Hey everyone! Julie Anne here! Today, on #BeyondTheBio, we have the great Joelle Charbonneau! It's such an honor, because this special lady is the New York Times bestselling author of the Testing Trilogy and her writing is absolutely incredible. Her new book, Time Bomb, comes out this Tuesday and is an unforgettable who-done-it that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page! Alright, let's get into the interview! And don’t forget to stick around until the end so you can win a special Time Bomb giveaway, featuring a copy of the book and a book-themed drawstring backpack.
Julie Anne: Hello! Time Bomb was full of twists! It's so crazy! Can you tell our readers a little bit about it?
Joelle: Hello! Thanks so much for reading TIME BOMB and for having me on the blog. Time Bomb is a story that I pitched as Breakfast Club meets Die Hard (ie...things blow up). It's the week before school starts, which means marching band and football practice are in full swing, kids are getting new IDs and teachers are preparing for classes to start. Six students of different ethnic, economic and religious backgrounds go into the school and a bomb goes off. First responders are told that there are more bombs inside the school and if they try to go in and rescue anyone those additional bombs will be set off. The students stuck inside are trying to get out and as they band together they start to realize that while they think they know each other, no one is who you see every day. Everyone is more than the stereotype people put them into or what they show to the world. And one of them is the bomber....
Julie Anne: Time Bomb's such a suspenseful story! What do you think are the keys for making a good suspenseful story?
Joelle: I am so glad you thought it was suspenseful. It was certainly suspenseful for me since I had no idea who the bomber was going to be until I got close to the end! When it comes to what makes a novel suspenseful, I think it is always gripping when a story has a sense of danger as well as a feeling that something out of the characters' control can happen at any moment. I also find that any story with a mystery element, such as who is the bomber, keeps the suspense level high for me. That's when I turn the pages really fast to find the clues and to see if I guessed correctly!
Julie Anne: My favorite character was Diana. Everyone thinks she's perfect, but (Ha!) no she was not! Where did you get the idea for her?
Joelle: When I was a sophomore in high school, there was a girl who was a senior who was smart and beautiful and her family was very well off. She looked like she had the perfect life--and she committed suicide. In the haze of the sadness and shock, I remember my theater teacher saying that it is easy to think that someone is happy because they are smiling, or assume that a person isn't lonely because they are popular at school. I thought about that a lot in the days, months and now years that have passed and I used those thoughts when I created Diana.
Julie Anne: Each of the main characters in Time Bomb has a very particular background and personality. As you pointed out, it’s very Breakfast Club that way. Is it safe to say that movie inspired your writing process?
Joelle: Ha! Yes! It was part of my pitch. I think to represent a modern day high school, it was necessary to make each main character distinct. It also allowed me to explore how two people from very different backgrounds who think they have nothing in common with each other can find that they are far more alike than they are dissimilar. I think at the heart we are all more alike than we might originally think.
Julie Anne: Everyone in this story is judged in some way. What would you tell your teen readers who are judged for their appearance or religion?
Joelle: It is easy to say that no one should judge a book by its cover, but we all know it happens. (As writers we really want great covers because we know that the cover will make or break whether a reader will even pick up the book.) The most important thing to remember is that for everyone that dismisses you because of your appearance or religion or where you live or...whatever there will be another person that is going to see beyond those things--and it might be the last person you think will *see* you. It is hard to open up and let people in, especially when you have been hurt by it in the past, but it is important to keep trying. And if you are struggling under the weight of judgment, find someone you trust to talk to about it. And if you don't think you have anyone to talk to--come find me!
Julie Anne: What is some advice you have for aspiring writers?
Joelle: Oh wow! I have lots of advice, but I think the most important thing is to finish what you start! Every story has a beginning, a middle and an end for it to be complete. Lots of writers get really excited about an idea and jump into writing the beginning of the story with great enthusiasm. Then they hit the middle....which I call the black hole of death. The middle is the point where you think the story might not be any good. You are worried that no one will want to read it and you feel like it is sucking away your soul. (Yes, I make writing sound super fun. Right?) And when you are in the black hole of death, it never fails that you get a brand new idea that is shiny and fun and you are certain is going to be so much better than the one you are working on. Lots of aspiring writers ditch the first project at this point and jump into the new one. DON'T DO IT! Because I can promise you that you are going to run into the black hole of death on the next project, and the one after that. Fight through the black hole of death and get to THE END. (Hitting THE END is the best feeling ever so you honestly want to reach that point!!!!) The story could be terrible or it could be better than you think, but regardless of whether it is the worst thing ever or the best book in the world you will have taught yourself something really important that every writer needs to learn - that you CAN finish. You CAN navigate the black hole of death and safely reach the other side. (Instead of teaching yourself that you can't!) Trust me when I say, I am glad I know that I can finish. Otherwise, self-doubt might convince me to stop trying.
Julie Anne: Time Bomb is unforgettable, but you've actually written a lot of other books as well! Which of your other books would you recommend to someone who enjoyed Time Bomb?
Joelle: I am so flattered you think TIME BOMB is unforgettable. You just made my day. And hmmm...I guess the book I would first recommend to those who like TIME BOMB would be my other contemporary thriller - NEED, which is about the dark side of social media and what people can convince themselves is okay when they are anonymous on the internet and are promised rewards for the things that they do.
Julie Anne: Do you have any other works planned for the future?
Joelle: I do! Funny, but when I first started writing I thought coming up with new ideas would be hard, but I always seem to have lots of ideas I want to explore. I am currently working on a the first of what will be a new thriller series that deals with the nature of truth. It is about 16 year old Meri Beckley, who is determined to complete the painting her mother was working on before she died in an accident. Only, Meri discovers that the picture is more than canvas and paint--it is the key that opens her eyes to the world that is far different than she or any of her friends imagined--a world where words that have been purposely erased from everyday vocabulary exist. And once she understands the meaning of those words she realizes nothing about the world is as she seems and that knowledge can be the greatest danger of all. Wish me luck!
That’s it for today’s interview, but don’t leave just yet! You can win a copy of Time Bomb and a special Time Bomb backpack! Click the picture below for the details of this week's giveaway! And don’t forget to vote for your favorite books in the #SweetSixteen round of #BookMadness. We'll see you again next week, when Daniela will be interviewing Alexandra Monir about her amazing new book, The Final Six.