I am so excited to be hosting a local author Kim Zarins during the 2016 debut authors bash tour! I adore Kim she's such a sweetie and SOMETIMES WE TELL THE TRUTH sounds like a gret book! I have an interview with Kim to share today and make sure to enter the giveaway below for an ARC!
Haven't heard of SOMETIMES WE TELL THE TRUTH ? Check it out!
In this contemporary retelling of The Canterbury Tales, a group of teens on a bus ride to Washington, DC, each tell a story—some fantastical, some realistic, some downright scandalous—in pursuit of the ultimate prize: a perfect score.
Jeff boards the bus for the Civics class trip to Washington, DC, with a few things on his mind:
-Six hours trapped with his classmates sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.
-He somehow ended up sitting next to his ex-best friend, who he hasn’t spoken to in years.
-He still feels guilty for the major part he played in pranking his teacher, and the trip’s chaperone, Mr. Bailey.
-And his best friend Cannon, never one to be trusted and banned from the trip, has something “big” planned for DC.
But Mr. Bailey has an idea to keep everyone in line: each person on the bus is going to have the chance to tell a story. It can be fact or fiction, realistic or fantastical, dark or funny or sad. It doesn’t matter. Each person gets a story, and whoever tells the best one will get an automatic A in the class.
But in the middle of all the storytelling, with secrets and confessions coming out, Jeff only has one thing on his mind—can he live up to the super successful story published in the school newspaper weeks ago that convinced everyone that he was someone smart, someone special, and someone with something to say.
In her debut novel, Kim Zarins breathes new life into Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales in a fresh and contemporary retelling that explores the dark realities of high school, and the subtle moments that bring us all together.
Now on to the interview!
Hi Kim! First I want to say welcome to Two Chicks on Books! SOMETIMES WE TELL THE TRUTH sounds absolutely fantastic! And am so happy that you could stop by for a visit!
Kim: Thanks! I’m excited to be here!
For the readers: can you tell us a little bit about SOMETIMES WE TELL THE TRUTH and the characters?
Kim: Sure thing! It’s a modern-day retelling of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (no prior knowledge needed!). In this road trip story, a civics class full of seniors are on an all-day bus ride to Washington DC. It gets a little rowdy, so to keep the class in line, the teacher has them each tell a story. During the day of listening and arguing with each other, things get revealed about the characters, relationships begin to change, and self-awareness begins to dawn. This is particularly true for introverted Jeff, the narrator and main character, who is not too happy about having to sit next to his ex-best friend Pard while his ex-girlfriend Reiko is flirting with someone else, the popular people don’t even know he exists, and his friend Cannon is planning something potentially risky for Jeff in DC. It’s going to be a very different day than Jeff could ever have anticipated.
The characters made this novel a blast to write. I love having the whole high school hierarchy on this bus, from the cheerleading captain to the total nerd and everyone in between. They each deliver their own story and have to listen to one another, as annoying or raw as that experience can be. I have a soft spot for all the characters, major and minor. They all have something to say.
Is this a standalone or a series? And if it’s a series do you have a title for book 2 yet? And if it’s a standalone what are you working on next?
Kim: I’ve finished the draft of a new project, and the good news is that my agent likes it! It’s about what happens to two sweethearts during the transition from high school to college.
Were any of the characters in the book inspired by people from your real life?
Kim: Actually, since this is a modern retelling, pretty much ALL the characters are inspired by Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, which is famous for having larger-than-life characters that are readily understood personality types (the noble Knight, the loud Miller, etc.). It was extremely fun to turn them into modern teenagers and work with such a large cast. I took liberties with some of Chaucer’s characters more than others, swapping genders and adding fresh characteristics, and yes, sometimes drawing from life.
Who was your favorite character to write? What about your least favorite?
The one I worked on the most and really loved was Pard, Jeff’s former best friend. He’s this small, pale blond teenager with a high voice and a smooth, unshaved face. Because of his looks and sexuality, he’s been on the receiving end of a lot of mean comments, but he’s the type to fight back. I couldn’t help but root for him. It was fun getting to see him through Jeff’s eyes, but there was so much beyond Jeff’s view that never went on the page. Pard also seemed to make his own decisions about the novel and forced me to write the book accordingly.
Hmm. Each character adds something, yet I suppose my least favorite might be Franklin, the guy who has it all—looks, hot girlfriend, popularity, big house, fast car. Jeff is jealous how everything has been handed to this guy. There’s another reason Jeff doesn’t like Franklin, but I’ll let you discover what happened there.
What is your favorite passage/scene in SOMETIMES WE TELL THE TRUTH?
Kim: I have lots of favorite scenes, particularly the funny parts and the tender ones. But to pick just one moment, there was a kissing scene that totally surprised me, and I just ran with it. When I showed my agent, she was every bit as surprised and happy as I was. That was cool! There were lots of surprises as I wrote the novel, but that one was fun for the timing and setting.
What kind of research did you have to do for the story?
Kim: Well, I’m a medievalist, so I reread from The Canterbury Tales, Chaucer scholarship, gender theory, and Chaucer’s sources, to get the characters and the tales right. But you won’t see that openly when you read the novel. Instead you’ll see references to modern YA authors. That’s because Chaucer constantly drops comments on his favorite authors and even retells their stories, so I also needed to be current with my YA reading as well as my medieval reading, because my Jeff Chaucer is a modern American teen and total bookworm.
Who is your ultimate book boyfriend?
Kim: HA HA, I wasn’t expecting this question!!! Lemme think...I really like Rainbow Rowell’s boy characters. They are never those predictably hot guys with piercing blue eyes and abs of steel. Her guys tend to have receding hairlines and vampire hairlines and moles...and intelligence and sweetness...and awesome, awesome dialogue that makes you say “aww” and laugh and melt. Those guys are awesome. And I want to see more girl characters like that. Girls with moles!
What inspired you to write YA?
Kim: What I love about YA is all the firsts--not just the first kiss, but new moments of self awareness, moral predicaments, tough choices. And it’s an audience that matters so much. Teen lives can be transformed by a book. Mine was. I remember devouring Tolkien as a teen, and back then I was in awe that Tolkien was a medievalist (imagine Teen Me saying in a hushed voice, That’s where all this good stuff comes from!), and here I am now, a medievalist, writing for teens. It was fun to make a few brief allusions to Tolkien in this novel, because it feels like things have come full circle. It feels really good, actually.
Lightning Round Questions
What are you reading right now? Or what do you have on your TBR that you’re dying to read?
Kim: Just finished Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston, Francisco Stork’s Memory of Light, The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle, and The One Thing by Marci Lyn Curtis, all very good. Next I’m reading Highly Illogical Behavior by John Corey Whaley, Seven Ways We Lie, by Riley Redgate (because of the Seven Deadly Sins!), and Rainbow Rowell’s Star Wars story “Kindred Spirits.”
What Hogwarts House would the Sorting Hat place you in?
Kim: I have a personal philosophy about this question that I actually write into the novel. But I guess if I got sorted, the Sorting Hat would be indecisive, because I’d actually be some sort of Slytherpuff. I have antisocial Slytherin thoughts but also a Hufflepuff’s desire to be a nice person. I’d probably get a migraine during the prolonged sorting, until the Sorting Hat gave up and put me into Hufflepuff, and I’d end up kinda nice, but I’d worry I’m not nice enough yet also resent the whole nice-thing in the first place.
Twitter or Facebook?
Kim: Yup, both! At this time I save my personal Facebook page for people I’ve met before, but I have a public page on Facebook (Kim Zarins) and my Twitter handle is @KimZarins.
Kim: Gandalf. Always Gandalf.
Favorite TV show?
Kim: I haven’t watched much (any) TV since I left for college, so I’m ignorant that way. I really need to be invited to a slumber party where people can get me up to speed on TV.
Sweet or Salty?
Kim: SWEET. If anyone invited me to a TV-watching slumber party, I’d want brownies, cookies, cake. And milk, because carbs are thirsty work.
Kim: Spiders were a recurring nightmare for me. Just today I invented the concept for a clear toilet seat—that way you could see if a spider was hiding under the seat. Genius, right? As a kid I was teased for phonophobia (a term coined by my older sister meaning fear of phones), so getting my driver’s license was awesome because I could go to a store without calling to ask if they stocked whatever it was. I wrote out what I’d say to a person on the phone before I called, even friends I was inviting to sleepovers. It was always awful when we went off script.
Song you can’t get enough of right now?
Lately I like sad music suitable for driving in the rain. Even though it never rains in California in summer. Even though no one in California ever seems to look sad. But it should rain, and they should look sad. Okay, I don’t want people to be TRULY sad. I just think we could all listen to some Adele and think of how we used to be, or play James Bay’s “Let it Go” and maybe the sky would feel sad and rain.
Spring Movie you’re most looking forward to?
I’m really intrigued by “Girl Flu,” which I heard about randomly. A clip floated online about a precocious sixth grader named Bird getting told how to use her first tampon. The scene was so funny and relatable, and I think all books and movies with teen characters should strive for at least one tampon reference (I’ve got one too, haha).
Thanks so much Kim for answering my questions! I can’t wait for everyone to read SOMETIMES WE TELL THE TRUTH!
Kim: Thank you for having me!
Kim Zarins has a PhD in English from Cornell University and teaches medieval literature and children's literature at Sacramento State University. Her debut novel, Sometimes We Tell the Truth, retells Chaucer's Canterbury Tales with modern teens, and she wrote it with a gigantic smile on her face (there are funny bits). She also published two picture books for very young children. When she isn't reading or writing or teaching, she is feeding peanuts to a very hungry scrub jay named Joe.
1 winner will receive an arc of SOMETIMES WE TELL THE TRUTH, US/Canada Only.