Read my review of the "fun, believable, and ultimately touching"Our Song by clicking here!
Lovely to have you at Books à la Mode, Jordanna! Let's get this interview started.
Will you please share a brief bio with us?
Jordanna Fraiberg was born in Montreal, Quebec, and currently lives in L.A., where she settled after receiving degrees from Harvard and Oxford. A former national squash champion and Hollywood film executive, she now divides her time between dreaming up stories and chasing her toddler. She is the author of Our Song and In Your Room.
Tell us a bit about Our Song. The cover is to die for!
Olive Bell has spent her entire life in the beautiful suburb of Vista Valley, with a picture-perfect home, a loving family, and a seemingly perfect boyfriend. But after a near-fatal car accident, she's haunted by a broken heart and a melody that she cannot place.
Then Olive meets Nick. He’s dark, handsome, mysterious... and Olive feels connected to him in a way she can't explain. Is there such a thing as fate? The two embark on a whirlwind romance—until Nick makes a troubling confession.
Heartbroken, Olive pieces together what really happened the night of her accident and arrives at a startling revelation. Only by facing the truth can she uncover the mystery behind the song and the power of what it means to love someone.
I've always been fascinated by the idea that we are constantly evolving and changing throughout life, sometimes by choice, but more often than not as a result of a seeming obstacle or challenge. So the idea behind having Olive literally die, was to use it as a metaphor for the fact that she's been figuratively asleep her whole life and she's finally come to the end—or the death—of her identity.
The Near-Death Society in the book is based on a real group just like it called The Los Angeles International Association for Near-Death Studies. I went to one of their meetings for research and the thing I was most surprised to discover was that none of the participants there that night had actually died, which is why I put it in the book.
That's fascinating! Olive's literal and figurative bringing back to life was very well-portrayed in the book. Lucky you got to do close-up research too—I would never have known such a support group existed. How would you say your background and own experiences have shaped your books?
I think the fact that I was a competitive athlete for so many years has influenced who I am as a writer. I started playing squash when I was 10, and quickly became one of the top-ranked players for my age in Canada, where I grew up. As a result, I started training at the club every day after school and had to miss out on a lot of hanging out with my friends. I trained with mostly adults, and throughout high school, instead of going on school trips or having sleepovers, I traveled all over the country and the world competing. While I loved being a squash player and wouldn't have traded it for anything, there was always a part of me that felt like I didn't quite fit in at school, that I wasn't fully part of it, and I think it has influenced one of the major themes I write about—the feeling of alienation many feel as a teen, and the search for authentic connection.
The other thing being a competitive athlete also taught me is how to set goals and find the discipline to accomplish them, which is one of the major keys to finishing a novel.
That teenage loneliness and search for identity is something all adolescents feel at one point or another in their lives, but I definitely see how being such a dedicated competitive athlete could have accentuated that feeling of not fitting in. It's an amazing endeavor though—not all teenagers can call themselves top-ranking child athletes!—and it's great that it taught you discipline and determination as well. On that note, how much of yourself is in Our Song?
I think it's impossible to write anything and not infuse a part of yourself into the story. The novel isn't inspired by real-life events, and there isn't any one character based on me, but I definitely see elements of myself in both Olive and Annie. Like Olive, I've gone through painful break-ups that felt very end-of-the-world in the moment, but turned out to be the best thing that ever happened. While Derek and Nick aren't based on real people, the idea of what they represent—the seemingly right guy on paper vs. the true soulmate—reflects experiences I've had in my own life. And like Annie, I tend to be the one in my friendships that calls it like I see it, but in the most loving way possible!
Readers, click "Read more" to learn what kind of kid Jordanna was in high school (you all want to know!), her best advice for teenagers and aspiring writers, and why she included a sexuality-questioning character in the book. You also don't want to miss the great giveaway at the end!
What's the greatest thing you ever learned?
Having empathy is the key to understanding others, but it's also important to remember to have empathy for yourself.
Agree 100%. Sometimes we forget to feel compassion for ourselves; that neglect is subtle, but can have heavy emotional consequences. Which character was most difficult to write?
Olive was the hardest for me to write because I wanted to make sure I struck the right balance between her grief and her evolution. Sometimes the line between the two is murky, and it's not always linear, so I had to work hard and revise a ton until I felt I captured what she was going through.
Was there a specific reason you explored the questioning of sexuality through Olive's BFF, Annie?
I think confronting questions of sexuality is something that many people go through as they come of age, whether they're straight or gay. Sexuality is one of the ways we define ourselves and since I'm so fascinated with the question of identity, I wanted to explore a different aspect of it and what it means through Annie. One of my closest friends came out relatively later in life, in her late 20s, so I think what she went through influenced how I perceived Annie. I actually read my friend the Annie passages to make sure they came off as authentically as possible.
Love how that aspect of your life made its way so naturally into your book. Give aspiring writers a piece of advice you wish you had known before getting published.
Write the story you feel connected to; find the theme and explore it through character. Don't worry about chasing a trend—write what compels you.
And try not to let publication be your goal. It can distract you from the very reason you write.
Now give us your best personal advice—something you wish you had known when you were younger and would offer to your own children.
You know, I wish there was a magic piece of advice that could save others from the pain of growth and change, but I don't think it's possible. I think the most important thing to remember is that for better or for worse, nothing is permanent. Embrace change, and if it's scary, embrace the fear.
I so agree with you there, and well, that's some of the best advice you could give! I'm curious, what kind of kid were you in high school? As mortifying a question that may be (because God forbid someone asked ME that question... and it hasn't even been that long since I've been out of high school), I wanna know!
I was always the one who had to be separated from others in class because I could never shut up. My husband would argue that things haven't really changed all that much since then...
LOL! Finally, how can I find myself a guy like Nick???
Date a lot of guys! Failing that, write a book and create your own Nick!
Kiss a lot of frogs to meet your prince! Where can you be found on the web?
Don't forget the entry eligibility terms and disclosure!
Giveaway ends 19 June 2013 at 11.59 PM (your time).
Open to US readers only. Sorry, international! You can still enter the giveaways I'm running that are open worldwide; check those out in my sidebar.
I will not be selecting the winner, and am in no way responsible for prizes, nor for shipping and handling.
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