Hello! Welcome to the inaugural post of DEBtastic Reads! Here, I will highlight my favorite books and authors, interviews, book buzz, contests, and more. I hope you will join me and share your favorites, too! I’d love to have you visit regularly – please feel free to subscribe (below right) and you’ll be informed by email every time I post something new (probably twice a week).
Today, I am absolutely thrilled to be able to feature one of my favorite authors and people, Jo Knowles! Keep reading because below is a chance for you to win a signed copy of Jo’s newest book! Jo is the author of Lessons From A Dead Girl (Candlewick Press), Jumping Off Swings (Candlewick Press), and her newest, Pearl (Henry Holt).
In Pearl, fifteen-year-old Bean spends most of her time with her best friend Henry, watching soap operas with him and his homebound mother. After a tragedy in her family, Bean feels like she might be living her own soap opera, as lies and secrets are revealed. Bean learns some shocking truths about her beloved grandfather and why he and Bean’s mother were always so at odds. Then there’s Claire, Bean’s mother’s friend whom Bean doesn’t really like, and suddenly is at the house all the time. This is a story about secrets, family, and love. I couldn’t put it down and I shed more than a few tears. The characters are so real, I cared deeply about all of them, particularly Bean. Jo’s writing just keeps getting better and better.
Spotlight on Jo Knowles:
What was initial spark for PEARL?
Many years ago I was working as an administrative assistant in the English and Philosophy Department at Simmons College to put myself through graduate school. One day I was sitting in the office feeling extremely lonely. It was summer, and most of the faculty were gone, which meant there wasn’t a lot of work for me to do. I remember putting a piece of pink paper into the office typewriter and writing a sentence about a girl named Pearl and how her name came to be. It was just a little scene I wrote, way back in 1995. It would be years before I wrote anything else about her. But that was the spark. Just a girl named Pearl.
Bean finds comfort in eating frozen mini-Snickers bars dipped in hot coffee. Bean’s mother cooks in a frenzy when she’s feeling emotional. What do you do to comfort yourself when you’re feeling stressed or upset?
I eat Snickers WHILE I cook like a madwoman. Actually, I usually only have Snickers about once a year, because it’s the only candy from my son’s Halloween stash he doesn’t like. But I do tend to cook when I’m stressed. It helps me focus on the task at hand, rather than whatever’s worrying me. When I was in high school, I often did homework at the kitchen table while my dad cooked. I think cooking was his way of unwinding at the end of a long and stressful workday, too. I loved how my dad would read cookbooks and then, rather than follow a recipe, come up with his own version of how a dish would be better done his way. Cooking was probably as much a creative outlet for him as writing is for me.
The main character, Pearl, is called by her nickname throughout the story by her family and close friends – Bean. What’s one of your nicknames, and where did it come from?
My sister started calling me Bean when I was in junior high, and then a few of my friends picked it up, and then even some of my teachers used it. When I graduated from high school though, my nickname died. I always knew the main character in this book would be named Pearl, but that she wouldn’t go by that name. She needed a nickname to counter all that a Pearl is. “Bean” seemed perfect. So I stole it.
Thanks for the interview, Debbi! And for this wonderful new blog! I’m honored to be a part of it. xo
Jo Knowles is the author of the young adult novels Lessons from a Dead Girl, Jumping Off Swings, Pearl, and See You At Harry’s (coming May 2012). She has a master’s degree in children’s literature. Some of her awards include the PEN New England Discovery Award, YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, YALSA Quick Picks Top Ten, International Reading Associations Young Adult Choices List, Tayshas List, and Bank Street College’s Best Books for Children (Outstanding Merit).
Win A Copy of PEARL!
Wouldn’t you like to own your very own signed copy of Pearl? I’ll be holding a drawing tomorrow and announcing the winner on Thursday. All you need to do is comment on this post (for those of you reading this on a LJ feed, click here to comment and enter) by midnight Pacific time today (Tuesday), and your name will entered in the drawing! Winner must have a US mailing address. Good luck! And thanks for stopping by!