Jasmine Warga is a busy woman these days. She has a new baby, a new house, and a new work in progress. Despite all that, she took some time away from her busy life to talk with us about My Heart And Other Black Holes, her debut novel about two teenagers who form a suicide pact. If you haven't read the unforgettable story of Aysel and Roman yet, go do it now. Paramount's got a movie in the works, and you know there's a little part of you that wants to read the book before all your friends do.
James: Your cover is seriously one my favorites in all YA! Both the hardcover and the paperback edition are absolutely gorgeous! How much influence do you as an author have in the process of choosing your cover?
Jasmine: Thank you so much! I can take very little credit for the covers. That said, my editor is very kind and she keeps me involved during the design process. MY HEART went through several different covers before they settled on the final one, but I really love what we ended up with. I loved it from the moment it landed in my inbox and was even more thrilled when I saw how cool the texture looked on the hardcover.
James: This book, for all its beauty, deals with some really ugly realities. What prompted you to write a book about two people who form a suicide pact?
Jasmine: This is a tricky question to answer because I don't think I ever actively had a moment where I thought "I want to write a book about two people who form a suicide pact." Rather one morning, I woke up with Aysel's voice in my head, and she led me to the story. She was my narrative companion and I discovered the story as I discovered her character.
James: Last year, NPR published a review of your novel, in which Tasha Robinson said that your book "fundamentally understands the weight of depression, and the disconnects that come because people find it so hard to understand each other." What is it about your book that causes it to ring true for those of us who have experienced depression?
Jasmine: I was very honored by that review, and I like to think that what makes the book ring true for those who have suffered from depression or suicidal ideation is that the book was written from an emotionally honest place. Obviously all novels are fiction, but I think it's very important for stories to also be emotionally honest. And I tried really hard to make sure MY HEART was.
James: What would you say to readers who, like Aysel or Roman, are struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts?
Jasmine: You are never alone, no matter what your mind is telling you. Depression is a liar. You matter and you are loved. Please reach out to a friend, a counselor, a trusted adult, or a hotline. You do not have to suffer alone.
James: Which scene was your favorite to write?
Jasmine: Aysel's little brother's birthday. That scene surprised me as I hadn't planned on writing it and ended up adding it later, but it's now one of my very favorite scenes in the book.
James: Aysel loves physics and is always wanting to understand how things work. Are you a physics nerd as well?
Jasmine: No! I'm actually the opposite--terrible at science, especially physics! I taught 6th grade science for a little while though so I think some of that may have leaked over into the novel.
James: Last year, Paramount bought the film rights to your novel. If you were in charge of casting, who would you choose to play Aysel and Roman?
Jasmine: Ah! I feel like I can't really answer this question anymore since amazing things have happened for the book in the film development arena. But I do feel very strongly that I would want an actress of color to play Aysel.
James: What's the most meaningful compliment you've ever received from a reader?
Jasmine: This is so hard to choose, but the emails I get from teens that tell me the book made them feel less alone touch me deeply. I'm very honored whenever someone who suffers from depression tells me they found the book to be authentic and emotionally honest and helpful.
James: What books do you always find yourself recommending to other people?
Jasmine: In YA, I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN by Jandy Nelson and David Arnold's recently released KIDS OF APPETITE. In adult, I'm always recommending people read Junot Diaz, Zadie Smith, and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
James: Can you tell us anything about your next project?
Jasmine: Yes! It (if I make my deadline, fingers crossed!) should be coming out in Fall 2017. It's tentatively titled HERE WE ARE NOW, and is about music, friendship, and family secrets. It's very different from MY HEART, but I'm hoping my readers will also enjoy it.
That's it for today's interview with Jasmine. But if you have any questions for Jasmine or want to let her know how My Heart And Other Black Holes has impacted you, be sure to check out her website and reach out to her on Twitter. And be sure to come back again next week, when we'll be talking to NY Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver!