Author Interview with Johanna Parkhurst: Her new book, her inspiration and how a character forced her to write an LGBT story.

18743452Earlier this week I posted my review for Here’s to You, Zeb Pike by new author Johann Parkhurst. It is a Young Adult book, out today on Harmony Ink press. I loved this story and strongly encourage any readers out there to give it a try, it will not let you down. I was so touched by the story, that I went full on stalkerazzi and contacted Johanna and asked if she could do an interview for release day. She kindly answered my question and so here is my chat with her.

The Tipsy Bibliophile: Johanna this is the first work that I’ve read from you, and I loved it. In the Author Notes you talk about your experience as a high school teacher, and how your students have inspired you. Can you talk a little bit about the inspiration for Dusty?
Johanna Parkhurst: Thank you so much for having me! I’m so glad you enjoyed Here’s to You, Zeb Pike.
Johanna Parkhurst: Sooo many students have inspired Dusty–and Emmitt. That’s probably a large reason I love these characters so much; they represent so many year of so many amazing students.
The original inspiration for Dusty and his siblings was a family I worked with my first years of teaching. They were really likeable kids struggling with parents who wanted to be good parents but didn’t always know how. As Dusty changed and grew over multiple iterations of this book, a myriad of other students inspired the way he talks, his attitudes about his emerging sexuality, and his general outlook on life. Dusty’s lines in the beginning of the book about how easy school is for him are basically lines one of my students said to me the as I was re-writing that section of the story.
TB: LGBT YA is I think one of the most valuable genres to focus in for an author, but it’s not exactly mainstream. What made you want to write a story with LGBT characters?
JP: Another fabulous Harmony author Madison Parker (www.madisonparklove.com) is featuring a blog I wrote on how…wait for it…Dusty came out to me. No, seriously. I actually didn’t intend, when I started writing this book, to write a story with LGBT characters. Emmitt and Dusty just ended up being so perfect together–the more scenes I wrote about their friendship, the more I realized that they weren’t just friends.
I will say that what pushed me to try and publish this story, and what has pushed me to write more LGBT characters since, is my belief that kids need more books featuring LGBT characters in their lives. I get very upset when schools purposely avoid putting LGBT characters into their curriculum and libraries. Books are kids’ windows into the world. If you don’t give them a window into the world of LGBT characters, you’re essentially telling them there is something wrong or abnormal about being LGBT (whether you meant to send that message or not). For both the sake of promoting identity exploration AND for the sake of building acceptance in our society, our children need to read books that expose them to all kinds of different people and ideas. I’m excited that LGBT lit is finally becoming more mainstream in the YA lit world, and I hope that trend continues.
TB: If you could pick something, what would be the most important reader would take away from your book?
JP: There are a lot of things I hope readers take away from this story, but the most important one is probably the lesson Dusty learns from Zeb Pike…so I’ll let readers do their own exploration of the book and find out what that lesson is. 😉
TB: My blog is a little different, with my book reviews I normally make a dish. For Dusty I wanted to make some comfort food. I came up with a Vegan Mac n’ Cheeze and Walnut and Lentil Loaf that I find delicious, but might make Dusty roll his eyes and beg to be taken out of Northeast, ASAP! What do you think would be the ideal meal for Dusty?
JP: After years of scraping by on Ramen, I think Dusty gets excited whenever someone puts any kind of decent food in front of him (the first time he has Jack’s fried chicken was such a fun scene to write). He might balk at the Walnut and Lentil Loaf–Dusty’s a kid who likes his meat.
I love that you made Dusty comfort food. He definitely needs it!
TB: I fell completely in love with Dusty and his story. Will we see more of Dusty or his story finished?
JP: There is a very good chance you will see more of Dusty in the future! A warning, though: any future chapters in this verse will most likely be from Emmitt’s perspective. I love Emmitt, and he deserves some time in the spotlight.
TB: Are you working on any new books? If you are can you tell us a little bit about that?
JP: I have another YA book I’ve been working on that’s much darker, in many ways, than Dusty’s story. The main character in that one, JJ, is struggling with the death of his parents and a lot of anger issues. I do love writing angsty characters, but JJ’s been bringing even me to new levels of angst. I’m not sure what his publishing future is–we’ll have to see.

Well there you have it folks, a little “get to know you” with this wonderful new author. My thanks to Johanna for gracefully visiting with me. I encourage you guys to go out and get this book today. You will not regret it for a second.

Cheers and Happy Reading!
Laura
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