"What do you want to be?" "Happy," she says with a smile. - Colleen Hoover

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Throwback Thursday: J.J. Howard Interview

1. Why did you want to be a writer?

Writing (and grammar) are on the short list of things that came really easily to me. I'm also pretty good at arts and crafts, and I make a mean waffle. A lot of supposedly easy skills were not all that easy for me. Example: driving. My mom tried to teach me. Fail. My dad tried. Epic fail. Finally a pro driving teacher was required. I have a perfect record and all now, but when I was sixteen the whole process seemed really challenging.
So I wanted to be a writer for a long time, and I figured I'd teach English "for a while" to pay the bills. I accidentally liked teaching too much, and I worked on that first, then got back into writing!

2. What made you want to write about the circus?

I wanted to do a contemporary, because I'd written some short stories for a class I was taking in grad school, and I felt really comfortable with my contemporary voice...but I still wanted something just a little fantasy-adjacent for the setting. There are not that many real-life places that we still use the word "magic" to describe--outside Disneyworld. So circus seemed the perfect choice.

3. Did anyone you know inspire your characters?

My MC is really too much like me...I realized after the book came out! She's much, much cooler than me, though. I've never joined a circus, for one, and when I was seventeen I was just starting to listen to non-radio songs. In fact, I think the horribleness of popular music circa 1990 is what led me to seek out more obscure music!

4. Which boy was your favorite Jamie, Eli or Nick?

Hmmm...this is an interesting question. I was at the NYC Teen Author Festival last week, and on one of the panels the moderator asked the best question--I really wished I was on that panel!--she asked what type of love story each author liked best. You know, love/hate, love at first sight...a lot of the authors went for the Andie/Duckie best friendship that turns into more (or could turn into more, in the case of the ending of Pretty In Pink.) All I will say on this subject is that my favorite variety of romantic story is the reformed rake--a guy who seems like he doesn't really care...until he meets that one girl. The rational side of my brain knows that this story is total rubbish. But I fall for it almost every time.

5. Music is a huge part of "That Time I Joined The Circus" If you could be in any band which one would it be?

I just saw the Dropkick Murphys in concert the other week, and their opening band--I can't even remember the name--was huge and they all played about nine instruments. And they seemed like they were having more fun than anyone has ever had in life. So I'll say that band, and in that fantasy, I'm also able to play many musical instruments. I can play the guitar...just not very well.

6. Lexi and you have music in common. Are there any other similiarites?

I already told on myself there! A love of reading: especially Jane Austen and Regency romances. The tendency to be self-deprecating. Also sarcastic-you know-very rarely.

7. Are there any songs that inspire your writing?

I am completely inspired by music! When I was writing TTIJTC, I was pretty obsessed with Broken Bells. At the moment, I'm all about Morning Parade. In a year or so I hope to be talking about how important their eponymous album was in inspiring my current work in progress :)

8. What type of book do you love reading the most?

I read a lot of different kinds of books. I love books about pop culture--I've read all the (Buffy) (Doctor Who) ___ and Philosophy books for the shows I love. I like nonfiction on media and society--like Neil Postman and Benjamin Barber. I love YA--some of my current faves are John Green and Veronica Roth. I also still love those darn Regency romances.

9. If you could spend the day with any author, living or dead, who would you choose and why?

I always say Jane Austen, because her books had such an impact on my life. I think she was a great contemporary writer: through her words and observations, that time period is still alive, in a way. What a great thing to be able to do.

10. If you could pick any band to write a song about your book, who would you choose?

Oh my goodness, that would be amazing! Any band writing a song about it would make my life. Are the Replacements still together? If not Paul Westerberg would do just fine. : )

11. Why is music so important in this book?

I think because it's Lexi's tie to her dad, and in a way the book is about how Lexi has to learn to navigate the world without him--figure out who she is on her own.

12. Which character do you most relate to?

Lexi...but I also really relate to Liska, actually. She feels so much responsibility to her family, and it's hard for her to step away from what they want, need and expect, and figure out what she actually wants to do.

13. Would you ever consider writing a sequel/companion?

A couple of people have asked this, and to them I say, I love you! I would totally live in this world again--sequel or spin-off. I think Liska is in for some adventures for sure. ; )

14. If you could get tickets/backstage passes to any concert who would you want to see?

Bon Iver, Imagine Dragons, Morning Parade, Broken Bells...I'd also be fine with traveling back in time to see The Cure, The Smiths, The Cult--any of those great The-bands. Speaking of, The The would also be fine. ; )

15. If your book had a theme song what would it be?

I think The Lumineer's "Ho Hey" would be a great song for Lexi and Eli. But then again, "Speechless" by Morning Parade would work well for Lexi and Nick. ; )

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