Tuesday, May 14, 2019

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with Christina June, author of No Place Like Here

Flo's Note
No Place Like Here publishes next Tuesday, May 21st and I hope you're able to pick up a copy when it does! I had the honor of reading an ARC and thoroughly enjoyed it. While you wait for Tuesday, read on to find a brief summary of the book, followed by an exclusive interview with the author Christina June.

Links to other Christina June reviews

Book Summary
Ashlyn Zanotti has big plans for the summer. She’s just spent a year at boarding school and can’t wait to get home. But when Ashlyn’s father is arrested for tax evasion and her mother enters a rehab facility for “exhaustion,” a.k.a. depression, her life is turned upside down.

The cherry on top? Ashlyn’s father sends her to work with a cousin she doesn’t even know at a rustic team-building retreat center in the middle of nowhere. A self-proclaimed “indoor girl,” not even Ash’s habit of leaving breadcrumb quotes—inspirational sayings she scribbles everywhere—can help her cope.

With a dangerously careless camp manager doling out grunt work, an overbearing father trying to control her even from prison, and more than a little boy drama to struggle with, the summer is full of challenges. And Ashlyn must make the toughest decision of her life: keep quiet and follow her dad’s marching orders, or find the courage to finally stand up to her father to have any hope of finding her way back home.

The author and the interviewer last year at Apollycon.
Interview with Christina June
1. How did you get the idea for No Place Like Here?
Ashlyn started as a character who appears in IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE.  Readers who know her already will be familiar with her poor choices in boys and her unusually strict father.  When my editor and I were brainstorming ideas for my next proposal, I knew I wanted to let Ashlyn tell her own story that would explore how much more than that she is.  The fairy tale framework, Hansel & Gretl, is, at it's heart, an abandonment story between children and their father, which fit Ashlyn perfectly. Since my companions are all set in the summer, my mind went to summer camp as being the ideal fish out of water setting for Ashlyn.  I tweaked it to a wilderness retreat center--summer camp for adults--and voila, her story began to take shape.

2. Who was your favorite character to write? Who was the hardest? Why?
Giving Ashlyn her voice and figuring out who she wanted to be was gratifying.  I collect quotes just like she does, so it was exciting to pick out which ones were most meaningful to her.  I love Baxter, her co-worker and master of the zipline, and how he helps Ashlyn see that it's okay to be vulnerable and let people in.  The hardest character was probably Deb, the retreat center manager.  She's the wicked witch from the original Hansel & Gretl transformed, but she's not outright evil.  In my research, I learned the worst thing someone in charge of that type of business can be is careless, so that's was my goal for Deb.  She may be a little wicked too, though.  :)

3. Why do you think readers will like Ashlynn?
I've been afraid she wouldn't connect with readers because she's a little prickly, she's privileged when it comes to money and material things, and she initially has the worst romantic judgement.  But, early reviews that have come in have have blown me away.  Many readers have noted that they identify with her relationship with her father and the feelings of powerlessness to change things.  I think if a reader has been in a similar situation, they'll enjoy seeing Ash navigate those murky waters.  I hope they'll enjoy how she expresses herself through quotes and how she ultimately learns to take risks and stand up for herself.  And, I also hope that readers who have not experienced difficult relationships might gain increased empathy for their friends who have.

4. A common rite of passage of young adults is realizing that their parents aren’t always right. You hit this in a major way in No Place Like Here. Can you talk a bit about this?
In my day job as a school counselor, I've had the same conversation over and over:  I want this, but my parents want that, so I'm going to keep my mouth shut until I get out of the house and I can do what I want, suffering until the time comes.  It breaks my heart every single time.  They think they have no power or that their parents won't listen thoughtfully to their ideas and desires.  This book is for those kids.  I wanted to give them a hopeful ending and show them that their voices DO matter and they DO have power to make change.

5. Why do you think fairy tales — whether classics or retellings — remain timeless for readers?
These stories last because we identify with them.  We see ourselves in them.  And, in a lot of cases, the nostalgia is high.  Versions of the same stories exist in so many cultures around the world, which proves we're all more similar than we think, and the emotions we experience at every age go on and on.

6. What can we expect from you next?
I don't have anything I can talk about quite yet, but I've been working hard on reclaiming the joy of writing. I've also been exploring new genres and age groups.  So fingers crossed and watch this space!

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