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A Powerful & Emotional Interview with the Extraordinary Jennifer Brown, Author of Hate List
Apr 28th, 2010 by Liza Wiemer

Extraordinary Author Jennifer Brown

It is with tremendous gratitude and admiration that I share with my readers this incredible interview with Jennifer Brown, author of one of the most powerful books I have ever read, Hate List. There are many fine YA novels on the market, but only a few have the ability to impact the reader in such a emotional and visceral manner.  Hate List, in my opinion is a must read for every teen, teacher, and parent.  It shows the fragile line between being bullied and bullies and the horrendous consquences that can occur when an individual has had too much or has been pushed over the edge. Personally, I believe that Hate List should be required reading for middle school and high school students. To see reviews or for more information here’s the link to Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/y9a8m5w or Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6316171-hate-list AT THE END OF THIS INTERVIEW ARE FIVE WAYS TO WIN AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF HATE LIST!  Please enter!

Q:  As the reader, I went through an array of powerful emotions reading Hate List. What was the emotional experience like for you as you wrote the novel, especially since characters live and breathe for the author?

A:  At times it was a bit tough. I was, in some ways, reliving some of the things that happened to me in school, and that brought back emotions that I hadn’t felt in a long time. But fortunately, I also write humor, and having my weekly column was very helpful in getting me out of somber mode and into a lighter state of mind at least one day every week.

Q:  Have you personally experienced violence or bullying?  If so, how did the experience impact your life and influence writing Hate List?

A:  Yes, I was bullied in junior high and part of high school. It very much influenced who I became as a person. Other than being tripped in a crowded lunch room and receiving threats that I was going to be beat up, I wouldn’t say I was a victim of violence, really. More, the bullying I endured was along the lines of rumors, gossip, and “mean girl” stuff. What happened to me did impact not only the writing of Hate List (in fact, some of the bullying scenes are very similar to things that happened to me), but have impacted my life in that I now have a means to reach out to students and talk to them about bullying. That is very important to me. Nobody should have to go through what I went through, and I know that what I went through was nothing compared to what some kids out there are going through.

Q:  Since Hate List came out on the market, what has surprised you the most?  Readers?  Reviews?  Reactions?  Something in the story you would have changed or perceived differently?

A:  Librarians. I have been the most surprised by librarians. I mean, I’ve always had a love for libraries, but I never, until now, realized how passionate

Hate List, by Jennifer Brown

librarians can be — not only about reading, but about sharing books with readers. I’ve visited a lot of schools since Hate List came out, and am always just… floored and fascinated… at how the librarians are the heartbeat of the school. They know all the kids. They know who needs to hear my message the most. And they get so excited about sharing a good book with “just the right student.” Librarians rule!

Q:  If there were anything that you could have said to Nick and/or Valerie to have prevented the tragedy, what would it have been?

A:  It gets better. It does. If you can just hang on and get through this bad time… life gets so much better. You will graduate and leave these mean people behind and will never, ever have to see them again.

Q:  We’ve all heard the verbiage, History repeats itself.  How do you think our society can reduce or prevent the violence you describe in Hate List?

A:  I wish I knew how to make it stop! But the best I can say is… keep talking about it. The more we talk about it, the more we learn how to make it better, no matter what the problem is. Talk to your kids about it. Talk to your students about it. Talk to each other about it. And encourage the young adults in your life to be nice, to be responsible. The best way to do this, by the way, is by modeling nice behavior. There are so many adult bullies out there — all you have to do is check out comments on any given message board or blog site… or watch some reality TV… to see that.

You know, one thing that continually amazes me is how many people really only think bullying is bullying if someone is physically harmed. But that’s just not true. Rumors are bullying. Gossip is bullying. Keeping someone out of a group is bullying. Teasing (and taking it too far, or teasing in a mean way) is bullying. Saying bad things about someone on your Facebook page is bullying, even if you think they’ll never see it (trust me, they’ll hear about it).

And, finally, talk to someone if you’re the victim of bullying. Go to an adult who can help you. You shouldn’t be keeping miserable and lonely and sad feelings to yourself.

Q:  Please share an experience that deeply moved you since Hate List was published.

A:  I was visiting some schools in a city about 2 hours away from where I live. I had a packed schedule, and barely had breathing room. But I received an email from a principal of a local alternative school in the area, asking if I could please squeeze in 20 or 30 minutes at their school while I was in town. She was so passionate about getting me there, I agreed to do it, even though it meant I was going to have to really fly to make my next school visit. I got to the school and found out that I was the first visiting author that the school had ever had. Ever! The students were so attentive and wonderful, and the teachers so appreciative that I would talk to them. After my visit, I received an email that the students had decided to create a student-led book club, and that their first club read was going to be Hate List.

Q:  What advice do you have for middle school and high school students who have been bullied?

A:  Go to your school counselor and ask for help. Bullying does tend to stop if an adult who knows what they’re doing confronts it head-on. If your counselor isn’t helping, keep talking. Talk to teachers, talk to administrators, talk to your parents. Eventually, someone will help you.

Q:  In Hate List the lines blur for many of the characters.  For example – Valerie and Nick are being bullied, but also are perceived as bullies.  They are hateful and loving.  We also might say that Valerie and Jessica are victims, perpetrators, and saviors.  You did a phenomenal job of showing different sides to many of the characters.  What overall message do you feel is important for the reader to take away from your portrayals?

A:  That you are not only your reputation, so why should anyone else be only theirs? We are all human. We are all flawed. And we are all complex. It’s so easy to “hate” someone you don’t really know, based on something you’ve heard about them, or the first impression they gave, or whatever. Valerie’s main goal in Hate List is to “see what’s really there.” I’d like my readers to do that as well. See people for who they really are.

Q: As the mother of three children, what life lessons do you hope to impart to them?  (They do not necessarily have to relate specifically to Hate List.)

A:  Oh, so many! I want them to be caring people. I want them to see that their actions do matter in this world. And I want them to follow their dreams, whatever those dreams may be. I want them to know that they can accomplish anything they set their mind to. And I want them to always come home for Christmas, even if they live far away. 🙂

CONTEST IS NOW CLOSED – WINNER HAS BEEN ANNOUNCED AND AM WAITING FOR RESPONSE.  THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO SENT IN COMMENTS AND POSTED THE LINKS!

Readers may find up-to-date information about Jennifer Brown and read her blog on her website: http://www.jenniferbrownya.com/

Enter to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of Hate List by choosing any one of the following:

1. Leave a comment about how bullying has impacted your life, or the life of someone you know.

2.  Explain why you would like a copy of this book.

3.  Ideas you have to put an end  to bullying.

4.  General comments about this blog piece.

5.  Add a link to this blog piece on your website, Twitter it, or post a link on your Facebook or MySpace page. (Please list it.)

A winner will be selected randomly and is open to individuals in the United States or Canada.  Deadline is May 20, 2010

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