Patty, what was your inspiration for writing SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW?
This novel was inspired by the Brock Turner case - specifically, the letter Brock Turner's father wrote before his son was sentenced in which he expounded at great length how poor little Brockie can't even enjoy a steak anymore since the verdict came in and how he doesn't deserved to be punished for "twenty minutes of action."
Twenty minutes of action.
It's been a few years since this trial and I still can't say those words without a sneer of disgust. This is why Brock was arrested in the first place - because he was raised by a man who assumes an unconscious female was his personal playground rather than a fellow human being in need of aid. The callousness with which Brock treated a woman, his further refusal to accept responsibility and blame for his actions, and - ultimately, the realization that there are millions more men who share this 'locker room talk' mentality are why I wrote this book. That leads me to the next question:
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope readers will close this book with a smack to their foreheads and an admission of how their own behaviors can be improved. Honestly, we wouldn't have a rape culture issue if more guys stood up to their friends when they crossed a line. All boys have to do is ask the girls in their orbits how many of them wore bras with front clasps or shorts under their skirts, beginning in middle school? Middle school is when most of this baloney begins. And too often, the girls are told to adjust and to deal while the boys get their hair ruffled or a good-natured punch in the arm because they're 'just being boys.' Every time we make an excuse like this, every time we downplay bra-snapping, up-skirting, 'stealing' a kiss, and so on, we perpetuate rape culture.
I want readers, particularly boys, to come away from this story thinking about how sex isn't a conquest or a game to be 'won' and women are not spoils of war or trophies for athletic achievement. Above all, I want people to grasp this concept - you are ENTITLED to nothing from other people's bodies without their consent and when you get consent, it better be enthusiastically given rather than coerced.
How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?
This is a question that has a two-part answer. First, you could say it took me all my life to get published and that was because I didn't trust myself enough, didn't believe that I could tell stories people would want to read. So I didn't try for a very long time. I finally reached a point where I felt ready to face rejection and submit my work. My first published novel, SEND, was actually the fourth one I'd written. My first was called Penalty Killer. It was a hockey-dad murder mystery I wrote on a dare from my oldest son. I printed it out and had it bound in a plastic spine for him to read. He figured out the murderer by chapter three.
My next attempt was another mystery called Postpartum Deception and was about a woman whose grief for her husband and baby unlocked a sort of extra ability that allowed her to talk to the dead. It was about 150,000 words when I finished it and I couldn't even get my family to read it.
Next, I wrote a romance called Borderlines, which was about a doctor who falls in love with the journalist sent to investigate the community she serves - specifically, the immigrant population natural citizens will stop at nothing to get rid of. I adore this story so much because I think I fell in love myself with the hero, Jin-Thomas Clarke, the British journalist investigating the plight of the immigrants. After I finished writing this novel, I discovered actor Gilles Marini and my jaw dropped. It was like my hero had come to life, right down to the dimples in his cheek. Some years later, I got to meet Gilles in real life and tell him this story. Sighs He is every bit the gentleman and I really hope to publish that story some day so if it gets made into a movie, he can play Thomas Clarke! (If you're interested in hearing more about the day I met Gilles, visit my website at http://www.pattyblount.com/a-twist-of-gilles-marini/.
Borderlines was supposed to be a series but soon after I began writing book 2, a new voice started whispering to me. When my oldest son was about twelve and had endured a horrible bullying ordeal, I remember being so grateful that he hadn't had a cell phone or social media presence at the time or I might very well have lost him. As I was researching social media use for work, I learned how people can abuse these sites. And that's when that little voice in my brain said, "I did that." That voice became Dan - or rather, Kenny - two different characters who are actually the same person - in SEND. I know that sounds confusing, but if you read the book, it'll make sense, I promise.
I wrote the book, started querying agents, and then discovered a huge issue. I'd written the characters in their mid-twenties. But bullying is a school problem. So a kind agent wrote me back and suggested I rewrite the book as a young adult novel, making the characters high school ages. I did and it took close to another year. I queried again and landed an agent. Several months after that, I attended an event where I pitched the novel to two editors at Sourcebooks who loved it and later offered me a two-book deal.
SEND was released a year later, followed by TMI.
Now that I'm multi-published, I still get rejections and boy, I think it's harder now! I wrote a story two years ago that's a Romeo and Juliet retelling called NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE about teen race car drivers whose competing families have been holding a decade-long grudge that's preventing them from seeing each other. They decide to elope. This is the first young adult novel in which I ever attempted to write a sex scene and it is hands down my favorite author moment yet. As a married couple on their wedding night, they would naturally have sex. But as teenagers, there's certain to be awkwardness and embarrassment. I had no idea how to write such a scene until my son came home from school and said, "Mom! Did you know a duck's penis is cork-screw shaped?"
I did not.
But thinking about duck penises made me wonder what might happen if my teenage newlyweds happened to notice such a thing while they're about to get busy? So I put the couple out on Lake Norman in North Carolina, where they soon burst into hysterical laughter when they notice said appendage. As their own big moment approaches, they can't help but giggle and make comparisons to human anatomy. It's funny and sweet and touching and yes, romantic all at the same time.
I also have a ghost story called The Sky Was Scarlet that never got published. This story is rewrite of my earlier Postpartum Deception. In this version, the sixteen year old son of the dead husband in the earlier version inherits his muscle car, which triggers a terrifying series of visions that this skeptical teen hero must learn to interpret. Spoiler alert, even though he doesn't believe in "woo-woo crap," he eventually deciphers the signs and symbols in his visions to mean his little brother did NOT die in the fire that killed his dad, as everyone assumed. But no one believes him so he and his best friend set out to prove it.
I'm so sad these books haven't found a home but super-excited SEND, TMI, SOME BOYS, NOTHING LEFT TO BURN, THE WAY IT HURTS, and now SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW have found their way to readers.
ABOUT THE BOOKSomeone I Used to Know
by Patty Blount
It's been two years since the night that changed Ashley's life. Two years since she was raped by her brother's teammate. And a year since she sat in a court and watched as he was given a slap on the wrist sentence. But the years have done nothing to stop the pain.
It's been two years of hell for Derek. His family is totally messed up and he and his sister are barely speaking. He knows he handled it all wrong. Now at college, he has to come to terms with what happened, and the rape culture that he was inadvertently a part of that destroyed his sister's life.
When it all comes to head at Thanksgiving, Derek and Ashley have to decide if their relationship is able to be saved. And if their family can ever be whole again.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Patty is best known for her internet issues novels, including SOME BOYS, a 2015 CLMP Firecracker winner and SEND, a 2012 Junior Library Guild Fall Pick. Visit her website at pattyblount.com, where you can sign up for her newsletter. She blogs at YA Outside the Lines and is also active online. She loves hearing from readers, especially when they tell her she’s cool (even though she knows it’s not true), and is easily bribed with chocolate. Never underestimate the power of chocolate.
Have you had a chance to read SOMEONE I USED TO KNOW yet? Have you been inspired to make a difference through your writing? Have you imagined a character and then later found a perfect matching actor? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!
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