Kara is a high school junior who’s loving life. She’s popular, has a great group of friends and an amazing boyfriend, and she’s a shoe-in for homecoming queen. Even though her parents can’t stop fighting and her ex-boyfriend can’t seem to leave her alone, Kara won’t let anything get in the way of her perfect year. It’s Friday night, and Kara arrives at a party, upset after hearing her parents having another one of their awful fights, and sees another girl with her hands all over her boyfriend. Furious, Kara leaves to take a drive, and, as she’s crossing an intersection, a car comes out of nowhere and slams into the driver’s side of Kara’s car.
When Kara wakes up, she has no memory of the night before. Where is she? Why are her parents crying? And, most importantly — why can’t she feel her legs? As Kara is forced to adjust to her new life, where her friends aren’t who they seemed to be and her once-adoring boyfriend is mysteriously absent, she starts to realize that what matters in life isn’t what happens to you — it’s the choices you make and the people you love.
Co-written by “Push Girls” star Chelsie Hill, whose real life closely mirrors Kara’s experience, this novel will open the eyes of readers everywhere who have never met someone who lives with paralysis.
SA: I’ve often wondered what it would be like to collaborate with another author. What was it like to collaborate writing with someone who inspired the story (Chelsie Hill)? How did that process work?
Jessica: Working with Chelsie was great! She was the expert of the elements of the story that were based on her life and and I was the general YA expert, so we were a perfect team. It was ideal to have someone there to focus on the important details when I was working on the big picture.
SA: PUSH GIRL is such a realistic story of what it is like to be a teen with a disability—particularly a sudden change to ‘disabled’ status. My heart went out to Kara. Did all the little details come from Chelsie? Did you interview others as well?
Jessica: While the book is based on Chelsie’s life, it’s not 100% Chelsie’s story. Kara is fictional, and so much of Chelsie’s story is available to the public already – through the Push Girls TV show, her public speaking, etc. So, yes, I did get a lot of details from Chelsie – both from talking to her and from watching videos of her online. (If anyone isn’t familiar with Chelsie’s story, it’s pretty incredible. You can read more about here here.) But I also wanted to make sure it wasn’t a complete mirror of only Chelsie’s experience, so I went to other sources as well. YouTube is so great. There are so many videos with people explaining their situations, giving tutorials on how to do things like get in and out of cars with their wheelchairs, and sharing their experiences. There are some scenes in the book where Kara does some online research about using a wheelchair and watches a lot of videos – that was really based on my own experiences.
SA: What is something you learned from the process of writing PUSH GIRL?
Jessica: I learned that I CAN write fast. I didn’t have a lot of time to get this book together. The first book I wrote took about three years and the second one took about two. I just thought that was how long it took me, and that every book I ever wrote would take well over a year to get from beginning to end. When PUSH GIRL came along, I didn’t have that kind of time. It’s been barely over a year since I wrote the first word of this book (and I have obviously been done with it for quite a while now), and I had to write a book about something I was pretty unfamiliar with (paralysis/life in a wheelchair), so…research. And I was working with someone else, which was also different from what I was used to. I woke up every day thinking there is no way I can get this done! But I did. You should never underestimate the power of a looming deadline.
SA: How has the debut process been for you so far? Anything you didn’t expect?
Jessica: Because of the nature of my book, that it wasn’t a book that represented all of my hopes and dreams in publishing, I’m surprised at how much I’ve just let everything about the debut process just roll off my back. I really thought I would be stressed about every little thing, and I AM. But I think that, while I love this book and I’m proud of it, having it not be this book baby that I slaved over for three years has really helped me be more mellow about the whole process. It’s given just the right amount of distance and perspective to keep me semi-sane.
Jessica: I’m afraid of the dark. Well, in all aspects of my life, I hate being taken by surprise, so it’s not so much the dark as it is what is lurking in the dark that I’m not prepared for. If something jumps out at me in the dark, I don’t know if it’s a monster or a vampire or a cuddly dog, and not knowing is the scariest thing there is for me.
IN REAL LIFE * 2015 from Thomas Dunne/St. Martin’s
|Susan Adrian is a 4th-generation Californian who somehow stumbled into living in Montana. In the past she danced in a ballet company and worked in the fields of exotic pet-sitting, clothes-schlepping, and bookstore management. She’s settled in, mostly, as a scientific editor. When she’s not with her family, she keeps busy researching spy stuff, eating chocolate, and writing more books, both YA and MG. Her debut YA novel TUNNEL VISION will be published by St. Martin’s Press in 2015. You can visit her website at susanadrian.blogspot.com or on Twitter (always) @susan_adrian.|