February 2nd, 2010

books

Interview: Loretta Ellsworth

Loretta Ellsworth's new book, In a Heartbeat, is narrated by two very different characters: Eagan, a sixteen-year-old ice skater, and Amelia, a fourteen-year-old heart transplant recipient. This book will tug at readers' heartstrings as they learn of the tragic circumstances that bind Eagan and Amelia together. If you enjoy novels like If I Stay by Gayle Forman and/or books with multiple narrators, I urge you to pick up In a Heartbeat by Loretta Ellsworth.

I'm flattered to be kicking off Loretta's tour today, the very day of the book's release. We spoke of narrative, research, and inspiration, among other things.

When writing In a Heartbeat, did you find it difficult to switch back and forth between the two different voices? Did you write the story as-is, with the narrative alternating back and forth with every chapter, or did you write all or the majority of one girl's story first, then go back and fill in the chapters for the other narrator?

I started out with both viewpoints. I did try to write one story and go back, but this posed some problems because when I put the stories together, the chapters didn't flow as well, so I had to go back again and write in the alternating chapters. Part of the problem was the fact that I didn't know where the book was going, so I needed the viewpoints of both girls to help me discover the story. But writing alternating chapters posed a challenge in keeping their voices distinct.

How much research did you do into organ research and cellular memory before writing this book? What fascinates you about the most about cellular memory?

I read quite a bit about organ transplants and cellular memory. What fascinates me most is the insistence of some heart transplant recipients who claim to have memories or characteristics that weren't there before the transplant. The communication between the brain and the heart is a two-way dialogue and so much still isn't known, but I don't know why some people experience this phenomena and others don't, if it really is just the effects of the many drugs they take, or if the cells really do carry memory. It will be interesting as more people have transplants and more studies are done in that field.

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Visit Loretta's website.

Follow Loretta's blog tour:
February 2, 2010: Bildungsroman
February 3, 2010: Elizabeth O. Dulemba
February 4, 2010: April Nichole
February 5, 2010: Library Lounge Lizard
February 6, 2010: The Book Butterfly
February 7, 2010: Lauren's Crammed Bookshelf
February 8, 2010: Books by Their Cover
February 9, 2010: Shelf Elf
February 9, 2010: Pop Culture Junkie
February 10, 2010: Books Are My Lovers
February 11, 2010: Mother Daughter Book Club
February 12, 2010: Mother Daughter Book Club Interview
February 13, 2010: Read This Book

Veronica Mars, Kristen Bell, knowing

Interview: Robin Friedman

Please join me in congratulating today's second interview guest at Bildungsroman, Robin Friedman. I first interviewed Robin three years ago, after reading her first YA novel, The Girlfriend Project. She followed up that romantic comedy with a dramatic teen book entitled Nothing that was really something. Her latest venture into juvenile fiction, The Importance of Wings, has been named the Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Category. I highly recommend the title, and I am so happy that it's getting the recognition and attention it deserves.

From February 1st through 5th, this year's recipients of the Sydney Taylor Book Award are visiting reader blogs to discuss their award-winning titles as well as previous and future works. For the complete schedule, please scroll down to the bottom of this post. For Robin's musings and responses, please keep reading.

Paul Zindel, author of The Pigman and other novels beloved by many, inadvertently inspired you to write The Importance of Wings. Tell us about that conversation, and the subsequent creation of your main character, Roxanne.

He was living nearby, and a member of my critique group got to know him, then invited him to a luncheon at another member's home, where we could all meet him too. I remember Mexican chocolate cake and a salad with fresh strawberries. I also remember how honored, delighted, and curious we all were, taking turns firing questions at him, trying to restrain ourselves from being too forward. He was absolutely gracious, and so generous with his advice, humor, and patience.

When he commented that all of his books were autobiographical, one of the (braver) members of my group asked him if his family got angry when he wrote about them, and he said, "Yes. They do get angry with me. But then they ask me who's playing them in the movie."

I thought about my own family, and my own stories. With my background, weren't there some worthy stories I could tell? I started out very purely, telling the story of my childhood in a very autobiographical way. But the writers in my critique group responded negatively to my efforts, sometimes with disbelief at my characterizations, sometimes with boredom at my plotlines!

I realized that to be true to my story, ironically, I had to let go of "what really happened," and write the book not as a tribute to my own life, but as a story, pure and simple, with all of the requirements of pacing, dialogue, plot, and character development. I couldn't use "my life" as a crutch, only as an inspiration.

You are a self-proclaimed Jersey Girl, but you were born in Israel. Have you visited Israel since leaving it at the age of five?

I've been back to Israel several times, including as a college student for a junior year abroad, at the University of Haifa. In that year, I literally fell in love with the landscape and the history, and learned so much about my heritage, as well as the gaps in my family's story.

In what ways has your heritage and your faith shaped your vision and your writing?

They've given me the perspective of an outsider, which isn't such a bad thing when you're a writer, since you're trying to be perceptive about things other people might miss. It can be very tough on you as a child and teen, but as an adult, an outlook like that can make daily life fascinating.

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