1. In A BLUE SO DARK, Aura’s mother suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and frightening hallucinations. What kind of research did you perform to be able to convey such a scarily accurate insight into the mental illness?
“Scarily accurate insight” is an incredible compliment! Actually, I read everything I could find on the subject—including all the books on schizophrenia in the YA section of my library (I wanted to know how the illness had been presented factually to a teen audience). Once I’d read everything I could, I put it all away and started to write. I wanted the characters to drive the book—I wanted it to read as a novel, not as a factual representation of psychiatric disorder. Or a psych textbook.
2. If A BLUE SO DARK became a movie and you were in charge of casting, which actress—past or present—would you choose to play Aura? Aura’s mother?
I really like the idea of Marisa Tomei as Grace. Aura I go back and forth about…Victoria Justice, maybe? (There are times I think she looks like a young Vanessa Marcil…and that appeals to me, since I’ve been a GENERAL HOSPITAL viewer since the ‘80s…Anybody else remember the Bucket of Blood?)
3. In PLAYING HURT, Chelsea Keyes is a crazy awesome basketball player. Were you also dunking on fools in your high school days? If not, how did you occupy your time?
Uh, no. I’m fairly klutzy, actually—pretty sure I could fall around corners!
I took a ton of art classes in high school, and was big into writing in high school as well. (Aura’s poems in A BLUE SO DARK were all poems I wrote in high school—tweaked a bit to fit the situations in the novel, of course.)
I also was big into my music—I spent a lot of time chasing down the big musicians who played Springfield in the ‘90s…I got to meet quite a few of the hair bands.
I also took guitar lessons with one of the members of the Ozark Mountain Daredevils…Truly, he was the most talented person I’ve ever met. Bar none.
4. Let’s say you had to set each of your books to music, because let’s face it: books and music should go hand-in-hand. Which song(s) sum up A BLUE SO DARK and PLAYING HURT, respectively?
In A BLUE SO DARK, I’d have to pick Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here,” or Janis Joplin’s “Me and Bobby McGee,” which are both in Grace’s vinyl collection.
For PLAYING HURT? I’d have to pick “Waiting on a Friend,” by the Stones, since Chelsea and Clint dance to it…
Another song that makes me think of PLAYING HURT is “Collide,” by Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow. The storyline of the song’s quite a bit different, but at core, it’s about two people with pasts coming together to find love…
5. What was the biggest difference between writing A BLUE SO DARK and PLAYING HURT?A BLUE SO DARK wrote really quickly—the first draft was completed in just about two months! PLAYING HURT was much slower—and changed the most, from first draft to final published version.
The actual process didn’t feel any different, though…What I mean is, I don’t have to be in a darker place mentally to write something darker, like A BLUE SO DARK, nor do I have to be in the midst of a love affair to write a romance…
6. On your bio at your website, I see that you taught guitar lessons after college. How do I sign up and when can we start?!
Love this! I really do have my students to thank for turning toward children’s lit. I was ONLY drafting adult work, when I first started seeking that first book deal. After interacting with teens and tweens, I decided to give YA a try!
7. Seriously, though, do you still play the guitar and piano frequently? What are your favorite songs to play on each?
Of course! On the piano, I love to play anything by Elton John (especially “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down On Me”). On the guitar, I’m pretty all over the place…Kelly Willis has a lower voice—pretty close to my register—and I really like playing her songs…(I think Willis’s “Getting to Me” is the perfect theme song for any writer on a long, long path to publication. Google the lyrics, and you’ll see what I mean…)
8. If you could pick any book in which to live, which one would it be?
Actually, I already live in both A BLUE SO DARK (which takes place in my lifelong hometown of Springfield) and PLAYING HURT (which takes place, in part, in Fair Grove, which is very close to Springfield, and the area where my grandfather grew up).
If I could live in another author’s book, I’d live in Zevin’s ELSEWHERE…Isn’t aging backward TRULY the perfect heaven?
9. Finally, do you have any words of encouragement to light a fire under the butts of aspiring authors?
Really, there are no shortcuts: you’ve just got to put your butt in the chair and write. It’s not easy work—and there are plenty of distractions! Here’s a short video I filmed on avoiding such distractions:
Holly, thank you SO much for stopping by! You guys, feel free to visit Holly's Website, Blog, and follow her on Twitter!