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Elissa, welcome to the YA Lit Mag! We are so excited to have you as one of our first author interviews. So let’s get to it!
Olivia with YA Lit Mag: Elissa, what were the first sparks that turned in Anna and Kat’s story? What sets their adventure apart from other road trippin’ tales?
Elissa Janine Hoole: Probably the biggest inspiration for the story was when my own best friend and I left our homes and careers and set off on a similar road trip with no destination--we spent a summer on the road, letting our own whims and wanderlust take us along many of the tiniest lines on our maps. I have a fascination with those parts of life that represent a transition, and for Anna, it's not only a transition between high school and her future, but also a transition between grief and the ability to move forward into life and love and happiness.
YALM: Anna’s life is heavy with today’s political hot topics including religion (her father is a pastor but her mother’s death has left her questioning God’s existence) and alternate sexual identities (as she struggles to make sense of her feelings for Kat). A lot of authors still shy away from these topics. Did you encounter any difficulty with these points when bringing KISS THE MORNING STAR to audiences? What are some topics you wish authors would further explore in today’s young adult novels?
EJH: I love contemporary novels that reflect the complexities of real life, and especially for young adult novels, a sense of questioning everything about those complexities. Thematically, I love to explore the experiences that cause us as humans to examine ourselves and our assumptions--whether they're about religion, sexuality, morality, authority, and even love. Part of what I adore about the teenage years (and why I love writing YA) is that it's a time when people are actively working to figure out what they think and believe, and how this differs from the people around them, including their family, friends, and even their former selves.
YALM: The girls choose each of their destinations by opening to random pages in Dharma Bums by Kerouac. Where else did you pull your greatest inspirations from--in life and in fiction--for KISS THE MORNING STAR?
EJH: Almost all of Kerouac's work inspired me while I was writing this book; I reread several of his novels, listened to a tribute compilation on constant repeat, and pored over pages of his poetry, too, looking for haiku poetry to use as chapter headings. My writing soundtrack almost always included copious amounts of Ani diFranco, and I spent hours rereading journal entries from my own road trips, too. I spread out maps on my kitchen table, imagining destinations and planning my dream road trips. And always, being a teacher influences me, keeps me surrounded by teenagers, many of whom love to read and talk with me about the books they read.
YALM: If you could take a road trip one summer, free from any obligations or responsibilities, what three stops would you make certain are on your map?
EJH: If I could do this again, it would probably be a bit different from the first time around, since I have small children now, but the thing I loved best about my summer road trip was the spontaneity of it. That said, I long to return to the Pacific Northwest, to stand in the North Cascades surrounded by giant trees hanging thickly with old man's beard and to throw rocks into the Pacific Ocean again. I'd like to make it to San Francisco, even if all I manage to do there is to visit the City Lights Bookstore. And on the other side of the country, I'd love to explore New England with my family, especially the historic and literary places we could visit. And the seafood, yum!
YALM: When you were a teen, what was your favorite book (YA or otherwise)? Now that you’re an author for teens, what is your favorite contemporary YA?
EJH: I always have had a difficult time with favorites questions because I instantly want to name every single book I love (which is so many books!), but when I was a teen I read almost everything I could by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. I loved his dark wit. I also loved Ray Bradbury, and I think I wore out my copy of Something Wicked This Way Comes. I'm constantly finding new favorites in YA contemporary, like the book Brooklyn, Burning, by Steve Brezenoff, which I recently finished and found amazing. I also loved Everything Beautiful and Notes from the Teenage Underground, by Simmone Howell, Fat Kid Rules the World, by K. L. Going, and Will Grayson, Will Grayson, by David Levithan and John Green.
YALM: What new YA projects can your readers look forward to in the coming years? Do you have any current plans to check back in on Anna?
EJH: Right now I have no plans on revisiting Anna's story, but I do have several novels-in-progress that take place in Anna's hometown, the place she and Kat leave to begin their journey. Right now her father plays a small role in one book, and another project is tangentially connected to Kat's past. I like the idea of writing more books that might overlap realities, I guess. I think the majority of what I write will fit into the contemporary YA category, but sometimes stories come whispering with other elements that might surprise me, so who knows!
YALM: All right, last one! KISS THE MORNING STAR's original debut date was April Fool’s Day! If you could pull a fun practical joke with Anna or with Kat on the other girl, who would you choose, why, and what would the two of you do together?
EJH: I actually hate April Fools Day, and from the moment I found out my release date was April 1, I was nervous about that... like, oh, what, is this whole thing a joke? So when my date was moved to May 15, I felt relieved. I don't think I'd play any tricks on Anna or Kat, but if I did get to hang out with them for a day, I'd love to jump in the car and speed off toward a new adventure, toward the horizon.
YALM: Thank you very much, Elissa! And again, congratulations on your debut! We look forward to hearing a lot more about you in years to come!
KISS THE MORNING STAR is available now at your favorite retailers and local independent bookstores!