Bookworm: What's next for you, writing-wise?
Jane: The book I’m working on right now is a departure from my past published works. It’s a lengthier mix of a contemporary story of a teen traveling to Ireland + a story of an Irish family just before their exodus from that land during the Great Hunger (a.k.a. the Famine) of Ireland. The contemporary story of the teen is not a new thing for me (though humorous antics are not part of her repertoire), but the historical fiction is what has become quite a project.
The nineteenth-century Irish family is based on the genealogic record of my own Harrington ancestors, so I have felt compelled to find out as much as I can about them. I had not done any genealogy work before I started on that quest. I love it, it’s fascinating, but it’s also addictive. I spend too much time trying to piece together their lives—both in Ireland and in the US—and not enough time actually writing about them. Every time I get a chapter done, I go back and ask myself questions like, “What kinds of berries would have grown around them? Where did they go to the get water for cooking and bathing? What did their clothes look like? Did they have shoes?” I don’t mind fleshing out characters, making up dialogue and putting them into scenes (it’s fiction, after all), but I won’t be satisfied with the work unless I’ve made it as authentically honest as I can.
The desire for this authenticity has also turned me into a wannabe Irish historian. In order to get inside the heads of my characters, I needed to understand why the Irish peasants were so poor, why they starved, why they fled in such great numbers. (A million left during the years of the Great Hunger, a million more died on the streets…in a country the size of New Jersey.) So, it took a lot of reading, and a lot of imagining, and searching newspaper articles in Irish libraries, and visiting memorials, and reading old manuscripts (some in the Irish language, which I had to have translated). Whenever I could, I made this a focus of my own English graduate studies—looking at the Great Hunger through poetry from the period, for instance. I have LOVED the research. But with my master’s degree earned now, four trips to Ireland completed, and a bookshelf and laptop computer chockfull of texts, it’s time for me to finish the writing. (I repeat, now, to myself: IT’S TIME FOR ME TO FINISH THE WRITING!)
Bookworm: What is your favorite part about writing for teens?
Jane: I guess what I appreciate most about the teen reader is her complexity. When I'm writing for teens, I know I have to earn every laugh, every tear. I've written for younger ages, and that's totally fun, but there's a definite satisfaction in knowing I've pasted muster with the high school crowd. That's my goal right now, with this latest work. So I better continue on with that. (And now for the requisite metaphor:) Though it may take some serious effort to get ther--splurch, splurch, AHHHH!--I can see that path at the bottom of the hill, and it's gonna feel GREAT to stand on it.
Thanks so much, Jane! Visit Jane online here