ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Rachel M. Wilson, Author of DON’T TOUCH

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Today we welcome OneFour KidLit author Rachel M. Wilson, whose YA debut, DON’T TOUCH, releases September 2nd!


About DON’T TOUCH:

Caddie has a history of magical thinking—of playing games in her head to cope with her surroundings—but it’s never been this bad before.

When her parents split up, don’t touch becomes Caddie’s mantra. Maybe if she keeps from touching another person’s skin, Dad will come home. She knows it doesn’t make sense, but her games have never been logical. Soon, despite Alabama’s humidity, she’s covering every inch of skin and wearing evening gloves to school.

And that’s where things get tricky. Even though Caddie’s the new girl, it’s hard to play off her compulsions as artistic quirks. Friends notice things. Her drama class is all about interacting with her scene partners, especially Peter, who’s auditioning for the role of Hamlet. Caddie desperately wants to play Ophelia, but if she does, she’ll have to touch Peter…and kiss him. Part of Caddie would love nothing more than to kiss Peter—but the other part isn’t sure she’s brave enough to let herself fall.

From rising star Rachel M. Wilson comes a powerful, moving debut novel of the friendship and love that are there for us, if only we’ll let them in.

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LG: Congratulations on the release of DON’T TOUCH! It’s a powerful, tough story that’s told beautifully. What inspired you to write it?

RMW: Thank you so much! I was inspired in part by my own experience with OCD and anxiety, and in part by those more ordinary fears that can keep up from the life we want to be leading. It’s possible to waste so much time with fear, to become completely paralyzed at the thought of change, and that’s something I wanted to explore. I also wanted to get into stigma—both from the outside and the inside—the fear of being seen as strange or off-balance and all the complications that can bring to relationships. In a way, I think I was writing to my younger self, wanting to say, “yes, I see how bad this can be, but it also won’t be the end of your world.”

I gave an interview at Disability in Kidlit that goes into more depth about OCD for anyone who’s particularly interested in that.
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LG: How much research when into creating Caddie’s anxiety, and Caddie herself?

RMW: Well, even though I experienced OCD and anxiety myself, Caddie’s symptoms and life circumstances are different from my own, so I still did a bunch of reading about OCD and other anxiety disorders. At one point, I tried focusing on a touch phobia as opposed to OCD, but I found that the magical thinking I’d built into the story belonged more properly in the OCD world. I think I was scared of writing too close to myself, or of misrepresenting something I ought to know well in the process of making fiction. But ultimately, I decided I’d given a healthy amount of attention to those fears and it was time to put them aside. I consulted with a couple of psychiatrist friends to ensure that Caddie’s symptoms rang true for them. And while writing my author’s note, I checked in with a couple of counselor friends who work with youth to make sure I wasn’t unintentionally saying anything harmful.

In terms of Caddie’s character, I used a lot of the character creation techniques I learned while studying acting – playing with metaphors, free-writing, interviewing her. I also created a Pandora station of music that suited Caddie to get myself in her headspace.

LG: Theatre plays a large aspect within the book. Why did you find theatre important for Caddie’s story, aside from the fact that it’ll force her to touch Peter? And why Hamlet?

RMW: She’s always acting, always putting on a show that everything’s okay. One of the titles I considered for this book was Cadence Finn Is Fine—but that sounds a lot like a chapter book. Even before theater was a part of the story, I knew I wanted that element of performing for others to be in Caddie’s character. Out of all the scenes in the book, some version of that first lunch scene has survived from the very beginning, and it was always about that, trying to pretend like nothing bothers you when inside you’re falling apart. I was using acting as a metaphor before it became a concrete part of the storyline. In an earlier draft, Caddie was a ballerina—as with OCD, I think I was afraid of writing Caddie too close to myself. It helped me to write Caddie’s story with those degrees of remove and then bring the ingredients that I knew well back into the story. Not the most efficient process, but hey, it made a novel.

Hamlet came into the picture fairly late in the game as well. Early drafts used The Glass Menagerie, but I wanted to use lots of text from the play and worried about securing permission for that. Plus, that play introduced resonances that didn’t match up with Caddie and Peter’s relationship. A mentor suggested Hamlet after seeing how many scenes involved water imagery or swimming pools; I’d been thinking about that myself, so I reread the play, and was like, “Yeah, that’s right.” There’s so much language about fear and doubt, and Hamlet’s the classic character who’s always acting but afraid to take action. Ophelia was the obvious foil for Caddie, but I became equally interested in how Hamlet relates to Caddie’s character.

LG: What was the hardest part of writing your story? And what was your favorite part?

RMW: The hardest part was probably finding that external storyline—as may have been suggested above, I tried several. I really wrote two or three potential books in tandem, so at some point, I had to perform major surgery and sever the one that survives from all the other possibilities.

My favorite part was drafting those scenes that seemed to come out of the aether. Many of these went through major revision later on, but while writing, I’d get that feeling, this, this is my story . . . this will be a part of my book no matter what. Because I wrote so much that was exploratory and fumbling, writing those scenes I felt confident would stick was a huge boost.

LG: In general, when did you figure out you wanted to be writer, and what inspired you to become one?

RMW: I didn’t figure that out until my senior year of college, and my inspiration came out of theater. I’d been studying acting, but as an actor, you’re always a player in someone else’s story—the playwright’s, the director’s. I needed a creative outlet where I had total control. *laughs maniacally* My acting teacher required us to freewrite every morning, and out of that came a desire to write fiction. I was already very into the adaptation of literature for the stage. Writing adaptations was a kind of stepping stone to writing original fiction because it forced me to take apart and study all the elements of a text. Eventually, I started creating original characters and stories, and I ran with that.

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

RMW: As will probably be clear to readers of DON’T TOUCH, I’m afraid of change, but I’m more afraid of stasis. I have a recurring nightmare about being in a house full of other people’s junk that I don’t know how to get rid of, and I think that comes from a fear of being stuck in the past or tied down by old stuff. I’ve rarely met a horror movie I didn’t like, but I could never make it through an episode of Hoarders.

I’m not at all afraid of heights, or at least, it’s a fear I enjoy–that thrill of standing on the edge of something. The fear’s natural, and it’s fun to stand there in spite of it.
596343About Rachel M. Wilson:

Rachel M. Wilson studied theater at Northwestern University and received her MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Originally from Alabama, Rachel currently writes, acts, and teaches in Chicago, IL. DON’T TOUCH is her first novel. Rachel can best be found on her blogTumblr, or Twitter.

lauren gibaldi squaredLauren Gibaldi is an author and public librarian who lives in Orlando, FL with her husband and overflowing collection of books. She likes dinosaurs, musicals, and the circus (two of which she’s participated in. Hint: It’s not being a dinosaur). Her debut YA novel, THE NIGHT WE SAID YES, will be released summer 2015 with HarperTeen/HarperCollins.

ALL FOUR KIDS: An Interview with Julie Murphy, Author of SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY

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Today, we welcome OneFour KidLit author Julie Murphy, whose YA debut, SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY, releases today!


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About SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY:

What if you’d been living your life as if you were dying—only to find out that you had your whole future ahead of you?

When sixteen-year-old Alice is diagnosed with leukemia, her prognosis is grim. To maximize the time she does have, she vows to spend her final months righting wrongs—however she sees fit. She convinces her friend Harvey, whom she knows has always had feelings for her, to help her with a crazy bucket list that’s as much about revenge (humiliating her ex-boyfriend and getting back at her arch nemesis) as it is about hope (doing something unexpectedly kind for a stranger and reliving some childhood memories). But just when Alice’s scores are settled, she goes into remission.

Now Alice is forced to face the consequences of all that she’s said and done, as well as her true feelings for Harvey. But has she done irreparable damage to the people around her, and to the one person who matters most?

Julie Murphy’s SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is a fearless and moving tour de force about love, life, and facing your own mortality.

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JM: I’m so happy to be here! Thanks for having me!

LG: SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY has a fantastic premise – a girl with incurable cancer decides to seek revenge on those who’ve been mean to her, and then, when all is said and done, she goes into remission. What was your inspiration for this story?

JM: Until recently, I had worked with teens at a public library. At one of our gatherings, the teens and I got into a heated discussion about the zombie apocalypse and where we would all barricade ourselves should we be stranded in the library. This topic quickly evolved into a discussion about all the things that we weren’t allowed to do in a library that we might do if all bets were off. And that’s where it all began. Here I am on the OneFour KidLit YouTube channel, talking more about my inspiration while my cats steal the show.

LG: How much research went into the story in regards to Alice’s diagnosis and treatments?

JM: When I wrote the first draft, I actually hadn’t decided what kind of cancer Alice had. I consulted with a few medical professional friends and the ever trusty internet quite a bit as I weaved in the details of her illness. But most my research time was spent reading blogs written by cancer patients. Have a glimpse into their situation and mindset was invaluable. People who had lived really full, incredible lives were emotional wrecks. Witnessing their struggle was a painful necessity. There’s nothing pretty about cancer, but I am forever grateful to those who have chosen to document their journey.

LG: You wrote the book from both Alice and Harvey’s perspectives, and also in two timelines – before remission (then) and after (now). Was it hard going back and forth between voices and time periods? Did you write it chronologically, or how it appears in the book? Did you prefer one voice over the other?

JM: It was actually a very natural thing. I didn’t write chronologically. I love both of their voices in such different ways. After being with one of them for a few days, it was kind of a relief to get into a new headspace.

LG: Alice is a strong, raw, determined character. She does some things, especially to Harvey, that aren’t always likable, yet we’re still able to cheer her on. Why did you create her like that? Was it hard?

JM: I wanted to create someone who was the antagonist of her own story. Sure, Alice is strong, but like all of us, her greatest strengths can also be her greatest weaknesses. Alice toes this line. For example, Alice is honest, and sometimes you love her for it, but at other times it’s her greatest downfall. My hope was that she would feel human above all, and I think that’s what makes it possible to cheer for her. It was definitely a challenge, but Harvey created this wonderful balance that only made my job easier.

LG: Can you tell us a bit about your writing process, and your follow-up novel?

JM: Well, I used to be a total pantser, but after selling my second book on proposal, that just was not going to work. Book two, DUMPLIN’, has had an outline since day one. It’s definitely morphed, but the heart of the story has remained. Since I’m still writing DUMPLIN’, I can’t say much but I can give these hints: fat girl, small town, Texas, Dolly Parton, beauty pageant, best friend love, secret summer romance, and grief.

LG: How has the debut process for you been? Any advice for the Fearless Fifteeners?

JM: Everything happens at once. Publishing is all about stretches of painful silence, and then flurries of action. Enjoy the flurries, and learn the value of the silence. It’s all about balance. (Something I don’t think I’ll ever finish learning.)

LG: And, last, since this is a fearless community, what’s something you’re afraid of, and something you’re not afraid of?

JM: I am terrified of cicadas. I am not terrified of failure. Been there. Done that.

Julie-Murphy-Author-PhotoAbout Julie Murphy:

Julie Murphy lives in North Texas with her husband who loves her, her dog who adores her, and her cat who tolerates her. When she’s not writing or trying to catch stray cats, she works at an academic library. SIDE EFFECTS MAY VARY is Julie’s debut novel. Julie can best be found on her website , Tumblr , or Twitter .

lauren gibaldi squaredLauren Gibaldi is an author and public librarian who lives in Orlando, FL with her husband and overflowing collection of books. She likes dinosaurs, musicals, and the circus (two of which she’s participated in. Hint: It’s not being a dinosaur). Her debut YA novel, THE NIGHT WE SAID YES, will be released summer 2015 with HarperTeen/HarperCollins.

Introducing: Lauren Gibaldi

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Hi! I’m Lauren, author of THE NIGHT WE SAID YES, which is scheduled for a summer 2015 release with HaperTeen / HarperCollins. To say i’m excited is an understatement. I guess I’ve always wanted to be a writer, ever since documenting my third grade day-to-day activities in my tiny, pink and white, locked notebook. (Obviously what I was writing was highly confidential, thus the lock).

I got more serious about it in college when I majored in English and started writing for local newspapers and magazines. After a few careers (high school English teacher, marketing copywriter, magazine editor), I jumped ship and became a librarian. I guess it’s then that everything kind of came together. I wasn’t writing for a living, so I was able to focus on my own creative ideas. Plus, I worked at a library – what better place for inspiration, right? (I still do work there, and I still love it. A lot.)

THE NIGHT WE SAID YES came from a simple idea – can one night change everything? I always loved the thought that anything was possible after the sun went down. When my friends and I went out in high school (to the mall, to each others houses, to visit friends at work…), we never knew what would happen. Would that guy finally notice me? Would there be an epic fight? Would we do something crazy? Would things change? Even today I find myself getting excited as soon as the sky starts to turn orange, red, purple, blue.

TNWSY is a product of NaNoWriMo and many months of editing (because, really, that first draft was not good). I found a wonderful agent who helped me shape the book to what it is today. And she found me a terrific editor, who is helping me make the book even better. And somehow those dreams written in a third grader’s locked journal started to come true.

And so, THE NIGHT WE SAID YES.

Then and Now chapters chronicle the giddy, magical night two people first meet and spark to one another, and the night they reunite one year after their break-up, questioning if second chances are possible.

It’s about living in the moment. It’s about four friends saying yes to crazy ideas they have. It’s about friendship and love and pop punk bands. And, mostly, it’s about trusting yourself to make the right decision, despite the challenges and fears.

And I can’t wait for you all to read it.

lauren gibaldi squaredLauren Gibaldi is an author and public librarian who lives in Orlando, FL with her husband and overflowing collection of books. She likes dinosaurs, musicals, and the circus (two of which she’s participated in. Hint: It’s not being a dinosaur). Her debut YA novel, THE NIGHT WE SAID YES, will be released summer 2015 with HarperTeen/HarperCollins.