Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Eleven Up: Interview with Tara Hudson, author of HEREAFTER

Today I have the distinct pleasure to interview the gorgeous and funny Tara Hudson, author of the YA novel HEREAFTER, out in bookstores today!  I was lucky enough to read this book in advance, and fell in love immediately.  You’ll have to read it yourself to try to figure out with whom…
From Goodreads:
Can there truly be love after death?
Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she's dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she's trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.
Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.
Thrilling and evocative, with moments of pure pleasure, Hereafter is a sensation you won't want to miss.

Where did you get the idea for HEREAFTER?

The idea for HEREAFTER came from a short story I wrote in college, told from the perspective of a young woman who does not yet realize she is dead.  I set the original story in a place I only vaguely remembered – a Choctaw Indian cemetery, to which my grandparents had taken me as a child.  I could only recall how strangely quiet and overgrown the place was, and how I wondered whether anyone had visited those graves in this century.  Only later did I learn this cemetery was where several of my paternal family members were buried, with graves dating back to the late 19th century.

The image of that place stuck with me for many years.  So, I wrote a spooky story about it for a college-level fiction workshop, and then promptly forgot the whole thing.  A decade passed, and after one too many emails and memorandums, I remembered how much I loved writing fiction.  I started a number of different stories, but my ghost girl in the rural cemetery kept returning to me.  One rainy afternoon, I wrote the opening chapter of a ghost story for my two best friends, to distract them on their lunch break.  Within twenty minutes, they both demanded more, and HEREAFTER was born.

What do you love most about Amelia?  About Joshua?  About Eli?

I love Amelia’s ability to choose her words carefully; she’s a lot more gracious than I am!  I also love Joshua’s sunny side.  It drives me – and Amelia – nuts sometimes, but it definitely puts the two of them in some pretty interesting situations.  As for Eli…what can I say?  I have a thing for the bad boys!

Amelia’s story is quite harrowing.  What keeps you awake at night?

Zombies.  They honestly scare the bejeezus out of me.  AMC’s The Walking Dead series was on during my maternity leave and I’d find myself sitting up at night with the baby, trying to figure out if the noise outside was a coyote or my undead neighbor.

What is the closest you’ve come to death? 

I’ve been in seven car accidents.  I’m a walking advertisement for seatbelts and Drivers’ Education classes.

What song would you have played at your funeral?

Tom Waits’ “Chocolate Jesus.”  Not because it symbolizes anything meaningful or exemplifies who I am.  Just because it would make at least a few people laugh.

What is your most treasured possession?

It’s a toss up between the letter my husband wrote me, the first time he admitted he loved me, and the tiny plastic band that the hospital wrapped around my son’s wrist the day he was born.

What is your guiltiest pleasure? 

Eating Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups while reading Glamour magazine.  Total decadence.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

My kiddo.  After that, this scholarship I almost won in college (details provided only after someone swears an oath of secrecy).

Who would play you in the film of your life?

Emma Stone, who looks nothing like me but totally rocks my world.  Biggest.  Girl Crush.  Ever.

What living person do you most admire and why?

My best friend, Melissa Peters.  She is brilliant, courageous, loyal, generous to the point of insanity, and never afraid to stand up for herself and others.  I want to be her when I grow up.

If you could edit your past, what would you change?

I know I’m supposed to say, “Nothing, because everything I’ve experienced so far makes me who I am today.”  But you know what?  I would SO not have gotten that perm in the 3rd grade.  And I definitely wouldn’t have gotten the second one in the 5th grade.

What one word do you think describes you best?


Tell us a little about your path to publication:  good, bad, wonderful…apocalyptic?

Whirlwind, actually.  I started HEREAFTER on April 14, 2009 (I still have the email I sent, the day I wrote the first chapter), and had an offer from HarperCollins on April 30, 2010. 

The Official Publication Event happened after I’d been querying HEREAFTER for about two months.  I decided to go for broke and query my dream agent, Catherine Drayton.  When she requested the full manuscript, I honestly thought I’d have heart attack.  A few days later, she called me to ask if I’d work on some revisions before she agreed to represent me – I said yes, of course.  Two days after that, I received the most exciting email from her: HarperCollins, one of the most amazing publishers ever, had contacted her requesting something in the vein of HEREAFTER.  Eight days after that, we had a deal on the basis of nine chapters!

What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned since becoming a writer?

That it’s not all sunshine and rainbows and unicorns?  (Seriously, where are the unicorns?)  In all honesty, a lot of writers’ blogs helped me mentally prepare for the process, so nothing was a nasty surprise.  But I’ve had lots of positive surprises.  The way I felt when I got “The Call” is probably the best one – I had no idea just how awesome it would be.

What helps you write the most:  quiet?  Music?  A good night’s sleep?  (Interviewer’s note:  Tara has a new baby at home, so this is a loaded question).

SLEEP!  Beautiful, blissful sleep!  I miss it, more than I can say.  But when I’ve had a full night’s rest, I can’t write without my mood-themed playlists.  “And Now We are Sad” is probably my favorite list.

The sequel to HEREAFTER is called ARISE – Do you have a teaser for us?

No promise this will make it into the final manuscript but here’s a little taste:

“‘Put your fingers on your neck, Amelia,’ she commanded softly.
            She demonstrated by taking the fore and middle fingers on her left hand and pressing them to her neck, just below the jaw line.  I frowned in confusion, but then followed her lead.
             After all, what could it hurt?
            Only a few seconds after I'd done so, however, I jerked my hand back and shot up to sit rigid-straight on the couch.  My eyes widened uncomfortably as I stared at Gabrielle. When she nodded in confirmation, I let out one, hissing breath.
            Because, although I hadn't experienced it in a very long time, I recognized what I felt in the tender skin of my neck.
            A pulse.”

If you knew the apocalypse was approaching, and you would be stranded on a desert island, which book, piece of music, and snack food would you take with you?

Book: I should say something meaningful, like the works of Shakespeare, right?  Well, sorry – it’s going to have to be Neil Gaiman’s NEVERWHERE
Piece of Music: Here’s where I’ll be sophisticated.  I’d taken a “Best of Beethoven” CD.
Snack Food:  It’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups; it’s always Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

Last words?

I hope they’ll be, “I love you,” told to someone who deserves it.

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Tara Hudson graduated with a degree in law, mostly because she believed all the horror stories about English majors and their careers in the food-service industry. Luckily, she soon remembered how much she loved telling ghost stories, particularly to her girlfriends who liked visiting abandoned cemeteries as much as she did. Tara currently lives in Oklahoma with her husband, son, and a menagerie of ill-behaved pets.

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