I’m hosting a guest post today for the book tour for YA mystery “Every Inferno”. I’ll leave the word to author Johanna Parkhurst now. Thanks for visiting my blog!
So here’s a scenario: you write a book. You spend years and year on it. Writing it. Rewriting it over and over. Begging people to publish it. At some point, people finally says yes. You’re thrilled. Then you spend a whole lot of months working to get the book published—with editors, cover artists, etc. Eventually the book’s about to come out, and you couldn’t be more thrilled. Until people start asking you this question:
“Tell me what the book’s about!”
And you find yourself, to your own horror, giving answers like this.
“Well…there’s this kid…and his parents died in a fire…and he’s really angry…and, um, it’s kind of a mystery….”
I don’t know what it is with me and not being able to explain my own books. I spend years with these characters. I dream about them. It’s almost like because I know every nuance of the book—every little message I was trying to send, every little plot detail that had implications for character and message—I can’t bring myself to simplify the book into a few words.
So that’s been going for a few weeks (maybe months) now, and I’m quite certain that a few people who’ve asked that question are convinced I didn’t really write a book at all.
Yeah. Anyway, after I fumbled that question around for a while, a funny thing happened: the book came out. And I ended up reading some of the reviews.
And then something really funny happened: I remembered what my own book is really about.
It’s a funny thing, writing a book. There’s so much of you that goes into it: so many moments, so many little ideas, so many encounters you’ve had. Sometimes you lose track of where it all came from. And as I was reading a few of these reviews, and seeing readers’ perspectives on JJ and his struggles, I suddenly remembered the moment in my life that really brought Every Inferno together.
It was actually a long time (probably years; I’m a slow writer) after I’d started writing the book. I was working with this 8th grader who was getting in trouble all the time. And not for easy stuff, either. Harassing classmates, committing violent acts, really difficult stuff. Those of us who taught him were really struggling, because we knew he’d had a lot to handle in his life. Divorce, neglect, abuse, probably much more we didn’t know about…there was a lot for this kid to be angry about.
Every student tugs at a teacher’s heart strings in some ways, but some tug harder than others. Because you know. You know that they have a million reasons to act the way they do. A million reasons to be angry. A million reasons to be making the choices they’re making.
But you also know that if they keep making those choices, they’re going to miss out on so much. Like opportunities to form relationships with people who do care about them and want to be there for them. Or opportunities to make the world a better place, so that other people don’t have to go through what they’ve been through. Or—most importantly—the opportunity to really be happy.
Anyway, one day this particular student and I were having a moment (teacher friends, you know what I mean), and I thought to myself: self, if he doesn’t let go of this anger soon, he won’t have many chances left.
Not long after that, I started one of my final rewrites of Every Inferno before it eventually got published. It was like I finally had the lynchpin for the story. I finally knew what it was really about.
Then, somehow, in a haze of plot reconstruction and editing, I forgot.
But it’s never too late, right? So let me say it here, now, with extra-special thanks to some readers who reminded me when I forgot.
Every Inferno is about teenager who’s trying to figure out if his future is entirely determined by his past.
Because that’s a question most of us need to answer at one point or another. Some just need to answer it more quickly than others.
About Every Inferno
Title: Every Inferno
Author: Johanna Parkhurst
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, LGBTQ
Depressed. Defiant. Possible alcoholic. These are just a few of the terms used to describe fifteen-year-old Jacob Jasper Jones. Lately, though, JJ has a new one to add to the list: detective. He’s been having strange dreams about the fire that killed his parents ten years ago, and he thinks he finally has the clue to catching the arsonist who destroyed his family.
A murder investigation isn’t the only thing the dreams trigger for JJ, though. They also lead to secret meetings with his estranged sister, an unlikely connection with a doctor who lost his daughter in the fire, and a confusing friendship with McKinley, a classmate of JJ’s who seems determined to help him solve the mystery.
All JJ wants is to shake the problems that have followed him since that fire, and he’s convinced he must catch the arsonist to do it. But as JJ struggles to find the culprit, he sees there’s more than one mystery in his life he needs to solve.
Johanna Parkhurst grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont before relocating to the rocky mountains of Colorado. She spends her days helping teenagers learn to read and write and her evenings writing things she hopes they’ll like to read. She strives to share stories of young adults who are as determined, passionate, and complex as the ones she shares classrooms with.
Johanna holds degrees from Albertus Magnus College and Teachers College, Columbia University. She loves traveling, hiking, skiing, watching football, and spending time with her incredibly supportive husband.
Amazon page: amazon.com/author/johannaparkhurst
Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7370437.Johanna_Parkhurst