Last June 07, 2016, Michelle Bacon released her YA contemporary debut novel Life Before, which I got the chance of reading before it hit the shelves of local and international book stores. The book which I reviewed here on the blog is a powerful novel told from a raw and honest voice of the main protagonist Alexander Fife.
Today on the blog, I am trilled to be able to share an interview not only with the author of Life Before but also with the main character, Xander. So if you’d like to know what Michele had to say about her debut novel and her writings or just want to meet and know more about Xander here’s your chance.
Follows after the interviews below are Michele Bacon’s bio and Life Before‘s description and other important details.
Also, don’t forget to check the fabulous giveaway at the bottom of this feature for a chance to win a signed copy of the book, plus tons of fabulous prizes.
Interview with Michele Bacon
Can you tell us a bit about your journey with your debut novel, Life Before? When did you first come up with the idea and what were the timescales involved between the first draft and the novel being accepted for publication?
This novel had a long journey. I first drafted the story—with an adult female protagonist— more than a decade ago. Life got in the way, and I stuck it in a drawer for years. When I decided to return to the story, it felt too autobiographical and the adult perspective was too far removed from the story. It really resonated with me as a novel for teens, so I rewrote it while I was on an 18-month sabbatical in New Zealand. When I returned to the States, I queried and sold it. It was very different and much stronger than the original story.
The biggest change between selling and publishing it was chapter 35, which—hoo boy—changed a lot.
As a writer, do you feel like you are writing yourself or pieces of yourself in Life Before? Why?
Absolutely. I won’t get into details, but Xander and I shared many parts of our childhoods. I gave him my history, my fears, and my early relationship with my father. Writing this book, and talking about my childhood, has been very cathartic for me.
What was one of the most surprising things you’ve learned in creating Xander and his story?
I’m surprised at how much I’ve started talking about abuse. I thought this story would resonate with teens. I thought it was a story about secrets and about hiding yourself from the world. I’ve spent far more time talking about *my* specific secret, and talking to others who share it.
How was the writing experience from Xander’s perspective? Did you encounter any challenges in writing from a male point of view? How did you deal with it?
I think we all are more alike than we are different, and by putting certain thoughts and behaviors into boxes labeled “male” and “female” only pushes us further apart. I didn’t have trouble with his point of view, but I did consult friends about their first romantic and sexual experiences in high school. Xander likes legs a LOT, so I asked (too many. Far too many) questions of one of my friends who also loves legs. In the end, we cut most of those details anyway!
Are you working on any project right now? What we should expect from you in the near future?
I am editing two novels right now: a YA novel about ambition and an adult novel about grief.
Character Interview with Xander Fife
To start things off, can you please introduce yourself so everyone will know more about you?
I’m Xander Fife. I’m 17, er, 18. I turned 18 yesterday. I play soccer and euchre and love Buckeye Barbecue wings. I love science. I’ll be a freshman at Tulane later this month. I totally missed new student orientation, but they’re still letting me in. I think. Friday August 26. Until then, I’m just chilling with my friends in Laurel. My mom died earlier this summer, but I guess you know that. That’s why we’re talking today.
Belated Happy Birthday Xander!!! Sorry I’m too excited about this interview that I totally forgot about your birthday! Sorry no gifts from me. I’ll just give you a big hug 🙂
Now, next question. If you could pull out a bad memory from your past and fix it and make it into a good memory, which memory would it be and how would you make it a good one?
If you’re asking whether I’d change the past, I for sure would want to save my mom’s life. But I don’t think you’re asking that. Honestly, I think I’d rather just erase the bad ones. I’d like to erase my father completely. Gretchen made me read this book, More Happy Than Not, have you read it? There’s a memory-alteration technique in that book that just erases whole swathes of your life or personality. I’d totally excise every memory of my father—even the rare good ones—from my life completely.
I haven’t read More Happy Than Not but now that you mentioned it and with those interesting details, I’m pushing it to the top of my tbr pile.
Let’s say you are traveling for leisure and not to get away from your Dad and also have enough cash with you, where will you go and what will you do? What kind of adventure do you think you will have?
Wow. My answer is so different now than it would have been three months ago. I really wanted to see everything and do everything. San Diego and the Outer Banks and Ocean City, Maryland and Hawaii—not that Hawaii is an actual option if we’re talking road trop. But, I don’t know. I’ll get to those places someday, but I’d kind of like to go back to Burlington. I’m assuming I’m still restricted in other ways, and will have to con Jill, Gretchen, or Tucker to drive. I’d kind of like to road trip with all of them, actually. Imagine how amazing it would be to have all my favorite people in one place. Two halves of my life sewn up together.
That probably wouldn’t fly with Tucker. But I could probably convince the girls to go. Hold on.
[Xander texts a message to Jill.]
Thanks for the idea, man!
If you can have one more day with your mom, what are the things that you’ll do together? Any thing you want to say to her?
[Xander smiles broadly as tears spring to his eyes.] I mean. I want to talk to her more than anything. I want to hear her voice. I have so many questions for her, all this stuff we never got to. I’d settle for sitting on the sofa listening to all her stories. With lots of hugs.
Lots of hugs. Yeah. Can we take a break?
Yes, of course. Take your time. I won’t go anywhere…
Now, on the lighter side. Let’s talk about your best friend Jill. I like the friendship you share with Jill, that in-spite of her being a girl you two are good friends and almost like siblings. Are there things you want to say to Jill for always being there for you?
Oh, man. She would be so pissed at you for saying “in-spite of her being a girl.”
Jill is my best friend, truly. And now that I’m living with her family now, we might as well be siblings. I love her like a sister. Here’s the thing: Jill is a true friend. She knew everything about me—everything—and still stood by me. She’s loyal to a fault. We bicker like siblings, too. She’s constantly stealing my crispy bacon. She eats Oreos like a toddler. But she’s awesome. I wouldn’t trade her for the world.
Aw! I think I’ll be probably Jill’s competition with crispy bacon. I’ll steal yours and hers too. Just don’t tell Jill.
Share to us one thing you learned from running away that you think you will carry for life.
I learned to trust myself, trust my instincts.
Lastly, share to us five of your favorite books.
Jack Kerouac’s On The Road
Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything
Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not (Gretchen made me read this, and I’m so glad I did.)
Kurt Dinan’s Don’t Get Caught (Jill recommended this one.)
Sebastian Junger’s The Perfect Storm
Thank you so much Michelle for stopping by today and for taking the time to answer all my questions above, as well as for allowing Xander for an interview too. I had so much fun talking to both you.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
From a young age, Michele Bacon was drawn to people’s stories, and she remains eager to learn how you met your best friend or fell in love. In pursuit of anecdotes and adventure, Michele travels widely, always with pen in hand, creating extensive plot outlines and character idiosyncrasies in her mostly-illegible scrawl. She works privately with other writers to hone their craft and finds particular joy in workshops with teens. Outside of writing, Michele is a tabletop game enthusiast, passionate skier, avid baker, and lover of prime numbers. Michele lives in Seattle with her husband and three adventurous daughters.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Title: Life Before
Author: Michele Bacon
Publisher: Sky Pony Press
Publication Date: June 7, 2016
Format: Hardcover, eBook
Seventeen years is a long time to keep secrets, so Xander Fife is very good at it: everyone believes he has a normal family. If he can just get through this summer, he’ll start his real life in college with a clean slate–no risk, no drama, no fear.
Xander’s summer plans include pick-up soccer, regular hijinks with friends, an epic road trip, and—quite possibly— the company of his ideal girlfriend, the amazing Gretchen Taylor.
Instead of kicking off what had promised to be an amazing summer, however, graduation day brings terror. His family’s secrets are thrust out into the open, forcing Xander to confront his greatest fear. Or run from it.
Armed with a fake ID, cash, and a knife, Xander skips town and assumes a new identity. In danger hundreds of miles from home, one thing is clear: Xander’s real life is already in progress and just getting through it isn’t enough.
What’s up for Grab?
- a signed finished copy of LIFE BEFORE by Michele Bacon,
deck of playing cards, Gretchen’s favorite lip balm, signed bookmarks, and a snack
- Open to International
- There will be one (1) winner
- Winner will be chosen and announced by rafflecopter
- Winner will be contacted thru email & should response within 48 hours
- Ends August 31st, 2016
- Prizes will be sent by the author
To enter fill out the rafflecopter form
Treat yourself to a complete #CelebratingDebutantes2016 experience. Click the image below for the full list of schedule and links to each second wave feature post!