15 May

#Blink Blog Author Spotlight: Christina June (Part 1)

To celebrate the release of No Place Like Here, we have a special Q&A with Christina June! Stay tuned for Part II later this week…

Get your copy of No Place Like Here HERE.

What was your inspiration behind No Place Like Here?

In my day job as a school counselor, I’ve spoken to a lot of students who don’t feel like they can tell their parents what they want or need.  They’ve learned, through experience or perception, that their words are meaningless.  It breaks my heart every single time.  This book was inspired by those kids.  I wanted to show them that their voices matter and that they have power to make change in their own lives.  My narrator, Ashlyn, started as a character who appears in IT STARTED WITH GOODBYE.  Readers who know her already will be familiar with her poor choices in boys, her ability to hold a grudge, and her unusually strict father.  When my editor and I were brainstorming ideas for my next proposal, I knew I wanted to let Ashlyn tell her own story that would explore how much more than that she is.

Why a Hansel and Gretel re-telling?

The fairy tale framework, Hansel & Gretl, is, at its core, an abandonment story between children and their father, which fit Ashlyn perfectly. Since my companion novels are all set in the summer, my mind went to summer camp as being the ideal fish out of water setting for Ashlyn.  I altered that to a wilderness retreat center, and voila, her story began to take shape.  This book has some of my favorite transformed elements of all my books.  I love how Ashlyn uses quotes as the breadcrumbs, pointing her home, and I had so much fun using the candy and gingerbread house pieces for the “wicked witch.”

What makes this book special/unique?

Aside from being inspired by Hansel & Gretl, which I haven’t seen done much, I think the setting is really fun. Ashlyn is working at this corporate retreat center for the summer.  This is the kind of place companies might send a group of employees to take some personality tests, do a ropes course, maybe a trust fall, and talk about how they can work better together.  I took inspiration from Hemlock Overlook Regional Park, where I went with my class in fifth grade, and we did a bunch of team-building activities.  It was also inspired by Airlie, a wonderfully peaceful hotel and conference center.  I mashed those two places together and came up with the retreat center that appears in the book.  Think summer camp for adults.

What kind of impact did writing No Place Like Here have on you personally?

Given who I was writing it for, I felt a lot of self-imposed pressure to get the strained relationship between Ashlyn and her father right.  I worried a lot about it being authentic, and about Ash being someone readers would relate to.  The good news is, I have been completely blown away by the response from early readers. Many have commented on how they too have been in a similar situation and really felt connected to her, so I am grateful for that.  I know Ash isn’t going to be every reader’s cup of tea—she grew up very privileged, she’s prickly, she’s introverted, and she makes horrible romantic choices—but she’s still a work in progress and I’m glad readers will have the chance to consider that.