Monday, October 22, 2012

Janet Gurtler Author Interview

Photo Content from Janet Gurtler

A Rita Award Finalist and Crystal Kite Award Finalist, Janet Gurtler's young adult books have been chosen for the JUNIOR LIBRARY GUILD SELECTION and as BEST BOOKS FOR TEENS from the Canadian Children’s Book Center. Janet lives in Okotoks Alberta, Canada with her husband, son, and a chubby black Chihuahua named Bruce.


Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Our imaginations are what make us who we are. I believe in the magic of stories, especially when we’re young, but throughout our entire lives. Story telling stimulates our minds and allows us to free think and so many things become possible. It helps us discover things about ourselves, how we feel about certain subjects. Story telling really puts us in touch with the person we truly are and not the person we have to present to the world sometimes. We feel our truest emotions and allow ourselves to be swept up in possibilities. It is important for nurturing our souls.

What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I kind of feel like I’m an open book, no pun intended. Okay maybe it was a little. Hmm. They might be surprised to know how much I LOVE peanut butter on toast. Of course, with my son’s allergies I don’t keep it in the house or eat it around him. But get me in a restaurant or in a place when he is not there and I’ll savor that peanut butter on toast like it’s sinful heaven. And then automatically wash my hands after!

What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
I learned so many wonderful things at school, but the greatest thing I think I learned was who I was as a person. What I liked and what I didn’t lie. Not what my parents or siblings thought about things, but what my own thoughts were. School teaches us who we are in so many, many ways.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
Not everyone will love your work. And that’s okay. (I am such a people pleaser by nature so I struggle, but it was top advice)

Can you tell us when you started Who I Kissed, how that came about?
It was an ah ha moment. Here I was with all this experience dealing with a child with a severe allergy. And whenever there was something on the news about a peanut allergy it really hit home. I’d heard a story about a teen couple who kissed and one had an anaphylactic reaction when my son was little, but of course it stayed with me. Honestly for years I’ve joked with him that before he kisses a girl he has to ask her what she had for lunch.

The story of Samantha came to me in a slightly different form. I don’t think I could have written Alex’s story from the point of view of his family. It was be too hard and too scary. Writing this story seriously freaked me out in enough ways, trust me. It’s a scary thing to have a child who is threatened by something that is part of many people’s lives. I am much more diligent about making sure I carry and epi-pen. I feel so incredibly fortunate he goes to a school that is nut free. High school worries me. My son is really, really good about asking about peanuts and nuts before he eats anything, but the cross contamination thing is a huge, huge concern.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Samantha?
I love Samantha’s character. I think the most surprising thing is how badly I felt for her and how far she was willing to go to punish herself for her deeds. I was surprised to see how much she learned from her experience, how much it changed her life. Surprising was the ways it actually made her life better. Horrible. True.

You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Wow! I could go so many different places with that. To teenage readers I want to say what I wish someone would have told me. “Treasure who you are. It’s okay to be the person you are meant to be. You do not need to mold yourself to fit other people’s standards. Like yourself. Embrace yourself. BE YOURSELF.”

If you could introduce Samantha to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Well, if you’ve read my other books, you might see that I do introduce Samantha to a few characters from IF I TELL. I introduced Samantha to Ashley, a character I loved from IF I TELL, and in my mind these two girls will be friends in their futures. Haha. That just made my head pop a little when I thought about it. But they’re both girls who are swimmers and they are both overcoming very different but very real obstacles in their lives. In fiction land they are great friends.

When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
My weight. Always. Oh man, except when I went on a helicopter ride and had to give my weight and I was afraid that if I lied I’d end up crashing the helicopter by throwing everything off balance. Still. I wanted to lie. I really did.

Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?
On a Cruise ship when I was single. It was amazing for so many reasons.

What's the worst summer job you've ever had?
I loved my summer jobs when I was a teen. I worked in a couple of different restaurants and that’s where my social life was, so I can’t really say I’ve had a bad summer job.

When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
I tell my son I love him almost every day and my husband and I often tell each other we love each other, so I’m going to say today.

When was the last time you cried?
I cry. I cry when I read books, I cry when I watch movies. I cried when I watched The Odd Life of Timothy Green a couple days ago. The last time I cried about real life though…..hmmmm. I honestly don’t remember. I’m very very grateful that my family life has not given me too many reasons to cry lately.

What would be harder for you, to tell someone you love them or that you do not love them back?
This definitely changed for me when I got older. When I was in my teens I would have had a really really hard time telling someone I loved them. I preferred to write it down or use cards. Now I would find it really hard to tell someone that I don’t love them back, though at my stage of life, married with child, the only people who tell me they love me are people who I love back, so it’s not really an issue anymore.

What's the loveliest thing you have ever seen?
My son’s smile when he was a baby. It was the most delicious sight of my entire life. And every other baby smile since then, when they’re still little lumps and they stare at you and then all of a sudden their eyes twinkle and their toothless little mouths open. God. I get tears in my eyes and my heart explodes.

Samantha didn’t mean to hurt anyone. She was just trying to fit in…

And she wanted to make Zee a little jealous…

But now things will never be the same unless she can find a reason to start living again.

Praise for WHO I KISSED

"Gurtler demonstrates sensitivity toward her characters and insight into their emotional responses . . . the characters breathe with life." ―Kirkus

"It's a story that includes first kisses, the first kisses you wish you got, new romances, hope, hate, bullies, crushes, family relationships, and so much more. Most importantly it's book about forgiving and moving one." ―Mundie Moms

"Not only was Samantha likable and relatable, she felt authentically real." ―JeanBookNerd

"Readers . . . will be immersed in her unique and disconcerting situation and will be absorbed in her struggle for personal redemption, self-acceptance, and hope." ―School Library Journal

"Without excess heavy-handedness, Gurtler weaves a tale of collective responsibility as several teens reflect on their actions that one fateful night. A well-crafted story about a student's fight to feel normal again when a community of peers turns on her." ―Booklist

Janet Gurtler’s Who I Kissed is the remarkable story of Samantha who accidently kills a boy by kissing him. When Samantha wanted to make another boy jealous, she kisses Alex. He is highly allergic to peanuts and it just happened that Samantha just ate a peanut butter sandwich. Alex’s allergic reaction went into full blast that ultimately took his life while he was on his way to the hospital. Living with this tragic event, she must face all of her peers in shame for accidently killing Alex, a well-liked boy in school.

The story is more than about a boy who dies from an allergic reaction to peanuts, Samantha’s story about having to deal with its aftermath is the other part. Readers witness the reactions of her peers and how she deals with it and how her life did a full 360.

The writing style in this book is simply incredible. Janet has a way of putting words together that just clicks to her readers. Not only was Samantha likable and relatable, she felt authentically real. The story may sound far-fetched, but allergies to peanuts are very common. Not only is the story highly gripping and intriguing, it is also informative. Peanut allergies are on the rise and there is a research on ways to fight it. Who I Kissed is like three stories into one. There’s Alex’s story, how one single event can totally change your life, and the awareness of peanut allergies.

You can purchase Who I Kissed at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you JANET GURTLER for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Who I Kissed by Janet Gurtler.


  1. Thank you Janet for the amazing give away! :)

  2. Thank you Janet for donating your book for this giveaway!!

  3. Thank you for the giveaway. The book looks great!!

  4. Thank you Janet Gurtler & JeanBookNerd for this awesome giveaway!!!

  5. woot woot another chance to win! this is just awesome! Hope I do
    thanks Janet and Jean you are both great and generous.