Interview: Jordan Sonnenblick
Current Mood: awake
Current Song: The Dead Zone score music
As soon as I finished Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie, I began to put the book in the hands of each and every co-worker and customer who would listen to me. The story has a catchy title, a tearjerking premise, and a memorable family. I was impressed by the author's ability to balance comedy and drama, something he did again in his second novel, Notes from the Midnight Driver.
That author is Jordan Sonnenblick, and he's here at Bildungsroman today as part of the week-long Summer Blog Blast Tour, organized by Colleen from Chasing Ray. Let's get right to the questions, shall we?
Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie details one little boy's fight with cancer from the point of view of his older brother. What prompted you to make Steven the narrator?
This is sort of a two-part answer. The first part is that I teach 8th grade English, and wrote DRUMS for a student of mine whose little brother had cancer. So the fact that the older sibling is the narrator is because my inspiration for the book was an older sibling. The second part is that, even though my student was a girl, I made Steven a boy because I thought I'd be better at nailing the adolescent male voice -- it's alarmingly easy for me to channel my inner teenager. Actually, my wife says that when I wrote DRUMS, I finally found a way to make my immaturity work for me!
Supersibs! is an amazing support organization for brothers and sisters of pediatric cancer patients. DRUMS was originally published by a small press called DayBue, which went out of business the month the book came out. My publicist at DayBue found Supersibs! online, and sent them a copy of DRUMS. By the time DayBue closed its doors, I already knew that the people at Supersibs! loved DRUMS, so the publisher and I agreed to donate all 4,000 unsold copies of the first edition to Supersibs!, which then sent them out for free to teenage siblings of cancer patients. At the time, I thought the book would be out of print forever, so I felt good knowing that at least it would get into the hands of the kids who would appreciate it most.
In Notes from the Midnight Driver, chance and music bring together two men - one a teenager searching for something to do, the other elderly and searching for something he once had. Have you ever worked at an assisted living home or in a hospital?
Nope, but my dad was a psychiatrist, and worked in a nursing home. Also, I have spent tons of time with my grandfather, Sol Feldman, who inspired the character of Sol. My Grampa Sol was hospitalized for several days the week before I started writing NOTES, so my experiences with that world were very fresh when I was working on the book.
Without spoiling anything for those who haven't read the books, I will simply say that they are connected. Did you plan that before you started taking Notes?
I knew I wanted to do that, because I wanted some of the characters from the first book to come out and play with me again!
When you reach for a book written by someone else, what genre is it most likely to be?
Wow, I really read just about everything, including a ton of nonfiction for adults. But my most immediate literary mentors with regard to the comedy/drama balance are Frank McCourt and Kurt Vonnegut.
Your calendar is filled with author visits, mostly to middle schools. What have been some of the most rewarding experiences you've had during these visits?
I have really felt blessed by everything that's happened during each of my school visits -- schools tend to treat visiting authors exceptionally well. Schools have made huge quilts, with each student illustrating a panel based on scenes from my books. I've had banners draped across the fronts of schools, marching bands, cheerleaders, lawn-gnome displays -- you name it. But my favorite moments have consistently come when siblings of children with medical issues have approached me to say that DRUMS has helped them to feel they aren't alone.
Oh, I also really like when schools give me a school t-shirt, size XL. I'm developing quite a cool collection!
Last but not least, what are your ten favorite books?
Yikes, tough question. But I'd say:
The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, J.K. Rowling
Angela's Ashes, Frank McCourt
Cyrano de Bergerac, Edmond Rostand (Technically this is a play, but I have to include it anyway)
For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway
Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut
Galapagos, Kurt Vonnegut
Bluebeard, Kurt Vonnegut
Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer
Desolation Angels, Jack Kerouac / The Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac
Thanks again to Jordan for completing this interview.
SBBT Schedule for Monday, June 18th
Tom & Dorothy Hoobler at Chasing Ray
Mitali Perkins at Big A little a
Sara Zarr at Interactive Reader
Justina Chen Headley at Hip Writer Mama
Justine Larbalestier at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy
Dana Reinhardt at lectitans
Brent Hartinger at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast
Laura Ruby at Writing and Ruminating
Jordan Sonnenblick by Bildungsroman
Ysabeau Wilce at Finding Wonderland