Welcome to the Spotlight – Jo Knowles!


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).

For more about Jo and her books, check out her site, read her blog, visit her on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter.

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!

88 responses »

  1. Congratulations on the new blog! I know I’m obsessed, but I love your foodie question :). Thanks, both of you, for a great inaugural post/interview! I’ll probably buy some mini Snickers for Halloween this year and freeze some :).

  2. I’m not in the US, so I can’t enter your draw, but I wanted to say that I read Perl on vacation this summer, and loved it. The book is more like “Jumping Off Swings” than “Lessons From A Dead Girl” (both books I highly recommend) in that it has a play-like feel to it; not that it is a play, but it would readily transfer to the stage. You could tell the story with just the 6 main characters and it is dependent on certain locations. You see characters moving to rooms or places to reconnect with emotions and try to make sense of things, or someone may be trapped in a place because someone else is occupying their usual place. The more I think about it, the more I’d like to go see it – I’m practically designing the set in my head right now!

  3. My daughter teaches at a high school and we enjoy reading YA novels together. It keeps her in touch with her students interests and when I’ve finished, I donate my copy to the school library. Pearl sounds like a wonderful read! So good in fact, that despite my pretty impressive odds for being selected as a winner of a copy, I’m going to share the link!

  4. Great post ladies! I remember when I first started seeing this one online…the stark beauty of the cover is what captured my attention. Amazing how so little can say so much sometimes. Always interesting to see where a story came from, so glad that you were bored that day! (LOL) Cooking is a great way to relax, so wish I had more time to do it as well. Very curious to read more about Pearl’s story…adding to my “check out” list now. Thanks for sharing…and happy reading!

  5. Hey. This is my first time checking out your blog. I love the story of how Jo got the initial spark for her story. I think this is such a “writer” thing to have happen. I’ve so often had little sparks of imagination, a sentence or two that I jot down and stuff somewhere, that later I develop into something. It’s such a great feeling to rediscover those things and feel that tunnel straight to your creative heart be lit up with memory.

    Sounds like an interesting book.

  6. We call my younger son “Bean” because he was a roly poly butterbean when a baby.

    I’m looking forward to reading PEARL as I’m a huge Jo Knowles fan. Thank you for the interview and back story on how this novel came to be.

  7. This review has me intrigued. If I’m not lucky enough to win a copy, I’m sure the book will find a home on my bookshelf nonetheless. Best of luck on getting the word out there!

  8. I was sent here from Twitter and I’m very glad I clicked the link! This sounds like a book I’d love. Thank you for having a drawing like this!

  9. I have heard wonderful thing about this book. Twitter has been a buzz for at least a month. I would love to get my hands on a signed copy. Thank you for giving us this opportunity.

  10. Mmmmmm…. frozen mini snickers dipped in hot coffee. That sounds wonderful! This book is on my to-read list. Winning it would be fantastic!

  11. I love snickers. I adore coffee. I never considered the two together, but it sounds like a perfect fit. I can’t wait to try it while I read PEARL. 🙂

  12. Deb – great job with your blog. I loved jumping off swings and I am really looking forward to reading Pearl. Thanks for the great reading suggestions. – Stephanie

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