After reading and loving Silent Alarm a few weeks ago (read my review here), I’m happy to have had the chance to interview its author, Jennifer Banash, for y’all today! And in case you hadn’t stumbled on it yet, here’s a bit more on the book first:
Alys’s whole world was comprised of the history project that was due, her upcoming violin audition, being held tightly in the arms of her boyfriend, Ben, and laughing with her best friend, Delilah. At least it was—until she found herself on the wrong end of a shotgun in the school library. Her suburban high school had become one of those places you hear about on the news—a place where some disaffected youth decided to end it all and take as many of his teachers and classmates with him as he could. Except, in this story, that youth was Alys’s own brother, Luke. He killed fifteen others and himself, but spared her—though she’ll never know why.
Alys’s downward spiral begins instantly, and there seems to be no bottom. A heartbreaking and beautifully told story.
Interview with Jennifer Banash
What inspired you to write on the topic of school shootings?
I was reading about the 2012 shooting in Chardon, Ohio, and when I came to the end of the article, it mentioned the fact that the shooter had a sister only a year younger. Although the real life sister didn’t attend the same school as her brother, I began thinking, what if? I wondered what it would be like to live in the same town where your own brother had committed such an unfathomable act of violence—would you have seen it coming? My heart went out her, and I knew I wanted to tell this story. And so Silent Alarm was born.
Silent Alarm revolves around some very dark and emotional subjects, what was the hardest part of writing this novel?
The hardest part was writing the opening scene, which is the day of the shooting. I’m a high school teacher, and in order to make the scene believable in a way that would resonate with the reader, I had to tap into some of my darkest fears. What happens when we, as educators, can no longer trust our students? This is a question I think about a lot, as you can imagine. Our job is not only to educate, to teach skills, but to keep our charges safe from harm. No one wants to think about the possibility that you could go off to school one day, a place you previously thought of as a protected environment, and be anything but.
What does your writing process look like? Do you outline the story or go with the flow?
I don’t outline. It never works anyway. And my books aren’t terribly plot driven in the first place. I’m more interested in exploring one moment in a characters life than creating a super arc of events. I trust my characters to tell their stories, to take me where they need to go.
How do you go about creating your main character? Do you base her personality off someone you know?
Usually I don’t. I may borrow things from people I know, such as names, or talents, but the personality that emerges from my protagonists usually does so pretty organically. The challenge with Alys’ character was that she’s so defined by the shooting that the reader only gets to know who she was before through characterization and flashbacks. And there’s such a difference between the girl Alys was before her brother killed 15 people, then himself, and after. It’s an enormous divide.
Do you have any favorite quotes or a favorite passage in the book you want to share?
I really like the following passage because it really illustrate how it feels to have everything you’ve believed to be true about your life ripped away from you—which is exactly how Alys feels—dislocated.
“Before yesterday, we were a normal family. Normal. Camp in the summer and igloo forts in the winter. Icees made from the first snowfall, sugar and drops of food coloring melting on our tongues in a pink slush. Two parents, two cars. The low moan of a cello streaming from the speakers, the high-pitched burst of my violin punctuating the bustle and hum of our daily lives. Chocolate chip pancakes at IHOP on Sunday mornings. A white clapboard house with a manicured lawn, splashes of yellow roses lining the fence. Everything neat and tidy. Of course, now after what Luke has done, people will say, Oh, the Aronson’s. I always thought they were weird. But we weren’t. We were just like you. Except we weren’t. But we didn’t know it yet
But you knew it Luke, didn’t you?
About the Author
Jennifer Banash was born and raised in New York City. She now lives in Southern California with her beagle, Sigmund, and her vast collection of designer shoes.
Check out my blog at jenniferbanash.wordpress.com
Jennifer has generously offered up one finished SIGNED copy of Silent Alarm for giveaway!
Open to US addresses only
Giveaway ends April 6th, 2015
Use the Rafflecopter below to enter