Once again Joëlle tells an entertaining, edge-of-the-seat story, of girl power….with the help of terrific secondary characters. For those who may have missed the synopsis in Picture the Book: The Right & the Real, the book can be described in this lead sentence: Kicked out of her home for refusing to join a cult, 17-year-old Jamie must find a way to survive on her own.
Being a reader/fan of YA, the author knows her audience and offers a terrific adventure complete with a love story too. In the following interview though, Joëlle provides more background to the storyline and her philosophy on life as well.]
J. A.: I never set out to write a dystopian, it just caught a wave. A bit of luck on my part, really. With Restoring Harmony, my plan was to tell a story set after an economic collapse, and to do that, I had to set it in the future somewhat. I’ve always considered myself a contemporary YA writer.
TDW: Where did the idea for The Right & the Real come from, what’s the backstory?
J. A.: I’m from Portland and I used to see the sort of motels around that are in the book. I couldn’t go past them without wondering who lived in them. I actually came up with one of the other characters in R&R, LaVon, several years ago when I was working on a book that I’ve since abandoned. I always liked him and when I was looking for a new book idea after Restoring Harmony, he kept saying, “Choose me!” so I thought about who might live in a motel next door to him, and why she might be there.
TDW: In both novels the plot spotlights fighting against control and oppression to gain freedom and independence. Is this a personal cause?
J. A.: I hope it is for everybody! Actually, I think it’s more that I really want to create young characters who are strong and determined. It’s almost my obligation or responsibility. If kids are going to read my books, I want them to feel empowered, like they could be in that situation and handle it, even if they aren’t equipped for it now. It’s more about doing the right thing than fighting anyone.
TDW: Is your idyllic life on the island in B.C. a way to live as freely as possible?
J. A.: Living on such an idyllic island is both a reflection of living my beliefs, and also, a little bit of me sticking my head in the sand. I know that the rest of Canada and the world is not the way it is here, and on a larger level, I worry about that. But on a local level, I do what I can to make this part of the world better. I don’t like the idea of fighting unless you have to, so I try to live here, in a responsible, peaceful way, so that I’m happy and also so I have as little negative impact on the Earth as I can.
TDW: Your protagonists have both been intelligent, strong-willed young adults who are not blind to romance, how do you balance the romantic element and still maintain the character’s independence?
J. A.: I am a total romantic, and I’m not sure I even knew it until people started calling RH a romance! However, it’s important to me that it’s one element of any story I tell, not the whole story. There are places for complete romances, but my writing is not that place. I think we all love romance to some degree, and I can use that in my writing to show my character growing – dumping the wrong guy, standing up for the right one, being on her own if that’s what’s necessary. It has to be one facet of the story, not the be all and end all. The other thing that’s important to me is for the guys to act like guys. My husband watches over them to make sure they don’t do anything too girly!
TDW: Your writing also contains wonderful pacing and believable action, does this come from your theatre background? Do these scenes play out in your mind?
J. A.: I can definitely see every scene as if it were a movie. These movies play in my head all the time when I’m writing. I do think this comes from my theatre background, but it’s hard to say for sure to what extent because I don’t see much separation between writing and theatre/acting. It’s all just part of me. There is a certain amount of scene structure that I learned while studying directing, and I think that helps me create visual scenes.
TDW: Your secondary characters could be stars in their own right and I appreciate how fully developed they are, yet how do you manage to give them that much life in such limited appearances?
J. A.: It’s very nice to hear you say that because secondary characters are my biggest challenge! When I write a first draft, everyone except my main character tends to simply prop up the story. I always mean to make the supporting cast fantastically rounded from the beginning to save myself some work, but it never happens. Once I have a draft, I go back and combine characters, cut others, and try to find ways to use small characters again later in the story. After I’ve done that, I spend time with each one, figuring out what they want in each scene, and in their lives, their likes and dislikes, even what they look like.
I read recently, and I’m sorry I don’t recall where, that every character in every book thinks that the author is telling their story, that they are the most important character in it. As I work on each one, I try to keep that in mind. It really helps.
TDW: Besides being entertained, what would you like readers to take away from R&R?
J. A.: Mostly, I just want them to be entertained. Actually, that’s all I want. A good story can teach you what you need to know, but I consider that a bonus. Some books you read for information, some you read to change your life, and some you read so that you can be sucked into the narrative. That’s what I aim to write…books that grab you and don’t let you go. I like books that make you wonder afterward what you would do if that happened to you. Like my mentors, Nevil Shute and John Rowe Townsend, I’m just trying to tell a good story.
Indeed Joëlle Anthony tells an excellent story and you can discover that by reading The Right & the Real available now.
Book Giveaway: The Divining Wand is giving away one copy of The Right & the Real by Joëlle Anthony– in a random drawing — to anyone who leaves a comment on this post by 11:59 p.m. EDT tonight! The winner will be notified by email tomorrow.