Bubble Talk: Jess Rothenberg & The Catastrophic History of You and Me

Bubble Talk is where I interview some truly amazing authors and tell you all about their books! I am absolutely tickled to share this interview with all my readers. Her book The Catastrophic History of You and Me is a beautifully insightful look at the afterlife and the value of real, unconditional love. I was stunned by the writing, the plot, the characters–basically, I loved everything about this book. Please welcome the super talented writer/editor Jess Rothenberg!

Angel: How did you fall in love with children’s/YA fiction?

Jessica: I never stopped loving children’s and teen fiction. I’ve got so many wonderful memories tied to the stories I read growing up, and always hoped I’d end up either writing books for young readers or editing them (or both). When I was ten or eleven, a teacher saw my summer reading list—packed with things like Sweet Valley High, The Babysitters Club, and plenty of classic stories by writers like Lois Lowry, Jean Craighead George, and Scott O’Dell—and made me promise I’d stop reading “those kinds of books.” I was pretty devastated, but did my best to put them aside in favor of more “sophisticated” (as she put it) reading. Thirteen years later, when I landed my dream job at Razorbill as a children’s book editor, I couldn’t help wanting to call her up and say, “Guess what?”

Angel: As an editor, you are given a different perspective of the writing process. What has editing taught you about writing and vice versa?

Jessica: That’s a great question and one I’m still figuring out all the time. I like to think my training as an editor has made me much better at asking those tough, big picture questions you’ve always got to be thinking on—things dealing with concept, story arc, plot, character, world building, and even where a book fits in the crowded marketplace, for example. Of course, when it’s your own writing it’s much harder to see the answers clearly (Reason #1068 why everyone needs a great editor!). But now that I’ve been through the editorial process from the author’s side, I do feel it has changed the way I approach editing. There’s a definite empathy you learn having to write and revise and take constructive feedback again and again and again… to deal with the occasional isolation of being a writer, not to mention all the anxieties and excitement of a first release. Overall, it’s pretty cool (and very humbling) to bring both perspectives to the process.

AngelWho are your musical influences? Is their presence felt in The Catastrophic History of You & Me?

Jessica: There’s no question I’m a child of the ‘80s/early 90’s, and I think it’s pretty obvious in the book. Artists like The Police, Genesis, Madonna, Roxette, Crowded House, Depeche Mode, The Smiths… all of their music was very influential to me growing up and I had a great time incorporating some of their lyrics into the soundtrack of the story. (You can listen to them all here: The songs I associate most with love and heartache are all from that era, since that was when I was experiencing my own first crushes and broken hearts.

Angel: The title is one of my favourite things about the book. How did you come up with it?

Jessica: I’m so glad you love it, thank you! I really enjoy the challenge of titling and started out by making giants lists of words that felt interesting, fresh, and true to the story. For weeks, I worked on narrowing the lists down, asking friends and teens in my family to vote on their favorites along the way. In the end, The Catastrophic History of You and Me just felt fun, quirky, romantic, and different from so many of the one-word titles out there. And I also really like that the “you and me” is a little ambiguous, and can work in different ways depending how you read it.

Angel: What would Brie and Patrick’s theme songs be? 

Jessica: It’s very tough to pick just one, but I’d probably have to go with either “Walking with a Ghost” by Tegan and Sara or “Forever Young” by Alphaville.

Angel: What do you hope readers take away from TCHOYAM?

Jessica: I suppose I hope it reminds us all to look for the humor in dark or sad situations, and to be a little more thoughtful in how we interpret the actions and words of the people around us—especially the people we love the most. Nobody’s perfect, and in matters of love and loss and heartache, I do believe everyone deserves a second chance. But overall, I really just hope readers enjoy the story. : )

Angel: What would you tell a sixteen-year-old Jess?

Jessica: Ha, probably not to worry so much—to kick back a little more and enjoy being sixteen! If I’d known I was going to end up living in freezing cold NYC and sitting in front of a computer year after year, I would have spent even more time romping around in a bikini, enjoying the sunshine!

Again, thank you for letting me interview you and I can’t wait for February to roll around so everyone can read Catastrophic!

Dying of a broken heart is just the beginning…. Welcome to forever.

BRIE’S LIFE ENDS AT SIXTEEN: Her boyfriend tells her he doesn’t love her, and the news breaks her heart—literally.

But now that she’s D&G (dead and gone), Brie is about to discover that love is way more complicated than she ever imagined. Back in Half Moon Bay, her family has begun to unravel. Her best friend has been keeping a secret about Jacob, the boy she loved and lost—and the truth behind his shattering betrayal. And then there’s Patrick, Brie’s mysterious new guide and resident Lost Soul . . . who just might hold the key to her forever after.

With Patrick’s help, Brie will have to pass through the five stages of grief before she’s ready to move on. But how do you begin again, when your heart is still in pieces?

My review of this book will be going up tomorrow on the blog, so be sure to stop by! You can visit Jess Rothenberg at her website and follow her on Twitter @JessRothenberg.

The Catastrophic History of You and Me will be in bookstores everywhere on February 21, 2012.


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