I’m interviewing Johanna Parkhurst, author of YA mystery “Every Inferno”. Enjoy.
Please tell us about yourself.
Hmmm. Let’s see. I’ve been a middle school educator for over ten years, so I read A LOT of young adult books. I love teaching just as much as I love writing. I watch a lot of football and I love to be outdoors (usually skiing or hiking, since I live in Colorado).
Tell us about your book.
Every Inferno is the story of JJ Jones. His parents were killed in a fire when he was very young, and he feels like he can never move past that event: it affects every day of his world. Then he starts having dreams about the arsonist who sets the fire…and he begins to wonder if finding the arsonist is only way to fix the problems in his life.
What inspired you to write Every Inferno?
That’s actually a bizarre story. I had a dream one night about a boy climbing out of a window because of a fire. The dream ended up inspiring the initial premise for Every Inferno (minus the window).
Lots of people have asked me why I decided to bring the topic of sexual identity into this book. Several years ago, when I was bringing more and more literature with LGBTQ characters into my middle school classroom, a principal I was working with made the following plea to me: “Please don’t just bring in stories where the gay kids get beat up and bullied and commit suicide all the time. I feel like that’s all kids see these days. I want them to know that not everyone’s story is like that.”
I’m not saying these types of stories shouldn’t be there, and neither was my principal. These stories are vitally important to those teens who need to see the worst possible consequence of this type of behavior. They are also vitally important to those teenagers who have had such an experience and need to know they are not alone. But when I was writing Every Inferno, I decided I wanted to create a high school that leans more towards the end of the spectrum of acceptance and inclusion. So I created the character of McKinley, a gay 16-year-old who enjoys huge popularity in his high school.
How much time per week do you spend writing / editing your work?
Not nearly as much as I’d like, that’s for sure! I try to write for a few hours every weekday, but very often life gets in the way—and when that happens, I try to make up the time by doing what I call a “binge write” on the weekend.
If you could meet three authors, which authors would you choose?
Such a tough question! There are so many. Probably Harper Lee, because To Kill a Mockingbird is my favorite novel of all time. I’d love to meet Sherman Alexie, because Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has very heavily influenced my writing. My last choice would probably be Frances A. Miller. Her books have been out of print for years, but they were my favorite when I was a teenager.
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m in very early stages on my newest project, so right now there’s not too much to say about it. I will say that it’s got the first female main character I’ve written in quite some time, and right now she’s a blast to work with. I hope we keep getting along so well.
About Every Inferno
Author: Johanna Parkhurst
Genre: Young Adult, Mystery, LGBTQ
Depressed. Defiant. Possible alcoholic. These are just a few of the terms used to describe fifteen-year-old Jacob Jasper Jones. Lately, though, JJ has a new one to add to the list: detective. He’s been having strange dreams about the fire that killed his parents ten years ago, and he thinks he finally has the clue to catching the arsonist who destroyed his family.
A murder investigation isn’t the only thing the dreams trigger for JJ, though. They also lead to secret meetings with his estranged sister, an unlikely connection with a doctor who lost his daughter in the fire, and a confusing friendship with McKinley, a classmate of JJ’s who seems determined to help him solve the mystery.
All JJ wants is to shake the problems that have followed him since that fire, and he’s convinced he must catch the arsonist to do it. But as JJ struggles to find the culprit, he sees there’s more than one mystery in his life he needs to solve.
Johanna Parkhurst grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont before relocating to the rocky mountains of Colorado. She spends her days helping teenagers learn to read and write and her evenings writing things she hopes they’ll like to read. She strives to share stories of young adults who are as determined, passionate, and complex as the ones she shares classrooms with.
Johanna holds degrees from Albertus Magnus College and Teachers College, Columbia University. She loves traveling, hiking, skiing, watching football, and spending time with her incredibly supportive husband.
Amazon page: amazon.com/author/johannaparkhurst
Goodreads page: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7370437.Johanna_Parkhurst