I am so excited for this interview, I did another interview with the luvely Kim Zarins last . To go read that interview just click here <<<<
To see other interviews in the BACK TO SCHOOL series just go to the top right corner of your device and click Special events ;P
About Kim Zarins
Kim Zarins is such a reader that when she was about 19, someone asked if she were an English major, because she apparently looked like someone who read a lot. She indeed was an English major. She went on to get a PhD in English Literature and became a medievalist, so she could read about magic and dragons and Chaucerian shenanigans. She then became a professor (come to my school and say hi! I’m at Sacramento State University!), and she loves her students. But while she carried on this academic life, she always loved literature for kids and teens, so it was kind of a double life…UNTIL NOW! She’s recently published Sometimes We Tell the Truth, a YA contemporary about an all-day bus ride to Washington DC, taken by some teens who pass the time telling stories. These stories are retellings of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. You don’t need to know anything about Chaucer’s medieval masterpiece, but when you see the fan fiction in the novel, it’s basically Kim’s way of saying Chaucer was a fan fiction guy himself, and Kim is fangirling on Chaucer and the YA world. It would make Kim’s day if you checked out her book!
Publisher site: http://www.simonandschuster.com/authors/Kim-Zarins/555055413
(tbh I’m new to Instagram and don’t know how to use it yet–bear with me!)
(I have a giveaway contest of several signed YA novels–my own and SIGNED books by Jay Asher and Daniel Handler!!–it’s happening on my Facebook page as we speak, completed in Oct 6, 2017)
It would look similar to my dorm room freshman year–the walls covered with quotations of poetry. I really went for pretty poetry. I spent a lot of time in high school typing out my favorite poems on my desktop Mac in a slide-show program that predates PowerPoint. I had no internet back then, so no cut and paste for me! I guess I had an inner-emo thing going–when I quoted Thomas Gray’s “Elegy on a country Churchyard,” and included that line about “The paths of glory lead but to the grave,” I used my Mac Paint program to draw…guess what?…a grave. Haha! In retrospect, I guess my roommate Stella must have thought my side of the room looked weird, no posters, just wordswordswords, and of course that image of a grave, but I loved waking up and having my eyes fall on a bit of William Wordsworth or Robert Frost, etc. I wanted to internalize these poems so they were completely inside me. So, yes, nerdy locker. I must also warn you that my locker would be totally cluttered with more books and papers than actually fit in there. I would keep my own stories and poems in their spiral notebooks hidden way way at the bottom so that you’d never see.
Just one book?! My characters love to talk about books and stories–including their own stories since they are competing to tell the best tale on the all-day bus ride. In my novel, J. K. Rowling is sacred stuff, and my characters have that all-time important conversation: what Hogwarts House they each belong in. I like that conversation because when we talk about books, we’re also kind of talking about our own identities and sometimes our deepest feelings. Books really are a great way for us to connect with each other and ourselves in a way we wouldn’t otherwise.
It can be frustrating when you can’t see your way through a story–that’s disheartening. And it can feel bad when you get sick and tired of your characters and you feel like you are editing them to death, or slogging through dull scenes to work toward what you hope will be the good one…that is when the story feels like a math problem and not something more meaningful. Usually at that point you need some distance from your story rather than slogging through it. Take a break–pet animals, smell flowers, recharge. I also have a writing secret: if you really hate a scene you are writing, SKIP IT. Write something in a totally different part of the novel. Write the whole thing out of order, and when you get back to that dreaded scene, it might not feel so mathy anymore.
Oh, I can think of lots! On the bus ride on my story, there are personalities that totally clash, which made the novel very fun to write, because the characters get on each other’s nerves. Here’s one example. There is this geeky tattletale named Reeve who spies on his classmates and writes down all their infractions on his handy clipboard. When it’s his turn to tell a story, it’s a nasty one and reveals some attraction for two popular girls on the bus: Alison, a girl I can only describe in this short space as larger-than-life amazing; and Briony, captain of the cheerleading squad. He narrates romance scenes with both girls, only barely shrouded with fictional names. Alison interrupts Reeve and makes him redo his icky scene with her. Briony is beyond grossed out and gives Reeve a piece of her mind both during and after his tale. Some of my favorite parts in the book are not just the tales, but the interruptions and arguments that the tales provoke!
Oh, I’d love to see Pard’s sketchbook–I’d love to hold that piece of him in my hands. Pard is the senior class artist, and he’s got his sketchbook out and draws people while they’re telling their tales on the bus, but he doesn’t share his sketchbook with people, not willingly. Art is a big theme of the book. If you look at the cover of the book and the jacket, you see lots of drawings. Each one represents the 21 stories told by the characters, and the idea is that Pard is making art in his sketchbook for each character as well. Jeff the narrator glimpsed Pard’s book early on and could see that Pard’s images told their own secrets, and I’d love to see some of those secrets revealed, and just be in Pard’s company in this special way.
RUN THE OTHER DIRECTION. FLEEEE. Okay, next question!
I’m excited to share, because I have this amazing healthy lunch! I peeled rainbow carrots from the farmer’s market, and I have cucumbers slices from my yard, some of last peaches of summer, and sprouted almonds mixed with coconut chips and mixed dried fruit and pumpkin seeds. Isn’t this fabulous? If we really wanted to splurge, we’d finish with Lindt 90% dark chocolate. So good! I didn’t eat this way as a teen, but nowadays I’m trying to bring healthy foods to school with me. It’s like Past Me saying “I love you” to Future Me (or Present Me, depending on your point of view).
As long as we’re not running, I like PE. I like kicking round things and hitting round things. I played volleyball and softball in high school. I didn’t want to continue when I reached Varsity level, because it was too much pressure and I wasn’t competitive enough, but I loved the sports for fun. Volleyball was the best because something was always happening.
I research quite a bit! Since my novel retells Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, and I’ve been teaching Chaucer for years, I felt pretty familiar with the story, but I still re-read tales and also read scholarly essays and books. But since the characters on the bus live in modern America and adore Harry Potter and other modern classics, I needed to reread lots of books for kids and teens. Pretty fun way to research!
Ah, I wish I could play a musical instrument–I tried the piano as a kid, but my left hand wanted to do whatever my right hand was doing. When I was writing Sometimes We Tell the Truth, I’d drive to school and back and listen to the radio. The songs I’d hear would remind me of different characters and get me in the mood to write about them. Pink Floyd’s “Money” made me excited to get into Frye’s tale of a devil infiltrating a high school to lure one greedy student to Hell. Linkin Park’s “Numb” reminded me how trapped the main character Jeff feels by his own inner critic. If you read the novel and feel a connection between a character and a song, I would LOVE to hear from you. I’ve been meaning for ages to put a playlist on my website, a song for each character, but I could use a bit of help–and I’d reward you with stickers and bookmarks!
The coolest thing by far is to take a reader into another place, a place they want to be or a place that they connect with on a deeper level. That is pretty amazing to me. It’s very meaningful to me when a reader tells me that they identified with one of the characters, when they’ve shared the same joys or pain. I’ve had some conversations with readers that I really treasure. The book has made it possible to connect with people in whole new ways for me, and I’m honored by that.
Haha, when you said “on the bus” it made me think of my bus in Sometimes We Tell the Truth. The teens do a lot of fangirling on books during their ride to Washington DC. J. K. Rowling, Rainbow Rowell, Neil Gaiman, and Laini Taylor, to name a few. Oh, and older classics like C.S. Lewis’ Narnia and Terry Pratchett’s Discworld and E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. J. R. R. Tolkien, too. These are bookish teens! It’s definitely a fangirling, bookish sort of bus ride!
Thank you for having me! Actually, I mean what I said earlier…if you read the book and identify one of my characters with a song, I’d love to hear about it and send you a small gift of thanks: a bookmark, bookplate (if you want one!), and stickers for the characters that you associated with certain songs. You can easily email me through my website or find me on social media. Thanks again! And I hope you have a great semester. I’m really looking forward to mine! And don’t forget to pack yourself a healthy lunch and a fabulous book. 🙂
Thank you Kim for letting me interview today! I loveeee your answers!
Can’t wait till I order SOMETIMES WE TELL THE TRUTH! ❤
Do you have a favorite character from Kim Zarins novel?
HAPPY READING, LUVs