Monday, January 27, 2014

Interview with Author Joelle Charbonneau

Today I am very happy to have author Joelle Charbonneau with use. She is the author of Independent Study - The Testing #2 which I read, reviewed, and loved. I did not know it was part of a series at the time because it is a great stand alone book. Joelle and I have spoken a bit and she is a wonderful woman and I am glad she had time to join us today. Before the interview, I would like to share a little bit about Joelle.

I am a storyteller at heart. I have performed in a variety of operas, musical theatre and children's theatre productions across the Chicagoland area.

While I'm happy to perform for an audience, I am equally delighted to teach private voice lessons and use my experience from the stage to create compelling characters on the page. I am the author of the Rebecca Robbins mystery series (Minotaur Books), The Paige Marshall Glee Club mysteries (Berkley) and The Testing YA triology (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt).

1.  According to your biography on, you have performed in a variety of operas, musical theatre and children's theater. What made you decide to start writing?

I’m odd in that I never as a child or teen dreamed of being a writer. I really loved performing other people’s stories on the stage and reading the stories that authors concocted on the page. It wasn’t unusual for me to read about 200 books in a year.  But during one show, I suddenly had the opening line of a book pop into my head and I became curious to know if I could actually write that book. Not to be published…that was the furthest thing from my mind. But I wanted to see if I could create a complete story – beginning, middle and end. NO ONE should read that book, but I did finish it. And it taught me I liked the process of writing and suddenly I wanted to try to write something someone would actually want to read. 

2. I read your book "Independent Study - The Testing Book 2",which I won on, and it was on of the first YA books that I actually enjoyed. I love the way that the children were chosen to test and then sent to help different parts of the world that had been torn apart. How did you come up with this idea?

In addition to stage performing, I also teach private voice lessons – mostly to high school students. Because I’m a private teacher, I get a front row seat to their college admittance process and all the stress that goes along with the tests, the applications and the auditions. It was seeing that stress and thinking about all the hurdles students have to go through that inspired me to write the series. I wanted to create a really intense version of the admittance process and had to reach into the future fora reason that such a testing and University system would exist. In that future – the world is broken. To fix it…I looked at the way the 13 original colonies were created in the early years of the US…they settled in different areas and were able to slowly established a country by expanding their borders. So, in the world of THE TESTING, the leaders are using that idea, only this time they have to fix aworld that was broken by war.

That is such an interesting and fresh concept. I love it

3.  I did not know when I read "Independent Study" that it was part of a series. What I liked was it was a great stand alone book. Are the other two book in the series like that?

Yay! Thanks for reading. And I hope so. Trilogies are tricky since all the books need to work together to tell a complete story.  But as a writer you try to make sure that books can stand on their own if a reader (like you) starts in the middle. 

4. Cia is the main character of "Independent Study". I read her as a very strong female character. Did she start out like that?

Cia is a strong female lead – and yet she is also very vulnerable. She has the strength of her convictions and her belief that the world around her is essentially a good place. Those things drive her. Yet, that desire to have faith in other people does cause problems for her. She is known to place her trust in people who might not deserve that kind of faith. But she can’t seem to stop that part of her personality. From the very beginning, I wanted Cia to be a very smart character with a lot of strength. I just assumed she would lose the vulnerability throughout the story. So far, she hasn’t!

5. Raffe was another interesting character. Can you tell me more abouthim?

Raffe is a great deal of fun to write and makes his first appearance in the series in INDEPENDENT STUDY. Because he grew up in Tosu City, he is more attune to the government and the way things “really” work at the University. Raffe also has a few secrets of his own, which Cia is aware of. The question is…can he be trusted or is he working against her? Guess we’ll have to find out!

6.  A lot of your reviews(which are fabulous by the way) compare this series to "The HungerGames"  but better. What do you think about that?

It is really flattering to have my books compared to a series that is so beloved. I can’t tell you how stunned I am to know readers are embracing this series with so much enthusiasm.

7. Tell me about the Rebecca Robins and Glee Club series.

Ha!  Well, those books are very different. Both are comedic mystery series that have been written for the adult market. There is an ex-circus camel who wears hats inthe Rebecca Robbins mysteries and a lot of singing and dancing in the Glee Club series.  While the mysteries often involved a murder, there is lots of silliness and laughter to hopefully be found in between the covers of those books. Which made them a ton of fun to write.

8.  You also stated inyour biography that your experience from the stage helps you to createcompelling characters on the page. Has that been the case in all of your books?Or were there some story lines and characters that had nothing to do with what you did on stage?

Creating characters, whether on stage or on the page, is always a similar process. You start with an idea and begin to fill out the person based on what they do and say and what other people say about them. While the storylines to most of my books have nothing to do with my time on stage, the creation of the story—pacing, character, motivation, striving for goals,conflict – are always the same. 

9. Are any of your characters in any of your series based on one personor multiple people you know?

The answer is technically no. I try to avoid basing any characters on real people.  However, when I go back, I can always spot characteristics of people I know in various characters. Cia, for example, is 5’ 2” and has dark hair. The student who was my first teen reader for the series also happens to be short with long dark hair. It wasn’t intentional, but she is happy toclaim that I based Cia on her.

10. Where is your favorite place to write? For example a nearby park,out on you deck, in a comfortable chair in your living room, etc.

My favorite place to write is wherever I get words on the page. As the mom of a 6 year old, I have to write whenever and wherever I can. So you can find me outside on my deck, in the living room chair, by the park district pool when my son is in swimming lessons or just about anywhere else. Oh – and if you’re on a plane and the person next to you is typing awayor staring blankly at the screen…yep…that might be me.

11. What is your absolute must havesnack/beverage that you need while writing?

Popcorn! Lots of butter and salt please.

12.What can we expect from you in the future?

I’m currently wor
king on a contemporary YAthriller called N.E.E.D.  Here’s hoping people like it!

I am sure they will.  I know I will be reading it. Thank you again for being here today. I really enjoyed it. I am really looking forward to reading the rest of The Testing series as well as your other series. I wish you much continued success.

Independent Studt Out NOW! Houghton Mifflin Harcourt publishing.
by Joelle Charbonneau
New York Times Best Selling Author of THE TESTING

Purchase Independent Study at Barnes & Noble: click here.

Also available is The Testing and Graduation Day: click here.

Where to find Joelle:

Joelle's website: click here.

The series website: click here.

Joelle on twitter: click here.

Joelle on faceook: click here.