Title: SPEED OF LIFE
Author: J.M. Kelly
Pub. Date: October 11, 2016
Publisher: HMH Books for Young Readers
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Twins Crystal and Amber have the same goal: to be the first in their family to graduate high school and make something of their lives. When one gets pregnant during their junior year, they promise to raise the baby together. It’s not easy, but between their after-school jobs, they’re scraping by.
Crystal’s grades catch the attention of the new guidance counselor, who tells her about a college that offers a degree in automotive restoration, perfect for the car buff she is. When she secretly applies—and gets in—new opportunities threaten their once-certain plans, and Crystal must make a choice: follow her dreams or stay behind and honor the promise she made to her sister.
First off, I want to thank J.M. for coming to my blog for this fine occasion.
Oh, please, call me Joëlle! Thanks for having me.
1. I’ve always been intrigued by books that feature twins. There’s a special bond that twins have compared to siblings of any other nature. What was it like writing twins?
I always wanted to be a twin, but it didn't work out that way so I planned to have twins of my own (turns out they're fictional). We have about ten sets of twins in my extended family on my mother's side and my great aunts were triplets! They were so little when they were born, they were each kept in a shoebox. This was nearly ninety years ago and I don't think anyone thought they'd live, but two of them are still alive. I feel like in Speed of Life, the promises Crystal and Amber make to each other are strengthened by them being twins instead of just sisters. It added that extra bit of loyalty that the story needed to really have a backbone. It was great fun to imagine how they were alike (besides looks) and how they were each their own person. I had a friend in high school who was a twin and he said to me once, "It's like we're two individuals, but we're the same person, too." That always stuck with me and I think I even have it somewhere in the book.
2. Some people turn to contemporary books for a smack in the face or just a calm relax read. When you read a contemporary book, what do you look for?
I'm a big fan of contemporary books, but not so much the really dark ones. I look for the same thing I look for in every book I read, regardless of genre. I want a really good story. And I love family and school stories, and especially books that are what so many people call quiet, but I prefer to think of as powerful. One of my favorites is Aimee Friedman's THE YEAR MY SISTER GOT LUCKY. And of course, Jandy Nelson is my writing hero. But I grew up on Judy Blume and Norma Klein too and they always told smaller stories, but with huge impacts.
3. I always ask authors about how music has either impacted their book or if a song could describe someone in the story. So, if you could pick a song to describe one of the twins, or both, what would it be?
It's funny, but almost everything else I've written is full of music. I'm married to the singer/songwriter Victor Anthony, and there's live music in my house nearly every day. But in Speed of Life, I intentionally left music out for the most part. I wanted to get away from writing what I know! One thing that I did include was a bit about the Golden Oldies—songs from the 1950s and 1960s—because those are the songs they always blast over the loudspeaker at car shows. Those songs remind me of Crystal the most. If I had to pick one, I'd say Rock Around the Clock performed by Bill Haley and the Comets – Natalie keeps them up all around the clock!
4. How much of this story was inspired by either personal experiences or knowing people who had experienced what happens in the story?
Not much! Often I pick bits and pieces from stories I've overheard, read about, or even know firsthand and then twist them until they're unrecognizable and become my own, but with this book it was really important to me to write a novel that wasn't so personal. I think if you stick to writing what you know, you end up writing the same book over and over again and I wanted to challenge myself with this one. I did come from a family of old-car lovers and I myself have an affinity for the gloss and chrome of cars from the fifties, but the idea of twins raising a baby was completely made up. And I don't even have kids, so I had to do a lot of research! I think what I'm most proud of about this book is that it's not based on personal experiences or people I know who went through similar things.
Thanks for having me! These were great questions.
J. M. Kelly (aka Joëlle Anthony)
About the Author
Joëlle Anthony is a writer and sometimes-actress who currently lives on a tiny island in British Columbia with her musician husband, Victor Anthony, and cat, Marley. Her debut novel, Restoring Harmony, was long listed for the American Library Association’s Best New Young Adult Fiction 2010, and chosen as the Feature Title for Cincinnati’s Teen on the Same Page Festival 2012. Her latest release, The Right & the Real also made ALA’s Best YA Fiction list (2012), both from Putnam. She enjoys teaches writing workshops to writers of all ages. Visit her on the web at www.joelleanthony.com Follow her on Twitter @joellewrites
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