Blog Tour/Interview/Giveaway: Ask Me How I Got Here by Christine Heppermann
Addie has always known what she was running toward. In cross-country, in life, in love. Until she and her boyfriend—her sensitive, good-guy boyfriend—are careless one night and she ends up pregnant. Addie makes the difficult choice to have an abortion. And after that—even though she knows it was the right decision for her—nothing is the same anymore. She doesn’t want anyone besides her parents and her boyfriend to know what happened; she doesn’t want to run cross-country; she can’t bring herself to be excited about anything. Until she reconnects with Juliana, a former teammate who’s going through her own dark places.
1. Where did your inspiration for Ask Me How I Got Here come from?
I started with a thematically connected collection of poems about the Virgin Mary and built Addie’s story around it. Like Addie, I grew up Catholic, attended an all-girls Catholic high school, and began to question my faith as I got older. When you’re a kid, you pretty much accept what you’re taught, but gradually—or, depending on your circumstances, suddenly—you start to wonder, what do I REALLY believe and why?
2. What is your writing process, do you fly by the seam of your pants or are you planning it out months in advance?
It’s a combination of the two. Even for fiction and poetry, I love to do research, but that often turns into an exercise in procrastination. I’m a pro at convincing myself that I need to learn more about this or that—Heroin addiction! YouTube stars! Mushroom hunting! The devil!—before I start writing. It becomes a game of, I’ll just read one more article or watch one more video or head to the library for a few more books. I’m the same way about swimming; I hate cold water, so I get in a little at a time—first feet, then ankles, then calves. My kids make fun of me, and I tell them I’m “getting used to” the water when, really, I’m just building up fear. Every single time I realize that my kids are right: it’s less painful just to jump.
3. Did you edit anything out of Ask Me How I Got Here that you wished would have made it to print?
Hmmm, I can’t think of anything. In revisions, I mostly added poems. I didn’t subtract.
4. What authors have influenced you the most?
So many! Lucille Clifton, Claudia Rankine, Anne Sexton, Shirley Jackson, Lynne Rae Perkins, A.S. King, Madeleine L’Engle (and on and on and on…). Annie Baker, my favorite playwright, is a master at evoking meaning from mundane-seeming dialogue and situations. I would kill to be able to do what she does.
5. Have you always found yourself drawn to poetry?
It’s funny, looking back I can see that I was, but didn’t always know it. I wrote poetry in high school and college and then, due to lack of confidence, stopped. For years I stuck to writing book reviews and essays. When I went back to school at Hamline University for my masters in writing for children and young adults, I intended to concentrate on nonfiction, and I did that for my first two semesters. Then I rediscovered poetry—both reading and writing it—and everything clicked into place. It was like, oh, right, THIS is the kind of writer I am.
6. When you aren’t writing, what is your favorite genre to read?
When I’m not reading review books for work—I’m the young adult book reviewer for the Chicago Tribune—I mostly read poetry and nonfiction. Lately my older daughter and I have been on a kick to read everything we can about life in North Korea, which started when we happened upon Suki Kim’s incredible memoir about teaching at a boys’ school there, Without You, There Is No Us. It’s beautiful, eerie, and sad.
7. What personal traits did you write into Addie?
There are many ways I could answer this question, but I think I’ll stick with one: running. I ran track and cross country in high school, though, unlike Addie, I was more into track. I ran middle-distance races, including the first leg in the two-mile relay, which I loved. I loved getting out ahead and giving my team the lead, and when I couldn’t get the lead, I always felt bad. So, okay, two other ways I’m like Addie: 1. I’m competitive and 2. I hate to disappoint people.
8. What do you have in store for us next?
That list of research topics in my answer to question 2? They’re all things I’m reading up on for my next YA novel, which will be straight-up prose, not verse.
9. If you weren’t an author, what would be your second career of choice?
A naturalist or a wild-animal veterinarian. When I lived in Minneapolis, I volunteered at the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center, feeding and medicating injured owls, hawks, falcons, and eagles. Outside of writing, that’s the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.
10. Finally, name your favorite book boyfriend of all time!
I had a serious crush on Nat in Elizabeth George Speare’s The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Nothing like a flirty, sexy sailor to bring heat into frigid Puritan New England. College-age Alison Bechdel in Fun Home is also way hot. I have a thing for brooding intellectuals.
Christine Heppermann writes fiction, poetry, and criticism. Her books include Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty (2014), City Chickens (2012), and Backyard Witch (with Ron Koertge, 2015). She currently reviews young adult books for the Chicago Tribune.
Christine grew up in Omaha, Nebraska, where she attended an all-girls Catholic high school. As an undergraduate she studied philosophy and literature at Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas. She has a masters degree in children’s literature from Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts, and an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Christine lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her two daughters, two cats, and one husband.
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5/2: Ex Libris – Review
5/4: Novel Ink – Review