I don’t hide away from the fact that #QuietYA is my jam. It’s a hashtag that is picking up steam on twitter and it has brought to light some of my favorite books and some I have never heard of. It has also allowed me to push books that I love into the hands of my friends and turn them into their favorites.
An Interview with Mary Crockett,
Co-author of Dream Boy
We’re bringing attention to #QuietYA today with a conversation between two authors who debuted very different young adult novels in 2014.
Mary Crockett’s Dream Boy, co-written with her friend Madelyn Rosenberg, is a contemporary fantasy that explores the world of dreams and asks what might happen when the lines between dream and reality become blurred. Helene Dunbar’s These Gentle Wounds is a realistic contemporary novel that takes us into the mind of Gordie, a teen suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as he seeks to overcome past emotional injuries and find a way to confront current ones.
Mary and Helene met through the OneFour KidLit debut group, and are interviewing each other in celebration of #QuietYA. You can find Helene’s interview of Mary below, and Mary’s interview of Helene here.
Helene: Dream Boy is a collaboration. How did that come about?
Mary: Madelyn and I met through our mutual friends, authors Cece Bell and Tom Angleberger. Tom and Cece were famous for their spades tournaments and “porch pickins” in our little corner of southwestern Virginia, and I’m pretty sure we met first at one of Tom and Cece’s parties.
I say “pretty sure” because the way Madelyn remembers it, we first met when we worked together to host a teen writing workshop for the YMCA. At any rate, the various events—the party and the workshop—were within a week or so of each other, and Mad and I have been friends ever since.
We thought it’d be fun to work together on a writing project—and as it turns out, we were right. It was fun. I come from a poetry background, so it was a huge help for me to see how Madelyn, a seasoned novelist, approached her craft.
Helene: What did you each bring to the process?
Mary: One of my kids has a Teen Titans Cyborg toy, and when you push a button it says, “I got the sonic if you got the boom!”
Yes, I have heard that bleeping toy make its mighty declaration a bazillion times, and yes, I am lacking sleep—but I don’t think those are the only reasons that that particular quote comes to mind right now. It also accurately describes the working relationship I shared with Mad.
If one of us brought the sonic, the other was right there with the boom.
Helene: I loved the humor in your book because that isn’t something you see in YA all the time. Was that a deliberate goal?
Mary: Mad said she’d only work with me on Dream Boy if we could make it funny.
We cracked each other up so many times in the process of writing that book. I’d write something totally straight and Madelyn would send it back with a zinger.
For me, too, I think collaborative writing works much better with comedy. What I’m working on right now as a solo project is quite heavy, quite depressing, and in some ways, I’m not sure I could “share” the writing of it with someone else. But comedy—that’s the perfect medium to be volleyed between friends.
Helene: Can you share a line or two from Dream Boy? A favorite quotation? Description? Bit of dialog?
Mary: Sure. Hmmm. So, like you mentioned, there’s a good bit of comedy in Dream Boy, but there’s also suspense, romance, horror, and the kitchen sink.
If you’d asked me yesterday, I might have gone with something scary; if you ask me tomorrow, I’ll probably chose something silly. But since you asked me today, I’m going with something a little swoony.
“What the hell are you thinking? Running after a sociopath in the middle of the night? It’s crazy. You don’t have to do it.” He stopped short. “I can’t lose you.”
“What choice do I have? And besides—”
“You don’t get it.” His voice seemed to have grown moss. “I can’t lose you.”
We were silent for a second, looking at one another across the darkness. Unexpectedly, the lines of his face were easier to read in the dim light, like the chiaroscuro paintings Ms. Sage had shown us in class. She’d said the dark helps us notice the light, and it’s true. In the brim of night, the slight uneven cast of his cheekbones blurred into shadow, while his eyes almost gleamed.
“It’s like that for me, too,” I finally said.
“I doubt it.” His voice was so quiet that I felt his words more than heard them.
“What do you mean? Of course it is.”
“I mean—” but he never finished. Instead he leaned down and pressed his lips, his breath, against mine. The shock of it filled my lungs.
Helene: What are your dreams like? Do you remember them?
Mary: At times, my dreams are certifiably insane! At times, they’re bone-numbingly boring. In my best dreams, I’m flying. In my worst nightmares, I’m powerless to move or speak while I watch a bus hit one of my children, my babies.
Most often, though, my dreams are just plain weird. I usually have some sort of task I feel the need to accomplish, and generally the task makes no sense. For example, I might need tell the old lady the eggplants are ready. But where is the old lady? And what eggplants? Often I’m in a big, old house, and I’m almost always looking for someone and avoiding someone else—which, now that I think of it, is not all that much unlike my waking life.
Helene: In a way, a debut book is an author’s “baby,” too. How do you see your book, now that you’re a year out?
Mary: You’re right. Dream Boy is my baby.
I always tell my kids, “I love you and I always will, no matter what,” and I think I might say the same to Dream Boy. I love this book—the fun and the sass of it. And I love that I got to spend such a special time writing it with a friend. I love it for all it taught me about writing and all it means as that first fat book with my name on the spine.
What’s heartening to me, though, is how its taken on its own life, out of my hands. It’s really exciting to see how teens have engaged with it and made it their own. I love hearing from people who read it and had their imaginations sparked in some way—and from those who are particular fans of one character or another.
But I was especially touched when I happened upon a review from a reader who encountered Dream Boy during a very difficult time in her life. The book, she said, gave her some solace as she faced her grandmother’s final battle with Alzheimer’s. It was incredibly meaningful to me to know that something Madelyn and I wrote was able to help someone through a difficult time. That’s when I knew for certain that all the imaginative energy we poured into Dream Boy was absolutely worth it.
Helene: What’s next on the horizon for you?
Mary: I don’t want to jinx it, but I’ll go ahead and say I’m close to finishing a contemporary YA manuscript. (Note to self: FINISH THE THING.) It’s quite different from Dream Boy. Pretty stark in its subject matter. But I suppose there’s some humor there, too. My mother would always say,“I’d rather laugh than cry.” And so far, this is a laughing-through-the-tears type of story.
I have several picture books and poetry projects I’m working on, as well. Wish me luck! I need it.
I’d like to start another collaborative manuscript soon, too, but I’m still looking for the right project. It’s hard to find that perfect fit—but when it happens, it’s magical. And I’ve always been one to believe in magic.
Helene: Finally, why do you think it’s important that readers give #QuietYA a chance? What can they find in these books?
Mary: There are times in our lives when we need certain books—books that will speak to us in a particular way at a particular moment. And it’s entirely possible that The Book On Everyone’s Lips isn’t necessarily the one you need at any given hour. What’s going to turn that key in you? What’s going to open that door?
Okay, mixing metaphors here. It’s late, and my brain is going in a million directions at once. But you get the idea, right?
Sometimes you have to look in unexpected places to find the book that’s right for you. That’s how I feel about Quiet YA.
Go into the unknown, turn over some rocks. Take a chance. What’s really at risk?
If the book’s not for you, pass it on to a friend. It may be just the book that person has been looking for.
Watch the book trailer for Dream Boy here:
Enter to win copies of Dream Boy and These Gentle Wounds in the #QuietYA giveaway, or you can pick up a copy at a local bookstore or online:
Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dream-boy-mary-crockett/1118586374?ean=9781402295836
These Gentle Wounds:
Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/these-gentle-wounds-helene-dunbar/1117011369?ean=9780738740270
Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/what-remains-helene-dunbar/1120517252?ean=9780738744308