Swanky Seventeener Jen Petro-Roy recently sat down with Sweet Sixteen debut Tricia Clasen, to talk about Tricia’s new middle-grade, THE HAUNTED HOUSE PROJECT (September 6, 2016, Sky Pony Press).
Since her mom died, Andie’s family has crumbled. Instead of working, her dad gambles away insurance money, while her sister, Paige, has put her future on hold in order to pick up extra waitressing shifts. Andie’s afraid of what will happen if people find out just how bad things are. She’s not sure how long she can hide the fact that there’s no food or money in the house…or adults, for that matter.
When her science partner suggests they study paranormal activity, Andie gets an idea. She wants a sign from her mom—anything to tell her it’s going to be okay. Maybe the rest of her family does too. So she starts a project of her own. Pretending to be her mother’s ghost, Andie sprays perfume, changes TV channels, and moves pictures. Haunting her house is Andie’s last hope to bring her family back into the land of the living.
Tricia is a college professor of communication at University of Wisconsin-Rock County. She is co-editor of Gendered Identities: Critical Readings of Gender in Children’s and Young Adult Literature, forthcoming Fall of 2016 by Routledge. Most of her time goes to shuttling her kids to dance and trying to get the glitter off the kitchen floor as well as planning trips to much warmer destinations.
You can also find her on Facebook.
Jen: When and how did you know that you wanted to be a writer?
Tricia: I love escaping into a good story. I read all the time as a kid, and I always dreamed of being a writer. On the top of every list of goals I wrote as a kid, it said, “Be An Author.” However, I never wrote anything until I fell into the fanfiction world of a particular sparkly vampire. I started writing just for fun, and then I decided to brave a round of NaNoWriMo, and from there, I rediscovered my dream.
Jen: How did you come up with the idea for your novel? Did you know this was “the one” right away?
Tricia: I don’t remember exactly how the concept emerged, but I suppose it was based in my own “What if?” I know that I had originally seen the story as a YA novel focused on the older sister, Paige, but for some reason, I kept coming back to Andie and how she would bring her family back together. Middle-graders have so much potential to be creative and savvy at the same time, so somehow the idea of haunting emerged from that.
Jen: What was the revision process like for this book?
Tricia: I wrote the first draft as part of a Camp Nano, but it was late spring before I opened the file. I have a very hard time reading my own writing, particularly when it’s fresh. I admit that from the first page I knew it was my best work. I spent the next four months with in revisions with a critique group before heading out into Queryland. Obviously, there were a few more rounds of revision with my agent and editor.
Jen: Imagine your perfect reader. How would you describe that person?
Tricia: Oh gosh, I love anyone who wants to pick up a book and read! This book has a lot of quiet, bittersweet moments. The prefect reader for this book will like curling up in a comfy space, sharing some time with a girl whose world feel broken but who is convinced she can fix it.
Are you a big sister, little sister, in the middle, or one and only?
I’m a little sister. One big brother.
What were you reading when you were Andie’s age?
Wow, I’m so old I can’t remember anything. I know I really liked biographies. I went through a summer where I read The Outsiders like twenty times. I also loved the Sweet Dreams Romance series. By Andie’s age, I was also reading books my brother brought home from high school like The Old Man and Sea and because my favorite soap opera character loved F. Scott Fitzgerald, I started reading his novels, too.
Favorite writing snack?
Just one? Pretzels. Cookies. Goldfish crackers. Honestly, I’m not picky.
Do you believe in ghosts? Do you have any paranormal experiences?
Nah. I like the idea of it. Kind of like Andie, I wish I believed more than I do.
What was your favorite book at Sweet 16?
That’s a fun question. I think it was probably Grapes of Wrath. I love Steinbeck’s descriptions.
Music to write by? Or do you need silence?
I’m more of a silence person.
Jen Petro-Roy has wanted to be a writer ever since she was in the third grade, when she started writing poetry. (Sample: “Today I am sick. Sick in bed. Today I have a pain in my head.”) That’s also when her class performed a play she wrote about an evil witch who kidnaps a very brave girl. It was a smash hit.
Jen grew up and has always lived in Massachusetts, even though her ideal temperature is in the high eighties. When she isn’t living in the world of her stories, Jen is a teen librarian, where she lives in the world of others’ stories. She runs the Young Writers Club at her library and frequently speaks on the topic of eating disorder recovery. A trivia, board game and reading fanatic, Jen lives in Massachusetts with her husband, two young daughters, and a pair of whiny cats.
Jen’s debut, P.S. I MISS YOU, will be published in Fall 2017 by Macmillan/Feiwel and Friends. When Evie’s beloved teenage sister disappears after getting pregnant. Evie has to unravel the mystery of where her sister is and what happened to her, while navigating her first crush on a girl, her complicated relationship with her religious parents, and universal growing pains.