#17DABash interview with the author and a chance to win a free signed copy of the book! 📝📚💕 comment on this post by Friday, 12/8/17 midnight Pacific time to be entered to win!
Jilly Gagnon’s debut YA novel #famous is a sweet modern day love story told from both Rachel’s and Kyle’s point of view. I was lucky enough to spend time with Jilly at a Writers weekend retreat in September and she is just as lovely in person as you would imagine from her writing. Below is our interview.
Q. Was there something that happened in your own life, or in the world that inspired you to write #famous?
A. I think a lot of readers might guess the most direct inspiration for the book: the #AlexFromTarget phenomenon. I found that whole thing fascinating — the idea that one day you could be a totally normal teenager, and the next, completely out of the blue, you’re everywhere. One thing that stuck out when I read stories about Alex’s overnight viral fame was how different his experience was than the girl who took the picture (who everyone seemed to treat like a footnote — he got a million followers and she got … nothing), or his girlfriend, who started receiving death threats almost immediately. Not because she’s done anything wrong, mind you; because she dated a boy at her high school that other girls suddenly thought was cute. Death threats. For me, tho use elements wound up being just as important to the story as the photo blowing up!
Q. This book is completely immersed in current day social media and pop culture. Do you think social media is a positive or negative force for teenagers? Was there a message about social media you were trying to convey to teenagers through your writing?
A. I don’t think social media is inherently good or bad, and it’s clearly not going anywhere, so teens and their grownups need to adapt. That said, I think it can be very dangerous. It’s so easy to forget that there are people on the other side of every tweet and instagram photo and Snapchat filter; we’re experiencing these things at this weird digital distance, and it removes a lot of humanity from the equation. I don’t consciously try to infuse messages into my books, but I hope readers will come away from this story a little more aware of how digital actions can have real-life consequences. Cruelty isn’t any less cruel when it’s doled out over the internet.
Q. Bullying is another important theme in this book. Do you have any advice for teens, parents, or educators in how to navigate both cyber bullying or real-life bullying?
A. I’m not a parent or an educator, and honestly, I could probably learn a lot from them about how to handle bullying in all its forms. My instinct is that, as adults, we need to model better behavior. Not just by not being bullies, but by shutting bullying down when we see it, actively. That’s a lot easier said than done — I’m not the only person who hates confrontation — but bullies get away with their behavior because we’re too uncomfortable to address it, or call it what I is. For teens, the best advice I have is actually tucked into the book, and it comes from a character many readers aren’t a huge fan of (Emma): when you’re facing bullying, whether it’s online or IRL, try to remember that it’s pretty much never about you. No matter how cruel and hurtful and personal it feels, bullying is about the person doing the bullying. It’s about them feeling insecure, or small, or scared, and trying to drag someone else down to that level. That doesn’t excuse their behavior, and that doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, but for me, it helps me not let it affect me so much.
Q. Both Kyle and Rachel care deeply about what their parents think which is not always the case in YA or real life. Did you draw on your own relationship with your parents for this and was it an intentional message you wanted to imparttoyour readers?
A. I’ve Always been very close with my family, so I am sure that’s seeping into the book on some level, though neither Kyle nor Rachel’s relationships with their parents were modeled on my own. I think the main reason I wanted their families to be an important part of their story is that for most teens, your parents are important. Neither Kyle nor Rachel’s families are perfect, but they really care about each other. To me that felt like a more honest version of what it’s like to be a teenager. Yes, your parents can sometimes feel like particularly clueless prison warden, but they love you. And you probably love them. And…I don’t know why we don’t see that in books more often, honestly!
Q. If they make a #famous movie, who do you envision starring in the lead roles?
A. This is always such a hard question for me — I’d honestly want them to be played by actors people hadn’t seen before, ideally actual teenagers (has anyone else noticed how half the “teens” you see on TV are pushing 30?)That said, I think Ariel Winter and Evan Hofer would be great as Rachel and Kyle. I’m always most interested in hearing how readers would cast the book, though.
Q. I noticed a nod to “Back to the Future in the theme of the prom. Were there other cultural references you wanted your readers to notice?
A. That’s so funny — I didn’t mean for that to be a reference (I don’t think I’ve seen that movie since I was five or six years old)!
I did very intentionally give Rachel a Legend of Zelda trash can–I’ve always been obsessed with that game, and luckily, since they keep putting out amazing new installments, it’s not totally dated (I hope)!
Q. What can readers look forward to next?
A. I’ve been working on a couple of new books that I’m super excited about, but for now I have to keep hush-hush about the details. I suppose that makes this a good time to throw my twitter handle out there — I’m @jillygagnon. As soon as I have news to share, readers will be able to find it there!
Please comment on this post to be entered in the raffle to win your signed copy of #famous from Jilly Gagnon! Raffle will end Friday 12/8/17 midnight pacific time.