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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 to find out more!

Read her blog at

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.

82 thoughts on “2012 YA Debut Interview + Giveaway: SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL by Trish Doller

  1. Words cannot express how excited I am for SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL. Seriously, I can’t remember ever being more excited about a book release. SLN just sounds so, so good. And this interview makes me want to read it even more🙂

  2. Now I feel like running away from home with Trish and the dead boyfriends. (This is not an entry, BTW. I just want some pie.)

  3. ALSO: I emailed Nova at the last minute to make the contest international without noticing that The Book Depository doesn’t ship SLN until October. Well, THAT JUST WON’T DO. So if you enter the contest, make sure you live somewhere that FISHPOND ships. Because they’re still showing a June date for shipping. Sorry for the mix-up, Nova!

  4. I love Steinbeck! I think going on a road trip w/ him would be outstanding, especially if there were drunken chats w/ him and Kerouac! Also, Lemon Meringue pie is my kryptonite. Can’t wait to read Something Like Normal, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be an unputdownable, gem of a story :0)

    • Sarah, you need to come on the road trip, then. Since Blythe is coming, we’ll make it a caravan! Also, thank you. I hope you find SLN unputdownable.🙂

  5. I don’t know if you’re taking questions, but in the case that you are, did you ever consider writing this with a dual perspective before deciding to give the novel’s voice to Travis?

    Oh, that teaser line! I love it. Haha. I’ve loved what I’ve heard about this book. This is one of my most highly anticipated books this year and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

    • Edna, I actually DID attempt a dual perspective. But Travis’ voice was SO loud and SO clear that I knew the story belonged to him.

  6. Oh my goodness! I love Trish’s idea of being “the first me.” When I started writing, I wanted to emulate my favorite writer’s style SO BADLY, but soon found out I’d much rather write my own way. So nice to read about an author’s perspective on the same thing. Great interview! I’m so looking forward to SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL.🙂

  7. I can’t wait for this book! Already heard so many good things about it. Loved the interview! (Especially the writing studio of your dreams – so cool!) Thanks for the interview and the giveaway!

  8. OMG, I want this book sooooo much!!!! SLN is on my list for most anticipated books of 2012❤❤❤❤

    I'd love to win it! *fingers crossed*

  9. I would love to win this book. I’ve been following Trish’s story since she got that first publishing deal. It has been way too long for the book world to wait for her work and I am SO EXCITED to read SLN. I keep having fan-fic-like dreams — and I haven’t even read the book. I am so pumped to meet Travis and the ghost of Charlie and Harper…oh, and Florida😀

  10. I’ve been hearing very wonderful things about this book for months now from a mutual friend I share with Trish. Suffice to say, I cannot WAIT to read it.

  11. I’ve DEFINITELY got my eye on this release!!! The reviews have just been absolutely stellar. I personally cannot wait to read it.

  12. I love reading YA books from the male perspective. Looking forward to reading this when it comes out.

  13. Somehow, now I can’t get the image of some military officer or just someone sitting down and reading your book. That would be awesome! Congrats on the international deal (it’ll be here in Australia too!! :D) I’m such a fan of contemps, especially ones that are a bit darker and edgier, and deal with topics/issues that most others don’t address – but they also make you smile and are transporting. Looking forward to reading this!

  14. Wow, that small summary packs a punch!😀 I’m anxiously looking forward to reading your book now! And I completely agree about not being able to write in public places. I mean, public places are where you are supposed to take in everything around you to use in your writing, right? I don’t know, maybe I’ll grow to be better at writing in public places in the future…. but probably not. LOL.😉

    • If I block everything out with headphones and music, I can do it. But I’d rather write in my own little world–wherever that may be.

  15. This looks wonderful. Also, I can’t even imagine the crushing disappointment of a publisher canceling a book they bought! To be able to bounce back from that is amazing.

    • Thank you. It’s a blow to your confidence, that’s for sure. But I feel like we’re coming back stronger with SLN. We’ll see, I guess.🙂

  16. That one line Trish uses to entice readers makes me want to rush to the bookstore to pick up Something Like Normal right away. That. Is. Some. Mom.
    And yes, for once it’s amazing to have an war-serving marine as a YA protagonist. Haven’t seen much of that.

    • Thank you! I can’t wait for people to meet that mom, although I won’t say whose mom it is… *walks away whistling*

  17. This sounds like a really interesting novel. I love it when characters have voices that demand to be heard…they make for much better books!

    • That was a new experience for me. And, honestly, I couldn’t get him to shut up. It was like living with someone in my head. (Which sounds crazy, I know…)

  18. Nova, I swear you’re picking THE best books! I’m loving this!
    Trish, I’m 19 and my dream car is a westfalia or a vanagon hahaha my parents always thought it was weird for a teenager to be obsessed with vans but now I see I’m not alone, finally someone who can see their potential :)… and awww, Travis’ (was it Travis’??) mom sounds adorable, if one of my fictional children wanted to join the marines I’d be mortified and would do something along those lines too :B

    thanks for the interview! I really enjoyed it🙂

    • There is NOTHING weird about a VW. They’re cute and functional and I’m pretty sure if I get one I’ll sleep in it every chance I get. Even sitting in my driveway.

      • yeah right? it’s like having an extra guest room… except it’ll be my master room… I think I’d plug a tv… and a his/her bathroom ;P

  19. I’ve got my eyes on this book ever since I read one of Trish’s interviews where she shares some of her inspirational photos for the book. Also, I find the book’s theme very interesting as well as refreshing. I’m looking forward to reading Travis’ story.

  20. I’m so excited for this book, and I actually have a friend serving in Afghanistan right now. He got a Kindle before he left so if he ends up reading this, dressed in his camo no less, I’ll be sure to ask him to take a pic.🙂


    • Maggie, if this happens, please send me that pic! I would LOVE to have a gallery on my website of Marines and soldiers reading SLN.

  21. Great interview! Really looking forward to reading Something Like Normal! My blogger friends who have read it say it’s AWESOME!

  22. Excellent interview! It’s great that SLN became the book that helped Trish find her more authentic voice…and that it ended up getting the recognition it deserves😀

  23. all my blogger and goodreads buddies have got me so pumped for this. so i am totally in!

    and hey, so love the guy you imagine reading the book. sounds hot!😀

    also filled in the form, btw🙂

  24. This is a fantastic interview! I have been trying to keep up with all the posts about SLN, because they are all so interesting🙂

  25. Great interview; this book sounds awesome! Also, thanks for introducing me to I haven’t heard of it before and now I’m going to do some serious browsing…

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