Fourth Grade Journey

A Fourth Grade Teacher's Journey Through the World of Books

Monday, March 16, 2020

An Inside Look #131 (Author INTERVIEW)

An Inside Look with Jenn Bishop
(Author of Things You Can't Say)

*The first season of interviews ran from June of 2016 to March of 2017.  

*Season #two ran during the summer of 2017.  

*Season #three ran during the school year of 2017-2018.  

*The fourth season ran during the summer/fall of 2018.

*Season #five ran during the 2018/2019 school year. 

*During summer 2019, the sixth season ran.  

*The seventh season of interviews ran during the fall of 2019.  

*I'm excited to be back for season #EIGHT with brand new interviews/authors.  

*It has been such an honor to connect with authors and "chat" about their novel, characters, and thoughts about the story.

*This is the ELEVENTH interview in which I'm calling Season #EIGHT.  

*Thank you to Jenn Bishop for being the One-Hundred Thirty-First author that I've had the pleasure of interviewing.  I truly appreciate it.

*Here is my review of the Novel...

Things You Can't Say

by Jenn Bishop

(March 3, 2020)

How did you come to know Drew?
It’s funny how each book comes together differently and it’s only with the advantage of distance—time into a project, often—that you can see all the influences that came together to create a book. A few months before my debut The Distance to Homewas published, I was in a panic. I’d already drafted 14 Hollow Roadbut I knew I needed to start writing the next book. And I had no ideas. 

Now, I’ve never been one of those writers with a notebook brimming with brilliant story-starters, but this was the first time that I truly felt something akin to writer’s block. Not long into my panic, I was sitting on my front porch in Watertown, MA, as a motorcycle climbed up the hill. Suddenly, I had an idea—an inciting incident, if you will. It was only as I began drafting the scene where Phil arrives at Drew’s house that I started to think of who Drew might be. A story requires tension—so I knew he had to be wary of Phil’s arrival, but why? Piece by piece, Drew came into being, all from that tiny spark. I’m so grateful for that motorcycle puttering up my street at that precise moment. You truly never know where a story will come from.

What do you think is his most admirable quality?
Definitely Drew’s protectiveness over his little brother, Xander. In so many ways, Drew has been forced into a more adult role after his father’s suicide. But I think it’s likely he’d be deeply bonded to Xan anyway. There’s a part of Drew that relates well to little kids that I think is inherent, not only situational.

Is there anything you wish Drew would have changed or done differently in his story?
Oh, so many things! Our characters are people we want to protect. Often, in early drafts, we are too protective of them. But ultimately, they need to learn and grow—that’s where their story lies. Even though I wish Drew could have behaved differently if it were real life, for the story I wouldn’t change a thing.

What do you think Drew can offer to other children that are experiencing similar situations to what he went through?
I hope that other kids who’ve lost a family member or friend to suicide find a kindred spirit in Drew. Sadly, as the number of people lost to suicide each year continues to rise in the United States, there are many children affected by these deaths and on a whole, still very few middle grade novels tackling this subject. And while there are many kids in Drew’s situation, there are even more like Audrey and Filipe, friends of kids who are grieving. I hope this book helps them and wider communities understand all the ways they can be there for friends who’ve lost someone to suicide. And that it’s okay if you feel like you don’t know the right thing to say.

How did you research Drew and the circumstances he found himself in?
Of all the protagonists I’ve written, Drew is easily the furthest from me. I’ve neither navigated the world as a twelve-year-old boy nor lost a parent to suicide. Part of what probably made this book take so long to write and revise was the time I invested in research to better understand Drew. I read widely about the impact of suicide on families and especially children, and I also read books specifically about the psychology of boyhood. A therapist who works with suicide survivors also provided a helpful read of the manuscript.

Do you and Drew share any similarities?
Absolutely! As it is for Drew, the library was such an important place for me as a kid. My first job was in the children’s room of my local library. And I loved working with children in the library. With all of my characters, there are always several points of connection – there are little bits of them in me and vice versa.

What was the hardest scene to write about him?
Oh boy—it’s truly hard to pick. At many points, as I continued to research, I found myself rewriting whole swaths of the book. While many of the key events remained the same, so much changed in the telling. It took a while to find Drew’s voice and to get in touch with all the layers of emotion there. Grief is complex. It’s anger and sadness and regret and hope for something that will never be.

Who do you think was his biggest supporter and why?
I like to think of Mrs. Eisenberg, the children’s librarian, as someone who is in her own way providing a grounding presence for Drew. She never steps in and does one big thing for him over the course of the story, but she consistently sees him. She recognizes exactly who he is, what his strengths are, and what he needs. She’s a quiet force in the background, shaping Drew’s journey even (and maybe especially) in her absence.

Why do you think some young people keep everything to themselves and don’t confide in the adults in their lives, when talking with someone would most likely help the child cope?
When we’re little, it all comes out—every thought and question that pops into our brains. But as we get older, we learn how to code switch—we’re different versions of ourselves around family, around friends, and at school. We learn how to keep certain things inside. It’s been my experience that by the time kids are Drew’s age, they’ve seen what kinds of topics make adults uncomfortable, and they keep a lot of that vulnerability inside. It takes bravery to share your deepest fears with another person. Even when they’re your parent. Maybe especially when they’re your parent or closest friend. That scene where Drew finally opens up to his mom is one I spent forever on. My hope is that it models what kids can do with the adults in their lives that they trust.

What do you think Drew is doing at the present time?
I think he’s in a shady spot outside the library, drinking a Del’s, and letting Audrey talk his ear off. And I think he’s at peace.

*Here are links to the One Hundred Thirty interviews...

SEASON #ONE (2016-2017)

SEASON #FOUR (Summer 2018)

SEASON #FIVE (2018/2019)

SEASON #SIX (Summer 2019)

SEASON #SEVEN (Fall 2019)

SEASON #EIGHT (Winter 2020)

Interview #121 with Melissa Savage (Author of Nessie Quest)

Interview #122 with Tamara Bundy (Author of Pixie Pushes On)

Interview #123 with Lindsay Lackey (Author of All the Impossible Things)

Interview #124 with Tae Keller (Author of When You Trap a Tiger)

Interview #125 with Jamie Sumner (Author of Roll With It)

Interview #126 with Hena Khan (Author of More to the Story)

Interview #127 with Phil Bildner (Author of A High-Five for Glenn Burke)

Interview #128 with Leslie Connor (Author of A Home for Goddesses and Dogs)

Interview#129 with Gillian McDunn (Author of Queen Bee and Me)

Interview #130 with Jody J. Little (Author of Worse Than Weird)

1 comment:

  1. super hot ! Get more reviews for the entire series using Reviews can do wonders for the book sales, better than most book promotions even. I am good with interior design for a book, would love to help out for free !