12 Questions with Author Dana Reinhardt
I’ve been a fan of Dana Reinhardt’s books since I read the manuscript of A Brief Chapter in My Impossible Life, and I do a little dance of joy when I see that she’s written a new YA novel. It was a double surprise when I saw Odessa Again, a middle grade novel that will give young readers an opportunity to get to know this talented author too!
Today Dana Reinhardt joins us to answer our questions and tell us about reading, writing and time travel.
What inspired you to write Odessa Again?
I have young daughters who love to read who have pestered me for ages to write something for them. They’re proud that I’m an author, but frustrated that they’re too young for my books. They have wonderful imaginations and we often talk about story ideas around the dinner table. One night we imagined a girl who could go back in time. We talked about where and when and how she discovered this power. We pictured an attic. And a mother who’d sent her for a time-out. The idea stuck. I started to write. The irony is that now that the book is finally coming out, my older daughter is too old for it and, though my younger daughter isn’t, she thinks she is.
Did you ever want your own “do-over”?
I’m pretty happy with the big decisions I’ve made in my life, so when I find myself regretting something or wishing I could do it over, typically it’s something small. Something I wish I’d said. Or something I wish I hadn’t. That’s what interested me—what small things would we change if we could? Which small things make a big difference? What are the things we can’t change, even with the power of magic?
What book made the strongest impression on you as a child?
Bridge to Terabithia. I remember where I was sitting when I started that book—in the oversized armchair in the school library, and I remember where I was sitting when I finished it—on the floor of my bedroom, with my face in my hands, sobbing. I remember how much it shocked me—I thought I understood certain things about the way the world worked and it turned those assumptions upside down. It was the first book I felt was mine, the first book with which I developed a relationship, an intimacy.
What is one thing about you that would surprise your readers?
I like TV. I know I’m supposed to say something about how I don’t watch TV, or maybe that I don’t even have a TV, but the truth is: I think some of the very best storytelling is happening on television. This doesn’t mean I don’t read, it just means that I like TV and I’m not afraid to say it!
What has your favorite event experience been?
I enjoy them all, well, maybe all except for my first reading at a bookstore when the only person in attendance was my mother. As writers we live solitary lives and it’s easy to forget that there are readers out there—kids, adults, librarians, teachers—who want to talk about books.
What was your favorite genre to read as a teenager?
Realistic fiction. I was always looking for some version of myself, some way to better understand the world, or some new lens through which to view my surroundings. I read the same sorts of books I write. It’s what I know best and it’s where I’m at home.
Do you plan to continue writing for the middle-grade audience as well as young adults, or do you think you might write for adults at some point?
I don’t really know. I don’t think much about what age I want to write for, I mostly think about the kind of story I want to write and then see where it fits. I’m working on something now I think is most likely another middle-grade novel, but I won’t know until I get through the first draft. I wouldn’t rule out writing for adults, but so far the stories that have compelled me enough to devote all of my working hours to the telling of them have been stories about younger people for younger readers.
What is one piece of advice you would like to give to aspiring authors?
I give the same advice most writers give: read. Read to know what you love and read to now what you don’t. And write. Write all the time. Write in notebooks, write in different voices and styles, and write long letters to your friends. The way I suppose I differ in the advice I give is that I wouldn’t necessarily advise turning off the television.
Do you ever experience writer’s block?
Of course. I don’t believe there’s a writer out there who doesn’t. Writer’s block can come in all different shapes and sizes. I can often cure the smaller bouts with a long walk. The rougher patches require more effort, which mostly consists of fighting the urge to walk away from the work. The key is to continue to show up at the keyboard. To recognize that it will pass. That there is a way through the thicket.
What was your favorite chapter, or part, to write and why?
There’s always been something I love about the moment a character discovers she has special powers, when befuddlement gives way to understanding, so I had fun with the beginning. I also enjoyed writing the moments that Odessa shares with Theo because I can remember being that age and wanting so desperately to impress the boy I adored yet failing spectacularly.
There’s a small part of myself, or someone I know well in each of the characters: The child of divorce who wishes she could impact her parents’ choices. The pesky younger sibling. The parent who wants to protect her daughter. The insecure friend. The bossy friend. The wise grandmother-figure.
Do any of them demand to be heard over the others?
Odessa. Definitely Odessa. When she has something to say, nothing gets in her way.
Many thanks to Dana Reinhardt for her wonderful novels, and for joining us today on RAoReading!
Please share your thoughts in our comments section.