I'm not a big fan of Urban Fantasy or Paranormal Romance, so when I read Phoebe North's review of Invincible Summer I knew it was a book that I'd enjoy. Although the cover is misleading--it makes it look like a Sarah Dessen knock-off even though it's more like a John Green book--I decided to give it a go. No offense to any Sarah Dessen fans out there. I like her books too, but you have to admit, they are rather repetitive.
Anyway, after I finished Invincible Summer, I wanted to know about the process behind the book. That's where this interview comes in. Hannah Moskowitz was nice enough to go back and forth with me on some questions I had about the book, so here's the interview below.
Me: As of late, many female authors are trying their hand at writing male narrators. Unfortunately, the boy often comes off as sounding too feminine or too sex crazed. As a female, how hard is it to capture the voice of a male narrator? What tips would you offer to females writing teenage boys?
HM: Writing as a boy has always been easier for me, but that doesn't mean I'm an expert! Some people find my male voices believable and some don't. But that's true with every author, I think. I've read men doing male voices that I didn't believe, too!
I think, on a grand scale, the gender of the narrator is such a small thing. If you are a girl who wants to write a boy, go for it! You're just as capable of doing it as anyone else--moreso, because this is *your* character. You're not writing a boy; you're writing your boy.
So you don't have to worry about making him sound dramatically masculine if that's not his style, nor do you have to pretty him up to try to make him more accessible to female readers. Just write your character. He has way more important things about him than his gender, anyway.
Me: While we're still on this topic, were there any specific characters you based Chase on? Or was he a spur of the moment creation?
HM: Nope, Chase was totally new. He's less masculine than Jonah (my narrator in BREAK) is, so he has a very different kind of voice.
Me: In my review of Invincible Summer, I refer to Melinda as a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. Do you think of her as such? When writing an unattainable girl, do you have her entire personality in your head or just the personality the boy sees?
HM: I'd say I have her whole personality.
Here I go negating all that "don't stereotype based on gender!" stuff--girls are hard for me. Female love interests are difficult for me, specifically. I always say that I can write the girl you'd want to sleep with, but not the girl you'd want to bring home to Mom. I don't think anyone would want to bring Melinda home to Mom.
I'm not sure I'd call her a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, because they're generally so much...sweeter, yeah? More desirable. I liked your suggestion that she's a grown-up MPDG. Oh, here we go--I think she's a MPDG in the first summer, and that because of what happens to her between summers 1 and 2, she gets all the glitter scraped off of her and she's raw and terrified and a little horrible, and not always in a sexy way.
Chase's sister Claudia was, initially, me trying to prove to myself that I could write girls. I like Claudia. I always say she's the real hero of the story.
Me: Claudia was definitely my favorite character. She felt real, if you know what I mean. As far as teen slang goes, I'm curious about this. Did you get bros before hos from The Boondocks, because that line was cracking me up.
HM: I've heard that line all over! It's very possible it started there. I'm glad you liked Claudia. Noah is my favorite, which I think is probably unfortunately clear.
Me: On the topic of Noah, and Chase's family in general, I think it's good that you didn't take the easy road and ignore the parents. I've heard the term, Disappearing Parent Syndrome, used a lot in the past few weeks.
Also, this has to be one of the first modern young adult stories I've read that features a large family. How easy is it keeping track of the entire family, by character arcs I mean, and what do you think of this not so recent trend of writing the parents out of the story?
HM: I try very hard not to write parents out. What's sad is that I always think I'm writing decent parents (as in decent people, not decently written people) until I see reviews and everyone tells me they're terrible parents. This must make my own parents (who are fantastic) feel sad.
Disappearing Parent Syndrome very much bothers me. My upcoming YA, GONE, GONE, GONE, spends a lot of time on the parents, which I did intentionally. My main characters in that one are 15, so they're still very dependent on their parents. With INVINCIBLE SUMMER, it's a little harder, since Chase goes from 14 to 18 over the course of the novel, and his parents' role in his life obviously changes.
Keeping track of the entire family was so hard. I can't count the number of times I had to just open up a word document and list the character's ages. I never knew how old Gideon was, I swear.
The first draft of the book was very short--just over 20K words--so none of the siblings' plot-lines were very fleshed out at first. A lot of that came later, once I got comfortable with the characters.
Me: I noticed that you weren't involved in the YA Mafia ordeal. What's your stance on bloggers vs. writers?
HM: Hmmm, yeah, I'm not quite sure...
I think the relationship between bloggers and authors is really weird, because we really do like you guys, but authors just suck up to bloggers incessantly. You guys have a *lot* of power, and reviews are...reviews are really scary. And I can't tell you how many times I've been tempted to comment on bad reviews. It's not because they didn't like it; we know people aren't going to like our books, and we can deal with that. The problem is when you read a review and you go, no, that's WRONG, that ISN'T why character x did that, you TOTALLY MISSED THE POINT. And there are always going to be reviews like that, and you're always going to want to run in and just "clear something up."
Me: I never looked at it that way before. Most people think that authors hold most of the power. But in the end, most authors blog and most bloggers are writers. It's give and take. As for atmosphere, while I was reading Invincible Summer I was reminded of my time in Daytona Beach. How do you write a realistic setting, from memory or imagination?
HM: The setting of Invincible Summer is based 100% on Bethany Beach, Delaware where my family has a house. A house with the exact same layout as Chase's house. And the same downtown, and the same beach, and the same restaurants. It is not a coincidence.
I'm a huge fan of using real life for the details when you write. Plots and characters and stuff are always better when they're made up, but for the little things, I think filling in with real life makes everything seem more real.
Me: Alright, here are my last questions.
What's the last book you read?
What's your favorite book?
And, Which author would you like to meet in person?
HM: The last book I read was The Great Gatsby for school. I'd read it before but I was psyched to read it again, because I absolutely adore it.
My favorite books are On the Jellicoe Road, When You Reach Me, The Year of Secret Assignments, and My Heartbeat (I can't choose one).
I would love to meet E. Lockhart, but I would be a trembling mess.
Thanks again, Hannah.
If you want to learn more about Hannah Moskowitz and her novels, you can contact her via her website or Twitter.