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Interview: Jordan Sonnenblick

June 18th, 2007 (05:46 am)

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!

Tell me more about Supersibs! How did you come to be involved with the program?

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.

Jordan Sonnenblick's SBBT Schedule
Monday, June 18th: Bildungsroman
Wednesday, June 20th: Writing and Ruminating
Thursday, June 21st: Jen Robinson's Book Page

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


Posted by: Vivian Lee Mahoney (hipwritermama)
Posted at: June 18th, 2007 01:48 pm (UTC)

This book sounds like a tearjerker! Thanks for sharing this interview. I really enjoyed it.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: June 18th, 2007 01:53 pm (UTC)

Thanks! I think you'd like his works. You'd cry AND laugh.

Posted by: Heidi R. Kling, Author of SEA, June 10, 2010 (seaheidi)
Posted at: June 18th, 2007 03:31 pm (UTC)

What stand out for me are his great titles. Did another house pick up his first book and reprint it or is it out of print? My youngest sister survived childhood cancer, so I'd like to read it. Plus, Dharma Bums is a really cool book. =9 What an eclectic list--no wonder he chooses such cool titles. Thanks, LW!!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: June 18th, 2007 05:05 pm (UTC)

Read it, read it, read it! Also check out Side Effects by Amy Goldman Koss and Rubber Houses by Ellen Yeomans.

Posted by: mandabach (mandabach)
Posted at: June 18th, 2007 06:07 pm (UTC)
from another 8th grader (teacher that is:)

Cool to read how Jordan was inspired by his student and turned it into a boy character. Inspiration (long story) led me to the voice of an 8th grade girl, despite some advice that I should stick to the male point of view. Glad I ignored the advice, and I'm proud to say that readers have wondered if there might be something odd about me that I was able channel my Cassie's voice! :)

But, too much about me. I gotta get Jordan's books, and pass them along to my students.

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: June 19th, 2007 02:13 am (UTC)
Re: from another 8th grader (teacher that is:)

Voice is very important to a novel, and to a writer, and - of course - to a character!

Enjoy the books.

Posted by: kidslitinfo/Kelly (kidslitinfo)
Posted at: June 18th, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC)

Great interview, LW! I really want to read "Notes"!

Thanks for a wonderful interview :)

(Brian: I'm taking your book with me to Scotland!)

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: June 18th, 2007 11:19 pm (UTC)

Thanks for reading the interview. Like HWM, I think you'll like Notes.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: June 19th, 2007 01:12 am (UTC)
Great interview, LW!

Hey, Little Willow! Very nice interview. I haven't read either book yet, but I got raves from young patrons who read Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie. Thanks for the opportunity to find out more about the man behind the books!

~eisha (7-Imp)

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: June 19th, 2007 01:43 am (UTC)
Re: Great interview, LW!

eisha, read Drums.

(Sensing a theme in the comments?!)

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: June 19th, 2007 01:59 am (UTC)
Wasn't it you?

I'm pretty sure you're the one who originally TOLD ME to read Drums and after I'd read Notes, man did I go IMMEDIATELY to a bookstore. I really LOVE both of those books, and the voice is so, so good! Thanks for a great interview!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: June 19th, 2007 02:00 am (UTC)
Re: Wasn't it you?

( signed, - TadMack)

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: June 19th, 2007 02:06 am (UTC)
Re: Wasn't it you?

*waves to TadMack*

Fantastic Ysabeau interview. Yay California!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: June 19th, 2007 02:08 am (UTC)

Now that I know who posted this, I'll tell you that the subject line startled me because I'm working on a piece with a similar title that no one knows about yet.

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: June 19th, 2007 02:54 am (UTC)

Drums, Girls & Dangerous Pie has been on my TBR list FOREVER now. I. must. read. it.

Thanks for the interview.

- Jules at 7-Imp

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: June 19th, 2007 03:04 am (UTC)

Go read it, impish J.

Posted by: robinbrande (robinbrande)
Posted at: June 19th, 2007 07:01 pm (UTC)

Excellent interview, LW!

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: June 20th, 2007 01:30 am (UTC)

Thank you!

Posted by: ((Anonymous))
Posted at: June 25th, 2007 04:41 am (UTC)

Yup, agreed--great one! I really enjoyed both books, especially NOTES, and enjoyed learning more about Jordan. Thanks!! - a. fortis (Finding Wonderland)

Posted by: Little Willow (slayground)
Posted at: June 25th, 2007 12:54 pm (UTC)

Thanks for dropping by! :)

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