Today we're excited to chat with Farrah Penn, author of Twelve Steps to Normal. Read on for more about Farrah and her book, plus a giveaway!
Meet Farrah Penn!
When your parent's an alcoholic, normal life isn't a thing. But there are ways to redefine what normal--and happiness--really are.
Eight months ago, Kira's father was sent to rehab for alcoholism and she was forced to move in with her aunt across the country. She left behind everything--her best friends, her boyfriend, her dance team, and the life she'd known and loved. Now her father's done with rehab and wants her back home. But the normal life she once knew proves elusive--her friends are distant, one of them is dating her ex, and her dad brought home three strangers from rehab to live with them.
Is there any way to get back the life she once had? Kira embarks on her own twelve-step program to try to find some normalcy. But somewhere along the way, she learns that while some broken things can't be put back exactly the way they were, they can be repaired, and sometimes made even stronger.
Life, love, and loss come crashing together in this achingly authentic debut by Farrah Penn that will catch you and hold you close till the very end.
A Chat with Farrah Penn:
1. What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
To give a little bit of backstory: I’d been on submission with three other books before writing Twelve Steps To Normal, and those three books came very close but ultimately didn’t sell. So if you’re in the same boat, do not give up! Keep going!! I’d just moved to Los Angeles and was working on book 4 when the idea for Twelve Steps to Normal sort of came to me out of nowhere: What if a teen girl moves back home after her father returns from a year-long rehab program, but she then finds he’s invited quirky friends from the program to stay with them in their home? I knew it was going to be a story about a strained father/daughter relationship, and the rest took off from there.
2. Who is your favorite character in the book?
There’s an older woman named Nonnie in the book who is very eccentric but also gives great advice. She has sort of this “be you and don’t worry about what anyone else thinks” attitude. As a teen, I thought I knew EVERYTHING. I was quick to write-off adults because I thought they couldn’t relate to me in any way and had no idea what they were talking about. But now when I look back, I realize the advice some of those adults (like my mom) gave me was really valuable — and that’s part of what made Nonnie so great to write.
3. Which came first, the title or the novel?
The idea for the story was definitely there first. I’d started saving the project under “Welcome To Our Home,” but once I had a solid ten chapters I renamed the document “12 Steps to Normal.” When I first emailed Suzie I told her, “okay here’s the idea and the working title is this” but she ended up liking it, and we kept it!
4. Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
Oh man, I wish I could say I’ve mastered the art of patience. That’s untrue. (But also, has anyone?!) I used to be SO afraid of cutting scenes or chapters I’d written. I wouldn’t want to do it. But now I’ve realized that pressing “delete” is so refreshing! If there’s a reason something’s not working, it became easier for me to delete it and write it another way. And it saves a lot of headaches in the long run. I don’t know why past me didn’t come to this realization sooner.
5. What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2018?
Oh my gosh, Restore Me by Tahereh Mafi. I am such a fangirl for that series. Also, What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera. I love both of those authors separately and now we get a book by BOTH of them!! Oh no, I have so many. Children of Blood and Bone! The Summer of Jordi Perez! Pride! Ignite the Stars! THIS IS A VERY HARD QUESTION.
6. Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
There’s a scene toward the end of the book where Kira’s in her garage thinking back on the hard times she’d gone through alongside her dad. During revisions, my editor noted that we needed to be in Kira’s head a little longer and that the scene needs a bit more of an emotional punch. She was absolutely right. But it was hard to write because some of the feelings Kira’s going through were some of the same ones I’d experienced growing up.
7. Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
There are two guys in Kira’s circle (Jay and Alex) that are both important to the story, but in the beginning drafts my agent noted that their personalities were sort of the same, and that they both needed to REALLY stand out from each other. Once she pointed that out, it immediately clicked why they’d both been so hard to nail down.
8. Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
Drafting is daunting because you’re obviously starting on a blank slate, right? But it’s also so thrilling! I typically have a basic arc on where I know the story will end up but when I’m writing it all down for the first time, sometimes I get better ideas, or characters will take me by surprise — and that’s the really fun part.
9. Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
So many, but NACoA (National Association for Children of Addiction) is close to my heart. Also, Period: The Menstrual Movement (LITERALLY started by high school activists!!!) is doing so many great things to get menstrual products in the hands of those in need.
Twelve Steps to Normal
By: Farrah Penn
Release Date: March 13, 2018