Sweet Sixteener Rosalyn Eves recently interviewed Fearless Fifteener Ann Jacobus about her dark YA contemporary, ROMANCING THE DARK IN THE CITY OF LIGHT (October 6, 2015, from St. Martin’s Griffin).
About the Author:
As a teen, Ann Jacobus was always in the chorus of plays and musicals, never the lead. She earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. She and her family spent many years in the Island Kingdom of Bahrain in the Arabian Gulf and in Paris, France. She now lives in San Francisco where she writes, reads, teaches writing, and volunteers weekly on a suicide crisis line.
Haunting and beautifully written, with a sharp and distinctive voice that could belong only to this character, ROMANCING THE DARK IN THE CITY OF LIGHT is an unforgettable young adult novel.
Summer Barnes just moved to Paris to repeat her senior year of high school. After being kicked out of four boarding schools, she has to get on the right track or she risks losing her hefty inheritance. Summer is convinced that meeting the right guy will solve everything. She meets two. Moony, a classmate, is recovering against all odds from a serious car accident, and he encourages Summer to embrace life despite how hard it can be to make it through even one day. But when Summer meets Kurt, a hot, mysterious older man who she just can’t shake, he leads her through the creepy underbelly of the city-and way out of her depth.
When Summer’s behavior manage to alienate everyone, even Moony, she’s forced to decide if a life so difficult is worth living. With an ending that’ll surprise even the most seasoned reader, Ann Jacobus’ ROMANCING THE DARK IN THE CITY OF LIGHT is an unputdownable and utterly compelling novel.
Rosalyn: When and how did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Ann: I’ve always been in love with stories in any form. I’m a late bloomer and didn’t start writing regularly until my thirties—although I always wrote lots of stuff. My first passion was theater and as a kid I put on countless “shows,” forcing younger siblings, distant relatives, and casual acquaintances to dress up and act in my productions. Some of them still haven’t forgiven me. As a writer, I can produce, direct and star in all the parts of any story I can think up. Much easier.
Rosalyn: I love that you’re a “late bloomer.” I am too, and it’s nice to know I’m not the only one who didn’t figure out their passion until later in life. ROMANCING THE DARK IN THE CITY OF LIFE has such an interesting and difficult premise—a girl in love with the idea of death—how did you come up with the idea for this story? And did you know this was “the one”?
Ann: The germ of the idea for ROMANCING THE DARK IN THE CITY OF LIGHT happened one winter evening in the metro in Paris, which is where I lived at the time with my family. I was with my young daughter and someone ended up on the tracks in front of our train. As soon as we got off, we bolted so I never did find out exactly what happened. As I could find no mention of an accident or homicide in any media afterwards, I had to assume it was a suicide. And so began “what if.” I didn’t start writing it until about four years later, and then it took seven years to write properly and sell. It is also my fifth novel. I thought they all were “the one,” at least for a while.
Rosalyn: How did you find your agent (Erzsi Deák at Hen and Ink Literary)?
Ann: She was a member of my first writing group and close friend well before she became an agent. She’s my second agent.
Rosalyn: What was your revision process like for this book?
Anne: Unending and torturous.
Oh, you want me to elaborate?
I lost count but did at least twenty five big revisions. It was in first person, it was in third. It was in past tense, it was in present. Characters died, characters lived. My first agent sent an early draft out on submission and we piled up rejections. I was stuck in the mind of an addicted and suicidal eighteen year-old for months at a time and had to put it away for awhile. I had to keep posing and answering the question to myself, why are you doing this? The whole thing was critiqued by my wonderful writing group in San Francisco, numerous CPs, and a professional editor at namelos (recommend them highly). Parts of it were read by many colleagues at Vermont College of Fine Arts. It was vetted by psychologists, doctors, police, French readers, and readers from the Middle East. When we finally submitted it again after all that (and another four plus years) it sold pretty quickly.
Rosalyn: You are a beautiful writer–and the ending may have made me cry. Dark and disturbing, yes, but also ultimately hopeful. I hope it surpasses your expectations!
Ann: Thank you so much for your kind words. It IS dark and not everyone’s cup of tea, but I always hope readers can get through that to the light at the end of the tunnel.
Lightning Round Questions:
Favorite writing snack?
Currently pecans and dried mango.
Oddest job you ever had?
Probably my volunteer jobs at crisis lines talking to the depressed and suicidal.
Music to write by?
Big sister, little sister, in the middle, or one and only?
Oldest of six.
Robot Revolution or zombie apocalypse?
Robot Revolution, for sure.
Louie the Long-Haired Chihuahua. We had to leave Seamus the canary in Paris with a friend.
About the Interviewer:
Rosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle.
Her first novel, THE BLOOD ROSE REBELLION, debuts Fall 2016 from Knopf. It follows a sixteen-year-old socialite who, sent to Hungary in disgrace for destroying her sister’s debutante spells, finds instead a world where the rules of magic are not what they seem, and gets caught up in a revolution in the making.