Friday, January 29, 2010

Author Interview: Jessica Lee Anderson

I wanted to start off by telling you that I really enjoyed your book, Border Crossing. I really felt like I was in the hot Texas heat trying to figure out all the problems in the life of Manz. I appreciate you taking the time to answer some questions. As I always tell the authors which I am lucky enough to interview, feel free to answer all or just the ones that you want to.

Here is a link to an earlier post where I wrote up my review of her novel, Border Crossing.

1. Growing up, when I was reading books I never really even considered authors to be human. I never gave a thought to actually talking to them or sending them letters. Now authors do interviews (like this), Skype conferences, blogs, email, etc. How does the utilization of all the latest technology and internet help you as a writer? Do you think it helps you or is it more of problem trying to fit it all in?

Until an author, Rita Kerr, came to visit my elementary school back in the day, I previously thought all authors were dead. Rita Kerr was very much alive, and her passion for books made a lasting impression. I’m a fan of utilizing the latest technology to become more accessible, and to reach an audience that might be a challenge to reach otherwise. It is especially enjoyable to connect with readers, especially since writing can often be isolating.

2. Border Crossing is the first book that I have read by you and I loved it. Without giving anything away how did you come up with the idea of a protagonist with a mental issue? I think this might be my first book with a schizophrenic protagonist.

Thanks! While taking an eye-opening history class in college, I felt completely shocked when I learned about Operation Wetback. I also felt vulnerable and insecure, even though I’m Anglo. Based on the emotions I experienced, Manz’s voice and story began to develop three years later.

3. This novel leaves the reader with a lot to think about at the end. I remember closing the book and just being grateful for the life that I have. How were you able to understand what Manz was going through? How were you able to get inside the head of a schizophrenic, but at the same time make him still feel “normal” to a certain degree?

I spent a great deal of time researching schizophrenia, and I communicated with many individuals battling the disease which helped me to understand my protagonist and to get inside his head.

4. Looking at your website you are doing a lot of traveling for book conferences and promotion. Can you share a story from your travels that shows that doing what you do is worthwhile?

After a school visit, I received a response from a reluctant reader saying she’d given my book a chance and was surprised how much she liked it, and how proud she was that she actually finished a book in a day.

5. What surprised you most as you were writing this novel?

How real Manz felt to me, and how I got so drawn into his world. Writing this novel was both emotionally exhausting and exhilarating!

7. I was also reading about how you are a teacher the Institute of Children's Literature. What do you like best about teaching?

My students are wonderful, and it is a joy to be a part of their lives and to see them grow as writers and succeed!

8. I recently read a book title, Six Word Memoirs, which has a website. If you had to write your memoir in six words, what would you write?

Stories in Head, Dreams in Heart

9. Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what would be a playlist on your ipod?

I feel somewhat boring to admit I usually write without music since I tend to tune everything out when writing.

10. What other books would you recommend young adults to read besides your own?

These novels from last year made a lasting impression:

ETERNAL by Cynthia Leitich Smith

GOING BOVINE by Libba Bray

ONCE WAS LOST by Sara Zarr

SLOB by Ellen Potter

THE OTHER SIDE OF BLUE by Valerie Patterson


WHAT WOULD EMMA DO? by Eileen Cook

11. Coming up in a few weeks I will be posting a new Great Nerd Debate topic for my students to answer. I am curious to hear your response. The Great Nerd Debate is the following question: What is the all time greatest TV theme song?

Hmm…I vote for Fraggle Rock.

Here are some additional random questions that you could answer if you feel like it(though not really necessary, but students always want me to add when I interview authors). These come from the Teacher Mystery Challenge that I have on my blog. They thought it would be cool to hear answers from an author.

1. What flavor of Kool Aid is your favorite?

Tropical Punch

2. What do you think of hot dogs?

I kind of miss eating hot dogs since becoming a vegetarian and limiting processed food

3. Favorite Holiday movie or tv special?

Hands down: Will Vinton’s Claymation Christmas

4. What do you prefer to drink in the morning?

Hot green tea

5. Can you do push ups? If yes, how many?

After two relatively recent shoulder surgeries, I’m limited to wall pushups (about 20 at a time)

6. Favorite hobby?


7. Middle name?


8. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment?

1. I hope I can do real push ups again

2. My fingers are cold

3. Hot green tea sounds good

9. Current worry?

My mom has been ill, and I’m anxious for her to get well

10. Dum da dum dummmm what is that?

A sound that makes me want to say, “The legend you are about to hear is true…”

11. Where would you like to go?


12. Do you own slippers?

Yes, but I seldom wear them since my dog likes to attack slippers

13. What color shirt are you wearing right now?

Black sweater

14. Can you whistle?

Sadly, no

15. Favorite color?

Yellow is my favorite color for the moment

16. Would you be a pirate?

Only in my imagination since I get seasick

17. What was the last song that was stuck in your head?

Billie Jean by Michael Jackson

18. What’s in your pocket right now?

Cell phone

19. Best toy as a child?

Barbie Dolls—My grandmother sewed me custom Barbie clothes, and I gave many dolls custom haircuts. I loved creating all sorts of doll drama, and learned how to make casts out of Kleenex for “Car Accident Barbie”

20. What is your favorite candy?

Chewy Sweet Tarts

21. Favorite Sports Team?

Texas Longhorns (Hook ‘em!)

22. What are you currently reading?

THE ULTIMATE GIFT by Jim Stovall (audio book)

23. What is your favorite book of all time?

LITTLE WOMEN by Louisa May Alcott ranks up there since this is the first novel my mother read to me

24. If you could meet anyone living or dead who would it be and why?

Mother Teresa since she lived such an amazing, inspiring life committed to serving others

25. What would we find in your refrigerator right now?

A ridiculous amount of fruit and vegetables

26. What is one fact that readers would not know about you prior to asking this question?

I won a car in a random drawing

27. If you were an animal/a can of soup/some other random object, which one would you be?

A grizzly bear…in Alaska
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