Welcome to another edition of Students Want to Know! During the process of having my students write questions, Angela and my students have been working together beyond the questions. Angela has some really cool student section on her website where they can post lists about who they are. She also has a section for students to answer some questions about their school and life experiences. I highly recommend checking it out!
Summary (From Angela’s website): Robbie is locked in a room with nothing but a desk, a chair, a stack of paper and pencil. No belt, no shoes, no socks. He’s starving, but all they give him is water. Robbie has reached The End of the Line, AKA Great Oaks School, and at Great Oaks there’s no time off for good behavior. All good behavior will get you are points. Enough points and you get something to eat, a bed, bathroom privileges. Thirteen-year-old Robbie’s first-person account of his struggles at the school—at times horrifying, at times hilarious—alternates with flashbacks to the events that led to his incarceration. If Robbie is to survive The End of the Line, he must confront the truth: He is a murderer.
- Is it difficult being an author?
I don’t find writing difficult because I love it. Here’s how I know that I love writing – I often chose writing over sleeping (staying up until 2am, or waking up at 4am to write) and I really love to sleep!
Getting published is a challenge, but just like any other challenge –learning a language, sport or instrument—the only way to succeed is to keep practicing and keep trying.
- How do you deal with writer’s block?
I haven’t stared at a blank page and wondered what to write. If I’m sitting at a computer or holding a pen in my hand, I will write. But I have had other problems. I over write, I cut a lot out of my manuscripts with each revision. Three things I think help me avoid writers’ block: 1. I don’t outline so I’m always writing to see where the story will go. 2. Advice from Kathleen Duey (author of more than 80 books.) She said, “Never think ‘What will happen next in the story?’ Instead, ask you character what he or she will do next.” 3. I work on more than one project at the same time.
- What is your favorite book?
I have so many favorite books. A current favorite is Casa del Tempa (THE HOUSE in English) with illustrations by Roberto Innocenti and text (in Italian) by Roberto Piumini is inspiring me. I have it on the bookshelf next to my computer and the illustrations take my breath away.
- What was your purpose for writing this book?
I had Robbie’s story in my head and wanted to tell it. That was my original purpose and I think I stayed true to Robbie’s story through each revision. I think every revision had a purpose too.
- What was your favorite subject in school?
I loved science classes, biology and chemistry. I also really like math. I played the viola since third grade and was in orchestra through high school. I liked being in choir but wonder if my classmates enjoyed having me in class. It was years after high school that I realized I couldn’t sing in tune.
- What was your life like before, and now after, writing this book?
The thing that is most different now is that I have an answer when my friends and family ask “When are you going to publish a book?” I can say, “My book will be out in March 2011!”
When I started writing THE END OF THE LINE, I was living in Italy and I was in between jobs. I had a lot of time to write. But I was all alone in my basement and trying to stay off the internet.
One thing that is different now is all of the ways to be connected online. I love when people fill out a list on my website. I try to keep up on FB, twitter & tumbler. I just signed up to do skype author visits.
- Where do you come up with the characters’ names?
Robbie and Ryan are the main characters and their names were the first ones I thought of and they seemed to fit. Usually, I think of the character and the name at the same time and it doesn’t change.
- When did you start writing?
I have always loved to write. In 2003 I started writing every day, learning the craft of writing and learning about publication. That year I had my first sale as a published writer. I wrote poems, articles and stories for school tests for grades K – 3.
- Has anything in your book happened in your life?
Two things that happen in THE END OF THE LINE were taken from my experience. One actually happened to me, the other I saw.
In one scene, Robbie chokes on a sandwich. When I was ten, I visited my cousins in California. I was drinking water and something made me laugh. I choked. I could inhale but not exhale. In my panic, I took bigger and bigger breaths. My sister and cousins kept laughing; they thought I was joking. I must have looked pretty funny to them. My grandmother rushed in, figured out what was happening and squeezed my stomach until the water came out and I could breathe. She saved my life.
In another scene, a student at Great Oaks School is held on the floor by 5 men as part of a behavior management program. He has to be still a certain amount of time and the person holding his head down will let go. Gradually, the rest of his limbs will be released. During physical therapy school, I was an intern at a small private treatment facility where they used a similar behavior management approach.
- What made you decide to put him into a room instead of some kind of actual jail cell?
I knew from the start that Great Oaks would be a private school for troubled kids, not a jail. For Robbie, facing the past isn’t about serving time, but learning about himself. The strict guidelines of Great Oaks give Robbie a lot of choices. Like a video game, he can advance to the next level or start over.
- How did the idea for this book come to mind?
It started with the first line. The original first line read: If you kill someone you are going to hell. I wasn’t planning anything so exciting, so I knew it wasn’t my conscience talking. It took a few months to figure out where that line came from and who was saying it and I discovered Robbie and his story.
- How long did it take to write The End of the Line?
It took about a year to write the first draft, longer to revise it. But I took a lot of breaks to work on other projects during the process of writing and revising The End of the Line.
- Why did you decide to write the book from a guys’ POV?
This story was always Robbie’s story.
- Did you have to do any research for this book (juvie, rehab, etc.)?
Great Oaks is my own creation and I didn’t research actual settings. One of my first readers worked at a private camp for troubled youth and she felt that even though Great Oaks is fictional, the characters ‘rang true.’
- What would you say is your biggest goal for this book?
So many goals have already been reached –being published Holiday House, a publisher known for publishing books about serious subjects and working with my editor, Julie Amper who is amazing and insightful and added a great deal to this book. My next goal is that teens will read it and like it and tell their friends about it. And email. I hope to get a lot of email – I want to hear from readers!
- What has been the most memorable event for you since The End of the Line has been published?
Certainly the most memorable was when I told my family that I had an offer and my book would be published.
- Has writing this book taught you anything? If so what?
I learned a great deal about writing and revising during this process. Another lesson I tried to learn was taking my time. I’m a person who tends to rush into things and use my first approach to solve a problem. Certain issues with the novel couldn’t be fixed quickly. Taking a few days to think over a problem or brainstorming five or six different ideas before starting to write really helped.
- For this book what came first: the characters or the story line?
Characters. For me it is always the characters.