Hey everyone! It's me, Julie Anne! I'm here with the very talented writer, Brenda Rufener. She has written Where I Live, which is easily one of the most interesting books I’ve read this year. It’s about a teen named Linden Rose who’s homeless and living in the hallways of her school. Linden and her friends are captivating characters everyone should have a chance to meet. Where I Live comes out later this month, and you do not want to miss it! If you stick around until the end, you can even enter to win a hardcover signed by Brenda herself! Let's get started with this interview!
Julie Anne: Hello! Thank you so much for allowing me to read Where I Live! Could you give our readers a little glimpse of what it’s about?
Brenda: And thank you for reading it, and having me on PickMyYA. Here’s a glimpse of what Where I Live is about:
Linden Rose lives by three rules:
1. Prevent the in-class nap.
2. Never carry too many belongings.
3. Avoid looking the part.
Her rules make sure no one discovers her secret–that she’s homeless and living in the halls of her small-town high school. Her position as school blog editor, her best friends, Ham and Seung, and the promise of a future far away are what keep Linden under the radar and moving forward.
But when cool-girl Bea comes to school with a bloody lip, the damage hits too close to home. Linden begins looking at Bea’s life, and soon her investigation prompts people to pay more attention. And attention is the last thing she needs.
Linden knows the only way to put a stop to the violence is to tell Bea’s story and come to terms with her own painful past. Even if that means breaking her rules for survival and jeopardizing the secrets she’s worked so hard to keep.
Julie Anne: Even as she’s homeless, Linden Rose still manages to be an incredibly funny and very independent teenager. Where did you get the inspirations to create her character?
Brenda: The character of Linden Rose is partly inspired by some amazing young women I spent time with in college as a volunteer for a literacy program. I worked with a group of women facing adverse circumstances, many of them homeless. These women were unwilling to give up, even in the face of incredible adversity, and I was drawn to their persistence and positivity. How I wished teen-me had known these women when I faced a similar situation. Their strength and determination was admirable. These women were homeless, but never hopeless, and I hope readers will find that same tenacity in Linden Rose.
Julie Anne: I have mixed feelings about Bea and Linden. Linden watches out for Bea, while Bea treats her like actual trash. Why does Linden have such a warm heart for this girl whose own heart has turned cold?
Brenda: Bea and Linden’s relationship is complex. Linden and her big heart can’t help but be drawn to someone hurting. But Bea’s not always approachable; she has her own walls to contend with. When writing Bea’s character, I didn’t want a neat and tidy relationship. I wanted Bea to be free to be herself, even if that meant being nasty at times. I remember my high school relationships, many filled with love but others a complete mess. Linden has a lot of compassion, sometimes more than she’s willing to unveil, and Bea’s circumstances remind Linden of where she’s from, what she’s been through. It’s difficult for Linden to shut Bea out of her life, although at times she wants to.
Julie Anne: I laughed so much while reading this book, especially when the “Ham Sandwich” got together! It gave me such a warm feeling to see the love they had for each other. What are some qualities you look for in a friend?
Brenda: Oh, I’m glad you enjoyed the “Ham Sandwich.” Seung, Ham, and Linden remind me so much of my own friends (past and present). The friendships you forge when you’re a teen can be some of the richest relationships. Qualities I look for in a friend are simple: Someone who’s real, loving, loyal, and finds the humor in the ridiculous and the serious. Let’s face it, this world can be harsh, and laughter helps keep you moving forward on the tough days.
Julie Anne: Your book does a tremendous job raising awareness about teenage homelessness. What are some changes you’d like to see implemented to help homeless teens in real life?
Brenda: While homelessness awareness has improved dramatically, thanks to advocates, both young and old, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Today, housing insecurity is at an all-time high. We see a large number of college students living in their vehicles, families being forced out of their homes due to rent increase, and an alarming number of LGBTQ+ teens being forced out of their homes after coming out to parents. To make matters worse, the majority of homeless shelters are not equipped to take in teens, especially those who identify as teen girls. There is much work to be done to better care for homeless youth. We need more shelters willing to take in teen girls exclusively. But on a much smaller scale, I’d love to see organizations focus more of their donation efforts on meeting the needs of homeless teen girls. Tampons are among the most needed items in homeless shelters.
Julie Anne: You have a way of writing that made me feel that I’m in the book. What is some advice you have for aspiring writers?
Brenda: The best advice given to me as an aspiring writer, which I will pass along to you, is to read everything. If you adore young adult contemporary, read young adult fantasy or even adult literary fiction. And don’t disregard nonfiction, which I’m guilty of. Some of the best nonfiction actually reads like fiction–in my humble opinion, of course.
Then, be brave and write. As a teen, I wrote really horrible poetry and equally painful song lyrics. I do hope those words never surface. But the point is, don’t be afraid to share your heart on paper. You have to begin somewhere, and for some of us, that’s writing horrible poems to the boy or girl we think we’re in love with at the time. Like I said, I really hope those poems never surface.
Julie Anne: Could you give us some details about your next masterpiece? I’m guessing it’s not poetry! But, even if it is, I know that many, many teens are going to be eager to read what’s next for you. After reading Where I Live, I know I am!
Brenda: Thank you for such kind words! I’m so excited to share my next book, coming in 2019, Since We Last Spoke. You’ll meet Aggi and Max, two teens torn apart by unimaginable pain and guilt over the loss of their siblings. This is another book close to my heart that focuses on a love that’s desperately trying to survive, in spite of everything coming against it. I’ll be sharing more about this book in upcoming months.
That’s it for today’s interview, but don’t leave just yet! We’ve teamed up with Brenda to give away a signed hardcover of Where I Live. You can enter our giveaway by clicking the image below. And don’t forget to come back again next week, when Daniela will be interviewing Tanaz Bhathena about her unforgettable new book, A Girl Like That.