Today we're excited to chat with Jennifer Castle, author of Together at Midnight. Read on for more about Jennifer and her book, plus a giveaway!
Meet Jennifer Castle!
Jennifer Castle is a mom, smartass, geek, and the author of the YA novels The Beginning of After, You Look Different in Real Life, and What Happens Now. Her new chapter book fantasy series Butterfly Wishes is forthcoming from Bloomsbury USA.
Combining the emotional deftness of Sarah Dessen with the magical spark of New York City in wintertime, this affecting novel will inspire readers to pay closer attention to the world around them.
What does it really mean to be kind . . . and why does it sometimes feel like the hardest thing in the world to do?
High school senior Kendall, who just returned from a life-changing semester in Europe, and Max, who is drifting his way through a gap year before college, struggle with these questions when they witness a tragic accident in New York City during the holiday season.
Racked with guilt, the two accept a dare to perform random acts of kindness to strangers. The challenge pulls these two teens, who have a history together from back home, closer and closer as they explore a vibrant city filled with other people’s stories and secrets.
Kendall and Max can’t deny their growing bond, even though they both have other romantic entanglements and uncertain futures. As the clock counts down on New Year’s Eve, will they find themselves together at midnight?
Jennifer Castle’s latest novel is a romantic, thought-provoking tale of human connection and how we find—and make—our place in the world.
1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I knew I wanted to write about Max and Kendall, who are supporting characters in What Happens Now. I also knew that I wanted to set a story in New York City during that weird-but-magical limbo between Christmas and New Year’s. But I was struggling to find the heart of the story. And you really, uh, pretty much need one. Then,
a tragedy happened in my town. A teenage girl took her own life, and at her memorial, her family’s rabbi delivered a eulogy that really resonated with me. He urged the young people in our community: “Look out for each other. Be brave. Risk losing a friend in order to help them. Share your deepest fears with each other, and your biggest dreams. Loving one another is wonderful and life-giving, but also very risky and challenging work. And it is the best thing you will ever do. Be bold, take a deep breath, and reach out.”
That was when I knew this was going to be a story about kindness, and discovering how hard it can be, and how it doesn’t always look the way we think it should. I felt it was a book that I needed to read and hoped others did, too.
2. Who is your favorite character in the book?
Ah, that’s like asking which of my kids I love more. I loved writing Max because I’ve never written from a male POV before, and I just had such a crush on him by the end. He’s sweet and smart and funny but also terribly neurotic. Neurotic is adorable! But I guess if I had to pick, my favorite character is Kendall. Because getting inside the head of this teen girl with ADHD helped me better understand my own adolescent daughter, who also has ADHD. I wish I could always see the world the way Kendall does.
3. Which came first, the title or the novel?
I had the inklings of the novel when the title fell into my lap. Well, okay. I stole it outright from my older daughter, who did a painting with one of her friends in art class and called it “Together at Midnight.” I usually suck at titles, and here was this great one. So I grabbed it (with my daughter’s permission) and the New Year’s setting emerged from there. I love the double meaning, too -- we must all stick together at “midnight” if we’re going to survive this crazy world.
4. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
One big thing I’ve learned, and sometimes have to keep learning, is that you can’t write like anyone else. You can only write as yourself, and about things you care about. I have a yellow Post-It in my office that says “Trust Your Voice,” and even though it’s always there on the wall, I still doubt myself. Is anyone going to buy this book? Will I get good reviews? Why can’t I sound like Amazing Author Who Just Won a Big Award? But you can’t think that way. The other important thing I’ve learned is that if you take the time to craft complex, realistic characters, everything else about your story will come more easily. I am all about the characters!
5. What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I love everything about this cover, but most of all the paper buildings created by artist Beatrix Boros. They really evoke the feeling that you can make a place, even a big city like New York, your own...as long as you are with people you want to be with, and stay open to possibility. I also love the handpainted title by HarperCollins designer Heather Daugherty. It’s a work of art unto itself.
6. Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
I would say Eliza was the most difficult to write. She is the “cool, edgy, risk- taking” girl. She was an antagonist in What Happens Now, and starts off that way in this book as well. But in this book, we’re seeing her through Max’s eyes, who is her ex- boyfriend and they have a complicated past. It was challenging to portray her from these different angles. In Together at Midnight, there are short passages from the POV of various characters that Max and Kendall interact with. Toward the end of the book, we finally get to hear Eliza’s POV. I rewrote her scene many time, because I felt a lot of responsibility to finally write her as a narrator, to really see what she was thinking and feeling, and explain some of her behavior. I’m glad I was able to conclude my connection to her that way.
7. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
Revising, hands down. My first draft is always what I call a “vomit draft.” It’s just getting words on the page and trying not to notice how bad they might be. To use a much less gross metaphor, drafting is the lump of clay. Revising is when you get to actually shape that lump into something. It’s when everything comes into focus and gets fun. Plus, your fingers don’t hurt as much from so much typing.
8. What would you say is your superpower?
I have the power to overthink anything. I should probably learn to play chess, so I can think a dozen moves ahead and become a world champion. Instead, I waste my powers on really dumb things, like all the possible ways I might have offended someone if I forgot to say “hi” when I should have said “hi.” Maybe someday I’ll save the universe, but for now I just lose a lot of sleep.
9. Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Every animal shelter in the world. I would give a million dollars to each one if I could. Short of that, my family fosters cats and collects donated pet supplies when we’re able. We can learn so much about love and kindness from the creatures we share this planet with. I wish we could pay them back what they deserve.
Together at Midnight
By: Jennifer Castle
Release Date: January 2, 2018
Two winners will receive hardcover copies of WHAT HAPPENS NOW and TOGETHER AT MIDNIGHT (US & Canada only).