Wednesday, January 9, 2013
THC: Describe your newest novel, The Opposite of Hallelujah, in 5 words.
AJ: Sisters, faith, love, friendship, possibility.
THC: In The Opposite of Hallelujah, Pawel is obsessed with Rube Goldberg machines. Did you make any in preparation for the book or were they just something that fascinated you?
AJ: To tell the truth, I can't remember exactly why I decided to have Pawel build Rube Goldberg machines for a hobby--I think it traces all the way back to this X-Files episode, "The Goldberg Variation", which is all about a guy who creates Goldberg machines whose life ends up basically becoming a Goldberg machine--but I didn't actually make one, no. I don't think I have the skills for that! I just looked at a lot of them on Google images and watched videos on YouTube to get a sense of how they were built and how to describe the machines in the book. The game Mousetrap is basically a Rube Goldberg machine, though, and I played that as a kid. Everything is research!
THC: What five books do you think we would find on Caro's bookshelf?
AJ: Oooooooooh, this is a very, very good question. Caro and I are similar in a lot of ways, so we'd probably read a lot of the same books. I'm going to say: Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle, The Princess Bride by William Goldman, The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, and Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh.
THC: What are the biggest things you hope a reader will take away from The Opposite of Hallelujah?
AJ: That people are complex (and imperfect!!!) and relationships are hard and take work and that the world is not done being created, that we're creating it with every choice we make, so we ought to respect that process, try to contribute to it positively, and also take the time to wonder at the results.
THC: What influenced you to become a writer?
AJ: Lots of things, but chief among them was a love of books and a dreamy disposition.
THC: Have you ever based some of the characters you've written off of yourself or off of people you know/have known? Have any events in your stories happened in real life but have been tweaked for the page?
AJ: All my characters have elements of me in them, and kernels of other people, but the character who's probably the most like anybody is Caro, who's a self-portrait of myself as a teenager (give or take some details, like I'm really terrible at math and math-y science, like physics, but Caro's really good at those things). Some things in the stories did happen in real life--I'm constantly using small details from my own life and the lives of the people I know in my books, it adds authenticity--but I try to be careful to make sure that my books are works of fiction in a pretty strict sense of the word.
THC: You have a new book called Tandem coming out in October 2013. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
AJ: Yes! First of all, I'm really super excited about it. Second of all, it's about a girl named Sasha who gets pulled into a universe parallel to her own and has to pose as her double. It's soft sci-fi, by which I mean you don't need to love sci-fi to like it, although I think (I hope) sci-fi lovers will also enjoy it, but the "science" in the book is more like mythology (by which I mean invented rules of the world, like how magic works in Harry Potter) than real physics. It's got romance and chase scenes and puzzles and twists and I really love it. It's also the first in a trilogy, so the story goes beyond the scope of just one book. I'm really nervous about how people will react to it, but I'm looking forward to it coming out in 2013.
THC: All Unquiet Things is a mystery, The Opposite of Hallelujah is a contemporary, and Tandem sounds like an adventure/fantasy. Have you always wanted to write in a lot of different genres or is that just something that sort of happened?
AJ: It was kind of an accident? After AUT came out I tried to write a book that was similar and it was a crash and burn, so I turned away from the mystery thing to give my brain a rest (writing mysteries is hard; how Agatha Christie wrote like 70 of them I will never know) and since I'd already written a huge chunk of Hallelujah as a side project the year before, I felt it was a good place to start. Before I knew it, I'd finished the book and submitted it to my editor, although I would argue that it is also a mystery in some ways (the difference is that it's not a crime novel like AUT). Then Tandem blew in and took over my life, but I didn't consciously move into a sci-fi/fantasy realm. Ultimately, I think of Tandem as a love story with science fictional elements, and it's also got a mystery in it.
Now, however, I am trying to be more strategic about future projects and am consciously mixing it up. I'm working on an adult "paranormal" mystery thing (a bit genre bend-y but not too much) and another contemporary and a really high-concept contemporary and a high-fantasy and another crime novel. I keep trying to challenge myself; writing the same book over and over is not for me.
THC: If you could marry one fictional character, who would it be and why?
AJ: This is a really hard question to answer. My first thought is, of course, Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, but I could probably find it in my heart to turn him down if Etienne St. Clair from Stephanie Perkins' ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS came calling.
THC: You are caught in the zombie apocalypse. What is your strategy for survival?
AJ: Find a baseball bat and just keep swinging. Although, I'd probably be one of the first men down in a zombie apocalypse. I can't run very fast.
A HUGE thanks to Anna Jarzab for being kind enough to let me interview her! If you want to find out even more about Anna be sure to head on over to her awesome website and follow her on Twitter. Also, head on down to Goodreads and add Tandem to your want to read shelf! YOU KNOW YOU WANT TO!