The following conversation is part of our Beyond The Bio series, featuring conversations between teens and authors they love. If you're a teen who'd like to participate, please click here to find out how we can connect you with authors you love. Today's guests include college freshmen Sasha Vengarick and Nic Stone, whose new book Jackpot drops tomorrow.
Sasha: You know I'm a big fan of your writing, and Jackpot was exactly as amazing as I'd expect. I laughed a lot, but there were also some heart-wrenching moments that surprised me. Could you tell our readers what they can expect?
Nic: This is actually a tough question! I’d say they can expect a Nic Stone Book, as arrogant as that might sound, lol. But yes: JACKPOT is a story that, like my other books, is chock-full of (hopefully) thought-provoking questions, lovable characters you’ll want to snuggle, and a bunch of questions without easy answers. I think...
Sasha: So two teenagers go on a quest to find a lottery ticket. There are laughs and adventure, but there's also a lot of commentary on some important social issues like poverty. How did you balance writing a novel that was both fun and important?
Nic: At this point, I think that might be my sweet spot: “issue” novels that make you think, but don’t bog you down (again: I hope). I think because the topics of my novels ARE important, but they’re full of characters who like to have fun, things sort of balance themselves out. Life can be hard, yes, but a solid majority of people can find something to smile/laugh about in the midst of hardship. That’s a thing I wanted to pull up to the surface in this book.
Sasha: Rico and Jess come from similar backgrounds of poverty, but they have such different outlooks when it comes to the future. What is your favorite thing about their developing friendship?
Nic: How much it surprises Rico. As a young woman who initially derives pretty much ALL of her value from how much she’s able to help her family, coming to discover there’s another girl her age who likes her for her—and not for what she has to offer or can contribute—is a jarring experience for Rico. But it’s an important one. We all need that friend who highlights the ways we sell ourselves short, you know?
Sasha: Both Rico and Jess sometimes feel like they aren't good enough when compared to their friends. What advice would you give to teenagers in real life who feel like their financial situation prevents them from belonging in certain situations or with certain people?
Nic: Man. This is another super tough one. The truth is: we place a pretty high value on how much is in a person’s bank account. And there’s really no getting around that. Even I still struggle with comparison and feelings of unworthiness from time to time. For me, the key is deciding what really matters to ME. I *know* deep down that as a teen, my financial situation wasn’t my fault, and while I still dealt with a lot of (relatively) poor kid anxiety, reminding myself of that was helpful. Also, a word of encouragement to those teens who do exist in dire financial straits: there IS hope. It won’t always be this way. Yes, it takes some grit and hard work, but beginning your own strong financial future is the best thing you can do for yourself.
Sasha: There are moments between chapters when you write from the perspective of inanimate objects. How was that experience different than writing from a human’s perspective?
Nic: Those chapters were so fun because they gave me the opportunity to look at things from a more objective viewpoint. And also to consider what *life* as a thing that doesn’t actually live would be like due to interaction with human beings.
Sasha: One of my favorite characters was Jax. He’s always so funny and excited even when he’s not physically doing well. Were there any moments while writing that he made you smile or laugh?
Nic: Oh, all the time. Jax is really a combo of my younger siblings and my eldest son. He’s got such a sweet soul, and is probably the purest representation of the effects of relative poverty in the whole book. Maybe I should give him his own story… Hmm.
Sasha: Rico takes care of Jax literally all the time, even bringing him on dates. Do you have any funny or embarrassing stories where you had to include a younger sibling in something?
Nic: In truth, I didn’t to a ton of actual *dating* in high school. I will confess: I willingly included my younger brother in some stuff he SHOULDN’T have been doing (and I shouldn’t have either). I think I might have some residual guilt from that!
Sasha: Are there any other YA novels readers should buy while picking up Jackpot when it comes out tomorrow?