Book Nerd Interview
Jennifer E. Smith is the author of four novels for young readers. She earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, and currently works as an editor in New York City. Her writing has been translated into over twenty-five languages.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That I have no idea what the actual statistical probability of love at first sight is!
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
That reading can change your life.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
My pal Justin Cronin once told me you have to write the book you want to write – not the book that you think you should write.
What are some of the common challenges that new and experienced authors face and what advice do you have for over-coming them?
No matter what stage you’re at in your writing career, I think it’s very easy to psych yourself out. But you can’t be afraid to fail. That’s how you learn, and every failure leads to something else – whether it’s the next failure or the first big success. Each word, each sentence, each chapter or book – they’re all stepping stones, and the best thing you can do it just keep moving forward.
For those who are unfamiliar with your novel; The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, how would you introduce it?
The book takes place over 24 hours, and it’s the story of two teens that meet on a flight from New York to London. Hadley is on her way to her father’s wedding to a woman she’s never met before, so she’s not too thrilled, and she misses her flight by four minutes, which doesn’t help. But because of that, she meets Oliver – the boy in seat 18B. And that changes everything.
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Hadley?
I was surprised by her capacity for forgiveness. Without giving too much away, I wasn’t sure where she was going to be at the end of the book in terms of her relationship with her father, because the story only takes place over the course of 24 hours. But the way her character evolved over a relatively short span of time surprised me, and it’s always interesting when your characters manage to do that.
Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
I really wanted to explore the idea of fate, and the way that even just four short minutes could potentially have a really profound effect over your life.
Do you have a favorite quote that you keep visible in your work environment to help inspire you?
I do, actually. It’s a quote from a mentor of mine, the late Frederick Busch, that I’ve always loved, which says: “Focus on your work. Love and serve your characters. Talent should be taken for granted until the world proves that you have none, or an insufficient quantity. It is energy that will see you through – to get your work done, to survive rejection. Never use ‘submit’ as a verb for sending work to magazine or book publishers; say ‘offer,’ and never, ever submit. Keep your knees unbent. Be brave.”
If you could introduce Oliver to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I think he’d have a lot of fun with one of John Green’s characters – I’d love to see them banter!
What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I’m just finishing up my next YA book, which will be out in April 2013. It’s another love story called This Is What Happy Looks Like, and it’s about what happens when an email goes astray and sparks an unlikely cross-country romance between two teens.
What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Read a lot and write a lot. There’s no better way to learn.
Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?
I was in South Africa a few years ago and absolutely loved it. I’m also a huge fan of all things Scotland, after going to grad school at St. Andrews.
What book are you reading now?
I just finished an amazing memoir called Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and before that, I absolutely loved Wonder by R.J. Palacio -- I can’t stop talking about it!
What do you think is the most useless class in high school?
I was never a big math person, but I think most people would argue that it has its uses!
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
Have you read [insert name of really long classic]?
What's the worst summer job you've ever had?
I was a camp counselor for most summers, and I actually really loved it. When I was little, though, my dad would pay me and my sister a penny for every dandelion we dug up in the yard. I guess that would probably be the worst!
When was the last time you cried?
This morning, watching a sappy commercial. Obviously I cry a lot.
Where can readers stalk you?
My website is www.jenniferesmith.com, and I’m on Facebook as Jennifer E. Smith and Twitter as @JenESmith.
Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?
Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan's life. Having missed her flight, she's stuck at JFK airport and late to her father's second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley's never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport's cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he's British, and he's sitting in her row.
A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?
Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver's story will make you believe that true love finds you when you're least expecting it.
Jennifer E. Smith’s The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight not only have an awesome title, it also has an equally awesome story. When Hadley misses her flight to London for her father’s wedding to a woman she’s never met, she finds herself stuck at the airport. Still not over her parents’ divorce, nothing seemed to be going her way. Not until Oliver appears and lends a hand with her suitcase, the two seemed to have set off sparks. A series of moments occur in the airport, plane, and in the customs line in London. Parting ways in London, Hadley comes to a realization as to why Oliver might be there. Leaving the wedding she did not like, she goes out and tries to locate Oliver.
The book’s alternating viewpoints helps in moving the story along and keeping readers turning the pages. The characters are truly likeable and unforgettable. Readers will be easily drawn into their complex lives and how deal with their difficulties. The connection between Oliver and Hadley is real and genuine. As Hadley deals with her issues with her father’s wedding and her parent’s divorce, her meeting with Oliver and their instant bond provided an outlet for her to the accept her life’s current situation. Author Jennifer truly captures a teen’s rebellion and how they handle them. The rich descriptions will make readers feel like they are in the driver’s seat for Hadley’s journey in locating Oliver. This book has that “one day in the life of” feel to it and Jennifer gives a very heart-warming story about a girl that deals with family pain and finding comfort in someone. The ending felt like more of a fantastic beginning for Hadley and will leave readers feeling genuinely good.
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