Today we're excited to chat with Jen Lancaster, author of The Gatekeepers. Read on for more about Jen and her book, plus a giveaway!
Meet Jen Lancaster!
Jen Lancaster is a New York Times bestselling author who has sold well over a million books. From Bitter Is the New Black to The Tao of Martha, Lancaster has made a career out of documenting her attempts to shape up, grow up, and have it all—sometimes with disastrous results. Her New York Times bestselling novel Here I Go Again received three starred reviews (Kirkus, Booklist, Publishers Weekly). Her memoir I Regret Nothing was named an Amazon Best Book of the Year, and she’s regularly a finalist in the Goodreads Choice Awards. She has been a guest on Today, as well as CBS This Morning, Fox News, NPR All Things Considered, and many other shows. She lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband and her many ill- behaved dogs and cats.
"How could we know that forever could end at seventeen?"
Anyone passing through North Shore, Illinois, would think it was the most picture-perfect place ever, with all the lakefront mansions and manicured hedges and iron gates. No one talks about the fact that the brilliant, talented kids in town have a terrible history of throwing themselves in front of commuter trains.
Meet Simone, the bohemian transfer student from London, who is thrust into the strange
new reality of an American high school; Mallory, the hypercompetitive queen bee; and Stephen, the first-generation genius who struggles with crippling self-doubt. Each one is shocked when a popular classmate takes his own life...except not too shocked. It's happened before. With so many students facing their own demons, can they find a way to save each other—as well as themselves?
1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I was inspired to write this book because it’s based on real events that happened in my town in early 2012. Prior to this time, I’d been-super enamored by the town where I’d bought my first house. I grew up worshipping filmmaker John Hughes, so his hometown is where I wanted to live, having fallen in love with the city of Lake Forest from his films. I was raised in a farming community in Nowhererville, Indiana, so I’d envisioned the lives of the kids who come from such a beautiful town, which brimmed with potential, having been so jealous at their opportunities. It wasn’t until the suicide cluster of 2012 that I realized that these opportunities came at a devastating cost.
2. Who is your favorite character in the book?
I’d love to say Simone, the wide-eyed ingénue, but that would be a lie. I am uptight, perfectionist Team Mallory, 100%. We’re alike as she’s someone who values actions over feelings. Doesn’t mean she’s not empathetic, but given the opportunity, she will first always try to problem-solve.
3. Which came first, the title or the novel?
The concept came first. I’d loved the mythology behind Kevin Briggs, the California state motorcycle patrolman who’d been dubbed the Gatekeeper, thanks to his actions on the job, keeping people form leaping from the Golden Gate bridge. Once I’d had down the concept, the title seemed a natural fit.
4. What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
Because I love Mallory so much, I favor all her scenes. She’s one of the characters who loses the most in this book, so I am pro-anything that makes her happy, or eases her way. That’s why I am so keen on the scene where she and Kent are in her car, out looking for Simone. Their dialogue is a quick comedic break, interspersed between so much that’s heavy. To me, that’s important. This is why I can’t watch the show The Walking Dead – there’s never a moment to laugh or catch your breath between the scenes that are gut-wrenching. Mallory and Kent provide that much-needed break.
5. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
I’m a humor writer by trade – my thirteen novels and memoirs that proceeded The Gatekeepers are all funny and light, every one with a Hollywood happy ending. I had to go deep and dark with this one and I learned that I’m capable of the kind of depth I never before imagined.
6. What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I love that the art department so captured everything about this book. I was inspired both by They All Looked Up and This Is Where It Ends, a couple of my favorite YA novels. The dark covers with bright pops of colors so appealed, and I was delighted that Art took what inspired me and created something entirely new, and totally perfect.
7. What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2017?
I was most looking forward to Marybeth Whalen’s novel When We Were Worthy, a title I bought the second I saw the cover, before I ever knew about the contents. The old adage is “You Can’t Judge a Book by Its Cover,” but that is some bullshit. I’ve never been wrong when I’ve been attracted by a certain cover. (Art departments know what they’re doing.) I started reading this novel yesterday and at 2:00 AM, I had to turn off my light because I had things to do today. Otherwise, I’d have stayed up all night reading – it’s that good.
8. What was your favorite book in 2016?
Joshilyn Jackson’s The Almost Sisters. Every time I read a Jackson book, I think, “She can’t out-do herself.” Yet with each new novel, she does. Every single book she writes is like a kick in the heart; I love her so much and she’s my favorite author.
9. What’s up next for you?
I don’t know, and honestly, that’s exciting. I write memoir, women’s contemporary fiction, young adult, and I’m just getting started on screenplays. My favorite thing is whatever’s next, which is why this prospect is so exciting.
10. Is there anything that you would like to add?
Other than, “Please read this, that which is the best, most in-depth, most poignant book of my career?” No, not really.
11. Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
I’m all about the happy ending, so it destroyed me to, for the first time, snatch victory away from characters I loved, those who particularly deserved to live happily ever after. I don’t want to spoil this book for others, but please know that not everyone you like makes it to the end. And I hate that, but it’s reality. Maybe by offing some lovable characters, I can help real-life kids, in which case, it will so have been worth it.
12. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
Every day I wake up and think, “I can’t believe I make a living doing what I love, performing tasks gladly do for free.” So there’s no part I prefer. Every part of the process is a gift.
By: Jen Lancaster
Release Date: October 10, 2017