The following conversation is part of our Beyond The Bio series, featuring conversations with authors we love. If you're a teen who'd like to interview an author, please click here to find out how we can connect you with your favorite YA authors. Today's guests include 14-year-old Venessa A. and Stacie Ramey, whose new book It's My Life comes out this Tuesday.
Venessa: Hello Mrs. Ramey. "It's My Life" was a very inspirational book. Did you grow up in a similar environment as Jenna?
Stacie: Thank you so much for your kind words. I grew up in a very similar family as Jenna’s with just a few tweaks. I am actually the youngest in my family with an older brother and a sister and, like Jenna, I had many health issues. I do not have cerebral palsy but was always sick as a child. My brother and sister were amazing to me/with me and they continue to cheer me on even as adults.
Venessa: How did you come up with such an independent character?
Stacie: Jenna is one of my favorite characters. She’s independent mostly because of how she grew up-supported and given freedom to choose in most things.
Venessa: Why was it important for you to have Jenna be Jewish?
Stacie: I’m not certain it was so important to have her be Jewish, but since I was writing her as if she were me growing up, that choice made sense because I am Jewish. Also with the rise of antisemitism worldwide, I believe it’s so important to have authentic representation of Jewish characters in kidlit and I hope someone who needs to see a character like Jenna finds her-either because they’ve never met a Jewish person in real life or because they are Jewish, themselves, and want to see their family life portrayed positively in a book.
Venessa: In any of your drafts, did Ben ever become Jenna's boyfriend?
Stacie: Lol. No. He was always just super kind to her. I’ve always been lucky enough to have a ton of male friends. He’s kind of a mix of all of my favorites. I love Ben so much.
Venessa: There's that scene when Jenna was younger and a rude boy was making fun of her. It really stood out to me. Do you think people in that situation can ever get used to bullying?
Stacie: I’m not sure that the boy was trying to bully Jenna, even though it really did hurt her and hurt me to even write it. I’m sure it didn’t feel great to read it either, but this is the reality. In my humble opinion, we all need to be less abrasive and more inclusive. We need to consider other people’s feelings when we speak. As for whether or not Jenna can get used to it, I don’t think you ever get used to things like that, but I think you can learn to ignore it.
Venessa: What would you do if your parents lied to you for all those years?
Stacie: My parents did lie to me when they thought they needed to protect me, but never about something that pertained to me. I think that makes it different. Jenna’s parents were guilt ridden and scared for their daughter and sometimes that makes you make bad decisions-like not telling her about her birth story. But I get why Jenna was so angry with them.
Venessa: What kind of music were you listening to as you were writing the book?
Stacie: I am lucky enough to have a husband who collects vinyl and is a true music lover. He usually controls what’s tracking in my house. I can tell him the mood I need to conjure and he’ll fill the place with hours of perfectly picked songs.