Alright, folks, today, we've managed to land an interview from one of the newest, and, in my humble opinion, best debut YA authors. She's the author of Saving June and the up-and-coming Speechless. Put your hands together for Hannah Harrington!
Thank you so much! I was very honored. I've never won anything for writing before, and when they announced it I had had no idea I was even in the running, so it was a lovely surprise!
In your own words, can you tell us what “Speechless” is about?
Speechless is the story of Chelsea Knot, a big time gossip queen who winds up deciding to take an oath of silence after she spills a secret that has very serious consequences.
Chelsea is quite a gutsy heroine – she doesn’t come off as such at the beginning, but I really came to respect her when she stuck to her vow of silence, even when others tried to bully her into submission. How did you go about writing her?
I knew she was not going to start off as the most sympathetic. The original title was actually The Redemption of Chelsea Knot, since that really is the story-- this girl starting off at a really bad place and working her way up into realizing a lot of things about herself and other people. I wanted to write a very different character than Harper in Saving June; Chelsea is more immature at first, very image-conscious, focused on herself, and lacking some real perspective, though all of that changes over the course of the story. The thing she does share in common with Harper is that underneath it all, they are both strong-willed, it just takes Chelsea longer to really figure that out about herself. I enjoy writing characters who find their strength in hard situations. When I was writing Chelsea, I really tried to focus on her transformation and journey and make it believable. She isn't fully evolved and perfect by the end, but she is much more enlightened than from where she starts.
There has been some talk about how writers should avoid dark subjects in YA. In “Speechless”, a boy becomes victim to a hate crime after he is outed by Chelsea. Did you worry about going in this particular direction with the novel?
I actually wrote this book a few years ago, before the whole It Gets Better campaign and the gay bullying-related suicides were all over the news. That was a total coincidence, so it wasn't something I wrote thinking I wanted to tackle that subject matter on purpose due to that. It did worry me a little considering the attention those issues have gotten lately, and I did go back over the story just to double-check and make sure I was treating it with the proper emotional weight.
Even though both of my books have had some mature issues in them, I try to keep it balanced with some lightness. I don't believe in shying away from pretty much any subject matter, though. These are real world issues and things teenagers are dealing with in their actual lives, so it only makes sense to write about them. I only hope that when I do, I'm writing about them as honestly as I can.
What would you say is the best thing about being published? And the worst?
Oh, wow! This is tough. For the best, there really is something magical about holding a real book with your name on it in your hands. That was a very big deal for me. You put a lot of work into a story and go through so many drafts, and then you get to see it in its final form and it's the ultimate payoff. But one of the other things I love most is just being lucky enough to have a readership, people who take the time to read something I wrote and sometimes even contact me to let me know-- it is very surreal and humbling. I never take that for granted!
As for the worst... I don't even want to say anything because I feel like that'd come across as ungrateful! I guess I would say that there is a certain pressure that comes with it. Not even from outside sources, but pressure you put on yourself. In some ways having a second book coming out has made me more nervous than having my debut, because some people have expectations and the last thing you want is for people to be disappointed.
Both your novels use music and sound as a leitmotif, and “Saving June” even comes with its own playlists. But if there were three albums you would take with you on a desert island, what would they be?
Only three albums?! I can't just bring my iPod? Okay, okay, let me try to narrow it down... I think I'd go with I Guess I Was Hoping For Something More from Tarkio, Channel Orange from Frank Ocean, and Begin to Hope from Regina Spektor. But that's just for today. Ask me tomorrow and my answer would be completely different!
If one of your novels were made into a movie, what would your dream cast be?
For Saving June, Kat Dennings for Harper and Johnny Pacar for Jake. Amanda Seyfried would be a great Laney, except I think she is too old to be playing high school now! For Speechless, I think I'd pick Emma Roberts for Chelsea and Darren Criss for Sam.
If you were to go on a road trip, where would you head off to?
I am actually road tripping to Toronto with a friend next month, and I am very excited about it, as I have never been to Canada!
“Speechless” comes out on August 28th. Unless it’s super top secret, can you tell us a little bit about what happens next?
I am working on a third book, and I don't mean to be coy but I want to wait until I'm further into it before I try to explain what it's about. I am the worst at describing the plots of my own books, honestly!
Hannah, thank you so much for talking to us!
For more information about her books and general updates, you can go to her official author's website at http://www.hannahharrington.com/.
Both "Saving June" and "Speechless" are available on Amazon.