One more Charlotte interview as we count the ballots! Mrs. Ada’s students in Philadelphia, NY wrote Megan Bostic, and she answered these questions about Never Eighteen. Thanks to the students and Ms. Bostic for the thoughtful interview!
Why do so many of the characters in your book have such extreme problems / mental issues?
Think about how many people you know in life. The people in your school, your sports teams, friends, family, coworkers, the barista at the local Starbucks, the grocery store clerk, etc. That’s quite a lot of people. How many of those people do you think may be suffering from some of the issues the characters in the book are suffering? A couple? A few? A handful? Half? Surely, you know divorced parents? A gay teenager? One who drinks too much maybe? One who lets their boyfriend or girlfriend treat them with disrespect?
So many people are fighting battles you don’t even know about. Austin only talks to a handful of people, some of them struggling more than others. I have known every single person I wrote about in that book, most of them when I was in high school. So it’s not that they have extreme problems and mental issues, it’s just that they have problems, period, like so many others do.
What year does this book take place?
I don’t specifically choose a year, but let’s say it’s contemporary. Within the last five years.
Why did you choose to write this book / about this subject matter?
In November 2001, my mother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer. By February, they told her there was nothing more they could do for her. They gave her 6 months to a year to live. I quit my job and my husband and I took her in and cared for her in her last days with the help of hospice. That experience showed me firsthand the effects of the disease, how ravaging it can be, how fast it can take you without treatment. After my mother-in-law moved in, she only lasted just over 3 weeks.
It also makes you think about your own mortality. If I only had 6 months to year, or even just 3 weeks, how would I want to spend it? However, I see that question below, so I’ll answer it there. J
You included a lot of reference to specific bands and songs in the book, do you listen to music while you write?
To be honest, I am greatly inspired by music, especially indie and alternative, but I find it hard to concentrate and write with any noise.
I love the Shins too! What’s your favorite band?
That is like asking, when it’s snowing, which snowflake is my favorite. J I’ll say this, indie and alternative are my favorite forms of music, though I love music from all genres and many decades. I will give a list of ten bands that have influenced me throughout my life.
The Beastie Boys
Death Cab for Cutie
Okay, that’s twelve, but it’s too hard to choose! A few more and the Shins would have made that list. There are great new bands coming out every year too.
Why did you choose to keep Austin’s cancer a secret until the end of the book?
I think to give him an air of mystery, maybe. To make people wonder what would make a teenage boy want to do the things he’s doing – what could make him so wise beyond his years. It’s not too much of a mystery, the title of the book, the clues in the book, the reader pretty much figures it out, but as they’re reading I think they secretly hope cancer isn’t the answer. It has to be something else, because in the end, no one wants Austin to die.
Was it hard for you to get close to a character that you were going to have die? How emotionally affected were you by Austin’s death?
Writing Never Eighteen was difficult. The answer is yes – it was an emotionally draining write. After writing a demanding scene, I would have to take a break. Also, since it was a subject matter so personal for me, it made it even that much harder because I had to dig deep and recall memories that were painful to make it authentic.
Are there real people who inspired any of the characters in this book?
Yes. As I said before, almost everyone of Austin’s troubled friends/acquaintances are people I have known – in this case, Julianna, Allie, Scott, Trevor – maybe not their characteristics, but their circumstances for sure. Usually a character in each of my books contains bits and pieces of me as well. I’ll let you figure that one out yourself. J
This is almost a “bucket list” type of story. If you knew you were dying, is this how you would spend your last healthy days?
I would want to know that I made an impact, left some kind of mark, no matter how small it was, so to answer the question, yes, I would want to tell the people who are stuck in a rut, who are miserable with their lives to change them. What is stopping you from living the life you want to live? To do the things you want to do? We only have one shot at life, we need to make it count.
I would also do some traveling and throw one hell of a farewell party!
Megan Bostic, April 2014