Wednesday, July 25, 2007
BLOOD BROTHERS is S.A. Harazin's debut novel. Delacorte says: "S. A. Harazin's gritty, powerful story takes the reader into the emergency room, the world of teenage parties and drug use, and the lives of two friends who are as close as brothers." Kirkus says: "This compelling story, told in diary entries that cover hours and days, never loses the pace as Clay races to discover what happened during Joey’s last day. The antidrug message is never didactic, and the story will grab readers from the first sentence." Young adult literature expert Teri Lesesne says, "S. A. Harazin has written a terrific novel of friendship, family, longing and belonging in BLOOD BROTHERS."
Please welcome S.A. Harazin to the YA Authors Cafe.
CATHY A: Who are the "blood brothers" of your title, and what happens to them in the story?
S.A. HARAZIN: The “blood brothers” are Clay and Joey. When they were seven, they spit into a bottle to become blood brothers. They dreamed of taking a cross county bike trip, and they spent the next ten years preparing. But one evening Clay went to Joey’s house and found him hallucinating and violent. Joey ended up in ICU at the hospital where Clay worked as an orderly.
CATHY A: Clay is poor and Joey is rich. How does this affect each of them in
their lives and expectations?
S.A. HARAZIN: Clay began to notice the differences when they were in high school. Joey had more friends, more money, a car, and was planning to go to Duke University and someday become a doctor—something Clay wanted desperately to do. Clay worked hard but he never seemed to get anywhere. Even Clay’s girlfriend preferred Joey. Joey saw Clay as his best friend, but he did not completely understand Clay’s life.
CATHY A: You have many strong supporting characters. Chief Baker and Mrs. Hunt are two of my favorites. Tell us about a few of your supporting
characters--literally, how do they *support* Clay in the story?
S.A.HARAZIN: Mrs. Hunt is a nursing supervisor, and she took a chance when she hired and trained Clay as an orderly. This was an opportunity for Clay, and he was good at his job, but he made mistakes. He realized how much he wanted to become a doctor. On the outside, Mrs. Hunt is stern and expects the best from Clay. Later in the story she does something to help Clay offstage that is both risky and surprising.
Chief Baker has grown children, so he tries to understand Clay. He begins to look at the facts, he listens, and he realizes there is more to the story than Clay knows. He sees Clay as vulnerable and worries that he will get into trouble.
CATHY A: What was your inspiration for Blood Brothers?
S.A. HARAZIN: It is loosely based on life experiences. It was a story that had been with me for many years. But the first grain of the story came to me at work when a patient was going through the process of brain death diagnosis. He was just a kid, and what happened next really affected me. That also was when I realized how much life was unfair, and how we can do everything to save somebody, but it isn’t enough.
CATHY A: Most of Clay's peers treat him badly in BB. How do you think they see him? Do you think their views will change as they all get older?
S.A. HARAZIN: Clay is mostly invisible to his peers. But while his peers are having normal teenage experiences (and partying), Clay is thrown into life and death situations. Joey knows that part of him—the others do not. I definitely feel that their views will change—and towards the end of the story, the views of Alicia and Wade (minor characters who wanted to blame Clay for everything) have changed.
CATHY A: You worked in a hospital yourself as a teen. Were you able to use that experience as research for this story?
S.A. HARAZIN: Yes. I could remember my emotional reactions the first time I would see anything bad happening. But there were many mundane times, too. I came to love the mundane. People who watch shows like ER see the excitement. With me, there were times when I was afraid I would not know what to do.
CATHY A: I am in awe of the smooth way you wove separate time periods
together--distant past, recent past, and present. It gave the book a
propulsive feeling, like I couldn't turn pages fast enough. How did you
choose that structure, and how did you get it to work?
S.A. HARAZIN: Thanks! My editor suggested the flashbacks and placing the time at the beginning of scenes. He deserves lots of credit for helping me make BLOOD BROTHERS what it is. I had to figure out where to place the flashbacks, and I worried that I would slow down the story. There was a lot of hard work involved, and I was glad that with the help of an editor, I was able to take the story to another level.
I also benefitted from the advice of critiquers.
CATHY A: You have strong male lead characters in your work that I've read, with devastating dry deadpan humor. How do you find these male voices, and do you have plans to write a female lead at some time?
S.A. HARAZIN: I have three kids. Their friends hang out at my house. I listen whenever I can. The kids have different, distinct voices that I know well.
I don’t know if I’ll be writing with a female lead. I feel more comfortable with a male POV.
CATHY A: You are a moderator on the Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Chat Board. How has the internet changed things for writers in the past ten years or so? What is the value of community as a writer?
S.A. HARAZIN: A writer can find just about anything he needs to know on the internet. Verla Kay’s site offers support to writers. It is a good place to cyber- meet other writers. Sometimes we have editors or agents drop by and post advice or answer questions. This is helpful for people who can’t go to conferences.
The down side is that the internet can turn into a major distraction.
Thank you for sharing with us! Now for the blog readers to have a turn . . .
~~Cafe Note~~ As a regular part of our interviews, featured authors will pop back in for one week after their interview is posted to answer any other questions blog readers may leave for them. So if you have any questions or comments for Shirley, send them now! She'd love to hear from you!
Many thanks to guest interviewer, Catherine Atkins, author of When Jeff Comes Home, and Alt Ed.