Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fun MiddleGrade Angel Book + Author Interview with with SR Johannes

So it’s January 31st today. What’s special about today, you might be wondering. Why mention the date and all when this blogger from Fragments of Life posts on any day of the week? Well, today is different because it’s the publication date of On the Bright Side by SR Johannes, the amazing author of Untraceable (published last year.)

Today, I have her here at Fragments of Life for a short interview. I love angels. I really do. I’ve only ever encountered one middlegrade angel book before – Angel Creek by Sally Rippin. But this novel of Johannes is different. Different how? Read the interview and you’ll see. :)

First of all, where did you get the inspiration for On the Bright Side?

I have an obsession with death. With all the dark books out there, I wanted to write a funny book about death. I thought it would be cute to have a disgruntled angel covering someone she hated when she was alive. It made for good conflict.

So...heaven is not what Gabby thought it would be. Can you describe it to us?

I wanted kids to be able to read this book without worrying about the religious aspect of Heaven and God so it is very different than any religion portrays it. I didn’t want the stereotypical heaven of clouds and rainbows.

I want kids to step away from anything they have heard or thought and allow themselves to explore a new world. So I created a technologically advanced Afterlife with cities that were extremely eco-friendly. Everything is state of the art. I wanted kids to think Cirrus was fun and whimsy yet hip and modern.

Writing from a teen's point of view is not as difficult as writing from a tween's point of view. Is this true? Have you experienced his difficulty? How did you do it?

I have a harder time writing tween. Mainly because I am too snarky and I think most characters are sweeter and more innocent. They are not smarty-pants. So nailing the voice is hard. I also wanted to hit the sweet spot of 13/14. That time when kids struggle between being a kid and wanting to be grown up.

Can you tell us about Gabby's voice and personality?
She is not very confortable in her own skin but you would never know because she does stand up for herself. She’s the person who would cry behind close doors. She’s snarky and tells it like it is. She’s definitely kinda grumpy and moody. I adore her relationship with Jessica. I think they are funny together. Kinda yin and yang.

What are the things related to 'guardian angel life/culture' that you maintained in your novel?

I kinda made up everything. I made up why they train, how they train, how they protect, where they go when they don’t protect. That they have to learn to protect. So I would say it’s all new and different.

Which part did you like writing the most: beginning, middle or end? Why?

I love the beginning because I think it sets the stage perfectly – a disgruntled angel counting all the rules that have been broken at a funeral. But I also love the end when GabbyAND Angela redeem themselves in their own way.

About On the Bright Side:

On the Bright Side is a hilarious road to guardian angeldom paved with so much drama and due-paying that it makes middle school look painless.

As if the devil’s food cake at her wake and the white fat pants she’s stuck wearing for eternity weren’t bad enough, fourteen year-old Gabby is quick to discover that Cirrus, the main rung of Heaven, is a far cry from the Pearly Gates. Here, Skyphones and InnerNets are all the rage. Until Gabby finds out she has to protect Angela, her school nemesis, in order to move up through the training levels of heaven. Problem is, Angela is now hitting on Gabby's should-have-been boyfriend. (awkward!)

Instead of protecting Angela, Gabby pranks her (like tripping is a sin?) at the hopes of cooling off the new couple. At first, they seem harmless until the school dance sabotage gets completely out of control. Then, her Celestial Sky Agent, who happens to have anger management issues of his own, puts Gabby on probation, threatening her eternal future. 

Determined to right her wrongs, Gabby steals an ancient artifact that allows her to return to Earth for just one day. Without knowing, she kicks off a series of events and learns what can happen when you hate someone to death. 

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