Friday, May 23, 2008

Author Visit: Jennifer Bradbury

Please welcome SHIFT author Jennifer Bradbury!

Book: When Chris Collins and Winston Coggans take off on a
post-graduation cross-country bike trek, Chris's hopes are high. He's
looking forward to seeing the country, dodging a dull summer at a
minimum wage job, and having one final adventure with his oldest
friend. The journey from Hurricane, West Virginia to the coast of
Washington state delivers all those things... and more.
So much more that when Chris returns home without Win at the end of
the summer, he's certain their 10 year friendship is all but over. But
when an FBI agent begins asking questions—and raising suspicions about
Chris—he learns that saying goodbye to a friend like Win is never as
simple as riding away. Shift offers an adventure story and a missing
persons tale spinning around a single question: What happens when you
outgrow your best friend?

Here we go...

What was the "oooh, I must write this book!" moment for you?

Honestly? I was just looking for something to keep me busy. I'd thought for years about building a story around a bike trip, but had trouble finding the plot and characters. Finally I decided to just sit down and force myself to plot it out, and characters and conflict emerged. There wasn't really a moment like the one you describe, but there was a moment after I had an outline and started a chapter that I sort of had a flash of insight knowing that it was going to work in a way that my earlier attempts at a novel had not.

What do you hope readers get out of Shift?

I hope they get a great story most of all. Beyond that, it would be cool to learn that some readers identify with the friendship dynamics between Chris and Win, and even better to learn that somebody gets inspired to bike cross-country or have an adventure that stretches and grows them in some other way.

Did you tell anyone when you were writing Shift?

Yes. My husband was actually with me in India where the first draft took shape, and I'd come home from the school where I was teaching each day with a new chapter. He sometimes forgot to greet me in his grab for the flash drive I kept it stored on. :) And I sent the first third or so out to some trusted readers back home before the book was even done, and most of them emailed back quickly to ask for more. I find that kind of encouragement invaluable when I'm drafting.

Your agent, Robin Rue, sold your book three DAYS after agreeing to represent you. Is that some kind of record? :)

It certainly is a record for me! I had no idea what I was doing (and mostly still don't) but Robin is amazing, so I bet she's gone faster. And she was quick to warn me the day before she sent it out that it might be a while, and that we might even have to revise after the first round before resubmitting. But she had a good feeling about the manuscript and my editor, whom she'd recently met and talked with. And she found the perfect fit for both of us.

Did your teaching exchange in India make a lasting impression on you?

Absolutely. I was teaching 11th grade while I was there, so it was amazing to see firsthand how similar kids are all over the world. Even though the educational systems are different and culture is different, there's something fundamental about being a kid that transcends all of that. We're planning to go back this winter to spend some time with friends we made while there. Travel of any kind has the power to alter who we are and how we see things. The fact that I was writing a novel about that while I was living it myself was sort of a way for me to process those changes.

You were a one-day winner on Jeopardy! That's so cool! Do you think that experience will ever pop up in one of your novels?

Thanks! It was a lot of fun. And it was one of those things that I kind of fell into (a bit like writing), but worked out really well. I don't know if I'll ever work it into a novel, but I'm not ruling it out. :)

Do you still bicycle?

Yes! In fact, to celebrate the release of Shift and the sale of my next book, my husband took me out and bought me a new Trek. Its blue and very fast and the shifters work perfectly! Probably most of my rides this summer will be with my daughter to the library or Fred Meyer, but we are planning a family trip up and down the Columbia River Gorge for July. We're trying to do a small bicycle trip every year to get her acclimated, and hope to take off on tandems with her and any other kids we eventually have to knock around other parts of the world. We've some good friends who have taken their 11 and 9 year old kids touring in Europe, and are planning to ride to Mexico this summer. We hope to be as cool as them! :)

What's next for you? What are you most looking forward to this summer?

I'll be revising my next novel for Atheneum this summer. Its tentatively titled APART, and I'm excited to start working on it. And I've got two other stories that I'm hoping we might submit soon, but they're very different from what I've written for Atheneum so far. We'll see. Mostly I'm looking forward to being outside in Washington--summers here are fantastic. So I'll have to tear myself away from the laptop as much as possible.
Bio: Jennifer Bradbury is a former high school English teacher,
cross-country cyclist, Fulbright exchange teacher, and one day
Jeopardy! champion. Currently, she spends her days seeking balance
between her roles of stay at home mom to a lovely, demanding two-year
old and a writer of often incorrigible first drafts. So far, her own
manuscripts are more prone to tantrums than her daughter.

JB: Thank you, Jen! SHIFT sounds like a great book and I can't wait to read it! :)


Anonymous said...

Shift has an awesome cover! I love the colors on it.


Shooting Stars Mag said...

Nice interview. I hope to be able to read Shift sometime soon as well. It looks awesome!


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