Jessica Lee Anderson is the author of Border Crossing, a Young Adult book with a male protagonist.
Please visit Jessica’s website at http://www.jessicaleeanderson.com.
1. Border Crossing has a very interesting and unique premise and plot. Please tell us a little about the story.
JLA: My main character, Manz, is on the border physically and mentally. Life is tough for him and everyone he knows—his mother who drinks too much, her truck-driving boyfriend, and his best friend who deals with an abusive father. Manz wants to find a way out of Rockhill, Texas to escape the heat, the oppression, and his increasing paranoia.
Manz takes a job at a ranch to earn some cash, and he meets Vanessa there. While he’s drawn to her, he’s unsure about starting a relationship because of his suspicions. Manz isn’t sure who he can trust, especially when he learns about “Operation Wetback”—a government relocation program from the 1950’s. While he finds comfort in the voices he hears, his life is spinning out of control and he must discover what is real and what isn’t.
2. The main character in your novel has schizophrenia. One of the reasons that I wanted to talk to you about your novel is because I found that unsettling. I can only imagine what a challenge it must have been for you to write this novel. What inspired you to do so?
JLA: I was shocked when I learned about Operation Wetback while studying history in college. How had I not learned about this before? Besides anger, the knowledge of this event made me feel insecure and vulnerable even though I’m Anglo. I thought about it for three years before Manz’s voice and paranoia began to develop. It was a challenge to write this novel, especially since I wanted to tell it through the first person point of view. Writing this novel was emotionally taxing at times and took several years to write.
3. Border Crossing was released in 2009. Was it your first published novel?
JLA: My first published novel is Trudy. Trudy’s parents are old. Really old. Besides dealing with this, Trudy also struggles with math and changing friendships. When her father begins to repeat himself, forget things (including her), and is generally confused, Trudy knows her life will be forever changed. She must find the strength to accept things and be there for her family.
4. With a story like this, inspiration alone isn’t enough to tell it. Did you have to do a lot of research to be able to tackle the historic and mental health aspects of the novel?
JLA: Part of the reason this novel took so long to write was because of the amount of research involved (reading, interviewing, visiting), plus I revised the manuscript at least a dozen time to make it as accurate as possible.
5. Did you give any thought to the prospective audience for this novel when you were writing or editing it? Did you intend for this to be a book for boys? I would think it could be enjoyed by either sex.
JLA: When I was writing the story, I wanted to target reluctant teen readers, especially boys, though I hoped it could be enjoyed by either sex or by adults too.
6. What about this book do you think boys in particular might enjoy?
JLA: I’ve gotten some feedback from a few male readers that the tension and quick pacing kept their interest.
7. What age group do you think would enjoy Border Crossing?
JLA: Ages 12 and up.
8. If you had to describe it by comparing it to other books, which would you choose and why?
JLA: I’d say elements of Terry Trueman’s Inside Out and Libba Bray’s Going Bovine.
9. Are you working on another novel? Do you plan to write any other books with male protagonists?
JLA: Calli will be released by Milkweed Editions in 2011, and the protagonist is female like my first novel. I would love to write a future novel with a male protagonist though.
10. Who inspires you as an author?
JLA: Other authors! I’m a voracious reader, and each story I read challenges me to continue growing as a writer. My writing buddies, P.J. Hoover and Jo Whittemore, also keep me inspired by offering their wisdom and support. (The three of us are in a group together called The Texas Sweethearts.)
11. Can you think of any novels by other authors that you would recommend to boys?
JLA: I often suggest novels by Terry Trueman and Pete Hautman to reluctant male readers.
12. I like to keep these interviews focused on the novels since this blog is about literature for boys and encouraging boys to read. However, I do like to talk a little about the author, as well. You’re educational background suggests that you always knew you wanted to be a writer. Is that the case? Did you ever consider doing anything else?
JLA: I’ve always loved to write even though I sometimes bombed a few school writing assignments. I didn’t let that stop me though, and continued making up tales, learning, and dreaming big. I’d thought about becoming a nurse if I didn’t become a writer or teacher (until I had to dissect a pig in high school).
Thanks for letting me stop by!