This past week I was lucky enough to be included in a webinar with Hannah Harrington, the author of Speechless. A group of about five bloggers called in and we got to chat with Hannah and get some questions answered. It was really fun and I loved hearing the questions the other bloggers had (and Hannah’s answers of course!) In this post I’ll fill you in on my questions and a few highlights from the call. I also have a giveaway from Harlequin Teen so be sure to read until the end! First, a bit about the book:
Everyone knows that Chelsea Knot can’t keep a secret. Until now. Because the last secret she shared turned her into a social outcast – and nearly got someone killed. Chelsea has taken a vow of silence – to learn to keep her mouth shut and to stop hurting anyone else.
Speechless explores the real-life teen issues of bullying, mean girls, LGBT awareness and hate crimes. Compared to the many books already out about bullies, Harrington’s novel stands out for its authentic voice and unflinching portrayal of what it means to be part of the bullying. In October 2012, Harlequin TEEN will be releasing a brand new survey that has interviewed 1,500 girls between 13-18 years old on the subject of bullying.
And now for a bit from the interview… On how the writing/publishing a second book was different from the first: It was a little different the second time around just in that I knew what was coming next.The first time, I didn’t really know exactly how many revisions we would go through.I think Chelsea Knot (I call the book Chelsea Knot.I was always calling it that in my head before it became Speechless) might have actually gone through more editing rounds because it was not a very long first draft.
Even before I sent it to Natasha, who is my fabulous editor at Harlequin Teen, I was doing rounds with my agent, Diane, who is also fabulous, and the book ended up almost doubling in length. It was definitely more edit heavy than Saving June.
On her favorite or least favorite part about writing a book:
…it’s always like whatever stage of the process you’re in, you’re always wishing you were in a different part. When you’re writing the first draft, you wish you were done making edits, it’s easier and more fun. Then when you’re doing edits, you’re wishing you were writing something new from scratch.
On the bullying aspect of the story:
I actually wrote the book before the really obviously tragic string of suicides, especially among queer teenagers and the It Gets Better project. I had already written the book, so it was completely unpurposeful to have that kind of connection.
I just thought that it was a logical consequence to come out of the premise that I had, which started with the idea of a girl who took an oath of silence. I didn’t do a lot of specific research into it. I feel like I’m young enough that I remember pretty well my middle school and high school experiences and the way teenagers can treat each other.
I mined from that. And I didn’t really want to push this huge message. If there was a message, that’s great. But I wanted it to be natural and organic– something that just came out of the story. I wanted to just tell it like an interesting story rather than be pushing, and I didn’t want to be too moralistic, because I think that teenagers can always tell if they’re having that kind of message like pounded over their heads. I have my own ethics or ideals that are naturally going to come out in my writing.
After the media attention that the issue has been getting lately, the book was still in the editing stage, and I did go back just to make sure I felt like I was presenting it as well as I could and that I was treating it with the proper seriousness.
If I was going to tell it, I wanted it to be focusing on the victims and giving them agency and their feelings. It’s not really about the reformation of the real “bullies” in the story who are the two boys who beat up Noah’s character.
I wanted it to be about Noah. And I felt like Andy, the character who is Noah’s boyfriend, was a really good device in the sense that he is the one who reminds Chelsea that she is not the victim. This is really about what happened to him, and he’s a person, and he’s not just there to teach Chelsea a lesson. He is someone who really exists.
I felt like that was an important thing that I wanted to portray, not just have him be some stand in. He’s not just there to be a growing opportunity for Chelsea. I wanted him to be a fully fleshed out character.
And of course I had to ask what Hannah was reading!! Here is her response:
The last book that I read was Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You. It’s a collection of short stories. I really enjoyed it.
And I just bought Just Kids by Patti Smith. Those are both obviously not young adult books.
As far as YA goes, I did buy Where She Went by Gayle Forman and I haven’t read it yet, but it looks really good, so I’m looking forward to reading that. I will read anything by Courtney Summers. I think she’s amazing.
I’m really excited to read Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry, which is another Harlequin Teen title. There were two that came out at the same time. They both looked good. One was The Confessions of an Angry Girl (Louise Rozett), and the other was Pushing the Limits.
My favorite part about all of this? Harlequin Teen has partnered with the Love is Louder nonprofit. Lisa Wray, a publicist with Harlequin was also in on the call. She had this to say about the partnership:
So, for Speechless, we all absolutely fell in love with Hannah’s story and the strong messaging around bullying that she had in the book. And something that we really wanted to provide at the end of the book was a resource that readers could turn to once they finished reading, whether they wanted to find more information on the subject of bullying or whether they actually needed support themselves for something that they were going through.
In our research, we came across this non-profit called Love Is Louder. And just by coincidence, the book really speaks well to all of their messages that they put out. And there’s even one line in Speechless that is eerily similar to what Love Is Louder is all about.
About Love is Louder: Harlequin TEEN has partnered with the nonprofit Love is Louder, a movement that started when actress Brittany Snow, MTV and the Jed Foundation decided to do something to help those feeling mistreated. Hundreds of thousands of people just like you have come together to raise the volume around the message that love and support are louder than any internal or external voice that brings you down. Check out more about this awesome partnership here. Giveaway: And now for the giveaway! Win a finished copy of Speechless and this awesome phone skin: