Description from Amazon: Five month's ago, Valerie Leftman's boyfriend, Nick, opened fire on their school cafeteria. Shot trying to stop him, Valerie inadvertently saved the life of a classmate, but was implicated in the shootings because of the list she helped create. A list of people and things she and Nick hated. The list he used to pick his targets.
Now, after a summer of seclusion, Val is forced to confront her guilt as she returns to school to complete her senior year. Haunted by the memory of the boyfriend she still loves and navigating rocky relationships with her family, former friends and the girl whose life she saved, Val must come to grips with the tragedy that took place and her role in it, in order to make amends and move on with her life.
1. The premise of HATE LIST is about the after-effects of a school shooting, and your main character's role in it. What is your protagonist dealing with?
Oh, boy, Valerie is dealing with an awful lot. She's been physically wounded...and somehow that manages to be the least of her troubles. She has lingering feelings of love for her boyfriend, Nick, and the grief over him being gone. But there are also feelings that he betrayed her...that she never really knew him at all...and a feeling of horror over what he did. In addition to those things, Val's dealing with repairing her life, which includes dealing with her family's problems, taking a deep look inside herself, and (most importantly...and also perhaps the most difficult) taking a deep look at the reality of the people surrounding her.
2. Was this a difficult novel to write, because of the subject? Did it take you a long time to write?
It's a difficult subject, yes, and it did tend to take a lot out of me to broach such a terrifying and sad topic. It not only necessitated me imagining what it would be like to be involved in something so horrific as a school shooting, but it also meant I had to sort of re-live some difficult times of my own past to tap into Val's feelings. Also, writing this was a little frightening, because it forced me to face, ever day, the fact of what my children's realities are (school isn't necessarily the safe place it used to be, and that's really scary to me as a mom).
Fortunately, I write a weekly humor column and blog, which helped keep me somewhat balanced out. At least two days a week, I had to switch gears and focus on lighter subjects instead.
Hate List took me about five months or so to write, and that was with me not working on it full time. I was also, at the time, writing regularly for a couple websites, and I had my column to work on...and there was also a little "slump time" when I let Hate List bubble in my brain for a while when I got stuck.
3. What inspired you to write this novel?
A lot of things came together to inspire this novel, but I give most the credit to Nickelback's song "If Everyone Cared," which got stuck in my head one night while I was sleeping. I normally hate it when this happens, but this time I woke up with the idea for Hate List, so it worked out okay for me.
4. What are you working on now?
I'm working on a new YA novel...have just ironed out the details and will be making official announcements soon!
5. Any favorite characters? Why that character?
Dr. Hieler is definitely near and dear to my heart, because he is modeled after my amazing husband. But I also just truly love Val. She's real and she's strong and she's vulnerable and I have great hope for her future.
And...as weird as this sounds...I fell for Nick right along with Val. He wasn't all evil. He was hurt and messed up and definitely had an evil side to him -- but he also had the capacity to love deeply...and I think I kind of felt sorry for him.
6. Do you think your cover represents your novel well?
I love my cover! Yes, I think it's a perfect fit for Hate List...and there's no mistaking it --you see that cover and there's only one book out there that it could be. What I love most about my cover is that it's clear that the book is going to be "darker." Because I also write humor, I was somewhat afraid people would pick up Hate List expecting something funny. But there's no way you'd pick up a book with this cover and think "comedy." So, yeah. I'm totally happy with it.
7. Anything else you'd like to share?
I'd just like to say thanks to you, Lea, for having me on your blog, and also to the great YA book blogging community for keeping reading alive!
Thanks so much for the interview Jennifer, I'll definitely be picking up Hate List when it hits the shelves on September 1st!