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2012 YA Debut Interview: THE CATASTROPHIC HISTORY OF YOU AND ME by Jess Rothenberg (+Giveaway!)

It’s Week 2 of my 2012 YA Debut Interview series! My favorite part about a new year (besides building a wobbly tower of unrealistic expectations for how much I’ll write in the coming year, yay!) is the thought of all the new voices I’ll get to discover. There’s a whole crop of debut YA novelists coming out with books in 2012, and I can’t wait to read them! So, to share my excitement with you, I’m doing a new series of short interviews on this blog.

From December 5 through December 16, I’m featuring ten Winter/Spring 2012 debut authors who wrote books I want to read! Look for giveaways accompanying these interviews—as well as a chance to win a pre-order of your choice at the end of the series. Last week I featured five debuts… and this week I’m featuring five more.

Read on to see how Jess Rothenberg answered my questions about writing The Catastrophic History of You and Me and more (and if you comment on this post, you could win a signed ARC and a poster!)…

2012 YA Debut Interview:

Jess Rothenberg, author of The Catastrophic History of You and Me (Dial/Penguin, forthcoming February 21, 2012)

I’ll start with the dreaded question you may be hearing already from strangers on elevators, long-lost family members, and your doctor while you’re sitting on the examination table in the paper gown during your next checkup: “So what’s your book about?”

The Catastrophic History of You and Me is about a fifteen-year-old girl who literally dies of a broken heart and must pass through the five stages of grief before she can move on to the afterlife and, ultimately, restore her faith in love.

The story is sort of this big mix of light and dark, funny and sad—all about first love, first loss, and learning that sometimes a broken heart isn’t the end of the road… it’s just the beginning.🙂

In my experience, every book wants to be written differently—and each one behaves differently from the one before it. Some novels like it out of order, and some rigidly insist on being written from start to finish. Some novels come out fast; others are excruciatingly slow. Some novels torment you, and some sing you to sleep. What did your novel want? Was there ever a moment when it misbehaved?

My novel wanted a lot of things. First, it wanted to be written really, really fast. Then it wanted to slam on the brakes and torture me a while. Then it threw a tantrum and forced me to rewrite it almost entirely, again. Then it wanted a meatball sandwich, even though it had previously claimed to be a vegetarian. Very demanding, this book.

What is the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?

Oh, the dreaded internets!

Tell us about the place—as in the physical location: a messy office, a comfy couch, a certain corner table at the café—where you spent most of your time writing this book.

I wrote a good deal of Catastrophic History curled up in front of the fireplace in my parents’ home in Charleston, South Carolina. The crackling heat against my back was this great mix of cozy and calming, and really helped me focus. Plus, I got a tan in the middle of winter, so that was an added bonus!

What was the moment when the upcoming publication of your novel felt “real” for the first time—when you got your editorial letter, when you saw the cover, when you held the ARC in your hands… or something else? Or if it doesn’t feel “real” yet, when do you think it will?

Definitely when I held the ARC in my hands for the first time. The whole experience was sort of magical: it was the last day of my family’s beach vacation, and I’d been waiting since breakfast for the book to arrive. All day long, whenever I’d hear a car passing, I’d tear back to the house, desperate to see the truck. But by sunset, it still hadn’t come, and I started to worry since we were leaving the next morning. I called the local post office in a last attempt to track the package down, and what followed was basically a sappy UPS commercial. The lady was like, “He’s pulling up RIGHT now!!” and when I spun around, there was the truck bouncing toward me down the sandy road. I basically attack-hugged the delivery guy while my family clapped and cheered and took pictures (I know, I know). Then I discovered my editor had wrapped the ARC with a beautiful, sparkly red ribbon, which made the whole thing even more special. I didn’t stop smiling all night. It was a pretty great moment.

Dream question: If you could go on book tour anywhere in the world, with any two authors (living or dead), and serve any item of food at your book signing… where would you go, who with, and what delicious treat would you serve your fans?

Oooh, tough one! I’d probably pick a coastal town somewhere in rural Ireland, one of my most-favorite-ever places, with Roald Dahl and Maurice Sendak, two of my most-favorite-ever authors! Even if only a couple of sheep showed up to the book signing, it would still be awesome. Plus, after reading the recent, rather hilarious interview with Mr. Sendak in The Guardian, I have a hunch that sharing a couple of pints with those two after the signing would be pretty entertaining.

(And p.s., I’d serve endless amounts of pizza, like my Catastrophic characters get to eat in their version of the afterlife, a pizza parlor called Little Slice of Heaven.)

How do you plan to celebrate your book’s birthday on February 21?

Haha, probably by visiting a bunch of NYC bookstores and weeping with joy at the sight of my book on actual shelves! Also, by throwing a REALLY fun release party with lots of friends, lots of champagne, and lots of dancing! Details to come, everyone’s invited!

Jess Rothenberg grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, graduated from Vassar College, and spent most of her twenties editing books for teens and middle grade readers (like the bestselling titles Vampire Academy, Strange Angels, and I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil & I Want to be Your Class President, to name just a few). She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she now writes full-time, dances interpretively, and dreams of one day owning a sheepdog named Leo.

Visit her at to find out more!

Read Jess’s blog at

Follow @JessRothenberg on Twitter.

Do you want a chance to win The Catastrophic History of You and Me by Jess Rothenberg? Jess is giving away a signed ARC and a poster to ONE LUCKY COMMENTER on this post. Just comment below and you’re entered to win.

(If you tweet about this giveaway you get +1 extra entry… just let me know you did.)

RULES: One winner will be chosen randomly. The giveaway to win a signed ARC and poster of The Catastrophic History of You and Me ends Monday, December 19 at 5:00 p.m. EST. To win this giveaway, you must have a US mailing address. Be sure to include your email in the comment form (it is private and only I will see it), so I know how to reach you if you win.

And stay tuned for the end of the 2012 Debut Interview Series—for a chance to win the pre-order of your choice out of all ten featured authors!

What is the next Winter/Spring 2012 debut novel I’m looking forward to? Come back tomorrow to find out.

59 thoughts on “2012 YA Debut Interview: THE CATASTROPHIC HISTORY OF YOU AND ME by Jess Rothenberg (+Giveaway!)

  1. I love your Debut Author series. It’s fun and informative. Now I have even more books to add to my to read list! Thanks!

    – Nicole

  2. As usual, Nova, I’m a big fan of your blog & the new series you’ve thought to share with us this month. I’ve just bookmarked this particular entry so I remember to find this book in February (unless, you know, you just happen to give it to me prior to February ;]). It sounds marvelous.

    Always reading (if not commenting),

  3. I love the string of afterlife books that’s been coming out/is coming out- they sound like they should all be lumped together but each one takes such a different view on it, I love it. Congrats!
    requiemofrain (at) hotmail (dot) com
    (oh, and I tweeted- @dothutchison)

  4. Roald Dahl!!!! Oh my, I do love him. :] Have you read his short stories? Everyone knows him for his kid books, but his short stories are equally fantastic. Maybe even better then the kid books. Haha, the ARC story is really hilarious.

    Thanks for the giveaway and guest post!

  5. I would so buy this for the cover. Gah. And dying of a broken heart? That sounds like an amazing concept to work with. Excited to see this on shelves.

  6. I’ve heard great things about this book! And I love your questions, Nova!
    I tweeted about the contest too!

  7. I love your sense of fun and excitement! I find that authors with that kind of enthusiasm always throw together the best books! I look forward to reading this in 2012!


  8. Ahh! I seriously love the cover!
    Sounds like a really demanding book. But I’m sure any vegetarian novel that craves meatball would be. Poor Jess.

  9. I’m so so so EXCITED to read this! “The Catastrophic History of You & Me” sounds amazing, funny, heartbreaking, lovely! It’s one of my top anticipated books of the year🙂

    PS – I retweeted this post!!❤

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