3 Feb 2017

Author Interview with Jennie Yabroff

Can you tell us a little about your latest book.
If You Were Here is part mystery, part fantasy, part family drama, and part coming-of-age novel. It’s also (I hope) funny, sad, and ends on a note of optimism that readers may interpret different ways. The plot concerns Tess, a social misfit whose best friend dumps her in an attempt to join the popular crowd. Meanwhile, Tess’s prophetic dreams make her worry that she’s becoming mentally ill like her mother, and when one of her dreams come true, she finds herself under suspicion for a tragedy.

What inspired you to write it?
I’m curious about the way a childhood friendship can unravel as you outgrow each other – a natural, but still wrenching experience. I think high school is a time when you start to get a little perspective on your parents, and wonder and maybe worry about which of their traits you’ve inherited. I also wanted to write about one of my favourite movies from that time, Sixteen Candles. As a writer I spend a lot of time at home alone with my cat, so he got a role, too. (I changed his name to protect his identity.)

Is it part of a series?


If your latest book was made into a movie, who would you like to play the main characters?
I’d love a 1980s-era Winona Ryder or Ally Sheedy as Tess. Since that’s not possible, I could imagine a de-glammed Hailee Steinfeld or Ariel Winter in that role. For Tess’s best friend Tabitha, I think Chloe Grace Moretz or Elle Fanning could convincingly make the transition from frizzy-haired outcast to shiny-ponytailed mean girl.

What made you want to become an author?
Every book I’ve ever read.

Name one of your all-time favourite book covers?
Is it incredibly conceited to say my own? I’ve always dreamed of publishing a novel, so I really can’t describe the thrill of holding the physical object in my hands. And I think the cover is so beautiful. It captures the feeling of the book without giving away any of the plot. I like to think I’d pick it up if I saw it in a bookstore even if had a different author’s name on it (I mean, of course I would, because how weird would that be to have two different novels with the exact same title and cover? But you know what I mean.)

Name one book that made you think 'wow'? Why did it have such an effect on you?
Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. It could be a YA book, because the main character is a young and na├»ve girl dealing with homesickness and first love and figuring out what she wants from life – classic YA themes. The writing seems so simple and transparent and nothing extraordinary happens – it’s all everyday stuff – yet somehow, at the end, you feel absolutely destroyed – or at least I did.

Who, or what, inspires you?
My husband, Jack Livings, who is also a writer.

Where is your favourite place to write?
At my dining room table in New York City. It is next to a window that looks out over the street, and I often get distracted watching people stop to take selfies in front of a blue garage door across the street. Granted, it is a very photogenic door.

What is your favourite movie that was based on a book?
A Room with a View, based on the novel by E.M. Forster

Who is your favourite author (s) and why?
Zadie Smith.

If you could have a dinner party with any authors from any time in history, who would you choose and why?
In reality, if I were invited to a dinner party with my favourite authors I would probably be miserable, too self-conscious to say anything (or worse, eat anything.) But assuming I could take a pill that would make me a fascinating and hilarious conversationalist beforehand (with no hangover the next day): Edith Wharton, Joan Didion, Nicole Krauss, and Zadie Smith. There would be lots of cake.

Tell us a random fact about yourself.
I love to bake.

Tell us something interesting about the area where you live.

I am spending the year in Rome, Italy, with my husband and daughter. Strangely, our apartment has a stove, but no oven, so I haven’t been able to do much baking while we’re here. It’s a tough, tough life.

Jennie Yabroff was born and raised in Berkeley, California and received her MFA from Columbia University. She was a staff arts and culture writer for Newsweek and now writes freelance criticism and essays. Based in New York, she currently lives in Rome, Italy, with her family. If You Were Here is her first novel. For more information, visit Jennie's website.

Keep an eye out for my review of If You Were Here, coming soon! Suzy x

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