2012 YA Debut Interview + Giveaway: SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL by Trish Doller

Time for more in the Summer 2012 YA Debut Interview Series, featuring debut YA authors who’ve written books I am absolutely dying to read! I’ve chosen eleven (yes, 11 this time!) debuts to feature, and I hope by the end of this series you’ll be as excited about these books as I am.

Today’s Summer 2012 YA Debut is Something Like Normal by Trish DollerRead on to see how this author answered the Q&A… And be sure to enter to win a pre-order of Something Like Normal (giveaway open internationally)!

Nova Ren Suma: 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?” (Feel free to use the jacket copy, or describe in your own words. Up to you.)

Trish Doller: From the flap copy:

I just came home from Afghanistan.

My parents are splitting up.

My brother has stolen my girlfriend.

(He also stole my car.)

And I’m haunted by the ghost of my best friend.

Then I run into Harper.

(Technically, her fist runs into my face.)

She’s beautiful, smart, funny…

…and she wants nothing to do with

the messed-up Marine who ruined her life.

Sometimes the best you can hope for is something like normal.

Sometimes what you get might be even better.

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? How did you appease it? Did it ever misbehave?

When I first started writing this book, I thought it belonged to a girl whose reputation had never recovered from being labeled a “slut” in middle school. Travis was meant to be the golden boy who trashed her reputation, now home from Afghanistan, broken both in body and spirit. Except when I tuned into what he had to say about his character, I discovered that his voice was loud and clear and demanding to be heard. When I made him the main character, he took up residence in my head and guided me to a very different story. While I’ve never been a fast writer, the story came out much quicker than I expected.

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. Now imagine the writing spot of your fantasies where you wish you’d been able to write this book… tell us all about it. 

I wrote Something Like Normal on my living room couch. Not a very romantic or writerly location, but I do have a very comfortable couch and I find that public places are much too distracting for me.

The writing studio of my dreams—and one I’m really hoping to make a reality one day—is a VW Westie/Vanagon that I can drive wherever the mood strikes, yet still maintain some semblance of privacy. And with a built-in fridge, I can bring my own snacks.

Imagine you’re on the subway, or the bus, or sitting in a park somewhere minding your own business… and you look up and see the most perfect person you could picture devouring your book. This is your ideal reader. Set the scene and describe him or her (or them?) for us.

Actually, I kind of imagine a guy dressed in camouflage, maybe sitting on the ground, back propped against the wall. Maybe he’s deployed to somewhere hot and dusty. Maybe not. Either way, he’s reading, with an occasional smile, or laugh, or nod of the head when he gets to something he’s done, or said, or felt. That’s not to say I don’t want girls to read the book. I definitely, totally, and absolutely do. In fact, I want them to fall wildly in love with Travis. But for a guy in the military to love the book, too? That would be the best compliment.

Publishing a novel is full of high points, low points, absolutely surreal points, and shocking points you never thought you’d see in your lifetime. Tell us a high point, a low point, a surreal point, and something shocking or at least somewhat surprising about your experience so far.

The low point for me actually came before Something Like Normal was conceived—when the first book I sold was canceled by my publisher and failed to sell on our second attempt at getting it published. While we were still out on submission with that first book, I started working on Travis’s story, which actually leads to the high point. My first book was inspired by another writer’s style and I secretly hoped that perhaps I’d become the next her. But with Something Like Normal, I discovered my authentic voice, my own style. And I realized that instead of wanting to be the next her, I’d much rather be the first me. The high and the low combined gave me what I think is a much stronger debut in Something Like Normal—and takes most of the sting out of that first deal gone bad.

There have been a lot of surreal moments—like opening the box of ARCs or seeing readers tweet that they can’t wait to read my book—but the most surreal was when I entered the ISBN in the computer at work (my day job is at B&N) and Something Like Normal was there.

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?

Jack Kerouac, John Steinbeck, and I would pile into Steinbeck’s Rocinante and hit the U.S. highways, especially the small, old ones like Route 20 and Route 66. We’d stop at greasy spoons. We’d drink a lot. Kerouac would say stuff I wouldn’t always understand, but I’d laugh anyway. And when we signed, we’d serve pie—pumpkin, pecan, apple, banana cream, and lemon merengue.


If you had to pick one sentence, and one sentence only, to entice someone to read your book, what would it be? (I almost hate myself for asking you this question and making you choose! Almost.)

I’m not sure how enticing it is, but this line is my favorite (and never fails to make me laugh):

My mom—the only parent on the planet to try and talk her kid into doing drugs to keep him out of the Marines.

Something Like Normal will be published by Bloomsbury on June 19, 2012. Read on for a chance to win a pre-order!

Trish Doller: I’ve been a writer as long as I’ve been able to write, but I didn’t make a conscious decision to “be” a writer until fairly recently. For that you should probably be thankful.

I was born in Germany, grew up in Ohio, went to college at Ohio State University, got married to someone really great, bounced from Maine to Michigan and back to Ohio for a while. Now I live in Florida with my two mostly grown kids, two dogs, and a pirate. For real.

I’ve worked as a morning radio personality, a newspaper reporter, and spent all my summers in college working at an amusement park. There I gained valuable life skills, including counting money really fast, directing traffic, jumping off a moving train, and making cheese-on-a-stick. Also, I can still welcome you to Frontier Town. Ask me sometime.

These days I work as a bookseller at a Very Big Bookstore. And I write.

Visit her at www.trishdoller.com to find out more!

Read her blog at trishisthinkingagain.tumblr.com.

Follow @trishdoller on Twitter.

The giveaway is now closed. Congrats to the winner!

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

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