Author: Jeff Hirsch
Pub. Date: July 5, 2016
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Format: Hardcover, eBook, audiobook
Seventeen-year-old Cardinal has escaped the virus that ravaged his town, leaving its victims alive but without their memories. He chooses to remain in the quarantined zone, caring for a group of orphaned kids in a mountain camp with the help of the former brutal school bully, now transformed by the virus into his best friend. But then a strong-willed and mysterious young woman appears, and the closed-off world Cardinal has created begins to crumble.
Today we welcome Jeff for an interview!
1. Did you always know you wanted to be a writer or did you want to be something else?
Let’s see, when I was in elementary school I think I wanted to be a vet, but I guess what kid didn’t at one point or another. I got into writing and theater at roughly the same time, middle school. In high school I decided that I’d pursue theater in college and have writing just be something I did for myself, for fun. That switched about two years after moving up to New York City and experiencing the grind of trying to be an actor. I’ve been a writer, who acts occasionally for fun, since then.
2. How long does it take you to write a book from start to finish?
Well, my first book probably took about three or four years from start to finish. Luckily I’ve learned a bit since then so at this point it’s roughly a year to a year and a half from first draft to last.
3. How do you come up with themes for your stories?
Simply put, I don’t. I think trying to consciously add thematic elements is almost always a mistake. I try to just get to know the characters and write the story. If thematic elements arise naturally from the storytelling that’s great, if not that’s fine too.
4. Do you have a schedule of when you write?
It’s funny, when I started writing full time I had this idea that I’d live a kind of stereotypical writer’s life. Sleep ‘til noon. Start writing whenever the muse struck and then go until 3 or 4 in the morning. Real bohemian, man! It’s turned out though that all those office jobs I worked before I became a writer got into my bones. I’m a 9 to 5 M-F kind of guy now.
5. How are you able to balance other aspects of your life with your writing?
It all works out. Like I said I write on a pretty regular 9-5 ish schedule so having a non-work life isn’t any harder for me than it is for anyone else.
6. What elements do you think make a great story line?
Interesting, flawed characters who need something very, very badly. Their effort to get that thing transforms them.
7. What was the hardest thing about writing a book?
The fact that your actual book will never, no matter how long you work, be as good as that theoretical book in your head. You just try and get as close as you can.
8. How many books have you written so far? Do you have a favorite?
Black River Falls will be my fifth published novel. I wrote one practice novel before my first was published (that will never see the light of day) and I’ve written another that will be published next year. Generally speaking my favorite book is whatever book I happen to be working on at that moment.
9. Do you have a favorite character?
In my books? In each one of them you’ll find a smart, twitchy, hyper verbal character. That’s generally my favorite.
10. Where do you write?
On a couch in my office at home. Generally with a cat and/or a dog curled up next to me.
11. When deciding on how to publish, what directed you to the route you took?
Self-publishing wasn’t quite the thing it is now when I published my first book so it didn’t really feel like that much of a choice. On top of that, I knew that self-promotion and marketing were simply not my forte and that’s a huge part of the life of the self-published writer.
12. Have you gotten feedback from family about your book(s)? What do they think?
I think they like them! (…right? Mom? Dad? Sis?)
13. What kinds of things do you like to do outside of writing?
I love to bake, (my peach and blueberry buckle will make you believe there’s still something good and holy in this crazy mixed up world) take really long walks, eat great food and drink great drinks. I also act in plays from time to time for fun.
14. What kinds of advice would you give to someone who wants to start writing?
Just sit down and start. Don’t overthink it. Write a little something every day and have fun while doing it. Writing is the biggest, grandest game of pretend the universe has to offer. Treat it that way.
15. What is your favorite book? favorite author? Do you have an author that inspired/inspires you to write?
Don’t have a favorite book or author. I just like too many for too many different reasons. The book that was probably the most influential for me was Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising. Reading it felt like slipping into another world. I think I wanted to be a writer the second I finished it.
16. Do you have any go to people when writing a book that help you with your story lines as well as editing, beta reading and such?
I rely pretty heavily on my agent and my editor. Outside of that I generally send things to a couple friends I went to grad school with for feedback.
17. Are you working on anything now?
Many, many things! I just finished the first draft of my 2017 book, Unnatural Disasters, am working on edits for a novella length follow up to my last book, The Darkest Path, and have started planning a middle grade adventure series.
Man, I better get back to work, huh?
18. Tell us 5 things that make you smile:
A well prepared meal, a long walk, my animals, a day when I accomplished something, Steve Martin.
19. Tell us 5 things that make you sad:
A lack of any of the above things plus willful stupidity, greed, loss, and cruelty, especially when it’s focused on the innocent.
20. If you could travel anywhere in the world to visit a place so you could use it as a background for a book, where would it be?
Hmm….I’m going to say Antarctica. All of that freezing cold nothingness could make for an amazing backdrop.
Thanks so much for stopping by today, Jeff. It was great having you with us!
I live in an extremely Brazilian section of an extremely Greek neighborhood—Astoria, Queens, which is just to the right of Manhattan. (That's as you face Manhattan. If you were, say, lying on your back in the middle of Central Park with your head in a northerly position, we would be to your left) I live there with my wife who has a blog and our two cats who do not. One day I hope to have a very large dog that I can name Jerry Lee Lewis.
I used to write plays (I actually have an MFA in it, which is currently number 8 on US News and World Report's annual list of the top twenty most useless masters degrees) and now I write books for teens. I've written two. One was about a girl who wanted to be a rock star and could graciously be called a learning experience.
The second, is The Eleventh Plague and it comes out Sept. 1, a fact I still find pretty amazing.
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