Monday, August 14, 2017

Interview with A. B. Rutledge, author of Miles Away From You, and US giveaway of ARC of her book

Dear All:
Yet another win from HMH Teen! I took to twitter and said that I wasn't cool enough to read this book. It's still true. A. B. told me she didn't feel cool enough for the book either and she wrote it!

Goodreads Book Description: It's been three years since Miles fell for Vivian, a talented and dazzling transgender girl. Eighteen months since a suicide attempt left Vivian on life support. Now Miles isn't sure who he is without her, but knows it’s time to figure out how to say goodbye.

He books a solo trip to Iceland but then has a hard time leaving the refuge of his hotel room. After a little push from ├ôskar, a local who is equal parts endearing and aloof, Miles decides to honor Vivian's life by photographing her treasured Doc Martens standing empty against the surreal landscapes. With each step he takes, Miles finds his heart healing—even as he must accept that Vivian, still in a coma, will never recover.

Told through a series of instant messages to Vivian, this quirky and completely fresh novel explores love, loss, and the drastic distances we sometimes have to travel in order to move on.

My Rating: 5 couches

My review:  The contemps this year have been hella good. I don't typically dole out this many five stars in a row. And this one is no exception.
So I want to preface this by saying this is not my kind of book.
You may misunderstand what I mean. I don't typically prefer/read male type protagonists and not typically into road trips/traveling abroad to find oneself. And I don't usually like books written as letters to someone. So this book was chock full of stuff that I don't usually like or read, and yet... and yet...
Miles is so typically boy but not. He is fluid on the sexuality scale, and so real and believable but I've never read someone like him before. I loved how he talked about his relationship with Vivian, the beautiful transgender girl. I loved his relationship to his moms, and I loved Oskar. Oh Oskar. I have a crush on him now myself.
Beautiful, poignant, and strangely addictive-- the voice of Miles was unique and moving. I don't really know what else to say. One of my favorite parts was that while he mentioned the hardships of being the way he was, and Vivian's difficult life from being trans, it was so clear that there is something universal in his experiences of loss and feeling different that anyone-- cis or trans, can relate to. And I think that's what this world needs a little more of-- "us"/"we" and less of "other."
I am honored to have read this book.

Blurb about the author:
A.B. Rutledge is an optician from Southeast Missouri. She likes '90s alternative music, dresses with pockets, and leaving Halloween decorations up all year long. When she's not up at 3 a.m. scribbling out stories, you can find her in her art studio covered in paper scraps, paint, and cats. Miles Away From You is her first novel.

Interview Questions.
1. Hard one: If you could describe your book in a single tweet, what would it be?
PERKS meets LOST IN TRANSLATION in Iceland with an all-queer cast. 

2. I love how the title/idea of this book goes hand in hand with the MC's first name. Did you come up with the name/character before the title, or vice versa?
I named the character first (borrowed it from a male model I came across on Pinterest). I had no idea what to call the book until a friend suggested that the title incorporate his name. Lightbulb moment! I don’t know why I hadn’t thought of it before. For a bit there, I almost called it Miles in her Shoes because Vivian’s Doc Martens play a big role in the plot, but in the end Miles Away from You does a better job of capturing the feeling of loneliness that permeates the story.

3. I love how this book took place mostly in Iceland. What made you decide to place the book location here, and if you went there, please describe your experience there.
I went to Iceland for my birthday in 2014 (I've included a photo of me freezing my butt off on a glacier as my author photo for this interview) and when I came back everyone kept asking me how it was, but I would just stare off into space and sigh. It’s so impossible to describe! This book is definitely my love letter to that gorgeous country. I hope it makes everyone pack their bags and buy a ticket to Keflavik. Do you think the Icelandic tourism committee will compensate me for my services?

4. The characters in this book are just terrific, including the wonderful Vivian, Miles, and Oskar who I think I have a huge crush on now. Which houses of Hogwarts would these characters get sorted into and why? And what is your house and why?
This is my favorite question! Miles is a Hufflepuff because he’s timid and peaceful and once wrote a love letter to a sandwich. Vivian is a Gryffindor because she’s kick-ass and brave and amazing. And Oskar…at first glance Oskar seems like a Slytherin, right? But he’s Scandinavian—nothing cracks me up more than knowing Oskar would’ve gone to Durmstrang. Because he’s SO Durmstrang.
As for me, my goth sensibilities and undying love for a certain Potions teacher have me all set for dungeon life #slytherinpride

5. What book do you wish you had as a teen and why?
Oh, that’s tough! I was always an “artsy” kid, but as a teenager I never thought anything I created was good enough, so I put it aside. I didn’t paint or write much at all until well into my twenties. Teenage me could have really benefited from a copy of Lynda Barry’s Picture This, which taught grown-up me how to create magical things like a kid again, without that pesky inner critic getting in the way.

6. Can you remark on awareness for gender identity, transgender issues, and how we might work on having these individuals feel more accepted in our society?
There’s a point early in the book where Miles rattles off the suicide rate for transgender youth: forty percent. That’s the real statistic, unfortunately and it’s something we should all actively be working to change. The onus is on everyone to get names and pronouns correct, to reach out to friends and strangers who seem to be hurting, and to speak up when we hear things like “that’s a boy’s toy.” A little bit of kindness can go a long way.

7. What is your process writing? Are you a plotter or are you more of a "pantser"? Why or why not?
I used to be a pantser, but now I find it helpful to write outlines first and try to stick to them (though often the story takes on a life of its own). I can work either way, but usually plotting leads me to a cleaner first draft.

8. Can you tell us a little about what you are working on now? 
A couple years ago I found out that the BerenstEin Bears were actually the BerenstAin Bears and I’ve been intrigued by the Mandela Effect ever since. So, right now I’m working on a story about a Mandela-obsessed teenage podcaster in a small town where everyone knows him as a crackpot conspiracy theorist—and what happens when he tries to finally come forward about a sexual assault in his past. So, to twitter pitch YA again, it’s SPEAK meets S-TOWN, or “the boy who cried Mandela Effect."

So excited about this book and you should be too! And now, enter to win this book or a gorgeous painting by the author!

1 comment:

  1. The interview is interesting. I'd love to go to Iceland, for one. And I know the suicide rates are crazy high for not only transgender youth, but also gay, lesbian, etc, youth. I think sometimes it's lack of acceptance from family, but also bullying factors in. For my FTM transitioning 12-year old cousin, I know she was very depressed and withdrawn as a girl. I saw him at Thanksgiving (now 13, and after a year of therapy and, presumably, hormones) and he was like a totally different person. But he's home schooling and I think that is eliminating a lot of the pressure.

    One book that changed how I think about the world would be All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Brynn Greenwood. It made me think (all legal issues aside) how emotional and intelluctual age can be very different from one's age in numbers. Sometimes a person's mental age is much older than their actual age, and sometimes much younger. I don't condone certain things, but it wasn't a fluffy piece that didn't have any repercussions either. So at least there's that. Thanks!