Sweet Sixteener Ashley Herring Blake recently spoke to Fearless Fifteener Jenn Marie Thorne about her contemporary YA novel THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT (March 17, 2015 from Dial/Penguin).
About the author:
Jenn Marie Thorne writes YA fiction from her home in beautiful Gulfport, Florida, alongside her dashing husband, her adventurous toddler, and her eternally put-upon hound Molly. An NYU-Tisch grad with a BFA in Drama, Jenn still enjoys making a fool of herself on at least a weekly basis. Other hobbies include writing about herself in the third-person, studying classical voice, learning languages, and traveling the world with her family.
About THE WRONG SIDE OF RIGHT:
When Kate Quinn’s mother died a year ago in a car accident, Kate assumed that the secret of her father’s identity died along with her. She never expected that she’d learn anything at all about him—especially not from a mob of screaming reporters.
But after a New York Times reporter discovers that the sixteen-year-old Kate is the illegitimate daughter of Senator Mark Cooper, presumptive Republican nominee for President, the press descends—and with it, the Cooper campaign. When Kate agrees to join the Coopers on the campaign trail as part of a desperate attempt at damage control, she’s plunged headlong into the cut-throat world of politics, hoping to both forge a connection with the family she never knew and find some answers about the mother she’s so recently lost.
Ashley: The Wrong Side of Right blends family stress and romance with a very realistic political campaign scene. What made you want to write this kind of political YA?
Jenn: I became interested in politics on a sort of spectator level after a bunch of my friends volunteered for the Obama campaign back in 2008. Then there seemed to be a cluster of breaking news stories about political sex scandals, some of which, like the John Edwards affair, resulted in illegitimate children. It struck me how impersonal the news reports were about the kids—and it made me wonder what it must be like to be a completely innocent kid caught up in a national scandal. I sort of combined that premise with my fascination with campaigns and started to develop it into the story that became The Wrong Side of Right.
Ashley: How much research went into writing this book? Did you find it difficult to create such a vibrant political setting?
Jenn: I started by reading some great political nonfiction, like Game Change, for a good grounding in how campaigns operate. Then, for details, I perused the Facebook updates of some of my friends who had volunteered for campaigns, including one friend, Arun Chaudhary, who became the White House videographer and whose work provided a valuable glimpse behind the scenes. When I wasn’t sure, I Googled. If there wasn’t an answer to be found, I made it up. It was a lot of fun, actually, playing “campaign strategist” for a fictional Presidential run.
Ashley: Immigration and U.S. policy plays a large role in the book, which is a timely issue. Is there a reason you chose to focus on that particular issue?
Jenn: I thought it provided an excellent example of the empathy gap I see in politics today, and the way that ideological bubbles can create a sort of echo-chamber, with no room for anyone to change their mind. If all you’re hearing is one side of the debate, it’s easy to forget that illegal immigrants are human beings with hopes and dreams and fears and something vibrant and real to offer our society. It’s an incredibly complex human rights issue, and yet it’s so often reduced to glib talking points that the contrast can be really jarring. It’s also an issue that I could realistically see a Republican taking a “hard line” on in order to win over voters who might not otherwise vote for a moderate.
Ashley: When did you know you wanted to be a writer? Can you tell us a little about your journey to publication?
Jenn: I was certain for a long time that I wanted to be an actress, but it became increasingly clear that I was—ahem–not the best actress in the world and that I actually enjoyed writing a whole lot more! In the shower, I used to daydream about winning an Academy Award, and get sidetracked into mentally writing the entire plot of the movie I would win for, including the exact dialogue of my Oscar clip. But it took me writing a play, a screenplay, several short stories and a MG manuscript before I was ready to admit to myself that I was, in fact, a writer.
Lightning Round Questions:
What’s your favorite political TV show?
What were you reading when you were sixteen?
At sixteen, I was just edging out of an Arthurian obsession (The Mists of Avalon, The Crystal Cave) and getting into awesome conspiracy theory books like The Eight.
Is there a character in The Wrong Side of Right with whom you identify the most?
Carolee. Kidding! Probably Kate, although I’m about ten years from being Meg.
You get to ask three U.S. presidents to dinner. Who do you invite?
Lincoln, duh. Teddy Roosevelt, because he’s got to have some good stories. And Jefferson, because I have a weird crush on him.
Planner or pantser?
Planner! Oh goodness, do I love to plan. Planning is my favorite part.
If you could go back and tell your sixteen-year old self one thing, what would it be?
You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. This is your life, no one else’s. Enjoy it as much as you can.
About the Interviewer:
Ashley Herring Blake is former singer-songwriter and teacher turned YA writer. She has a Master’s degree in teaching and lives in Nashville, TN with her husband and two sons. When she’s not writing, she can be found under a pile a books listening to gloomy music. In her YA debut, SUFFER LOVE (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), two teens attempt to wade through an intense relationship complicated by their parents’ infidelities.