Interview: YA Author Deborah Kerbel & UNDER THE MOON
I first met Deborah Kerbel through the Toronto Middle Grade and Young Adult Author Group (a.k.a. Torkidlit) – Deborah’s so fun to talk with, and I’ve also been enjoying her books over the years. Deborah’s teen novels include Under the Moon (2012), Lure (2010), Girl on the Other Side (2009), and Mackenzie, Lost and Found (2008). Her personal essay, The Curtain, is included in the YA anthology, Dear Bully (HarperCollins, 2011) and her novels have been shortlisted for the Canadian Library Association’s YA Book of the Year Award and the Manitoba Young Reader’s Choice Award. A native of London, U.K., Deborah now lives and writes in Thornhill, Ontario.
Her website: http://deborahkerbel.com
Tell us a little bit about your new book, UNDER THE MOON.
Under the Moon is a YA novel about a girl who’s lost her sleep, a boy who’s lost his dreams and the twenty-six nights that change their lives. It’s about grieving, friendship, and first love. And at the heart of the story lies a question: what do we, as human beings, really need in order to survive in this world?
Despite the serene looking cover, this book was born out of chaos…specifically the chaos of my life. I started writing it in the spring of 2010 – at that time, my children were aged 7 and 4 and, between the daily demands of motherhood and writing, there was never enough time to give proper attention to everything. To put it bluntly, most of the time I barely had a spare moment to scratch an itch. During my busiest moments, I secretly resented having to give up so many precious hours to sleep and a strange fantasy began working it’s way through my exhausted brain: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if I didn’t have to sleep at all? Imagine all the things I could accomplish?’
I actually came out and spoke about this weird little fantasy one night at a Torkidlit meeting…in fact, I think I said it to you, Debbie! And of course, uttering the words out loud immediately sparked an idea for a new book. Sure, I knew what I would do with all those extra hours in a day. But what would a teenager do if she didn’t have to sleep? How would she fill the long, dark hours of a sleepless night? I wanted to find out. That’s where the idea for Under the Moon came from.
When was UNDER THE MOON published?
Under the Moon was published in March 2012 by Dancing Cat Books (an imprint of Cormorant Books). Barry Jowett is the publisher and editor there and he’s so wonderful to work with. He was the acquiring editor of my very first YA novel, Mackenzie, Lost and Found (which came out with Dundurn in 2009) and I was really hoping for the chance to do another book with him. I submitted this manuscript to Barry exclusively and crossed my fingers. Luckily for me, he liked it.
How much outlining do you do? What is your typical work process or work day?
I confess, I don’t have a standard approach to writing books. Sometimes I outline meticulously, other times I fly by the seat of my pants. This book was a pantser. I started out with the premise of a sleepless girl (whose voice was already very loud and clear in my head). I didn’t really know where I was going with the story when I started writing, which was a bit scary and a bit exciting at the same time. But I kept pushing my main character forward through the plot and ultimately, the story revealed itself.
What advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Read every day. Write every day. Absorb all the details, from the beautiful to the hideous, in the world around you. Be mulishly stubborn, fearless, and committed. Write stories that move you. Don’t take criticism of your writing too much to heart. Same thing with compliments – they can be equally destructive. Connect with other writers…ultimately, they’re the only ones who’ll understand the ups and downs of this crazy roller-coaster business.
What are you working on now? Anything else you’d like people to know?
My kids are a couple years older now, so lately I’ve got more time and I’m starting to get more done (read: no more insomnia fantasies). I’m actually working on several projects at the moment, each in various stages of completion and revision: a picture book about memory; a middle-grade novel about the evil eye; and an urban fantasy YA novel with a bit of a horror edge. On top of all that, I’m also co-authoring a non-fiction book about kids and money. There’s a little something for everyone in the works.
For more info about Deborah Kerbel and her work:
For more insights from book creators, see my Inkygirl Interview Archives and Advice For Young Writers And Illustrators From Book Creators.