After I read and reviewed the amazing novel Tomato Girl (review here), I contacted the writer, Jayne Pupek, to let her know how moving it was for me. She graciously agreed to an interview.
By way of introduction...Jayne is also the author of a book of poems titled Forms of Intercession. Her writing has appeared in numerous literary journals. A Virginia native, Jayne has spent most of her professional life working in the field of mental health. And...she's a blogger, too! Visit her here.
Okay, let's get to it...
What was your inspiration for writing Tomato Girl?
The novel grew out of a narrative poem I had written some time earlier. When I decided to write a novel, I turned to my poetry for an idea, and I was drawn to the characters in the poem, "Tomato Girl." I saw the skeleton of a bigger story and believed it was a good place to begin. I'd also have to say that my many years spent working in mental health inspired me. I care about the issues of mental health and child abuse.
This book deals with some heavy and emotional issues. How did this affect you during the writing process?
The heavy emotional issues weren't especially difficult for me. In part this may be because I knew that I would take care of Ellie, that I would find a way for her to survive and be loved. In that way, Ellie is fortunate; I have worked with many people who were not cared for as children, people who did not know the difference between love and abuse. My work in mental health introduced me to so many damaged and suffering people, and these are the lives that generally interest me, even as a writer.
This book is written soley from the perspective of Ellie, a pre-teen girl, which made the book so much more powerful to me than if everyone had their own narratives. How hard was it to tap into the mind and voice of someone her age?
I enjoy challenges, and maintaining Ellie's voice was certainly the challenge of this novel. I had to frequently pause and ask myself how an event would appear to a child. I generally enjoyed the process, though, because it was a way to revisit innocence and to focus on the things that most impress children. We forget what it is to see the world as a child sees it, and how the world can be both vastly wonderful and frightening all at once.
What's the one message you'd like readers to take from the book?
I hope readers will pause to remember that there are children like Ellie all around us. They may be disguised or hidden from view, but they are there nonetheless, and they are in need of care and kindness.
What's up ahead next for you?
I’m working on two poetry manuscripts and another novel that will be completed soon. I'm too superstitious to talk much about a work in progress. It's like opening the oven door while a cake is baking.
Guess what? Jayne has graciously offered an autographed copy of her book as a giveaway on the site. So, leave your comment below by midnight CT on Thursday, September 25, and I'll randomly pick a winner!