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Powerful Interview with Caroline Bock, Author of BEFORE MY EYES
Sep 11th, 2014 by Liza Wiemer

Interview with Caroline Bock,

Author of the YA novel17934644

BEFORE MY EYES

Hardcover, 304 pages

Published February 11, 2014 by St. Martin’s Griffin

 

Buy the novel here: IndieBound | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Connect with Caroline Bock: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Praise for BEFORE MY EYES:

“GRIPPING…”   –Publishers Weekly
 
“GRIPPING, DISTURBING AND NUANCED.” 
-Kirkus Reviews
“In the opening scene of unflinching thriller Before My Eyes—reminiscent of the shooting at Gabby Giffords’ political rally in 2011—a gunman pulls out a weapon at a Labor Day campaign rally for New York state senator Glenn Cooper. Who is the target? What is the motive? And how will the crowd react to and fare the tragedy? …The thought-provoking story broaches such topics as recognizing signs of mental illness, caring for the mentally ill, gun control and the difficulties of each… a rich opportunity to start a dialogue on these issues that continue to plague America.”-Bookpages
“Every one of Bock’s fragile characters hides an unflinching inner backbone of steel. Impassioned and moving.” – Elizabeth Wein, bestselling author of
Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire.

Summary from Goodreads:

From the author of LIE, a powerful new young adult novel about a fateful Long Island summer and the lives of three young people who will never be the same.

Dreamy, poetic Claire, seventeen, has spent the last few months taking care of her six-year-old sister, Izzy, as their mother lies in a hospital bed recovering from a stroke. Claire believes she has everything under control until she meets “Brent” online. Brent appears to be a kindred spirit, and Claire is initially flattered by his attention. But when she meets Max, the awkward state senator’s son, her feelings become complicated.

Max, also seventeen, has been working the worst summer job ever at the beachside Snack Shack. He’s also been popping painkillers. His parents—more involved in his father’s re-election than in their son’s life—fail to see what’s going on with him.

Working alongside Max is Barkley, twenty-one. Lonely and obsessive, Barkley has been hearing a voice in his head. No one—not his parents, not his co-workers—realizes that Barkley is suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Until the voice in his head orders him to take out his gun.

Narrated in turns by Claire, Max, and Barkley, Before My Eyes captures a moment when possibilities should be opening up, but instead everything teeters on the brink of destruction.

 

INTERVIEW:

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Author Caroline Bock

Q: Of all the characters, who do you relate to the most and why?

I relate to Claire. How could I not?

Like Claire, my mother had a stroke (though my mother never returned home).

Like Claire, I took care of my siblings (though I had two younger brothers and a sister).

Like Claire, I had a father who found it hard to pull it all together after his wife’s stroke (Who could blame him? He had four children under five years old to take care of. He raised us single-handedly; he turned out to be an inspiring and loving Dad).

Like her, I wrote poetry (I was the editor of my New Rochelle High School literary magazine, Opus).

Like her, I was a dreamer (my father always said: if my head wasn’t screwed on, I’d lose that too, but some days I wanted to just lose myself in dreams, and I think he understood. He always encouraged my love of books and writing).

Like her, I was tall and curvy and extremely self aware of my body parts: my breasts, my lips. However, I never had to face someone with a gun. Yet, in my teens I faced some very big life and death issues, (my father went through a serious illness when I was a teenager), which said to me that even a dreamer, even a poet, even someone feeling the loss of their mother, could find the inner strength to face a life- challenging moment, and come out stronger.

Q: Claire is dealing with some very heavy issues. With her mother’s stroke, she not only has her own responsibilities, but has to help take care of the house, her sister, and is burdened by her father’s fears and issues. What advice do you have for YA who face a crisis in their family, especially one when a member becomes ill?

Both of my parents suffered serious health issues in my young life (see above), so I had firsthand experience with taking on a lot of responsibility as a teen. I wish I could go back to my teenage self and reassure her that she didn’t have to be perfect. She didn’t have to worry about everything, about the laundry and making dinner and dirty dishes; that she wasn’t responsible for her mother or her father, that in the scheme of life what mattered is that she loved her parents and that they loved her even if they weren’t capable of telling her every day.

I’d tell that teenage self to be the one to say, “I love you,” to my siblings even if it’s late and you’re tired from all the responsibility. In BEFORE MY EYES, Claire does this. Claire tells her sister Izzy that she loves her, and I wish I said this more often to my younger siblings. What I know now is this: Those words— I love you—make us all less lonely and a little less afraid in this imperfect world.

 Q: There are various types of parents in the novel: overbearing, overburdened, oblivious, self-centered, indulgent. What qualities do you think make for the BEST type of parent?

The parents in BEFORE MY EYES see what they want to see about their kids. And what they want to see is that everything is okay. They are caught up in their own lives. As Barkley’s father repeatedly asserts to his son through his closed bedroom door, he’s an “awesome,” kid, and then, races out, not wanting to be late for work. A close reader will catch how many times the parents are talking at their kids—through closed doors, i.e. not seeing them —and not talking with them.

As a parent of a 14-year-old young man, the hardest thing is just talking with him and listening to him, just finding the right moment in time, the right space is my biggest challenge. He’s not a talkative kid. And I’m sure others have noticed that teens are not chatting on the phone these days but on the computer or their smart devices, texting away. Often in the car, alone, when we’re not in a rush to get anywhere, when we have our best conversations. I do my best to ask specific questions that cannot be answered by a Yup or a Nah, and then let him talk (and perhaps drive slower or take a longer route, depending on the conversation!).

Time, patience, listening—as a parent, I feel like I’m working at these every day.

Q: The Snack Shack, the place where Trish, Barkley, Peter, and Max work, seems to represent different things to each of them. For Barkley it’s a place where he can be in charge, for Trish, she creates order, for Peter, a place to belong, and for Max, it’s a hellhole trap he can’t wait to get away from. A job can be all of those things. Many YA need to work. What are your suggestions for choosing a job? Working at a job you don’t like?

 I have to back up to answer this. I envisioned BEFORE MY EYES set in the last days of summer, the time when you are thinking and waiting for the next thing to start —for the heat to break – for school, for autumn. Once I set the time, I wanted a place for all the characters to converge. The beach. No, I didn’t want to write about idle well-to-do suburban teens hanging out waiting for something to happen. My characters would work at the beach at the kind of summer job that so many of us have as teenagers —and hate. The setting – end of the summer, five days over Labor Day weekend, the Atlantic beach, is absolutely key to making BEFORE MY EYES comes together for me as a writer.

But back to the Snack Shack! I learned a few key lessons at my most despised teen job—at a copy center located far from the beach—and realize that I’ve carried the lessons learned there through my working life:

–Show up on time. Ready to work.

–Customers are key, and customers are often difficult. Learn how to deal with difficult customers and your workday will go much more smoothly.

–Work well with others. Workplaces are more diverse than ever, and one often finds oneself working alongside people who are very different from your friends or family. One of the main characters in BEFORE MY EYES, is “forced’ to work a summer job by his father, who is running for re-election as a state senator and thinks it will look good if his son works. Max learns that people who stand by him – the overweight Trish and the developmentally challenged Peter – may be truer friends than many others.

Q: If there were one or two life lessons people could take away from BEFORE MY EYES, what is most important to you?

Life is fragile. We all hurt. But with a little luck, and love— always love— we learn something about ourselves, we learn what matters, and we go on.

I hope— teens and adults— find something to take away from BEFORE MY EYES.

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