Hey everyone! I’m so excited to have Jennifer Banash, author of Silent Alarm (Putnam Juvenile, March 10, 2015) here for an interview today! First, here’s more information about Silent Alarm:
Alys’s whole world was comprised of the history project that was due, her upcoming violin audition, being held tightly in the arms of her boyfriend, Ben, and laughing with her best friend, Delilah. At least it was—until she found herself on the wrong end of a shotgun in the school library. Her suburban high school had become one of those places you hear about on the news—a place where some disaffected youth decided to end it all and take as many of his teachers and classmates with him as he could. Except, in this story, that youth was Alys’s own brother, Luke. He killed fifteen others and himself, but spared her—though she’ll never know why.
Alys’s downward spiral begins instantly, and there seems to be no bottom. A heartbreaking and beautifully told story.
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And now here’s the interview! Enjoy!
Question: Congratulations on the release of Silent Alarm! How does it feel, having it out in the world?
Answer: Unbelievable. The reception so far has been amazing. I’ve heard from more readers with this book so far than with any other novel I’ve written, so it seems to be striking a chord. And that’s a great feeling. You work on a novel in a vacuum for sometimes years at a time, so you lose all perspective. I’m so thrilled to know that it’s affecting people so deeply.
Question: Describe your book in your own words. As a challenge, see if you can describe it in ten words or less!
Answer: Intense, heartbreaking, gritty, powerful, and ultimately hopeful.
Question: What made you write a book about a school shooting? What do you hope your readers will take away from it?
Answer: I first got inspired to write Silent Alarm after reading an article about the 2012 shooting in Chardon, Ohio. The article mentioned that the shooter had a sister who was only a year younger than him. They didn’t actually go to the same school, but the wheels began to turn in my brain, and I wondered, what if?
Question: With school shootings happening so often in the country today, why do you think teens need books like Silent Alarm?
Answer: Well, precisely for that reason! If school shootings didn’t occur with such stunning regularity, there might be no need for my book at all. But the fact is that not only do school shootings happen, they are becoming increasingly more frequent.
Question: In Silent Alarm, the story is told by Alys, the sister of the shooter. Why was it important to you that the story be told in this narrative? How would the book be different if the main character wasn’t related to the shooter?
Answer: I think it’s important that Alys narrate the book because it offers the reader a perspective they might not have access to otherwise. Everyone wants to write about the shooter or the physical victims of the event, which is all well and good. But what about the family unit itself/ What about the people who are left behind to clean up the mess, the emotional victims of the shooting? And so often people are quick to blame the families of the gunmen when they are often themselves trying to figure out what went wrong. These incidents do not always happen in households where parents are abusive or neglectful. Far from it.
Question: What scene was the hardest to write? The easiest? What scene do you most regret having to cut? What was your favorite scene that got added?
Answer: The hardest scene to write was the shooting itself, which is the opening scene of the book, and it was hard for obvious reasons—writing a scene like that is intense! I’m also a high school teacher, so I could viscerally imagine the scene itself, which felt harrowing. And I neither cut nor added scenes—just expanded on material that was already there.
Question: Did you do a lot of research while writing Silent Alarm?
Answer: I did. I read countless books on school violence and teen violence in general, on the Columbine massacre as well as books and articles that primarily explored the psyche of shooters, psychopaths, and sociopaths. It was exhausting. But after a certain point, I just had to internalize everything, put it all away and just write.
Question: If you could create an “alternate ending” for your book, what – if anything – would you do differently? Why?
Answer: I don’t think an alternate ending would be realistic. I didn’t want an ending that was tied up in some neat little bow. That felt disrespectful to the families who live through these events, and to the victims of them. So I don’t think I’d do anything differently. I WISH there could be a different ending. Like Alys, I wish Luke had never picked up that gun in the first place. I wish he’d talked to someone. Anyone.
Question: Readers and reviewers called Silent Alarm, “…very dark, very gritty, and very powerful.” They said it was “tough to say this was a fantastic book because of the horrific events that take place. However it is a fantastic book and once again, Penguin … and this author have brought yet another memorable and wonderful book to my … Reading year!” How does it feel, knowing Silent Alarm has touched so many people already?
Answer: It’s more than I ever hoped for. It’s everything. It’s the reason I write in the first place.
Question: What books would you recommend to a reader who loved yours, and wants to read something similar?
Answer: Well, my other contemporary, White Lines, would be a good place to start ☺ But also books like E. Lockheart’s We Were Liars and Peggy Kern’s novel Little Peach, both of which blew me away when I red them recently.
Question: Are you working on anything new?
Answer: Yes!!! But shhhhhhh . . . it’s a secret ☹ I will say this: it takes place in Malibu, California, and it’s about a online relationship that gets taken into the real world. It’s also tangentially about bullying, catfishing, and not fitting in. And above all, it’s a romance. It’s about when you lose your heart to someone for the very first time.
And now for an awesome giveaway! Thanks to Jennifer, we have two signed ARCS and one signed hardcover for three lucky winners! US only.
So, the rules:
-Giveaway is US Only!
-Winner has 48 hours to respond. If winner does not respond, a new winner will be selected.
-You must be 13 or older to enter OR have your parents’ permission.
-Neither I nor the author are responsible for lost, stolen, or damaged items.
-I reserve the right to change any rules as I see fit for each individual giveaway
*The above giveaway rules were borrowed and modified from Jessica @ Just a Book Lover.
With that being said, I wish you luck! May the odds be ever in your favor!
About the Author:
Jennifer Banash is the author of the critically acclaimed Young Adult novel, White Lines, published by G.P. Putnam & Sons, and the fothcoming novel Silent Alarm, which will be released in March, 2015. Banash is also the author of The Elite series of books from Berkeley Jam which includes The Elite, In Too Deep, and Simply Irresistible. Banash lives, work, and writes in Los Angeles, California, with her daughter, Story, partner Willy, and two slightly food-obsessed beagles.
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