Today, as part of the blog tour for This Is Not A Drill, I have an interview with the lovely author, Beck McDowell!
What made you decide to write a YA novel?
LOTS of years in middle and high school classrooms. I taught everything from remedial language labs to AP classes, and I learned tons about the kinds of books teen readers like. So many of my students avoided reading because they hadn’t been engaged by the required reading books in school. I read aloud in class from current YA’s to show them these books have characters who think and act like they do – to prove to them they could trust young adult writers to give them books they’ll actually enjoy. I want to build that kind of trust with my readers by telling interesting stories with fast-moving plots, relatable characters, and resolutions that make sense.
What kind of research did you do for This Is Not a Drill?
I’ve talked to a lot of former students who’ve served our country in the military, and I always ask questions about how the experience of war has changed them. I worry about how little support there seems to be for returning soldiers and about society’s lack of understanding regarding the difficulty of this transition. Of course, I read a lot about PTSD and it symptoms and treatment, but the personal accounts I heard gave me a better understanding of the lasting (and often hidden) effects of war.
Do you have a favorite character from your book? Do you think readers will agree with you about that character?
Wow. That’s so tough. They ‘re all my babies, you know. I love Emery’s compassion, Jake’s courage, Patrick’s sweet spirit, Lewis’quirkiness, Natalie’s theatricality, Mason Mayfield III’s cockiness, Kenji’s vulnerability. I could go on and on. Stutts, of course, was the hardest to write; he’s done this terrible thing – bringing a gun into a first grade classroom – but I wanted the reader to understand what’s going on in his life, not to excuse his actions but to help explain his pain.
If you had to describe This Is Not a Drill in 140 characters or less, how would you describe it?
2 teens must protect 1st graders they tutor when Iraq vet opens fire in classroom after he’s denied access to his son due to custody battle (Good exercise; I hadn’t tried turning it into a tweet.)
What’s been the best part of the publishing process?
That Day! When the call came from my wonderful agent Jill Corcoran that we had multiple offers on THIS IS NOT A DRILL. I’m still dizzy from the zipline ride of submission to sale in only two weeks. That’s the short answer and the longer one would be about working with Nancy Paulsen, who has shepherded the careers of so many fabulous Penguin authors. It’s such a thrill to become a part of that tradition.
Where can readers find you online?
My Beckspace blog address is www.beckmcdowell.com. I’m @beckmcdowell on Twitter, and Facebook has a brand new page for THIS IS NOT A DRILL, in addition to my Facebook page. Also, I was an early adapter of Pinterest so don’t judge me for the huge number of pins. It’s how I unwind – looking at pictures after a long day of working with words.
Thanks so much for the interview!
Thanks for chatting with me. I enjoyed your questions.
Readers, trust me, you want this book. And since I think everyone should have the chance to read it, I’m giving away a copy, open internationally!