Interview: Hannah Harrington, Author of Saving June

Saving June is one of my favorite reads this year (read my review) so I was delighted when the author, Hannah Harrington, said that she’d be willing to do an interview on my blog. YAY for awesome authors! Saving June is her debut novel and is a contemporary YA novel focusing on Harper and how she’s dealing with her sister’s death. Saving June was released early in Australia (lucky Aussies!) and will be released in the US on November 22. Let’s all give Hannah a warm welcome. 🙂

What inspired you to focus on the themes present in Saving June – suicide, grief, road trips, music, etc.?
Everything just seemed to tie together! Music is something that meant a lot to me as a teenager. It felt sometimes like it was another way to identify yourself, by what you listened to, in the same way teens identify or express themselves by what they wear or what films they like or what books they read. For me at least discovering new music and figuring out what I liked and what I didn’t was a means to self-discovery. I think too at that age that loss – any kind of loss, not necessarily death – affects you differently, especially if it’s your first time dealing with something of that nature, and we all lean on different things. For me, music was always something I turned to a lot, whether to be comforted or just wanting to connect to something – or even just to escape for a little while. And the road trip just made the perfect frame for the story.

Music is a huge aspect of the novel. Aside from the playlists already included in the book, do you have other songs in mind that readers can listen to while reading Saving June?
I spent a lot of time putting those together and even then I’d later remember another song I wanted to include and kick myself for leaving it off! It took a lot of restraint not to just list one hundred songs, haha. If I could, I’d add songs like “One Headlight” by The Wallflowers, “Born To Run” by Bruce Springsteen, “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac… those are just off the top of my head!

If you had to choose between music and books, what would you pick?
Ahh, this is impossible for me to choose! If I pick music, does that mean I can still listen to audio books? It’s the only way I can make a decision.

Clever answer to the previous question! While you were writing the novel, did you ever think that readers would develop fictional crushes on Jake? Do you have your own fictional crushes?
Ha! I did not really think that far ahead when writing Jake – I wanted to make him appealing to me as a reader, or more specifically appealing to Harper. He was the most fun character to write so I love hearing that other people enjoy him. And yes, I have fictional crushes of my own! Troy Barnes from the TV show Community (played by Donald Glover) is totally adorable to me. He is definitely my TV boyfriend.

Saving June is a contemporary YA novel and I’m always curious about what other books authors can recommend in their own genre. What are some contemporary YA novels that you love?

I love contemporary YA – it’s what I read most growing up, and I still love it now. Some recent favorites have been Cracked Up to Be by Courtney Summers, Wide Awake by David Levithan, and The Year of Secret Assignments by Jaclyn Moriarty. All of them are wonderful!

Are you working on another book right now? Can you please tell us more about it?
Right now I’m preparing for my second book, SPEECHLESS, which will be released by HarlequinTeen in September 2012. It’s the story of a girl named Chelsea Knot who takes a voluntary oath of silence after her gossip-mongering ways yield unexpected consequences… there’s a boy involved, too, of course!

Yay, another Hannah Harrington to look forward to! Finally, Saving June has been getting a lot of positive feedback from bloggers and readers all over the world, how does it feel to have such a successful debut novel?
It’s very exciting, and humbling! It’s been a bit nerve-wracking knowing that people are finally reading it now, so to know that some people really connect to and love the story is a thrill. I can’t express how much it means to me!

______________________________________
Thank you, Hannah, for being so nice and friendly and for sharing more of your thoughts with us! Looks like I have to listen to a couple more songs, watch the TV show Community, read Cracked Up to Be and Wide Awake, and TRY to wait patiently for Speechless to be released. Saving June fans, hope you enjoyed learning more about Hannah and for those who haven’t read the book, I hope this interview encourages you to pick it up. It really is a lovely book and I can’t recommend it enough.

Saving June by Hannah Harrington

For some reason, Saving June by Hannah Harrington was released early in Australia. I’ve seen raving reviews from those who have been lucky enough to get copies of the book and that persuaded me to read it as soon as I can. The ebook can be purchased from Angus & Robertson and Borders Australia. If you want a physical copy, you can order it from Fishpond. Also, Harlequin Teen said on Twitter that Saving June will be available on NetGalley in August.

Harper Scott knows she can never measure up to her perfect, older sister June, so she’s never tried. In fact, she’s done her best to be the opposite – lukewarm grades, detention as often as she can manage it, basically be the rebel daughter. She’s as surprised as everyone when June commits suicide a week before graduation, leaving behind a mess that no one can figure out. When her divorced parents decide to split June’s ashes, Harper takes matters into her own hands and embarks on a road trip to California with her best friend Laney and Jake Tolan, a guy who claims to be June’s friend. June always yearned to go to California and Harper thinks it’s the perfect place to scatter the ashes.

Ah this book, this beautiful book. It deserves all the hype that it’s been getting, I can’t even stop thinking about it. Right off the bat, I empathized with Harper, with all her pain and confusion and anger – not knowing how to handle living in a world without her big sister to take care of things. The road trip that she plans with her best friend is the perfect way for her to cope and ease that feeling of being suffocated. She doesn’t understand why Jake wants to go with them though. Mysterious, classic rock-loving Jake with the piercing green eyes – one moment a douchebag and a knight in shining armor the next. He has his own reasons for being that way and it didn’t diminish his appeal in my eyes. I’d love to meet someone like him in person – someone passionate about music who provides anecdotes each time an unfamiliar song plays, who believes that a proper mix CD should have a story to tell just like a book. Harper, armed with her Polaroid, Laney, with her enthusiasm and friendliness and Jake, with his music are the perfect combination for a memorable road trip.

Saving June has everything that I look for in my contemporary reads: believable characters with realistic problems, amazing friends, romance that takes time to form (as opposed to instant love). Some scenes had me smiling and chuckling at the situations Harper, Laney and Jake get into while other scenes had me tearing up and aching for all of them. I love how these three characters are fully fleshed out with their distinct personalities. This is the kind of book that stays with you even after you finish reading it, the kind that makes you want listen to all of the songs mentioned in it. Saving June is about grief and loss but also about life, hope and love. It has earned a spot in my favorites and will definitely be included in my best of 2011. The premise reminded me of The Sky is Everywhere and Sharing Sam while the slow build up of the romance felt similar to Going Too Far. So if you’re a fan of those three books, make sure to read this one. I will be on the lookout for Hannah Harrington’s other novels.

And because I love so many lines from the book, I can’t help but quote Jake:

It’s just nice, I guess. Knowing that someone else can put into words what I feel. That there are people who have been through things worse than I have, and they come out on the other side okay. Not only that, but they made some kind of twisted, fucked-up sense of the completely senseless. They made it mean something. These songs tell me I’m not alone. If you look at it at that way, music… music can see you through anything.

I’m not as passionate about music as Jake is but I agree with what he said, more so if you replace “music” with “books”. Yeah, books can see you through anything.

Other reviews:
Book Harbinger
Inkcrush
Irresistible Reads