|I promise I was there! I was sitting to Jess's right (and Lauren was next to me).|
Jess's debut novel tells the story of a teenage girl named Brie who literally dies of a broken heart. In the afterlife, she learns things about herself -- as she passes through the five stages of grief -- as well as the life she left behind. There's romance, musical references galore, and a satisfying twist ending.
If you're looking for a terrific book to read on the beach this summer, I would absolutely recommend TCHoYaM. Here, Jess and I chat about our shared music tastes, how editing books shapes the way you write them, and Swedish Fish. Oh, and my version of the afterlife would definitely include a pizza parlor as well. Enjoy!
1) Of the five stages of grief that Brie must pass through in order to come to terms with her heartbreak, is there one that you gravitate toward in your own life?
Haha, I hate to say it, but out of all the stages (denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance) I’m probably best at denial. As in, my apartment’s not that messy, my hair isn’t that in need of a trim, my deadline isn’t really next week... That kind of thing.
2) We both put Tegan and Sara's "Walking with a Ghost" on our book playlists! Can you tell us a little more about the role music plays in the book, or in your writing life?
Oh, fun! “Walking with a Ghost” really is one of the best post-breakup songs ever. I generally can’t write without something playing in the background because it helps me focus and get into the mood for whatever scene I’m working on. In the case of Catastrophic History, I listened to one big playlist on repeat for months (you can stream it here:http://jessrothenberg.com/playlist.html) that definitely shaped and inspired the story as I wrote. Today I’m alternating between “Hotel Song” by Regina Spektor, “Soul Meets Body” by Death Cab, and this fun cover of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy” by Emily Wells. So the chapters I’m working on right now could turn out to be pretty weird. ; )
3) You worked for a long time as an editor. In what ways do you think that affected the way you approach fiction writing?
I think my years as an editor made me better at asking those big-picture questions you’ve always got to be thinking on as a writer—stuff dealing with story, plot, character, tension, motivation, world building, the list goes on. Of course, it’s so much harder to see those things clearly when it’s your own work, so it’s been a really fun new challenge to be on the other side of the editorial process. Learning how to take (instead of give) constructive feedback through many rounds of edits; dealing with all the anxieties you feel before and after a book’s release; having to be the public face of a project instead of working quietly behind the scenes. It was a little tricky for me at first, since I’m sort of shy, but overall I do feel being an editor has made me a better writer and vice versa.
4) Is it okay to congratulate you publicly on your pending nuptials? Are you so excited? OMG!
Aw, thank you! I am very excited. Though I will say, planning a wedding the same year as having my first book come out (not to mention writing a second) has been just a leeeeetle bit insane.
5) You've probably met a bunch of awesome readers and authors since the book came out in February. Is there any one event/incident that stands out in your mind as being particularly cozy or crazy?
Oh, sure. I joined the San Francisco leg of the YA or Bust tour in California last month with Nina LaCour, Gayle Forman, and Stephanie Perkins (you can read about it here: http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-authors/article/51687-ya-or-bust-hits-the-road.html). We got a little silly toward the end of the week, and at one point Gayle ate a Swedish Fish off the top off Stephanie’s head (harder than it looks, because Steph’s hair and Swedish Fish are almost the exact same color). It was pretty amazing. Those ladies are the best. : )