Hi guys! Tomorrow I’m taking the ACT, so today’ll be more focused on getting my mind and self ready for big test! But for today… We’re continuing our Summer of Authors with Jenn Barnes, author of 14 Hollow Road, which releases in 4 days! Go check it out, and I hope you enjoy this review!
About 14 Hollow Road
The night of the sixth-grade dance is supposed to be perfect for Maddie: she’ll wear her perfect new dress, hit the dance floor with her friends, and her crush, Avery, will ask her to dance. But as the first slow song starts to play, her plans crumble. Avery asks someone else to dance instead—and then the power goes out.
Huddled in the gym, Maddie and her friends are stunned to hear that a tornado has ripped through the other side of town, destroying both Maddie’s and Avery’s homes.
Kind neighbors open up their home to Maddie’s and Avery’s families, which both excites and horrifies Maddie. Sharing the same house . . . with Avery? For the entire summer? While it buys her some time to prove that Avery made the wrong choice at the dance, it also means he’ll be there to witness her morning breath and her annoying little brother.
At the dance, all she wanted was to be more grown-up. Now that she has no choice, is she really ready for it?
1. Why do you love writing? When did you first have a love for writing, and how was it formed?
I love writing for many of the same reasons that I love reading—that experience of stepping into someone else’s shoes and experiencing things alongside them. I can also appreciate now the escape that it provides. There’s nothing like the experience of time disappearing as you write. That total immersion is rare, but amazing! As a kid, I was fortunate to have many opportunities for creative writing in school—especially elementary. My stories might have been a little derivative then, but there was so much joy in their creation.
2. What are your favorite books, genres, and authors? Which ones have impacted you and your writing style the most?
I tend to read mostly contemporary books. It’s tricky to pin down a favorite book—it’s a real moving target, as I read about 150 books each year and I’m always finding new favorites—but some of the authors whose work I most admire include Rebecca Stead, Rita Williams-Garcia, Hanya Yanagihara, Jason Reynolds, and Junot Diaz. It’s hard to say who has impacted my writing style—I feel, if anything, my voice is something I’ve honed and developed over years of sending long emails, talking, and picking up certain modes of speech from friends and family.
3. What do you do when you’re not writing? Is writing a part-time or full-time job?
I’m fortunate right now to be able to write full-time, not that I actually am “writing” for 40 hours a week. A lot of the time I would devote to a traditional job is also used for reading, Skyping with classrooms, and tending to the business side of writing. In my truly free time, I love long distance running, film, and being outside.
4. Your newest book 14 Hollow Road, which releases next week on June 13th, tells the tale of a girl who is affected by a tornado, which leads to her living with her crush and finding out her dog is missing. Did you base any of the scenes or characters off of your personal experiences or people you know?
Well, I never got to live with my crush, though I’m sure the scenario Maddie finds herself in would have simultaneously thrilled and freaked out seventh grade Jenn. I’ve also been lucky enough to never lose my pet for more than a few hours, too. That said, the book is partially inspired by a freak EF-3 tornado that crossed the street where I grew up, in central Massachusetts. It’s not the kind of place where you expect to have a tornado! (We don’t even have tornado sirens in Massachusetts.) Though I would hesitate to say I base characters off my personal experience, there are definitely glimmers of my own junior high experience in this book—but all of the events themselves are fictional.
5. What about the middle-grade age group and audience attracts you as an author and reader?
I love writing for readers this age. I feel like I stumbled into this by chance, having been a teen librarian and starting out writing (though not yet publishing) YA, and I couldn’t be happier with how everything has worked out. The readers I’ve met are so enthusiastic about books—it’s truly energizing to connect with them. As a reader, I think there are so many wonderful new middle grade books published every year, it’s hard to keep up. I love discovering new voices and watching careers blossom. Sometimes it feels like middle grade is the kid sister to YA and that it doesn’t get as much attention, but there are truly so many amazing stories—it’s just that the media is driven by teens and adults, not the 8-12 year olds who are reading and loving middle grade. We’re just underground! 😉
6. Your other middle-grade novel The Distance to Home revolves around a girl who used to play baseball but now struggles with the death of her sister. Do you like baseball, and if so why? Who’s your favorite team? (You can have a fangirl moment right here.)
Do I like baseball? ::chuckles to self:: I loooove baseball. You could call me obsessed. My favorite team is the Boston Red Sox and though they aren’t off to the best start this year, they’ve got the goods. We’ll see! It’s a long season, but I think we’ll be seeing them play some October baseball.
7. How did you feel when The Distance to Home was selected by the Junior Library Guild, Bank Street College, Amazon, and School Library Journal as a “top pick?”
Very, very lucky.
8. Did being a librarian help you want to become an author, write your books, publish them, and meet readers across the US?
Surely, being a librarian helped, in that I spent several years reading a wide variety of books and talking to teens and kids about what kinds of books they liked and why. I always found it interesting that the books adults wanted kids to like weren’t always the same as the books kids themselves loved. I like to think that I am writing for the kids themselves, and for the kid I was, and not as much for the adults who love to read certain kinds of children’s books.
9. On your website, you’ve said that you lived in the same neighborhood as Barack Obama when he lived there and let Elvis Costello use your Hello Kitty toaster. What were those experiences like?
Haha! Well, I’ll say the leadup to the 2008 election was pretty exciting due to having Barack Obama down the street in my neighborhood in Chicago. What it meant mostly was a heavier police presence and the local Walgreens announcing itself as “the” Barack Obama headquarters—basically they sold a lot of bedazzled Obama t-shirts and such. The Elvis Costello story is kind of a funny one. During college (I went to University of Chicago) one of the extra-curriculars I was involved in put on concerts on campus. The committee I was on focused on prepping the dressing rooms, and Elvis Costello stipulated that he needed a toaster in his dressing room. Well, I volunteered the toaster from my apartment, which just so happened to be a Hello Kitty toaster (it toasted a Hello Kitty onto the toast!). So, I really hope he used it. To make his toast. Lol.
10. Have you developed any writing habits or techniques?
I wouldn’t say that I have any truly special writing habits, though I do feel like a routine is important. At least, for me. Ultimately, I think each writer needs to do whatever works to keep him/her on task. Your process is your own and you shouldn’t feel pressured to adopt someone else’s process. That said, I discovered that for me, the morning is the best time of the day to write. I’m much more focused and clear-headed between 10-2 than any other time of the day. (You’ll note that my mornings don’t start that early. I’m by no means an early bird.)
11. I am so glad I was able to meet you at the SE-YA Book Fest back in March in Nashville! How was the festival for you? Why do you like going to book events and meeting readers all around the country?
It was so nice to meet you, Kester! SE-YA was hands-down my favorite event from last year. The truth is, writing can be a lonely process sometimes. While my friendships with other writers help keep me sane, there’s nothing quite like connecting with readers. I love how SE-YA and other book festivals bring readers out in droves. I feed off that energy for weeks—maybe even months—as I retreat back into my writer cave.
12. Do you have any tips to any aspiring authors or writers?
My tips are two-fold. Read, read, read, read, read! I don’t think anyone becomes a better writer without reading a ton. And secondly, find your people—the ones who support your writing. Maybe that’s someone you swap chapters with, maybe it’s someone who offers a shoulder to cry on when things are tough and the words don’t come. Words cannot express how much my friendships with other writers mean to me. Those friendships are essential to the creative process.
Thanks so much, Jenn, for coming onto the blog!
About the Author
Jenn Bishop is a former youth services and teen librarian. She is a graduate of the University of Chicago, where she studied English, and Vermont College of Fine Arts, where she received her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults. She roots for the Red Sox from her new home city of Cincinnati. Her debut novel, The Distance To Home, is published by Alfred A. Knopf, an imprint of Penguin Random House.
Do you have any thoughts or questions?
Comment below, or find me in one of my social media pages, and let’s chat!