV comes pretty naturally to me. I have a lot of theories on this but I think one of the stronger ones has to do with being raised by very open-minded people who weren’t all that hung up on gender as a defining part of one’s identity. I think writing like a teenager in general is much trickier than writing any one gender.

IWG: Your editor, Andrew Karre, has a reputation for being a real spotter of talent, as he launched the careers of award-winning & best-selling authors Maggie Stiefvater, A.S. King, Carrie Jones, Carrie Mesrobian and Blythe Woolston, among others. Tell us about your experience working with him. 

SK: Andrew is a very smart guy. When I talk to him I always make sure to have my witty pants on and cringe when I make little comments that are embarrassingly dorky. He’s the kind of person who –when I read a really good book – I immediately wonder what he would think about it. If it wouldn’t be slightly socially awkward I would love to have a two person book club with him. Working with him has been nothing less than a pleasure. He has been an excellent editorial guide through this process.

IWG: How long have you been writing, and do you have any tips for aspiring novelists? 

SK: I have been writing 4-eva as we say in the New England region. But I have only been attempting to write novels for about six or seven years. I’m sure I don’t have any original advice for aspiring novelists but I would echo whoever said it first in advising people to write what they would like to read, and to write for themselves. Because most likely, you will be the person who spends the most time with these words so they should be ones that entertain you.

IWG: How has the debut process been for you so far? Anything you didn’t expect?

SK: The debut process has been difficult for me only in that like many type A personalities I don’t like to do new things unless I’m sure I’m going to be brilliant at them. It’s not my finest character trait. Really it’s been a lovely experience overall and I can’t complain. The people at Carolrhoda Lab and Lerner Books have all been excellent to work with.

IWG: Finally, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.

SK: I am not afraid of ticks, snakes, or spiders. I am afraid of being trapped in my car underwater.

Thanks, Sashi. We can’t wait to see THE OTHER WAY AROUND hit the shelves! 

Author 4 -mini

Sashi Kaufman is a middle school English and science teacher who lives in Portland Maine with her husband and daughter. The Other Way Around is her debut YA novel and will be published by Carolrhoda Lab/ Lerner Books on March 1st. She is also an amateur trash-picker. To learn more, visit her website at www.sashikaufman.com, add her book on Goodreads, or Tweet her at @sashikaufman

SONY DSCI. W. Gregorio is a practicing surgeon by day, masked avenging YA writer by night. After getting her MD, she did her residency at Stanford, where she met the intersex patient who inspired her novel, NONE OF THE ABOVE (Balzer & Bray / HarperCollins, Fall of 2015). She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two children. For more, visit iwgregorio.com or Tweet her at @IWGregorio.
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