Sunday, February 9, 2014



     According to Jody's official bio:

     Ohio-based Jody Casella has been writing stories since the age of seven. She majored in creative writing at Rhodes College and has an MA in English from the University of Memphis. After many years teaching and raising children, she's thrilled to be making her debut with THIN SPACE (Beyond Words/Simon & Schuster), a paranormal YA mystery about a boy coming to terms with his twin brother's death.


THIN SPACE debuted in September 2013, and has garnered some excellent editorial reviews, as I've noted in my previous post.  Jody has graciously agreed to be interviewed here and answer some of my (and, I hope, your) most burning questions.  Here's our interview:
1.         Jody, congratulations on the publication of your debut YA novel, THIN SPACE, and on all the wonderful reviews it’s gotten!  What was your first germ of an idea for this book, and how long ago did it invade your brain?
Thanks for the congrats! Let me tell you, this book was a long time coming. The germ of the idea was really two germs that wormed their way around in my head over many years. First, I came across an article about Celtic "thin places" --places where the wall between our world and the world of the dead is thinner. I thought that would be a cool premise for a story and I tucked it away--literally--I ripped the article out and folded it up and stuffed it in my purse. Around the same time, I was picking my son up from school one afternoon and noticed a teen boy stepping off the bus barefoot. It was winter, so that was disturbing, and my son informed me that this kid walked around everywhere barefoot, including at school. I'm not exactly sure what the alchemy is behind the creation of a story, but those two seemingly unrelated ideas, the Celtic thin places and the Barefoot Boy, mixed together when I began writing the first draft of Thin Space six years ago.
2.         Your protagonist’s circumstances rank pretty high on the extremity scale:  not only did his identical twin brother die a few months earlier in a car accident, but he himself was the one driving.  Were you ever afraid while you were writing this book of the depths of pain you would have to plumb?  What techniques did you use to keep yourself going when you didn’t want to?
When I started writing the book I didn't know what my main character's conflict was. I knew he was walking around barefoot. I knew he was hiding something and acting crazy, but that's about it. By the time I did figure it out, I was sucked too far into the story to pull back, but it was tempting. I heard an editor talk at a conference once about how many writers pull back in their writing just as the story is getting closer to the core of what it is about. In other words, they chicken out. They don't write the climax the story has been surging toward all along. I had the editor's words in my head when I was writing Thin Space, and thought, you know what? THIS time I am going all in. I am letting this book go where it wants to go.
3.         You’re an Italian girl!  How did you first hear of thin spaces?  Do you know a lot about Irish myths and legends (I am a HUGE fan of them), or did you just stumble on this one accidentally?
This question makes me laugh because I don't think of myself as Italian. Okay, I can make a decent spaghetti sauce. If you read my blog, you will know that I have confessed about my lack of what I call the "Italian Cleaning Gene." I am working on making peace with this! As far as Celtic legends go, I mentioned earlier how I had stumbled upon the article about thin places. I did do more research later, but in no way am I an expert. (Now, I am filing away the fact that you are...)
4.         In case there is anyone reading this interview who thinks that “debut novel” is synonymous with “first novel,” would you like to comment on the difference between the two, both generally and specifically with regard to your own experience?  (You’ve done such a great job on your own blog interviewing published authors about their successful “pathways to publication.”  I thought I’d turn the tables on you!)
One of my favorite questions to ask authors is how many books they wrote before getting their first publishing deal. I was sitting next to Jerry Spinelli at a conference and he told me four, which made me feel immensely better. Thin Space, for the record, is my sixth book. Most writers I've asked have similar responses. In fact, I have only met one person who answered that her first published book was the first book she had written. No one wants to hear this when they are starting out, but it may take writing a novel (or writing several novels) to learn how to write a novel.
5.         What were some of your favorite books when you were a kid/teen?  Who are some of your favorite current YA authors?  How have your tastes changed, and how have they stayed the same?
The YA pickings were slim when I was teen. I read Judy Blume, of course. Also, Ellen Conrad and Marilyn Sachs. I devoured the VC Andrews books, like most girls I knew. At age twelve I jumped into adult books--Stephen King, my mother's Sidney Sheldon books. I read anything and everything and was probably the only student in my English class who loved the classics we were assigned. Now my favorite authors are Sara Zarr, John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson, Meg Rosoff, and Courtney Summers. I'm a little pickier about what I read and I have a harder time shutting my writer/editor voice up and simply falling into a story, which bugs the heck out of me.
6.         You’ve written in your blog about your discomfort with taking long road trips alone, but about how you’ve faced it down in order to travel for school and library visits to publicize your book.  Are there other ways you can think of in which having a book out has helped you on a personal level?  Are there any other ways in which it’s made your life more difficult or more complicated than it was before?
Yes, I think I have finally gotten past my solo driving phobia. I just got back from a 1200 mile+ trip a few weeks ago and the other day I drove 3 hours and thought it was nothing. I was almost annoyed at how little of my audio CD I could listen to in that short period of time.
Having a book out--which was my life long dream--has been a pretty gratifying experience. But now I am realizing that it is only the beginning. I started my blog On the Verge because I wanted to chronicle what it felt like to be on the verge of publication. When my book came out, one of my friends said, "Well, now you're going to have to change the name of your blog." The funny thing is I still feel like I am on the verge. I have a book out, but I want to have MORE books out. I am still learning about my writing process and about the publishing and promotional side of this business. It's hard--the writing, the revising, the promoting--everything. And it doesn't get any easier the longer that I do it.
7.         Can you talk a little bit about what you’re working on now, and how far along you are with it?  How do you divide your time between current projects, marketing of THIN SPACE, and popping up on social media?
I am working on the fourth draft of a novel that I started about five years ago. I'm never good at describing projects while I am in the middle of them, but this one is a fantasy--very different from Thin Space--with multiple POVs. Sort of a mash up between environmental disaster and Greek mythology. It's a big mess that keeps getting messier but something about the story won't let me go.
I still haven't got the hang of how to balance writing time with promoting. So, if anyone has advice, I'd love to hear it!
8.         What’s the best thing a kid you’ve met on your tours has said to you, either about THIN SPACE or about anything else?  And on the flip side, what’s your favorite thing to talk to kids about on your stops?
I've gotten the nicest responses from kids and each class I visit I am blown away by the level of discourse and engagement. These kids--even 10 year olds--are asking me things like: "What happens when you introduce a character in the first few chapters and later realize you've forgotten about her?" Or: "What's your strategy for dealing with writer's block?"
My favorite thing to talk about with beginning writers is revision. I know this sounds like a boring topic, and typically, kids--and most adults too--HATE revision. But I love it and I love sharing revision tips I've picked up along the way. I think some people are under the impression that books just plop out, perfectly. They compare their first drafts to a professional writer's finished copy (which could be a tenth draft!) and the comparison is always going to make them feel bad. They have these complicated, beautiful ideas in their heads, and what ends up on the page doesn't match that, and it's discouraging. I like to tell them that all writers struggle with the process, and each time you go back into your story you are getting closer and closer. It's your story, I say to them, and you are the only one who can tell it. So, don't give up.

     THANK YOU, Jody, for being so generous and informative!  I love that Jody is refreshingly open and honest about her journey to publication.  For an embarrassingly long period of my life, I believed that authors sprang fullblown out of adolescence and onto the writing scene.  Only in recent years have I become aware of the often-long, often-arduous process of perfecting one's craft day by day - or, in Ann Lamott's perfect metaphor, "bird by bird."  It helps me so much to be able to get a glimpse of how the whole thing actually works.  I hope it helps you too.

     Jody's social media contacts are as follows:

Website On the Verge:
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                                                 BOOK GIVEAWAY CONTEST    
And now for Part II of this post!  Jody is sending me an autographed copy of THIN SPACE, which I will be giving away to a lucky contest winner.  Here's the deal:  Leave a comment telling me a little bit about someone you've lost in one way or another, and whom you wish you could contact in order to complete some unfinished business between the two of you.  I'll accept entries any time between now and next Saturday, February 16th, at midnight Eastern time.  I'll then choose my favorite entry and send out the autographed copy of THIN SPACE to said entrant, wherever he or she lives.  Good luck, and may the thin spaces be ever in your favor!


  1. Hmm. I don't think my comment posted for some reason so I apologize if it ends up coming up twice.

    I actually have two people that I would love to contact just one more time: my grandparents. They both died within six months of each other back in 2007 and I miss them terribly. Even though my grandmother had been in the hospital for a few weeks, we didn't think it was serious enough to cause death. The last year or so leading up to their deaths I had been working a lot, going to school, and the mother of two young kids. I didn't have much free time (as in none) and didn't get to visit with them as much as I would have liked. Their deaths really came out of nowhere and I have regretted that I hadn't spent more time with them. I would give anything for just one more day with them to show them how much I loved them and how important with me. I'd sit with them on the couch and watch The Price is Right and The Sound of Music while eating crunchy peanut butter and jelly toast, just like we would do every time I needed to say home sick from school. Those were some of my absolute favorite days.

    Thank you so much for sharing this interview, I always love learning about authors and their journey to publication. This Space has been sitting on my wish list for a while so even if I don't win a copy here, I'll still be giving it a read :)


  2. Tiffany: what a beautiful remembrance of your grandparents! Thank you for sharing it here. Sounds to me like you did everything right and they had to have known how much you loved them. I'm so glad you enjoyed my interview with Jody. And as for winning your signed copy of THIN SPACE, let me just say that so far, you are well in the lead!! I'm so glad you stopped by to visit here.

  3. Thank you, Susan. My biggest regret is that my kids won't have the chance to know them as I did, they were amazing people. As for Thin Space, my fingers are crossed :)

    1. Tiffany: you are my lucky contest winner! Please see my reply to your comment about FERAL for instructions to claim your prize. Woohoooo!!!

  4. Great interview--thanks! And I'll definitely have to check out THIN SPACE. The Celtic idea of thin places has interested me for some time (and is very significant in one of the novels that will be counted in my pre-debut total, lol).

  5. Thanks for visiting, Shari! I only recently learned that the whole concept of Halloween arose from the Celtic idea of thin spaces: All Hallows Eve is a night when the space between this world and the next is at its thinnest, which is why witches and ghosts and goblins come through and roam around on our side, and people have to give them treats to appease them!