J.T. Dutton is the author of Stranded, a great coming of age book with a few different themes playing through it. You can check out my review here.
Do you think you'd react similarly to Kelly Louise if you found out the truth behind Baby Grace (without giving away any spoilers of course)?
Like Kelly Louise, I tend to absorb other people’s guilt. When I was in second grade, a kid in my class stole five dollars from the teacher’s desk. The teacher held us in at recess in the hopes that one of us would confess. I became so anxious that I had to go to the nurse. Even though I had nothing to do with incident and didn’t know who the guilty person was, I couldn’t contain my anxiety. That kind of stress for me, always leads to an embarrassing moment, just as the stress of knowing too much leads Kelly Louise to act rashly here and there throughout the novel.
I do think I might have had more to say directly to a friend or loved one who I saw doing something I didn’t agree with than Kelly did. But Kelly’s family patterns of secrecy mean she has more pressure to remain silent. In the end, Kelly Louise behaves bravely. She’s courageous. I always hope that I’ll be that kind of person.
Apart from Kelly Louise, which of the characters presented throughout the book did you have the most fun writing about and developing?
I love Kenny Stockhausen. His scenes kept threatening to take over the book. I am working on a spin off novel to Stranded in which he takes a job at a summer camp for wealthy girls.
When she takes her city ways into school in the small town of Heaven, Kelly Louise stands out from the start and not in a friendly way. How do you think you would have coped in her situation and why did you choose to have her remain an outsider rather than everyone falling for her instantly?
The story in Stranded came in part from my thoughts about an incident in which a girl in Iowa abandoned a baby. People kept saying “how could this happen here?” as if some places were except from social troubles that lead to teen pregnancy.
The same people who believe small towns are perfect wonderful crime free places, also tend to distrust urban life and the people who oversell their cosmopolitan superiority. It seemed natural to me that Kelly’s classmates would reject her. People from large cities also misunderstand rural values and frequently label small towns as backward and provincial when they aren’t.
Kelly Louise only thinks she is more sophisticated than the people she meets in Heaven. But Des Moines isn’t such a big place that she has the right to see herself as worldly as she does. Kelly Louise is the kind of person who will only change once she has opened her mind and left her comfort zone behind. That’s where most stories of transformation take place and why I chose to make her an outsider rather than an insider.
If you could pair Kelly Louise with any character from any book, who would you pick for her?
Oh, wow, this is a hard question. I couldn’t see her with Harry Potter because I don’t think he and she share the same sense of humor. Plus, I’m not sure Kelly Louise cares for owls. I’d place her with Edward from Twilight except I think he would get annoyed with her potentially immature silliness and try to eat her. Still, I think her sarcasm is very enduring. I could see her palling around with Emma Woodhouse, maybe, and having the kind of best friend fun she has with Katy.
What is the most private thing you're willing to share here?
Um. OK. This is hard to talk about. I don’t much like Glee. I know. I know. I know. Everyone loves Glee. What is wrong with me?
What is one illegal thing you've fantasized about doing even though you know you'd never do it?
I think it would be fun to steal a painting from the Louvre in a high tech heist,. I haven’t actually ruled it out as a life goal. Maybe one day. I'd probably have to learn some stealth skills first.
What kind of cookie would you describe yourself as?
Oh, I’m a macroon. No question.
Thanks so much, J.T.! For your chance to win a signed copy of Stranded, fill out this form. Contest is US/Canada only and will end Sunday, September 5.