An Interview with Helene Dunbar,
author of These Gentle Wounds and What Remains
We're bringing attention to #QuietYA today with a conversation between two authors who debuted very different young adult novels in 2014.
Helene Dunbar's These Gentle Wounds is a realistic contemporary novel that takes us into the mind of Gordie, a teen suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as he seeks to overcome past emotional injuries and find a way to confront current ones. Mary Crockett's Dream Boy, co-written with her friend Madelyn Rosenberg, is a contemporary fantasy that explores the world of dreams and asks what might happen when the lines between dream and reality become blurred.
Helene and Mary met through the OneFour KidLit debut group, and are interviewing each other in celebration of #QuietYA. You can find Mary's interview of Helene below, and Helene's interview of Mary will be published tomorrow.
Mary: Helene, I've read numerous reviews of by teens who were deeply touched by These Gentle Wounds. They talk about how much they care about Gordie and how his story stayed with them long after the book was done. What have teens told you about the impact your book has had in their lives?
Helene: The thread that has run through most of the notes I’ve gotten is “Thank you for showing that there is a way through the pain.” Because so many readers have dealt with the loss of someone who couldn’t see that light at the end of the tunnel. And even though Gordie’s journey isn’t an easy one, and even though he sees himself as weak, with the help of those around him, he’s able to tap into strength he didn’t know he had to continue to fight against his past.
Mary: When we're grieving, there's a special kind of solace that can be found in stories—and sometimes even in the barest words. Can you share a line or two from These Gentle Wounds?
Helene: I have to say that my favorite scenes in the book are the ones with Gordie and his brother Kevin, but the paragraph that really sums up the book for me is:
Cody’s words ring in my ears. Over it? Do other people get over shit like what my mom did? Sometimes I wish I’d lost a leg or something. Everyone can understand that. They never get it when what’s been broken is inside your head.
Mary: Wow. That's powerful. I can tell there's lot of emotion in what you wrote. In a way, a debut book is an author's "baby." How do you see your book, now that you're a year out from its publication?
Helene: It’s been odd for me because my books published out of order. I actually wrote my 2015 release, What Remains, prior to These Gentle Wounds. But TGW is a book I’m very, very proud of because I do think it’s helped those it’s reached. I had someone come up to me at a signing recently to tell me that as a survivor of childhood abuse, she was grateful that I was able to tap into that mindset and show that there is a person behind the statistics.
Mary: Interesting! That must have been one of those “why I do what I do” moments for you! What Remains came out this past May, and deals with themes of friendship and loss. You've said the story "hinges on cellular memory, guilt, love, confusion, and really trying to figure out who you are and what it is exactly that defines a person." In your mind, how does it compare to the themes and ideas you put forth in These Gentle Wounds?
Helene: TGW is really a book about inner strength and recognizing that there are more resources and avenues of assistance in your world than you might imagine. Gordie has a great support system, but it takes him a long time to recognize it, just as it takes him a long time to realize that he has enough inner strength not only to being to help himself, but to help those he loves in return.
In contrast, the characters in What Remains are well aware of their support systems. The three friends, Cal, Spencer, and Lizzie rely on each other for everything and assume they always will. But when those supports are severed and tested, they have to redefine themselves and their relationships and figure out how to move on. In some ways, it really the next step on from TGW.
Mary: Can you share a favorite quotation from What Remains?
Maybe we each need to be alone at some point so that we can consciously choose who we want in our lives, who we want to be a part of us.
Mary: Ooh! That's something I need to read! It's definitely on my list now. Why do you think it's important that readers give #QuietYA a chance? What can they find in these books?
I’ve read a slew of definitions about what Quiet YA is. Everything from “they’re books that didn’t win awards” to “they’re books that didn’t get enough exposure.” But the way I define Quiet YA is that they aren’t books with gunfights and huge fantastical worlds. They aren’t books that have commercial hooks that will keep you reading just to find out what happens. To me Quiet YA includes books with characters you can identify with, characters you want to be friends with. Books you can see yourself in and that somehow mirror your reality or the reality you’d like to have. I met a librarian who told me she used These Gentle Wounds as “bibliotherapy” in that she gave it to students she felt it could help. And that phrase really nailed down a concept I’d had but didn’t have a name for. I think that QuietYA is where we all live.
Check out their websites to find out more about Helene (http://www.helenedunbar.com/) and Mary (http://www.marycrockett.com) and follow them on Twitter @Helene_Dunbar and @MaryLovesBooks.
Enter to win copies of These Gentle Wounds and Dream Boy in the #QuietYA giveaway, or you can pick up a copy at a local bookstore or online:
These Gentle Wounds:
Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/these-gentle-wounds-helene-dunbar/1117011369?ean=9780738740270
Barnes and Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/what-remains-helene-dunbar/1120517252?ean=9780738744308
IndieBound http://www.indiebound.org/book/9781402295836Barnes & Noble http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dream-boy-mary-crockett/1118586374?ean=9781402295836
I hope y'all enjoyed reading that interview between Mary and Helene! I've read Helene's What Remains, and I can tell you that it is definitely a quiet YA novel that needs more attention. I really enjoyed it! And now I have a giveaway for y'all. This is US ONLY, and you must be 13 years or older to enter! The books are being provided by the authors, and here is the grand list:
MY BEST EVERYTHING by Sarah Tomp
EVERY UGLE WORD by Aimee Salter
THESE GENTLE WOUNDS by Helene Dunbar
THE BRIDGE FROM ME TO YOU by Lisa Schroeder
LAST YEAR'S MISTAKE by Gina Ciocca
THIS ORDINARY LIFE by Jennifer Walkup (ARC)
THE ARTISANS by Julie Reece