Author Chat with Shannon Takaoka (Everything I Thought I Knew) Plus Giveaway! ~ (US Only)
Today we're excited to chat with Shannon Takaoka author of
Everything I Thought I Knew.
Read on for more about Shannon and her book, plus a giveaway!
Meet Shannon Takaoka!
Shannon Takaoka has worked as a writer, editor, and public relations consultant in the technology and life sciences field. She is a lover of all things nerdy—from time travel to weird science and dragons. Everything I Thought I Knew is her first novel. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and two children.
Meet Everything I Though I Knew!
A teenage girl wonders if she’s inherited more than just a heart from her donor in this compulsively readable debut.
Seventeen-year-old Chloe had a plan: work hard, get good grades, and attend a top-tier college. But after she collapses during cross-country practice and is told that she needs a new heart, all her careful preparations are laid to waste.
Eight months after her transplant, everything is different. Stuck in summer school with the underachievers, all she wants to do now is grab her surfboard and hit the waves—which is strange, because she wasn’t interested in surfing before her transplant. (It doesn’t hurt that her instructor, Kai, is seriously good-looking.)
And that’s not all that’s strange. There’s also the vivid recurring nightmare about crashing a motorcycle in a tunnel and memories of people and places she doesn’t recognize.
Is there something wrong with her head now, too, or is there another explanation for what she’s experiencing?
As she searches for answers, and as her attraction to Kai intensifies, what she learns will lead her to question everything she thought she knew—about life, death, love, identity, and the true nature of reality.
~ Author Chat ~
Please answer between 8-10 questions.
- What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
I’ve always been interested in all things science-related, from anatomy, biology and physiology to all of the intriguing theories that come out of quantum physics. (Even if, in the case of quantum mechanics, I don’t really understand the math involved!) On the medical side, organ transplants have always fascinated me. The fact that humans have figured out how to transplant a heart or a kidney or a lung, successfully, from one person to another is such an extraordinary achievement, and the history behind it all is riveting. At one point – I can’t even remember the original source – I heard or read a story about organ transplant recipients who had reported that they’d picked up new preferences, habits and interests after their surgeries, and in some cases had come to believe that they’d “inherited” these memories or behaviors, almost at a cellular level, from their donors. Now, there’s no hard evidence of this being possible in a scientific sense, but the idea of it stuck with me. And in fiction at least, I’m really drawn to stories that speculate around “What if” concepts like this. So this was the jumping off point. I started by exploring a character, Chloe, and her feelings of connection to her heart donor, but as I continued writing, I let the story lead me to additional ideas related to connection and interconnection, life, death and identity, especially in relation to our links to each other and our place in the universe.
- Who is your favorite character in the book?
Oh, that’s like asking me to name my favorite child! I can’t play favorites! I love them all in their own ways, Chloe for her curiosity, Jane for her ability to always be herself and Kai for his quiet sense of humor and kindness.
- Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel. The title, which came later in the process, is from a line in the book that didn’t even exist until I was multiple revisions into it. With my current work in progress, I’m not even going to worry about a title until the book is done. I think it’s easier to come up with a good title once you can take a step back and look at the entire arc of the story, which changes a lot during the revision process (or at least it does for me).
- Do you have a favorite writing snack?
Yes – popcorn! I’ve got popcorn in front of me right now probably.
- Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
Everything I Thought I Knew is the first novel I’ve ever written (well, the first one I ever finished) so the entire process of writing it was one of trial and error. I learned a lot! One of the most important lessons for me is to not get stuck on the small stuff, at least not initially. My inner editor is a huge pain in the butt. I know now not to spend a lot of time in early drafts worrying about whether a line is worded just right or if a scene needs to flow better. That stuff is important, eventually, but when you are just trying to get the story down on the page, over-thinking everything is not helpful. I think there were more than a few instances where I wasted hours polishing scenes or chapters that ended up being cut. So, my new motto is: just keep moving and wait to fix what isn’t quite working in revision.
And, this one is more of a personal preference, but I also learned that there’s no rule that says you have to write in a linear fashion. This helped me so much when I got stuck. Whenever I got to a point where I felt like I was just fighting with the words and had no idea what was going to come next, I did one of two things: I would either take a break and come back the next day, or I would just start writing a different scene I had an idea about, no matter where it might come in the chronology of the story. So, sometimes I would work on an idea I had for the end, then switch back to some scenes that needed to happen in the middle or whatever. And finally, at some point, I started to think about how all these scenes would “fit.” It was like building a puzzle. I might still be at my desk trying to figure out those middle chapters if I hadn’t decided to just write out of order. So I guess the main lesson from this experience is that there’s no “right” way to write a book – you need to figure out what makes the most sense for you.
- What do you like most about the cover of the book?
EVERYTHING. I couldn’t be happier about how the cover came out—it’s dreamy, ethereal, a little bit cosmic and perfectly captures the essence of the book. From the gorgeous, nebula-like colors, to the main image of the heart, to the dissolving font, and especially the tiny surfer riding the wave of the left pulmonary artery, it all just works together so beautifully. Candlewick’s designer, Matt Roeser, absolutely nailed it. (You can see some of his other work at www.mattmakesbooks.com – all of his covers are awesome.)
- What’s on your TBR pile?
I’m often a mood reader, so since it’s fall, I definitely have a few dark and spooky reads in my TBR pile. The one I’m planning to finally get to from my shelves is The Secret History by Donna Tartt. I really liked The Goldfinch so am looking forward to reading more of her work. Those Who Prey, by debut author Jennifer Moffett, is coming out on November 10 – it’s a YA thriller about a girl who gets caught up in a religious cult. I read a very early version of this one so I’m super-excited to revisit it now that it’s final. It’s got mind-games, a mystery centered around an isolated villa in Italy, and some seriously scary scenes involving snakes. And I’m also planning on picking up Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I’ve heard great things about this one and I’m always down for anything that leans “gothic” and is set in a creepy old mansion.
- What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
I’m in a group for YA and Middle Grade writers with books debuting in 2020 and there are so many awesome books that have come out recently that I honestly wouldn’t feel right singling out only a few. This has been a tough year to debut, that’s for sure, so I want to spread the word about as many 2020 releases as I can: https://roaring20sdebut.com/our-books/
- What’s up next for you?
I’m currently working on another YA novel, but I’m superstitious about sharing too much about a book until I’m pretty far along in the process. I can say that thematically, it’s going to explore memory, as well as how our internal life shapes our external reality. Trying to draft a novel in 2020 has been challenging to say the least, but I think I’ve finally got something that’s starting to take shape. Hoping I can ring in the New Year with a finished book.
- Are there any film adaptations, tv shows, audiobooks, or other adaptations in the works for this book?
Everything I Thought I Knew will be available as an eBook and on audio. No film or TV adaptations to announce yet, but if any film people are reading this, CALL MY AGENT! J
- Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
There is a scene near the end of the book that I don’t want to spoil but, broadly speaking, it’s a conversation between my main character Chloe and another character who has a connection to her heart. It was probably the scene that I rewrote the most.
- Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
I think “friend-of-the-protagonist” characters are always challenging. Authors spend a lot of time thinking about their main characters—trying to capture their voice and deepest desires, which obviously makes sense. But we also want our side characters to feel authentic and real. Sometimes that can be tricky, especially with a first-person POV story where you spend so much time in one character’s head. I had to think a lot about how to bring out character in situations where, because of the POV I was using, I wasn’t in the person’s thoughts in the same way that I was with my main character.
- Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
Revising, revising, revising! First drafts are tough for me. (See discussion above about my pain in the butt inner editor.) I’m a slow drafter and don’t write detailed outlines. I usually start with a general idea about where I want to go and need to just start writing in order to figure the rest out, so my first drafts usually end up being my “outline.” I wish I could be faster about it, but that’s just not how my brain works. I’m much happier once I have something to shape and mold.
- What would you say is your superpower?
With writing, I think I have a good ear for dialogue and an eye for details. I love it when I read a book and notice a little detail about what a character wears or what’s in their room that really gives me insight into who they are, so I try to do this with my writing. In life in general, I think my superpower is curiosity. I love learning about all kinds of things, traveling, meeting people. And that, in turn, feeds my creativity.
- Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
Right now, in October 2020, all my cause-related efforts are 100 percent focused on getting out the vote. I’ve done letter writing for Vote Forward https://votefwd.org/ outreach for Vote Save America https://votesaveamerica.com/, I’m signing up to be a poll worker and am donating to as many campaigns and issues as I can. This is such an important election, so I encourage everyone to vote. (And for those not yet eligible, you only have to be sixteen to volunteer to be a poll worker!)
Shannon Takaoka is a young adult fiction author who loves books (of course) and all things nerdy. (Time travel? Weird science-y stuff? Alternate realities? Yes, please.) She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family, where she also works as a business writer and editor. Her debut novel, Everything I Thought I Knew, about a 17-year-old girl questioning everything about who she is and who she wants to be following a heart transplant, releases 10/13/2020 from Candlewick Press and in 2021 from Walker UK. Find her online at www.shannontakaokawrites.com, @shannontakaoka (Twitter) and @shannontakaokawrites (Instagram).
Everything I Thought I Knew
By: Shannon Takaoka
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Release Date: October 13th, 2020
Five winners will receive a copy of Everything I Thought I Knew (Shannon Takaoka) ~ (US Only)
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