Today I am very happy to present an interview with Jennifer Bradbury, author of Shift, and Class of 2k8 member. On Friday, I will be reviewing Jennifer’s debut at Guys Lit Wire. Thanks for being here Jennifer!
At the center of Shift is a life-changing adventure. What adventure has most changed your life so far?
Wow. That’s a great question. I’d say parenting, but that’s sort of an easy one. Possibly working at a summer camp. I know that sounds terribly ordinary, but it represented a big risk for me to work at Camp Rockmont in Black Mountain, NC. I was one of very few women on staff, my responsibilities (working with the climbing and backpacking program) were things I had NO experience in, and I knew almost no one. There were also bears and industrial dishwashers. But very quickly, that summer became the most influential one of my life so far—and when I add up all the adventures and ways my life and outlook have been shaped by my time there, there really isn’t another experience that comes close.
Describe where you write.
I write in our bonus room (which we call the Rumpus, because that’s what the old lady we bought the house from called it). I can write anywhere, but it’s the furthest from where my daughter naps (in case I, you know, type too loudly). The chair I camp out in is sort of on the border between our office corner and the greater playroom, where all the toys and dolls and fake kitchen stuff are strewn about. And that feels like a good metaphor for my writing—when things are firing I’m sort of straddling the line between work and play.
Tell us about your writing process. Are you a planner / dedicated outliner, or do you tend to discover the story as you go along?
I’m a dedicated, regimented planner. I spend as much time outlining a first draft as I do in writing it. And there are plenty of surprises along the way, but I like to know where I’m going and if something has legs before I commit.
How is writing like going on a long bike trip? How is it different? (Aside from the fact that you don’t write in a helmet… we hope).
I quit wearing the helmet a while ago—it was handy for beating my head against the wall on frustrating days, though. But there are a lot of ways a trip and writing are similar. Primarily, despite all the encouragement–even if you have a partner–you’re still the one who has to push through to the end. And the major difference? Which body parts get sore. Thumbs versus . . . you know.
Writing Shift meant getting a teenage boy’s head. How did you do that? (I won’t ask you why you did it).
It was surprisingly easy, given the fact that I really wrestled with the choice to write from a male POV before starting. I guess I’ve spent enough time working with boys (both at the camp I mentioned earlier) and at the school where I taught to have a pretty decent sense of whether or not I was representing them accurately. Plus I was always the one of my three sisters who asked for He-Man or Transformers instead of Barbie. But in the end, I think what the book was really about—friendship, identity, independence—are human concerns and not tied to a gender. And for some reason, realizing that freed me a bit.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve given, and the best advice you’ve received?
I don’t think I give particularly good advice. Maybe I haven’t really been at this long enough to move beyond the basics: read everything, write as much as you can, and be satisfied with the telling of stories rather than the publishing of them. Come to think of it, those are the best pieces of advice I’ve received as well.
As a debut author, how has the publication experience turned out in relation to your expectations of the process?
It’s funny, because my editor asked me this question over dinner last week and I really struggled for an answer. In the end, I had to confess that I didn’t really have a lot of expectations, but I don’t think I was really expecting publication to happen as soon as it did. So in many ways the whole thing caught me off guard. But I will say that once I sold, all kinds of anxieties and weird thoughts started swirling. At one point, I was having more trouble calling myself a writer than I did before I’d sold a book. Because its one thing to be a writer that no one can read, but another entirely to be a writer that people can read and then identify as a lousy one. But I think I’m getting over that now.
In Shift, Chris and Win decide somewhat impulsively to bike across the country and this leads them in directions they did not necessarily plan. Why do you think it is important for young people to have that kind of experience?
Great question! I think people (of all ages) need experiences that are bigger than they are. And experiences that confound expectations or efforts to circumvent surprises (nasty or otherwise) are the quickest way to those things. In the end, so much of life is about minimizing risks to our comfort or happiness, when it really should be about surrendering to the possibilities and adventure—on grand scales with things like bike trips and in less noticeable ways like true friendship and being brave enough to come to terms with who you are. And grand, impulsive decisions remind us that taking risks (even calculated, thoughtful ones) results in a fuller human experience.
True confessions time. Be honest!
Are you a scamper? (Details please)
Yes—but not as much as my husband. We scamped when we couldn’t find campgrounds or got stuck somewhere. We also slept in a jail cell one night.
Name 3 people you’d most like to join you on a long bike tour.
My college roommate Jodi, my other best friend from college Jenny, and my 15 year old niece.
On your bicycling trek/honeymoon, did you ever just get off and push?
Yep. Probably more than once, but the time that springs immediately to mind was in New Mexico, near the VLA which is this huge span of 1000 or more radio telescopes. The wind whipped through this canyon and was pushing so hard that I couldn’t balance on my bike anymore.
What books are on your TBR stack right now?
Several class of 2k8 books that I’ve been dying to read. Beyond those The Glass Castle, Blue Like Jazz, Soul Enchilada, The Westing Game, The Wordy Shipmates, Keeping Corner, How to Ditch Your Fairy, Getting the Girl, and I’m sure I’ll have to read Bats at the Library half a dozen times more to my toddler today. She’s a little obsessed. I tend to binge read when I’m between stages on a book, so I worked through my pile over the last couple of weeks and have put a moratorium on my own library habit until I get through the draft I’m on now.
What have you read recently that knocked your socks off?
I adored What I Saw and How I Lied, loved Dark Dude and The Underneath. Paper Towns, Princess Ben, Sweethearts, Indian Summer, and Adoration of Jenna Fox, The Graveyard Book are all high on my list this year. And Graceling and The Hunger Games both lived up to every word of hype. I also loved Zu Vincent’s The Lucky Place, and tons of others. Did I mention Bats at the Library?
Tell us about what you’ve been working on since Shift.
I’ve sold three more books to Atheneum since Shift. I’m currently at work on a rewrite for the second novel about a family rocked by a father’s schizophrenia. Its tentatively titled Apart, but I think that’s changing along with everything else. After that one will come Wrapped and its sequel. Those books are set in 1815 London, and deal with mummies, espionage and other things I love like empire waist dresses. I’m also in the early goings of another historical inspired by the time I spent in India, and a dystopian inspired by something I heard about on NPR.
Thanks for the interview!
Happy to have you Jen! (Now everyone go read her book!)