Monday, June 8, 2015

Interview + Giveaway | Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu
Published by Roaring Brook Press 

Publish Date: June 2, 2015
Source: Publisher
Find It: Goodreads / Amazon 

Rachel Walker is devoted to God. She prays every day, attends Calvary Christian Church with her family, helps care for her five younger siblings, dresses modestly, and prepares herself to be a wife and mother who serves the Lord with joy. But Rachel is curious about the world her family has turned away from, and increasingly finds that neither the church nor her homeschool education has the answers she craves. Rachel has always found solace in her beliefs, but now she can’t shake the feeling that her devotion might destroy her soul. (Goodreads) 


Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu






I’m so, so excited that I have the chance to share an interview with Author Jennifer Mathieu with on the blog today because I've read her most recent book, Devoted, and I LOVED IT. 



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Jennifer Mathieu!
Thanks so much for stopping by today!


Thank you so much for having me!  I so appreciate your support for Devoted!

1. What were the easiest and hardest parts of writing Rachel's character? 

It was easier to write Rachel's character in the first half of the story where she is more immersed in Quiverfull culture. Her sense of isolation, of longing for something more, were easier for me to tap into.  Oddly, I had a harder time with Rachel once she was more connected with "worldly culture" because I found myself wanting to make her a modern, everyday teenager a little *too* fast.  My editor kept holding me back and reminding me of how foreign the outside world would seem to Rachel.  
2. What do you love most about Rachel? 

What I love the most about Rachel is her curiosity.  I love that she doesn't let that part of her disappear even though she is living in such a repressive environment. I love that she's a reader, that she somehow intuitively knows there's nothing wrong with reading a book like A Wrinkle in Time, and that she asks herself the hard questions.  She continues to ask the tough questions even when she's living with Lauren and even when she knows it might make Lauren upset.  She is fiercely committed to living an authentic life, and I love that about her.
3. How did you come up with the first sentence of Devoted

Devoted was a tough book to write.  I actually tossed out the first draft completely for many reasons.  The book originally opened with Rachel discovering that her mother was pregnant again, but after working with my editor, I wanted to start with a scene where there was more tension up front - where it was clear to the reader that Rachel comes from a world very different from the worlds of most teenagers.  The image of James Fulton in front of the congregation asking for forgiveness and almost, really, being publicly humiliated popped into my head. And the first sentence flowed from there.  It's an old Southern saying - to be sweating like a sinner in church - and I love that James is embodying that statement literally.
4. Is there a main theme or message in Devoted that you hope will resonate with readers? 

Well, I really like when readers decide what the main message or theme is for themselves, but I think if I were going to choose I would say to not be afraid to ask the Big Questions.  Even if they're not about religion. I think it's so important that all of us try to honor that voice inside of us - what makes us happy?  What are our talents? What do we value?  What do we want out of this one, precious life (to quote from the Mary Oliver poem that is featured in the book!).  Rachel does an admirable job of asking these Big Questions in a very tough situation, and I would love it if her story encouraged readers to do the same.
5. What did you find most challenging about writing this particular story? 

At first, I felt like it sounded too much like a book report about Quiverfull culture. I didn't know Rachel's character enough, which was weird for me because character is usually what comes most easily for me.  I realized as I was redrafting the book that I had to tap into exactly who Rachel was.  I did a bunch of character exercises - like wondering what Rachel kept in her nightstand drawer or making a list of her favorite sounds and smells.  As I did this, I got more in touch with her character and the book started to take shape.
6. What was your favorite part of writing Devoted

My favorite part was actually the research.  I loved getting to know several young women who were raised in the Quiverfull movement much like Rachel was.  I developed a good friendship with one young woman (to whom I dedicated Devoted), and it was so validating to hear from them after the book came out.  To hear that I had honored their stories and done their stories justice without being exploitative.
7. Do you have any interesting writing habits or quirks that you can share with us? 

This is weird, but I love to write in the dark!  I sit at the dining room table in my house in pitch dark (I usually write at night) and for some reason this helps my productivity. Another quirk is that I rarely write to music, but once in a while I will find a song that fits the mood of a certain scene, and I will play it on repeat over and over until the scene is over.  
8. I love recommending your books when I talk about #quietYA. What are some of your favorite #quietYA books? 
So hard to choose, but recent reads include SWAY by Kat Spears and BREAKFAST SERVED ANYTIME by Sarah Combs.  I still think HOW TO SAY GOODBYE IN ROBOT by Natalie Standiford is one of the best quiet YAs I've read in my life.  It's beautiful, heartbreaking, and will stay with you for a long time.
9. What do you love the most about writing contemporary/realistic YA fiction? 
Personally, I find real life SO interesting.  I'm a huge reader of non fiction and I love documentaries.  I just think all of us have stories to tell - perhaps it comes from my background as a journalist.  I love contemporary/realistic YA because it taps into those real stories.  I think readers of contemporary YA can build empathy by reading stories about the lives of teenagers whose lives are nothing like their own.  For example, with Devoted, even if you are not religious, reading this story could help you develop compassion for people raised in extreme religious environments. Where someone might first be tempted to laugh at or even mock religions they find strange, reading a book like Devoted might help them be a bit kinder to people in Rachel's situation.  That doesn't mean you have to agree with it, but you can still treat people like human beings.  Some of the former Quiverfull girls I spoke with said they really appreciated when people from outside their world tried to understand their experiences without harsh judgment but instead with compassion.
10. Can you tell us anything about your next project? 
It's an untitled third book for Roaring Brook Press, and it will be out in Fall 2016.  It's about two teenagers named Ethan and Caroline whose lives are connected by a tragic crime - a kidnapping.  I got the idea because I'm interested in Stockholm Syndrome and trauma bonds.  The research for the book has been very interesting.  It's ultimately a story about guilt and secrets, recovery and hope - and about finding a deep and special friendship in the most unlikely place.

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Thank you, Jennifer! 

I'm SO EXCITED about this new book
and I'm also really looking forward to your next project!

Devoted is amazing, friends!


Read an excerpt from Devoted Here!

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GIVEAWAY!
Author Jennifer Mathieu & Roaring Brook Press 
are offering one copy of
DEVOTED to ONE WINNER!
(US Only) * (Ends June 22)



Make sure to stop by the other stops on the
DEVOTED by Jennifer Mathieu Blog Tour! 
(Hint: There may be other giveaway opportunities.)


June 3: YAdultReview | @_ash
June 11Dana Square | @danasquare


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Devoted will appeal to fans of:

Young Adult Contemporary with Realistic Fiction
Romance: Very subtle crush, but not a major plot point. 
Strong main characters. 

Devoted by Jennifer Mathieu
is currently available for purchase.

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3 comments:

  1. Emmy and Oliver is a wonderful quiet read!

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  2. Love this Q&A! Asheley, such great questions for Jennifer, and I was so curious about her answers. I read Devoted and absolutely fell in love with it! I think that's so important--having compassion for those that might have been raised in a religious environment like the one portrayed in the book. It's so wonderful when books are able to help us grow in our social sensitivity. I loved THE WALLS AROUND US and BONE GAP--two recent YAs that I thought were relatively quiet... :D

    ReplyDelete
  3. I'll never stop recommending Every Breath by Ellie Marney! It's a great mystery YA with romance and suspence! ;)

    Carolina M on rafflecopter!

    ReplyDelete

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