Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Interview With Hannah Harrington Author Of "Saving June"

Yesterday we featured a review of Saving June, the first novel from Hannah Harrington.  Today we’re very thrilled to present an interview with the brilliant Hannah herself as she talks about her book and other topics of interest ...

Congratulations on your smashing debut!  Saving June is one of the best sursprises of the year.  What was the genesis of it?

Thank you so much!  I first had the idea for Saving June while I was in high school.  When I was seventeen, I’d lost a relative of mine to suicide and the “splitting the ashes” thing was something that actually happened.  The summer after I graduated, I was living out of my car and working as a pizza cook.  The radio would always be on in the kitchen, so I was spending a lot of time listening to music and kicking the idea around in my head.  A few years later I found some of the bits and pieces I’d written back then, and decided to sit down and write out a full first draft.  So some of it comes from my personal experiences, and of course some of it is inspired by music I love.  It all ended up tying together!

I have to be honest, I was kind of nervous about reading it because obviously suicide is a hard topic and I assumed it would get very depressing.  Instead the story unfolded so differently from what I expected and I found myself laughing aloud many times.  Was it your intention to avoid getting too dark or did the humor just evolve on its own?

Part of it just evolved from having two characters, Harper and Jake, who both resort to sarcasm pretty regularly, but I definitely did want to keep it balanced so it wasn’t an endless angst fest from start to finish.  I felt like having moments of lightness helped the parts where Harper is more actively confronting her own grief have more impact.  And since Harper’s journey is about gaining a greater appreciation for life, I wanted her to have times where she was able to enjoy herself and her experiences rather than being weighed down too much by what she was going through.

Saving June is very heavy on the music which being a music junkie myself, I appreciated.  You even included a soundtrack at the end of the book.  (Very cool by the way.)  So which came first – the story or the music?

Both, sort of?  I knew as soon as I had the idea that the mix CD June was listening to was going to play a part.  I think when I was shaping Jake’s character I made the decision to have music be the bigger focus.  It was a great hook for his character and also really easy to carry through the story. 

One scene in particular, which references an Eric Clapton song, was very touching and it’s one of my favorite scenes.  Were there moments when you found the song directing the course of the scene?

Actually, the specific mention of “Tears In Heaven” in that scene was only written pretty late into the editing process; I just went back and thought it worked to include it there, since I knew the origins of the song and it seemed relevant to what Jake was saying.  I don’t think there were any scenes I wrote intentionally to shoehorn in a song or band or music history anecdote – most of it just came from what I felt was naturally fitting as I was writing the scene.

All three of your main characters, Harper, Laney and Jake are wonderful and equally impressive.  What was it like creating their various dynamics?

They’re all very strong personalities, but in thinking them up, a lot of it was about how they played off Harper, since it’s her story.  Laney being very vivacious and impulsive helped me bring a lot of light into all of Harper’s darkness.  It was important to me to have their friendship be very reciprocal in support, even though a lot of it is Laney putting Harper first since she’s the only one not so wrapped up in her own grief and problems.  With Jake, I liked the idea of him and Harper having a somewhat antagonistic dynamic that allowed them to challenge each other.  He’s the one who doesn’t hold back from pushing her in ways she needs to be pushed, and Harper pushes right back.  As far as Laney and Jake – I definitely wanted to avoid any love triangle shenanigans, so I think as Laney picked up on the vibe between Harper and Jake, she was never going to go there; and with Jake, him butting heads with Laney a bit but eventually coming to care for her too was nice, because it really was the gesture he makes toward her that ultimately wins Harper over.  And in turn underlined how much Laney matters to Harper.

I LOVE Jake.  He’s like VH1’s “Behind The Music”.  I think he may have his own fan club after this.  Do you think he can throw a mix CD together for me?

I love when people love Jake!  It’s always fun to write the snarkier, more blunt characters.  I’m sure Jake would make anyone who asked a whole stack of mix CDs.

That song Jake writes for Harper is, as my fellow BiblioJunkie Nat accurately put it, “achingly beautiful”.  Will there ever be a recorded version of it that we can hear?

I don’t have any plans to do it myself, but I’d be thrilled if someone wanted to try and arrange it!  Plus, trust me, you do not want to hear any of my attempts at singing.

Aside from Saving June have you written other songs?

I haven’t!  I can play a bit of guitar, but I’ve only done cover songs, nothing original.  And like I said, I really cannot sing.  I was a little apprehensive about writing a song in the book, since I’m not a poet, and songwriting seems similar to poetry to me.  I’m glad people thought it worked well!

What are you currently working on?

Right now I’m preparing for my second book, SPEECHLESS, which will be released September 2012.  It’s the story of Chelsea Knot, a girl who takes a vow of silence after her gossip mongering has unexpected consequences.

I have to ask this question because here at BiblioJunkies we like to regress every so often, so here goes: which fictional character would you like to go on a date with?

Troy Barnes from the TV show Community!  He’s adorable, and I have a ridiculous crush on Donald Glover.

You’re at a restaurant and decide to order in reverse – dessert first.  What would that delicious treat be?

I could give you like ten different answers for this since I have such a sweet tooth, it’s ridiculous.  But right now, I think I’d have to go for a slice of yellow butter cake with chocolate frosting and a glass of milk.

So what’s your top 5 on your iPod right now?

“Someone Like You” – Adele
“Little Lion Man” – Mumford & Sons
“Maybe This Time” – Liza Minelli
“Worn Me Down” – Rachael Yamagata
“Love You ‘Til The End” – The Pogues

Finally, can I raid your music collection…please?

Any time you want, as long as I can raid yours!  I love sharing my music and hearing about other people’s tastes.  It’s the best way to discover new artists!

Thank you Hannah for taking the time to answer our questions   even the silly ones!  And we look forward to more exciting things from you! 

And thank you to everyone who stopped by!  Follow Hannah on Twitter @hhharrington_

Saving June will be available November 22.  Read it!

~ Bel

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