Swanky Seventeen Carlie Sorosiak recently interviewed Janet McNally about her debut novel, a contemporary YA just published by HarperTeen.
About the Author:
Though her family is not rock and roll royalty, Janet McNally has always liked boys in bands. (She even married one.) She has an MFA from the University of Notre Dame, and her stories and poems have been published widely in magazines. She has twice been a fiction fellow with the New York Foundation for the Arts. Janet lives in Buffalo with her husband and three little girls, in a house full of records and books, and teaches creative writing at Canisius College. Girls in the Moon is her first novel, but she’s also the author of a prizewinning collection of poems, Some Girls.
About GIRLS IN THE MOON:
Everyone in Phoebe Ferris’s life tells a different version of the truth. Her mother, Meg, ex–rock star and professional question evader, shares only the end of the story—the post-fame calm that Phoebe’s always known. Her sister, Luna, indie-rock darling of Brooklyn, preaches a stormy truth of her own making, selectively ignoring the facts she doesn’t like. And her father, Kieran, the cofounder of Meg’s beloved band, hasn’t said anything at all since he stopped calling three years ago.
But Phoebe, a budding poet in search of an identity to call her own, is tired of half-truths and vague explanations. When she visits Luna in New York, she’s determined to find out how she fits in to this family of storytellers, and to maybe even continue her own tale—the one with the musician boy she’s been secretly writing for months. Told in alternating chapters, Phoebe’s first adventure flows as the story of Meg and Kieran’s romance ebbs, leaving behind only a time-worn, precious pearl of truth about her family’s past—and leaving Phoebe to take a leap into her own unknown future.
Carlie: In Girls In The Moon, Phoebe is a budding poet, and the whole story has such rich, beautiful language. How did your experience as a poet translate into writing for young adults?
Janet: I love poetry because it allows us to say things in a totally different way from prose. It’s spare and minimal, and leaves space for us to think. That said, I’m a storyteller first, so even in my poetry, I’m always telling stories. I think poetry finds its way into my prose on a word level and a line level. I use a lot of imagery, a lot of figurative language, but at the same time I want to make sure I’m reaching the reader in a way that is very tied to the physical world. Poetry is good for teaching a writer how to do that. Phoebe is a person who is trying to figure out the world and her own emotions, and she does that (like I do) through language.
Carlie: One of my favorite aspects of Girls In The Moon is how gorgeously you incorporate New York. Do you have any history with Brooklyn, and why’d you choose it as the setting for your novel?
Janet: I lived in Brooklyn Heights for a short time (actually in the apartment where Luna lives!) and I loved it. I certainly left part of my heart in New York when I left. I still visit pretty regularly as I have good friends there, and I have a lot of vivid, place-based memories of NYC. It was so important to me to create an accurate picture of what it’s like to be in New York, especially when you’re just getting to know the city, like Phoebe is. I wanted to make sure that my book didn’t end up like a movie where you’re getting some idealized and untrue version of the city. That said: in reality, NYC is pretty magical, so I wanted to express that. Phoebe is only there for a week, after all. If she lived there much longer she’d start complaining about the subway like everyone else. 🙂
Carlie: Girls In The Moon features many different voices and personalities. Which one came first in the writing process and why?
Janet: Phoebe came first. I saw her really clearly because she’s a lot like me (though my parents are not ex-rock stars). I empathized a lot with Meg, too, though, as a mother, even though my own daughters are really small. My editor Kristen Pettit was the one who suggested incorporating Meg as a voice, and I couldn’t get that idea out of my head once she suggested it. It was so much fun to write those chapters.
Carlie: Phoebe grows up in a family of storytellers and musicians. Are you the biggest storyteller in your family, and do you have any musical talent?
Janet: I’ve always been the storyteller in my family, back to when I was making books out of the computer paper my dad would bring home from work. I don’t have any musical talent, really (I played the flute and supposedly had good vibrato, but I never practiced because I didn’t like to). My husband is a musician, though, and a huge music lover, so I’ve learned a lot from him. Spent a lot of time at shows, both when he was playing out and just going to see bands I love. Sometimes I think I do my best thinking at live shows, because I can’t do anything else but watch and think. My talent is with words, like Phoebe, and though it would be fun to be Luna for a while, I’m perfectly happy to be a writer.
Character in a novel who you’d most want to be friends with?
Salty snack or sweet snack?
Salty, but I also must have my daily ration of dark chocolate.
Outlander or Game of Thrones?
Neither! Orphan Black.
Quiet night in or fun night out?
Lately I’m so busy that what I really want is to stay in and read a book cover to cover.
Tea or coffee?
Green tea. I worked in a coffeehouse when I was in college and loved that job, but never got into drinking coffee.
Writing with music or in silence?
With music! I need a soundtrack for everything.
About the Interviewer:
Carlie Sorosiak is the debut author of If Birds Fly Back (June 2017) from HarperTeen. Her life goals include traveling to all seven continents and fostering many polydactyl cats. She currently splits her time between the US and the UK, hoping to gain an accent like Madonna’s. Find her online at www.carliesorosiak.com or on Twitter at @carliesorosiak