Author Interview with... Jennifer Castle!

8:00 AM

Jennifer Castle's debut novel, The Beginning of After, was released just last week.. and if you haven't had a chance to pick up a copy yet, I sure hope you do soon! The Beginning of After is a heartfelt contemporary novel that touches on grief, healing and love, all wrapped within a beautiful cover that catches your attention right away. I was able to recently ask the author a few questions...

Anyone who’s had something truly crappy happen to them will tell you: It’s all about Before and After. What I’m talking about here is the ka-pow, shake-you-to-your-core-and-turn-your-bones-to-plastic kind of crappy.

Sixteen-year-old Laurel’s world changes instantly when her parents and brother are killed in a terrible car accident. Behind the wheel is the father of her bad-boy neighbor, David Kaufman, whose mother is also killed. In the aftermath of the tragedy, Laurel navigates a new reality in which she and her best friend grow apart, boys may or may not be approaching her out of pity, overpowering memories lurk everywhere, and Mr. Kaufman is comatose but still very much alive. Through it all there is David, who swoops in and out of Laurel’s life and to whom she finds herself attracted against her better judgment. She will forever be connected to him by their mutual loss—a connection that will change them both in unexpected ways.

Jennifer Castle’s debut novel is a heart-wrenching, surprisingly witty testament to how drastically life can change in the span of a single moment. 
1) Who was your favourite character to write about?

Well, I won't count Laurel because she became such a part of me, she doesn't even feel like a character anymore...more like an old friend. But of the "secondary" characters in the book, all of whom were fun to write, I'll have to say David and Meg (Laurel's best friend) are closest to my heart, and for different reasons. Writing David was like spending time with a crush; I just loved any chance I got to be with him. He was a mystery even to me at first, and it was just really cool to understand him more and more as the story evolved. I think I enjoyed writing Meg mostly because of all the snappy things she says and the way she and Laurel interacted with each other.

2) Was there a deleted scene from the novel that you wish had made it into the final version?

There's actually a whole sequence -- maybe 30 pages -- that got cut. Originally, I had Nana take Laurel to Hawaii after the prom to get away from everything for a little while. Laurel meets a friend of Nana's named Delia who's convinced that Laurel was "saved for a reason" and puts a lot of pressure on her to find that reason. My editor had me cut that and replace it with Laurel finding the job at the vet's office. Although the Hawaii stuff did take the story on an unnecessary detour that drained the tension, I loved the writing I did for those scenes, and they showed Laurel that there was still beauty in the world. Delia was an interesting character that gave Laurel a different way to look at her future. But they say in writing, "Kill your darlings," and the book is better without all of that. If Laurel can't go to Hawaii, maybe I'll have to instead!

3) It was love at first sight when I first saw the cover for The Beginning of After! What was your own initial reaction after seeing the gorgeous cover?

You know, I'll be honest and tell you it was not quite love at first sight for me! That's mostly because I was imagining something different -- maybe something illustrated and more concept-y. My initial thought was something like, "Oh. It's so simple. Beautiful, yes. But is it interesting enough? Is it special?" Plus it's very weird to have someone basically say, "Here's a picture of your character!" But after a few hours I'd gone back to look at the image about 100 times, and I realized there was a reason why. It just tugs at you, and it can mean so many things at once. The simplicity is one of its strengths...just like in writing, there is great power in simplicity. So by then I did love it. Is that love at Hundredth Sight? Recently I got a comment on my Facebook author page from the actual girl in the picture (she's a model in Poland) and that was really cool. 

4) How did you research some of the coping mechanisms to help Laurel and David come to terms with their loss?

I did a lot of reading about how teens grieve, and also about "survivor guilt." I read a few memoirs by young people who have experienced tragedy on this scale. I picked the brain of a therapist friend who works with people overcoming trauma. I didn't go crazy -- I think there's such a thing as too much research. Beyond that, I just made sure I knew my characters as well as I could, and that I knew how to be true to them in the different ways they cope. When a reader who has dealt with grief as a teen tells me they love the book, that I got it just right, it truly means the world to me. 

5) Are there any particular songs which you could find on a playlist for The Beginning of After?

Oh yeah, I have a long playlist after all the years I spent working on this book! Here are some of my favorites:

"World Spins Madly On" by the Weepies (in my mind, this is the music for the book trailer...even though we never made one!)
"Cosmic Love" by Florence + The Machine
"Such Great Heights" by Iron and Wine
"Darklands" by The Jesus and Mary Chain
"Soul Meets Body" by Death Cab for Cutie
"The Ghost In You" by The Psychedelic Furs
"The Scientist" by Coldplay
"Hometown Glory" by Adele
"Everything To Me" by Liz Phair

6) Can you tell us about the next novel you're currently writing?

It's another contemporary YA but very different from "The Beginning of After" -- totally different tone and main character, and NOBODY DIES! The story focuses on five teens who are the subjects of a documentary film series that peeks in on their lives every five years. If you've ever seen the "Up" film series by Michael Apted, think about that crossed with "The Breakfast Club." I guess I just love stories where people are connected by unique circumstances.


Thanks so much for taking some time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions, Jennifer! You can learn more about Jennifer Castle and The Beginning of After on her website, follow her on Twitter, or "like" her Facebook page.

And if you missed it before, you can read my glowing review of The Beginning of After here!

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