What Happens When You’re Not So Perfect?
How could so much change so fast?
Let’s see, you could be a plain Jane daughter of two gorgeous famous people; move to a new school; have no real friends; your mom could get sick; and, oh yeah, you could have the most embarrassing secret in the world. Yep, that about does it.
Hannah is an eighth grader trying her hardest to cling to what she knows and loves while her world shatters around her. Her parents are glamorous Hollywood royalty, and sometimes she feels like the ugly duckling in a family of swans. Faced with her mother’s death and her father’s withdrawal into grief, Hannah turns to the one thing she can control: her weight.
Hannah’s self-destructive secret takes over her life, but the new Beverly Hills clique she’s befriended at school only reinforces her desire to be beautiful, and not even the quirky misfit Jasper—the only one who seems to notice or care—can help. It will take a journey unlike any other to remind Hannah of who she really is, and to begin to get that girl back. Reasons to Be Happy is about standing up for all the things you love—including yourself.
Q: Hi Katrina! Welcome to our blog. Please tell us three random things yourself.
A: I have a soft spot in my heart for zombie and vampire stories, I'm an expert (interior) painter and actually love to paint rooms, and I sometimes won't get up to get more coffee or answer the phone if my cat is on my lap (what kind of rude person would disturb a sleeping cat?).
Q: What was the most unexpected or surprising thing that happened while you were writing REASONS TO BE HAPPY?
A: The most unexpected thing was that I was writing this book before I knew I was writing this book. I know, that doesn't make any sense! Let me explain: I was really floundering with my previous novel, The Blessings of the Animals. When my agent asked about it on the phone one day I said, “ It's too long and it's about too many things!” She made me send her 100 pages of it. She read it and agreed: “You're right. It is about too many things. This feels like two books.” She was excellent at extricating the two stories from each other. I peeled away the story of a struggling bulimic with celebrity parents, put those scenes in a folder, and focused on my more streamlined story of Blessings. I'd cut scenes before, even deleted whole characters, and I always save them…but I've never actually gone back and used any of them. I've always felt those deleted scenes were the stepping stones I needed to find whatever story I was currently working on. But years later, I returned to that folder, to that forgotten girl and her awful secret, and I fell in love with her in a whole new way. The rest of her story unfolded for me more quickly than any other novel I've ever written.
Q: Have you ever written a scene or a character in any of your book that was inspired by a real-life event or a person you know?
A: Yes. Everything ends up getting fictionalized, of course, but lots of scenes are inspired by real-life. I was lucky enough to get to travel to West Africa like Hannah did. I visited Ghana, Togo and Benin. I stayed in a private residence in Tafi Atome just like Hannah...and just like Hannah I had a certain “encounter” with a goat. I don't want to give any spoilers here, so I'll just say that first night Hannah experiences in Tafi Atome really happened to me, right down to the “creative use” of a plastic grocery sack. Also, again not trying to spoil anything, the great gift Jasper gives Hannah was, in real life, given to a friend of mine. We both thought it was the most romantic, amazing present. That real-life guy turned out to be psycho, though, so when I asked my friend if I could use that story she said, “Please. Something good should come from that!”
Q: If you're stranded on a deserted island with one of your characters from REASONS TO BE HAPPY, who would you want to be stranded with and why?
A: Aunt Izzy is pretty fierce. She'd be good to be stranded with because you know she's a survivor and a tough cookie and she's not going to crumble or be a whiner. She'll make things happen. Modesta, too, would be a great, resourceful companion. Unflappable, which is what you'd want in a crisis.
Q: Please share with us your favorite dialogue, quote or scene from REASONS TO BE HAPPY.
A: Oh, this is so hard! I have to admit I just spent far too long practically re-reading the whole book in order to select “just the right thing.” I guess I'll go with this scene from when Hannah is in Ghana. She's with her new friend Modesta, an orphan who lives in Tafi Atome. Hannah has worked up the courage to email Jasper back in LA, and she's going crazy waiting for his answer:
“He doesn't want to talk to me,” I told Modesta, miserable.
She put her hands on her bony hips and rolled her eyes.
“You don't understand,” I said. “He saw me do something terrible! I bet the teacher asked him for his email address and he said 'No way. I don't want to talk to her.' He's probably glad I'm gone. He hopes I never come back.”
“Hah-nah, Hah-nah, you talk crazy. Stop. Just stop.”
“You don't know! I'm a horrible person and he'd delete any message I sent him.”
“Hah-nah! Don't eat the monkey!”
I shut up. What did she just say?
She leaned toward me and repeated, “Slow. Down. Don't eat the monkey.”
I watched her lips move, trying to decipher what she'd said. “What is that supposed to mean?”
Modesta laughed—a musical, rare sound. She slapped her knee. “It means slow down and get the facts. Don't make up this kaka in your head before you know the truth.”
“What does that have to do with eating monkeys?”
She waved a hand at me as if impatient. “In Eastern Africa, they eat monkeys,” she said, disdain clear in her voice. “A French family moved to Kenya and brought their pet monkey. Their Kenyan cook's brother came to visit when the French family was on holiday. The cook's brother's wife caught the monkey and cooked it. They didn't know it was a pet.”
Was I insane? What was she talking about? What a horrible story! “Why would they cook someone else's monkey, even if they thought it was for food?”
She sighed. “Don't eat the monkey until you know.”
I burst out laughing at the absurdity. And I tried. I really tried. I did everything in my power not to eat the monkey while I checked email every half hour for the rest of the day.
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- End October 20, 2011
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