The Summer I Wasn't Me Blog Tour

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Today on the blog we have Jessica Verdi, author of The Summer I Wasn't Me. After reading this book, I knew I had to interview her. This book left me plagued with so many questions. While I sorted most of them out on my own, I was able to ask Jessica a few of them! April is also LGBT+ month, so this interview came at a perfect time. Check it out! 

Lexi has a secret…

Ever since her mom found out she was in love with a girl, seventeen-year-old Lexi’s afraid that what’s left of her family is going to fall apart for good. 

You are on the road to truth. Help is on the way.

The road signs leading to New Horizons summer camp promise a new life for Lexi—she swears she can change. She can learn to like boys. But denying her feelings is harder than she thinks. And when she falls heads over heels for one of her fellow campers, Lexi will have to risk her mother’s approval for the one person who might love her no matter what. (Goodreads)

Questions about The Summer I Wasn't Me
1. Religion plays a big part in Lexi's decision to try not to be gay.What inspired you to incorporate this into your novel?
   I think in order to properly tackle the issue of homophobia and parents believing there is something “wrong” with their LGBTQ children, you kind of have to bring religion into it. Of course there are many, many different religions in the world, and of course not all of them teach that homosexuality is wrong, but there are certainly some that do. And those religious beliefs and traditions are where 99.9999% of the insistence that same sex relationship are wrong, immoral, unnatural, and/or evil stem from.
Additionally, since I wanted to explore the world of conversion camps in this book, it only made sense to make it a religious camp, since that’s what they are in real life. As Carolyn says in the book, there really aren’t any secular conversion camps out there.
But while the book is definitely an indictment of these camps and these particular religious teachings, I was careful not to make a blanket statement about all religion. Lexi herself is religious, as are many of the other teens in the book, each in their own way. Carolyn is not religious. I hope readers, regardless of whether you’re atheist, super religious, or anything in between, will be able to take something away from this story.
2. There are some scenes that are downright heartbreaking. How did you write these and still feel good about the world?
It was very hard to dive into some of the darker aspects of this world, both in my research and in the writing of the actual book, but I knew it was important to do so in order to truly get to the core of what these kinds of programs are capable of. But I also knew that most readers would feel outrage at the content of many of the scenes, and that’s what kept me going, knowing that most of us believe without a doubt that these programs are wrong. And hopefully the more people know about them, the quicker we’ll be able to shut them down. California and New Jersey have already banned reparative therapy from being used on minors—great progress, but we still have a long way to go!

3. If you could change anything in your past, would you?
Wow, great question! Well, yes, there are plenty of moments in my life that I would LOVE a do-over for. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone home at the end of the day and wished things had happened differently. But overall, I’m happy where I am today—I have a graduate degree, a career I love (two, actually—in addition to writing, I’m also a full time editor), a wonderful husband and dog, and great friends. There are always going to be bad days, or moments I wish I could change, but overall I wouldn’t re-do anything if it meant changing where I ended up.

4. What do you hope LGBT teens will take from your book?
I hope this book will go even a small way in helping LBGTQ teens to know that they are not alone, they are perfect the way they are, and that they do not need to change for anyone—even if their families or churches or towns are insisting they do.  

5. Why did you decide to use The Great Gatsby as a tool to strengthen Lexi and Carolyn's relationship?
 I love incorporating classic texts into my books (there was a Romeo and Juliet thread in My Life After Now) and Gatsby just made perfect sense to me for this book. I’ve always read that book as a queer text (ever since I first read it in 10th grade I couldn’t believe I was the only one who saw that Nick was in love with Jay) and as I started thinking more about it, I realized there were several other parallels between Lexi’s story andGatsby as well. They’re both about trying to change who you are to please the person you love, they both have forbidden love themes, they’re both about being in a new place, they both take place in the summer. And so I thought it was a good way to illustrate that, you know, there is always more than one way to look at something.

Quick 5:
1. Favorite YA author.
- SUCH a hard one. If I have to choose only one, I’ll have to go with Ned Vizzini
2. Most recent book that made you swoon.
The Evolution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
3. When you were ten, what did you want to be when you grew up?
- A musical theater actor
4. Three authors that influence your writing.
- Ned Vizzini for his honesty and voice, Sophie Kinsella for her humor, Suzanne Collins for her courage
5. If you could be a Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Flavor, what would you be?

- Vegan pumpkin pie


Jessica Verdi lives in Brooklyn, NY and received her MFA in Writing for Children from The New School. 
Her favorite pastimes include singing show tunes at the top of her lungs (much to her husband’s chagrin), watching cheesy TV, and scoring awesome non-leather shoes in a size 5. 
She’s still trying to figure out a way to put her uncanny ability to remember both song lyrics and the intricacies of vampire lore to good use.

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