I’m thrilled to have Paula Garner, the author of one of my favorite reads of the year, Phantom Limbs here today! If you missed my review, you can find it here. Not only is she a supremely talented writer, she’s also one of the sweetest authors I’ve ever had the pleasure of chatting with.
Q & A:
1. You captured the voice of a teenage boy with Otis so beautifully. What’s your secret? Are there teenagers in your own life that helped inspire you?
I don’t have a secret for capturing voice apart from thinking a lot about people and paying a lot of attention to how they act/sound/feel. And yes, it probably didn’t hurt that I had two teenage boys around during the drafting of this book—one of whom was a competitive swimmer!
2. Dara lost part of her arm in a tragic accident. Where did you get the idea to develop a character that is an amputee?
Dara is the only character in the novel who showed up in my head unbidden, clear, and fully formed— every cynical, vulnerable, harsh, one-armed, beautiful, fierce, fragile bit of her. It took time to figure out everyone else, but Dara was there from the start in her entirety. I have no idea why. She is such a gift. She will always possess a piece of my heart.
3. Swimming plays a huge role in PL, do you have personal experience or connections with the sport?
Yes! It was the only sport I knew anything about. I spent a lot of time at my son’s high school swim meets during the writing of Phantom Limbs, so it was just a part of my world. Like Otis, my son was never an athlete until he was suddenly a swimmer, and when you’re a swimmer, it’s consuming. As the saying goes, eat, sleep, swim, repeat.
4. What books are you most looking forward to in the last half of 2016?
First and foremost, OF FIRE AND STARS by Audrey Coulthurst, my brilliant CP and friend, and my co-author of STARWORLD (Fall ’18). But there are so many other amazing books coming out this year of every genre—too many to list! Check it out:
5. Name 5 authors you admire or who inspire you.
As a kid, I was captivated by authors like Judy Blume, Paula Danziger, and Paul Zindel. As an older teen, The Heart is Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers completely blew me away and cemented my desire to be an author, although it also was so astonishing that it set an impossibly high bar. In more recent years, unforgettable books I’ve read include Nicole Krauss’s History of Love, Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin, and Helen Humphrey’s The Lost Garden. YA writers I think are amazing include Kerry Kletter, Jeff Zentner, and Jandy Nelson, among many others.
6. Anything you can share about upcoming projects?
In my next YA contemporary, Relative Strangers (Candlewick, Spring ’18), a tender-hearted teen who feels extraneous in her friendships and family discovers that part of her early childhood was spent in foster care. She sets out to find the family that cared for her, but when she meets her former foster brother, she develops romantic feelings for him that jeopardize the newfound sense of belonging she’s always longed for.
Later in 2018 my third book will come out, a YA contemporary co-authored with Audrey Coulthurst. Starworld is about two very different high school girls with painful home lives who fall into an intense text-message-based friendship built around an imaginary world, only to have that safe place compromised as their real lives unravel and one falls in love with the other.
7. What is the best compliment, or the one that meant the most to you that you’ve received about your work?
I have been deeply moved by so many comments and reviews—I don’t know where to start. I will say that some of the most touching and meaningful compliments have come from people I don’t even know. It is an amazing privilege and honor to touch readers I may never talk to or meet.
Phantom Limbs is out tomorrow! You can order your copy at the following retailers:
Paula Garner spends most of her time making narratives, despite being surrounded by an alarming TBR pile and a very bad cat. Her debut YA novel, Phantom Limbs, comes out from Candlewick in 2016. Paula is represented by Molly Jaffa of Folio Lit, and lives in the Chicago area with her family.