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Current Song: The Prisoner score music
Welcome to the 2009 Winter Blog Blast Tour! (You may ask yourself, "What's a WBBT?" Click here for the answer.) I'm happy to help kick off this year's events with this interview, in which Courtney Sheinmel considers character names, middle school memories, and cheese, as well as more serious matters, such as AIDS awareness and the effect of divorce on children.
I started things off by talking about her newest book, the positively wonderful novel Positively, which I highly recommend.
Your second novel, Positively, is about a young girl who is HIV-positive, having acquired it from her mother during the pregnancy. The story was inspired, in part, by your involvement with The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, which we talked about in our previous interview. When writing Positively, you were no doubt drawing on past experiences and people you've known, some of whom have lost their battles... It must have been a difficult story to write.
Oh yes, writing POSITIVELY was extremely difficult. The narrator, Emmy, has to face life as an HIV-positive teen, and as a motherless daughter. I had some very emotional conversations with kids I know, who have experienced both of those things.
But more than that, sometimes I felt like I didn't have a right to tell the story. After all, my mom is alive and well; I can see her and speak to her whenever I want. And I'm HIV-negative, and don't have to take pills several times a day. I wanted to do right by Emmy, and I didn't want to offend anyone who was living with HIV. One night I had dinner with Elizabeth Glaser's son, Jake. He has been HIV-positive since birth, and when he was ten years old, he lost his mom to AIDS. I told him that I was really scared and that I felt like a fraud. He encouraged me to keep going. He said he believed in me, and believed I could tell the right story. I will always be grateful to him for that.
How did you select the name for your lead character, Emerson, better known as Emmy?
Sometimes I name characters after people I know, but in real life, I don't know anyone named Emerson. It was important to me to give her a name that wasn't attached to any of my friends or family members. I love androgynous names for girls, so I was thinking about Dylan or Blake. My agent suggested I give her a more feminine name, and I was quite pleased with myself when I thought of Emerson, because of the nickname "Emmy." I gave her the middle name Louise, so her dad could call her "Emmy Lou."
I wish I had a meaningful, poetic answer to why her name is Emerson – like it was inspired by a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote. The truth is that I just really love the name, and I think it suits her: it is beautiful, complicated, and unique, and to me Emerson is all of those things.
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Drop by Courtney's website and blog.
Related posts at Bildungsroman:
Interview: Courtney Sheinmel (2008)
Family: Courtney Sheinmel
Hope: Courtney Sheinmel
Book Review: My So-Called Family by Courtney Sheinmel
Book Review: Positively by Courtney Sheinmel
Book Review: Stella Batts Needs a New Name by Courtney Sheinmel, illustrated by Jennifer A. Bell
Visit all of today's tour stops:
Jim Ottaviani at Chasing Ray
Courtney Sheinmel at Bildungsroman
Derek Landy at Finding Wonderland
Mary E. Pearson at Miss Erin
Megan Whalen Turner at HipWriterMama
Frances Hardinge at Fuse #8
Here's the Bildungsroman schedule for WBBT 2009:
Monday, November 16th: Courtney Sheinmel
Tuesday, November 17th: Laurie Faria Stolarz
Wednesday, November 18th: Jacqui Robbins
Thursday, November 19th: Thomas Randall
Friday, November 20th: Joan Holub
View the full schedule for WBBT 2009.