Tag Archive for James Preller YA

FAN MAIL WEDNESDAY #257: Kylie’s Happy-Sad Feeling


It’s an incredible feeling to get receive a letter like this one that Kylie from Elsewhere sent to me . . .

Hey, I recently read your book called “Before You Go.” This book really touched me, and I just wanted to say how great of a book it is that you wrote. When I finished reading it, I had an emotion I rarely have. A bittersweet type emotion. Where I am happy and sad at the same time. I was sad because I loved the characters that you created. They were all fit perfectly together to create this amazing book. I wish that these characters were real, and I were able to hear more from them. I honestly wish there was a “Before You Go” book two as I really just am interested in knowing how their lives went on? Maybe you can tell me how you visioned Jude’s and Becka’s lives like during Senior Year, and college. I just really want to know what their future had in store. I was happy because Jude and Becka ended up together, and I’m not sure, the ending just put a smile on my face. Anyways, I’ve never contacted the author of a book before. So this just proves how much I LOVE your book. I may actually read again!
-Best Wishes, thanks for your time reading this, Kylie. 😊
I replied:
Thank you for this extremely kind letter. I’m honored to have you as a reader. I mean that. You should see some of the creeps who pick up my books!
51VCNQbfPKLI’m kidding, Kylie. Everyone who reads my books is amazing. But you’re the amazing-est.
Yes, I love that happy-sad moment, too. As a reader, and as a music and movie lover, I find that I am drawn to that experience of it hurts so good. A touch of melancholy. I’ve always written it off as a result of my Irish soul. Gray skies, staring out into the tumultuous sea. I like sad things. Or maybe it’s not exactly that — the sadness — but I want to feel stirred, my heart moved — by song, by books, by life.
You’ve asked an impossible question, of course. What happens next? I think of movies where they’ve done that successfully, or humorously. “Animal House” has a classic ending, where we learn that John Blutarsky has became a U.S. Senator, etc. On the other hand, I thought it was a misstep with Harry Potter, that flash forward. To me it’s not how they end up that’s interesting, it’s the getting there. And to tell that story, you’d have to write an entire book.
What happened to Jude and Becka?
They both died in a nuclear attack from North Korea?
Let’s hope not. I know that I like both of them, that both are strong and independent with a world of possibilities before them. I think they will make a nice couple, able to bring out the best in each other. For a while, at least.
One motivation for writing this book was that I’d go into bookstores and look in dismay at the YA section. A lot of romance with pink covers, almost always told from the female point of view. And of course tons of fantasy and paranormal. So I wanted to write a realistic relationship book from the boy’s perspective, Jude’s gentle soul. A book that I’d want to read. Before You Go more or less bombed in the marketplace, predictably in retrospect. There are times when you have to write the book you have to write — you can’t worry about the consequences or sales figures. But I’ve always been proud of it, felt it accurately reflected me (as much as anything I’ve written), and trusted that certain types of readers would enjoy it. Not with mass appeal, but maybe a quiet story for a sensitive, thoughtful reader. Thank you for being that good soul. May every writer be so lucky.
I remember working very hard on those last sentences, trying to make each word perfect, trying to write simply and with clarity, direct from the heart:
>> He didn’t know what would happen with Becka. Maybe that’s why he needed to be alone on the beach, to watch the sunrise, to be okay with himself, despite everything. Sometimes life seemed impossibly hard, full of car wrecks and souls that shined like stars in yellow dresses. So much heartbreak and undertow. Jude bent down, picked up a smooth white stone, measured its heft in his hand. And he reached back to cast that rock as far as he could.
Just to see the splash. <<
Thank you, Kylie. I’ll treasure your letter.
My best,
James Preller

Brief Excerpt from BEFORE YOU GO, featuring “Pictures of You” by the Cure

I received a note today from a friend who read an advance copy of Before You Go (July, 2012).

She wrote, in part:

Dear Jim,

I just want to thank you for sending the advance reader’s copy of  Before You Go.  From the start I found the book simultaneously compelling and anxiety provoking, since it was clear one of the main characters would wind up dying in the shotgun seat.  But I read on, and along the way enjoyed seeing the world through Jude’s eyes.

Although the protagonist is a boy, I think Before You Go will especially resonate with girls, since much of it is about the complex interrelationships between the characters. But both boys and girls are nicely drawn.

Thanks again for sharing Before You Go — with this book,  Bystander, and Jigsaw Jones, I’m becoming quite a fan!


P.S.  I must confess I’d never heard of The Cure (what can I say? I think I missed most of the 80’s), but I’ve since listened to Disintegration.  You’re broadening my horizons!

A word of explanation: In an early scene to Before You Go, we meet the main character, Jude, as he rides a bus to Jones Beach for his first day of work. Jude plugs in the ear buds and listens to this song . . .

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The song became, for this book, and for me, the song. Somehow a guiding light, a sonic north star, the interior soundtrack of Jude’s heart and spirit. Thank you, Robert Smith and The Cure, awesome song. I can absolutely see my character sitting on that bus, head leaning against the pane, staring at the boats out on the water.

A paragraph from the book:

The bus came and everybody shuffled on board, feet dragging. Jude grabbed a seat toward the back, stuffed in ear buds, found The Cure on his iPod, gazed out the window for the ride south on Wantagh Parkway. Jude had been obsessing over the Cure lately, especially the best tunes off “Disintegration.” As a band, they peaked in early 90’s, but Jude liked them anyway. Music was music, it didn’t matter if a song was made fifty years ago in Liverpool, England, or behind some guy’s woodshed five minutes ago. The good tunes stuck and the rest dropped away. Some days Jude could listen to “Pictures of You” on an endless repeat cycle, losing himself in the interplay of guitar, synthesizer and bass. That the Cure’s songs were often dark, brooding and melancholy only made it all the better.  Jude had played guitar for eight years now, practicing four, five times a week. Guitar was his retreat. It was a door closing, shutting the world out, and a window opening, connecting him to something other, a rift in space through which he escaped for hours at a time. Jude felt, not without reason, that music had saved his life. But hey, music made everything better –- even bus rides to a particular version of sucks called My First Day on the Job.

Comment: Looking at this now, I realize that I’m such a music guy. As a reader, I’m often bored by passages about furniture and Sally Mae’s wardrobe. The parts that, as Elmore Leonard famously described it, readers tended to skip. It just wasn’t important to me. But the music a character listened to? The tunes on his mix-tape? Those are telling details, things I want to know. I feel that way at the gym. I want to tap an ear bud-wearing stranger on the shoulder, ask, “What are you listening to? What sounds are you putting into your skull right now? Who are you?”

“Pictures of You,” lyrics

I’ve been looking so long at these pictures of you
That I almost believe that they’re real

I’ve been living so long with my pictures of you
That I almost believe that the pictures are
All I can feel

You standing quiet in the rain
As I ran to your heart to be near
And we kissed as the sky fell in
Holding you close
How I always held close in your fear
You running soft through the night
You were bigger and brighter and wider than snow
And screamed at the make-believe
Screamed at the sky
And you finally found all your courage
To let it all go

You fallen into my arms
Crying for the death of your heart
You were stone white
So delicate
Lost in the cold
You were always so lost in the dark
You how you used to be
Slow drowned
You were angels
So much more than everything
Hold for the last time then slip away quietly
Open my eyes
But I never see anything

If only I’d thought of the right words
I could have held on to your heart
If only I’d thought of the right words
I wouldn’t be breaking apart
All my pictures of you

Looking so long at these pictures of you
But I never hold on to your heart
Looking so long for the words to be true
But always just breaking apart
My pictures of you

There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to feel you deep in my heart
There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to never feel the breaking apart
All my pictures of you