Hello and welcome to my stop on the Mosquitoland blog tour with PenguinTeen.
I had the honor of asking the author David Arnold some questions about the book and himself. Check out his answers below!
Mosquitoland Blog Tour: Q&A With David Arnold
About Mosquitoland + Book Trailer
I read and reviewed Mosquitoland previously on the blog HERE.
I’ll just sum it up for you: the book is filled with quirky characters, a soul-searching road trip and a deep story that’ll make you laugh out loud and tear up along the way. It’s an excellent YA contemporary read!
The official book description:
Mim Malone is not okay. In the past year, her parents got divorced, her father and new stepmom dragged her from her Ohio home to Mississippi, and her new therapist prescribed her powerful, mind-numbing antipsychotic drugs. To top it off, Mim learns that her mother is sick in Cleveland. When her mom stops responding to her letters, Mim ditches her new life and hops a northbound Greyhound bus to her real home and real mother, meeting a ragtag group of fellow wanderers along the way. As her thousand-mile odyssey takes a few turns she could never see coming, Mim must confront her own demons, redefining her notions of love, loyalty, and what it means to be sane. It’s testament to Arnold’s talent that, though you won’t know exactly where you stand with this girl until the very last page, you still won’t be able to look away. I’m certain that Mim will steal your heart just she stole mine, and that MOSQUITOLAND is the start of an incredibly exciting career for this new writer.
The official book trailer:
Q&A With David Arnold
What was it like writing from a teenage girl’s perspective? How did you write in character, so to speak?
DA: In the early drafts, the protagonist was actually a boy, but his voice always felt a little reigned in. Here’s a sort of a weird analogy: for me, finding a character’s voice is like looking out over a field of wells, and trying to locate the single well my character is drinking from. Then I drink from that well, and let them tell the story. During those early drafts, I hadn’t quite found the well yet, and I knew it. But I also knew I was close. Then a good friend of mine, Courtney Stevens (author of FAKING NORMAL) suggested I switch the gender of my protagonist, and like that, I knew I’d found the right well.
Have you known any quirky people similar to Mosquitoland characters in real life?
DA: Oh, I’ve had my share of quirky friends, but nothing like some of the characters in the book. That’s the great thing about fiction—sometimes, it only takes one thing to inspire you to write one thing; other times, it takes a thousand little things to inspire you to write one thing. So while none of the characters are based on actual people I’ve known, I sometimes think there might be tiny pieces of them buried in there somewhere. Of all the characters in the book, Arlene is probably the most similar to people I’ve actually known. I’ve been blessed with terrific grandparents who are a surprise a minute. Arlene (who is actually named after my wife’s late grandmother) is sort of my tip of the hat to an underestimated, often overlooked generation.
What’s the last book that you read and loved?
DA: Oh, man. I’m going to mention three. Three is better than one, right? I try to read one adult and one YA at a time (though recently, my reading has taken a backseat to revisions on book two). Currently, I’m reading and loving THE MAGICIANS trilogy by Lev Grossman—such a unique blend of genres, and I love how he doesn’t shy away from some of the Harry Potter/LOTR/Narnia nods. On top of owning the blend, Grossman somehow manages to reinvent it. On the young adult side of things, I recently read EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING by Nicola Yoon (coming 9.1.15 from Delacorte/Random House), and absolutely loved it. One of the most unique love stories I’ve read. I also loved THE TRUTH COMMISSION by Susan Juby (coming 4.14.15 from Viking/Penguin)—gorgeous writing, complex characters, and a terrific sibling subplot. So good.
What do you wish teens knew about mental illness that they might not already?
DA: Since I have no personal experience with mental illness, while writing Mosquitoland I did quite a bit of research to make sure I was getting Mim’s story right. This included enlisting the help of a few professionals to comb the manuscript for inaccuracies and unrealistic responses. Mental illness affects so many people in a variety ways, I felt it was my responsibility to do everything I could to get it right. So now I’d like to apply that same logic here, and bring in a friend of mine to help answer this question. His name is Bryson McCrone, and in addition to being a great young writer, he is also one of the more spectacular human beings I’ve ever met. He is very open about his personal struggles with mental illness, and when I asked him if he would like to help answer your question, he graciously agreed. Here is Bryson’s response:
For starters, I really want teens (and ALL people) to know the signs* linked with mental illnesses. From my own personal experience, I didn’t know what the hell was going on when I began having symptoms of depression. We all have bad days; I figured that’s what was going on. Only I didn’t get out of it for weeks. That’s the scary thing. Going so long without help can really hurt you mentally, even physically; which brings me to part two:
I want people to know that there IS help and that you CAN be okay again. Getting help is scary, but it’s the first step to getting better. It’s a long road, it’s tough and rocky and painful. But it is so worth it. Take every moment of sanity and happiness one second at a time. Live and breathe it. Hold onto those feelings in the chance that things get bad again. And no matter what forces may stand against you (friends, family, your own brain) fight like hell to get the help you need. Just because it is in your head doesn’t make it any less real than a broken bone.
* More on the signs of mental illness can be found (but is not limited to) here: http://www.psychiatry.org/mental-health/more-topics/warning-signs-of-mental-illness
A huge thanks to David for being on the blog!