Book Nerd Interview
Blissfully married. Occasional superhero in the eyes of two remarkable small people. Animal lover. Avid reader. Gadget freak. Music addict. Dreadful cook. Happily stuck in the mid-90s. I write young adult fiction about fun stuff like travel, music, romance, and normal people with extraordinary talents.
My debut novel, Time Between Us, is being published in sixteen languages and has been optioned for film. I am currently working on the sequel, which will be available from Hyperion in Fall 2013.
Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
I've always enjoyed writing. In high school I spent more than half my day in the newspaper office and I had my heart set on becoming a journalist. But after college, life took me a different direction when I had a chance to combine my passion for writing with my love of technology, and I began a career in marketing and communications instead.
I’ve written for business for twenty years now. I’ve always loved making up stories, but until recently, fiction writing was one of those things I did just for myself.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
I think everyone has a story in them. Some of them are hard to tell because they open up old wounds. Some of them are just goofy, and may feel silly to tell. But I think everyone has at least one story that’s just itching to get out. We all have something to say.
I think it’s important to tap into that creative part of our brains that we sometimes forget about. My kids do this so naturally, and I love to listen to the stories they come up with. They keep me inspired and remind me that we all have that creative center, but we so often forget to connect with it.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
“Leave everything on the page.”
When I was first writing Time Between Us, I found myself tapping into some pretty intense events in my past, but I would only go so far. When I got a little too close to something painful, I’d stop and go in a different direction instead. As it turns out, those scenes never worked because it felt like something was missing.
Once I let myself dig into the deeper emotions I was avoiding, those became the most amazing, cathartic writing moments I’ve ever experienced. And I realized in the end, when the whole story was written, just how many of my own experiences subtly made their way into Time Between Us. I feel like I'm a better person for having had those moments, and I hope it makes the book a richer experience for readers as well.
Leave everything on the page. Every emotion. Every good idea. Everything. Even if you end up deleting those words or cutting them back, the overall story will be better as a result.
In your new book; Time Between Us, can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about it?
Of course! Time Between Us is a time travel romance. I think of it as a contemporary story with a supernatural twist.
Time Between Us takes place in 1995. It’s the story of sixteen-year-old Anna, whose perfectly normal life is turned upside-down when she meets Bennett, a seventeen-year-old time traveler from 2012. The two of them never should have met, but do. Fall in love, even though they shouldn’t. And try to stay together, even though they know that time will eventually knock Bennett right back where (or when) he belongs.
Even though time travel plays a huge role, this is more of a character-driven story than an action-packed, race-against-time kind of book. And unlike other time travel tales—which often focus on what would happen if you could change history—I focus more on the personal impacts of going back in time. I like to think about how the choices we make at key points in our lives affect the people we become.
What part of Anna did you enjoy writing the most?
I adore Anna. I love her inner strength, and how she always knows what she wants. And I love that she’s imperfect. She’s driven and knows she has to work hard to get what she wants out of life, but she doesn’t often stop to appreciate how wonderful her life already is. Still, she’s got a big heart to go along with that tenacious personality.
Because of that fierce part of Anna’s nature, I like writing her into spots where she's not so confident. It’s fun to see how she’ll handle it, and how she’ll get to grow as a result. One of my favorite chapters in Time Between Us is Chapter 17 – the rock-climbing scene. Anna is so out of her element while Bennett is completely in his, and Anna has to let go and trust him. It turns out to be a big moment for her.
For those who are unfamiliar with Bennett, how would you introduce him?
Bennett is confident and charming. He’s funny. He’s got this ability to travel though time and space, but he’s not at all heroic. Like Anna, he’s flawed in a few minor and somewhat endearing ways.
He’s obviously unique because of his ability to time travel, but he’s also a typical 17-year-old guy in so many ways. He’s still figuring things out, and while most of his time travel rules are firm, he’s willing to test the boundaries on a few to see if his assumptions are right or not.
At the heart of it all, he’s just a guy who’s still figuring himself out. Anna complicates things in a way he never saw coming.
What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
I can’t say much about my next book yet, but I’ll be able to talk about it soon. I can say that Anna & Bennett’s story continues, and that I absolutely love where their adventure is taking them next!
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
This is hard! There are so many great YA lit guys to choose from. But I’d love Bennett to hang out with Adam Wilde from If I Stay/Where She Went for a few hours. They might talk about their world travels or chat about Anna and Mia, but I imagine the two of them would spend the majority of their time talking about music. Maybe Bennett could take Adam to an epic concert he never got a chance to see.
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
How much do you weigh? My son actually just asked me this question the other day, and I immediately said I was ten pounds lighter than I actually am.
What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Take a few books you love—across any age range, any genre—and really dissect them to figure out what you like about each one. What appeals to you about the writing style? Is there something about the way the dialogue flows that pulls you in? Maybe you’re attracted to the way those writers set a scene that makes you feel like you’re right there. How do those authors making you laugh, cry, shake with fear, or make you angry? Figure out what you like about the stories that move you most and play with those techniques in your own writing. You’ll probably find that your favorite books have a voice and style that’s most natural to your own.
I love dialogue, and I find myself constantly tuned in to the way people speak to each other in books and movies, and even in every day conversation. Whether I’m reading a magazine interview, a newspaper article, or a novel, I tend to study how writers handle dialogue as I read.
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
My husband, Mike. He's such a great sounding board. There are times when he's too calm, and I just want to shake him and make and get mad along with me! But he’s always the voice of reason. He’s great at making me see the big picture when I tend to fixate on the little details. Our personalities complement each other really well.
What is your favorite room in your home and outside environment?
My favorite room in my house is my office, because it's the one place that’s all mine. I can write anywhere, but my office is my favorite place to disappear into a story.
My walls are covered with things that are special to me. On the largest one, I have Anna's map and all the little red pins that mark her travels. In the ocean spaces, I’ve tacked up mementos from this incredible first-time publishing experience, like notes from my agent and editor, nametags from conferences, and all little keepsakes I’ve gathered along the way. My kids’ artwork lines the other walls. A giant bookcase is bursting with books I love.
Which is the hardest thing you ever had to do?
Finish writing Time Between Us! I don't mean that it was hard in a negative way—it was absolutely a labor of love—but it was difficult! I was so in love with this story and the characters in my head, and I wanted to be sure I was being true to them and their adventure at every step. And I had a lot to learn along the way, from improving my craft to understanding how to work with an editorial team. It was a lot to take in all at once, and I second-guessed myself more than I expected to, but I’m really proud of where it ended up. And wow, have I learned a ton in the last year and a half!
I don’t think of myself as a perfectionist, but when it comes to writing, I definitely am. I overthink everything. It’s exhausting, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Who was the last person you talked to on the phone?
My friend Stacy. I just called to wish her a happy birthday.
Who was your first boyfriend?
Awww… Garry. Sixth grade. He was on the soccer team, and the day he asked me to “go around” (I still have no idea what that means, but that’s what we called it) he gave me his black satin soccer jacket. I loved how special I felt wearing it. A few weeks later, he passed me a note asking me to meet him by the water fountain after school and he kissed me for the first time. It was all very romantic.
Six months later, we got into a fight over a kickball game at recess and that was the end of it. He took his jacket back. I was devastated.
Who was the last person you hugged?
I just finished a signing at a bookstore in the town where my husband grew up. So many family friends showed up, I can't even tell you which one of them I hugged last. It was definitely one of those amazing people.
What is the one, single food that you would never give up?
I could list all the healthy things that I think give me sustained energy throughout the day, because those would be really stupid to give up. But that's no fun. I'm going with crepes.
Where can readers stalk you?
Thank you for this fantastic interview, Jean! That was so much fun.
As their relationship deepens, the two face the reality that time may knock Bennett back to where he belongs, even as a devastating crisis throws everything they believe into question. Against a ticking clock, Anna and Bennett are forced to ask themselves how far they can push the bounds of fate, what consequences they can bear in order to stay together, and whether their love can stand the test of time.
Fresh, exciting, and deeply romantic, Time Between Us is a stunning, spellbinding debut from an extraordinary new voice in YA fiction.
Stories based on time travel involve a lot of thorough thoughts and considerations to how spread-out timelines all connect to one another. Stone has done a superb job of delivering an intriguing time-travel plot without confusing readers. Although traveling through time is impossible, the premise felt believable and it worked for the story of Anna and Bennett. Their romance together and their travels to exotic places were sweet and romantic. The teen emotions displayed in this book were written in a way that felt authentically real. Stone creates remarkable characters and puts emphasis into their personalities that readers will feel like they know them. The writing style is vibrantly stunning and delivers crisp, clear, and precise descriptions of the settings and the presentation of characters. Time Between Us is an amazing story of love through time and the will to endure the consequences in order to stay together.