Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Interview with Hannah Moskowitz

Jonah is on a mission to break every bone in his body. Everyone knows that broken bones grow back stronger than they were before. And Jonah wants to be stronger-needs to be stronger, because his family is falling apart around his bickering parents, his allergic-to-everything brother, and the screaming new baby. Maybe if he breaks and heals enough times, he’ll show his family how to pick itself up after a fall. But how does he keep from destroying himself in the process?

Sounds pretty awesome, right? Well, of course it does. Because this is the premise of BREAK, Hannah Moskowitz's debut novel. The book comes out next month, and I asked Hannah--who is, awesomely enough, only eighteen--if she'd mind making this blog a little more interesting by answering a few questions.

K) So, your debut novel, BREAK, is about a boy trying to break all of his bones. What inspired you to write something like this?

H)I wanted to write a book with self-injury l that wasn't a self-injury novel. Really, I wanted to take something that was so far-fetched and unbelievable and find a way that it made sense. Jonah started out as just a boy who wants to break all his bones. Once that idea fell into my head, I set off trying to find reasons--or, really, the reason--why. And it took me nearly the entire first draft to really figure out where the story was going...or is that something I shouldn't admit? ;)

K) When you first found out your book sold, what was your reaction? Did you celebrate?

H) It was a pretty crazy day. I was on my way to get a very cool piercing in my ear when I got the phone call. Weirdly, I still went through with the piercing, but there was a lot of stopping-on-the-streets-of-Bethesda-to-discuss-contract-negotiations happening. I had an idea that it was going to sell before I actually heard the news--my agent told me about a month or two in advance that she thought there was some interest--but it was still a shock to hear it. I think I just said "Oh my God, oh my God," over and over. I was weirdly calm.

And my parents took me out to dinner to celebrate.

K) So, we'll both be starting our freshman years of college soon. I know its crazy for me, but I can't imagine what you must be going through. How does it feel to be heading off to college AND have a book coming out so close together?

H) Even though they're so close, I'm thinking of them right now as two completely separate events, which I think is the only thing keeping me from freaking out. I'm much more focused on the book release right now. College is probably going to hit me like a sock full of batteries. At least I've already done all my shopping...

K) You were in high school when you wrote BREAK, and as a fellow teenager, I'm super curious. Did your English teachers know? Did you tell them it had sold? If so, how did they react?

H) My English teachers did not know, and, to be honest, every teacher I've ever told about it has been rather...lukewarm? I told them when it sold, but few were ever very excited about it. I also felt a lot of the time that I was being held to a higher standard because of the book, which sounds reasonable in theory, but was frustrating because, well, yes, I can write a book, but that doesn't mean I can write an analytical essay in my sleep. So that was hard, and I actually stopped writing anything at one point in senior year because my confidence was so shot by my inability to write a decent essay.

That said, I had a few teachers who were immensely and fantastically supportive. And those are the people I'll remember long after the bad high school memories are gone.

K) I know that I'm greatly inspired by other authors. Who are some of your favorites at the moment?

H) I think I'm more inspired by other authors than is really healthy. Every single one of my books is a direct response to *something*--usually more than one somethings. One is a response to THE HOTEL NEW HAMPSHIRE by John Irving and THE STRANG.ER by Albert Camus. Another came from listening to the song "Together We'll Ring in the New Year" by Motion City Soundtrack again and again and again. BREAK came from FIGHT CLUB (both the book and the movie) and INTO THE WILD (again, both the book and the movie).

Right now, I'm loving a lot of those authors and a lot more. Some that I adore--John Green, Garret Freymann-Weyr, Chuck Palahniuk, John Irving, Joyce Sweeny, Brent Runyon, Chris Lynch, Jaclyn Moriarty, J.M. Barrie, Adam Rapp, Ellen Hopkins, Ned Vizzini, Camus, Hemingway, Puig, Kevin Brooks, Melvin Burgess, Laurie Halse Anderson. Tons more.

K) So, I really want to get to this. On AbsoluteWrite, you have a reputation as the Edgy YA Guru of sorts. Actually, it was your "Shady's Edgy YA" thread that made me pick up The Outsiders. What got you so involved and interested in "edgy" fiction?

H) I think I was sixteen when I started that thread. That was the age when I wanted to read, and write, the edgiest effing stuff I could get my hands on. (Yes, I was sixteen when I wrote Break...) And there were so many people going on at the time about how edgy YA didn't sell, how it's inappropriate for teenagers, etc. etc...

The problem wasn't even that I disagreed with them; the problem was that they were wrong. I was reading that stuff all the time. The Edgy YA thread started out as a thread for book recommendations. Those books were out there, and I was tired of people denying their existence.

And now, I can obviously say with certainty that edgy YA does sell.

K) I've got to know. Some of us have theories. Is there like a "bat signal" of sorts you get when people ask questions about "can this go in YA?" on the AbsoluteWrite forums? You always seem to be the first to show up, and we're starting to suspect some supernatural abilities here.

H) Haha, I have comrades who tell me. They're always sending me links. "Oh haaaaaannah...." And I usually can't resist.

K) Now that BREAK is almost here, what other projects are you working on? Anything you're particularly excited about?

H) I have a ton of finished manuscripts, two of which I'm currently really excited about and foisting on anyone who will take them. I have my fingers crossed one of them will be my next sale (oh please oh please oh please). Right now, I'm working on a book about a chorus, told from the point of views of a soprano, an alto, a bass, and a tenor. It's like a really dark Glee. I'm having a lot of fun with it, as a chorus kid.

K) I know a lot of authors give advice for aspiring teen writers, but as a teenager yourself, what do you have to say on the subject? What advice would YOU give to someone your age or younger who wanted to write a novel and publish it?

H) The truth is that a lot of people aren't going to believe in you, and that's a fact you need to face. Most teenagers can't write a book that's good enough to be published, because most humans can't write a book that's good enough to get published. So my advice to teenagers is that you have to act like an adult. No one ever babied me in this process, and I'm so thankful. Do your research, be professional, and never give up and never, ever stop improving.

K) Last question, and its a standard on this blog. I HAVE to know, if you could cast BREAK, who would play Jonah?

H) Oh God, is it terrible that I have no idea? I have people in mind for a lot of my books, but not for Jonah...

I'd probably go for a cute unknown, but the best I can picture in my head right now is Jake Epstein. He'd actually be PERFECT for another one of my characters, but he'd be good for Jonah too.

Thanks so much, Hannah! I know I can't wait to read BREAK, and I'm sure everyone reading this is excited, too!


Hannah said...

Great interview:) Thanks Kody and Hannah!

Joanna said...

I heard about BREAK from an editor friend at Pulse a couple months ago, and at the time I was like "Wooooah, I gotta read that!" I love me the edgy stuff too :)
But now that I've read this interview, I'm like "I-now-heart-Hannah-Moskowitz-and-I-need-to-read-this-freaking-book-asap!"

Really great interview!

hannah said...

Thanks so much, Hannah and Joanna. And thanks so much to Kody, too--you were a great host :)

mahesh said...

that is so refreshing, Hannah proves to all us Teens that it is possible! Breath of fresh air ill defo be reading Break!

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