young adult book reviews & more

Interview with Hannah Moskowitz

I was so thrilled to have the opportunity to interview the lovely and phenomenal Hannah Moskowitz recently! Here's what she had to say.

How do you balance your life as a college student and author, among other things?
I fully admit that I am not good at it. I like when interviews ask me stuff like, “How do you write all these books and keep your grades up?” and I have to be like “Um...what makes you think I keep my grades up?”

So it’s hard. And I’m not always that great at it. I’m a full-time student this semester, which I think was a mistake. I’m probably going to go back to part-time, but then I probably won’t graduate in four years....it’s a time-suck and it’s hard.

I try to get out some, though. I’m in a theater group on campus that puts on The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which is amazing.

Where did your ideas for Invincible Summer come from?
This is kind of a stupid story, but the day I started Invincible Summer, I very badly wanted to start a new book. And I didn’t know what it should be about. Some writers talk about having too many ideas and not knowing which to choose from, or not having time to write them all. I always feel like I’m scraping ideas out of my head with an ice cream scoop. It’s one of the hardest parts for me.

So I read through all my Postsecret books. And I thought for sure that would give me an idea. But it didn’t.

The album Narrow Stairs by Death Cab for Cutie, one of my favorite bands, had come out just a few days before. So I listened to that on repeat over and over. And then I started to get something.

And then my mom made me come with her to the store or something, and I was sitting in the car and looking out at the rain and somehow it all came together. All the Camus I’d been reading, all the bits of my summers at the beach that I’d wanted to work into a book for as long as I could remember, the song “Not Just Sometimes But Always,” by Idlewild that I’d also been trying to work into the last few books I’d attempted, the songs “No Sunlight, “Long Division,” and “Bixby Canyon Bridge,” from Narrow Stairs, and The Hotel New Hampshire, which I’d read a few months ago and hadn’t been able to shake.

I had the title, I had the characters, I had the entire plot.

I just needed a ton of little bits from a ton of different places to get there.

I told you it was kind of a stupid story.

What’s it like writing from the male perspective?
It was easier at first, because for a while, all my favorite books were from male perspectives. So I started doing it almost reflexively. It wasn’t something I thought about. Now, I love so many books from female POVs, and I’ve written a few, too.

So the narrator of my first book, Break, is much more stereotypically masculine than Chase, meaning that Chase is more dreamy and thoughtful and sensitive. So Chase was more of a challenge. As a female writer, there’s this idea that I’m supposed to be writing super-masculine males, to prove that I can, or something. Chase isn’t like that. So it’s sort of me asking the reader to trust me, in a way. Trust me that he’s a boy. That he’s *my* boy.

What were you trying to accomplish when you started writing Invincible Summer? What do you feel you’ve accomplished with the finished product?
I don’t know that I was trying to accomplish anything especially...I wanted a YA story that was so strongly about a family. Of all my family-oriented books, IS is the most dedicated to the task, I think. It’s not about anything in the whole world but this family.

What was great about Invincible Summer was that I got to use so many things that I love. I used the summer, I used Camus, I used sign language. I got to play with things I’m really passionate about, and that made it a very important book for me. At the time, it was the most personal thing I’ve written. It might still be.

I’m proud of it.

What is the most interesting thing you learned while writing Invincible Summer? (This can be about yourself, about writing, or anything at all).
I learned a huge amount about structure. It was the first thing I finished that wasn’t written simply chronologically. Invincible Summer takes place over 4 summers, without any of the years in-between, so I had to fill in the blanks myself and figure out how much I needed to tell the reader.

It turned out, not very much. Chase has a line about how their whole lives were determined by those summers. And I realized that’s how I felt about my life, in a way, too. Summers at the beach did take place in a bubble. They had so very little to do with anything that happened during the year. And for Chase and his family, that ends up being pretty crucial.

What is the most rewarding part about being a young adult author?
The people I’ve met, absolutely. The chance to work with people who are so dedicated to YA. We have such enthusiastic people. It’s amazing.

If there was one thing you could change about Invincible Summer, what would it be?
I know a ton of writers say not to read reviews. And a ton more say to read them but not let them affect you. I say read them and learn from them.

So when I see the same thing mentioned in a bunch of negative reviews, I store it and remember it for later. The fact that people mentioned Break’s ending made me spend more time on my endings. I actually added a ton to IS’s ending and made it so much better thanks to those reviews.

So if I ever have a book with Camus quotes in it in the future, I will keep in mind to use fewer. ;)

What are you working on next?
Right now I’m working on a YA fantasy about cannibals and fairy prostitutes and what it’s like to live around a war that isn’t about you. But really it’s about history and it’s about love stories.

I’m also working on my 2012 MG, which is about two boy detectives on a mission to tell the guy and girl that they love that they love them. That’s due soon, so I’m working hard!

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