I’m excited to have fellow young adult author Christine Grabowski with me today! She lives in Washington State, one of my favorite places on earth. We’re celebrating the release of her debut novel, Dickensen Academy. So without further ado, let’s start the interview!
At what age did you write your first story? Age 44 (I had a lot of false starts as a kid.)
Which genre was the first to hook you? Middle grade, contemporary, e.g. think Judy Blume
What’s your favorite part of the writing process? Brainstorming? Research? Outlining? Writing? Editing? Editing. The blank page terrifies me, afraid I might not have any more ideas in my head.
I love editing too and do a whole lot of it before sending manuscripts to my editors! What are you working on now? A fairy-tale reimagining, loosely based on Sleeping Beauty. It is a YA contemporary suspense.
Ooh…that sounds intriguing! Of all the settings you’ve used (or created!) for your books, which is your favorite? The secluded evergreen forest surrounding the academy. It was almost like a character with its own changing personality. In some scenes, including cross country practices and the romantic walks with Ben, the focus was on its beauty. I’d describe how the sunlight danced through the trees or the whimsical nature of a chipmunk. In other scenes, the forest took on a creepier tone such as when Autumn and her friends examined the perimeter fence, and when she and Ben were caught in the forest after dark. To quote Autumn’s thoughts, “The setting sun cast long shadows from the tall evergreen trees. Here I was in a beautiful prison, trapped outside too. The surrounding forest hid an enormous, secure fence…”
Love it! I feel the same way about the setting in my Guardians of Erin series. Have you ever dreamed about a character you created? Yes. I dreamed that I was on the campus and was hanging out with a group of students. That’s when I felt Dickensen Academy had truly become a real place to me.
Wonderful! If you could have a conversation with anyone—dead or alive—who would it be? My grandmother
If you could travel to any time and place, when and where would that be? I’d go back to the ’80s and raise my kids with limited technology.
I’m trying to do that now with my kids! If you could step inside any book or series and live there for a week, which would you choose? I’d love to go to Hogwarts. I have no desire to fight Voldemort but would love to learn a few spells and fly around on a broomstick.
I’d be right there with you! Now, it’s time to learn some of your favorites.
Sound: A Mourning Dove
Eye color: Blue
Foreign language (whether or not you speak it!): French
Song: “I Will Survive”
Book: Gone with the Wind
TV show: Grey’s Anatomy
Cookie: Chocolate Chip
US location: Maui
Foreign location: Paris
And finally, list your preference from the following choices:
Tea or coffee? Coffee
Cake or pie? Cake
Halloween or Christmas? Christmas
Nancy Drew or Sherlock Holmes? Nancy Drew
Jane Austen or the Brontë sisters? Jane Austen
A mortal, vampire, ghost, or fae for a lover? Vampire
English gent, Scottish highlander, European count, or all-American guy? All-American guy
Thanks so much for joining me today, Christine! And now, here’s the scoop on Dickensen Academy:
Dickensen Academy isn’t a typical boarding school. The faculty is hiding an unbelievable secret within their fine arts program. When Autumn Mattison receives an invitation to attend the high school, she yearns to escape her overbearing father yet remains reluctant to leave her mother and brother. Her doubts fade away when a vivid dream convinces her she belongs there.
Away from home, Autumn discovers a unique school environment that awakens her creative potential, and her new friends become like a second family. However, as she uncovers more about the dark side of the school and struggles with its curriculum, she questions whether Dickensen Academy is truly where she belongs.
When tragedy strikes, Autumn must learn to believe in her own power and stand up to her greatest fear or risk having her memories destroyed to protect the school’s secrets. Caught between secrets and dreams, can she find her true self?
Here’s a peek inside the pages:
“I feel like there’s something big we don’t know about. Something those students were protecting. I mean, really, why are we here?”
I thought it was just me who was confused. “Well…the recruiters said we’re creative and focused.”
“Yeah, that’s what Principal Locke said too.”
“And we have the right personality.”
Ben looked up at the sky, sighed then turned toward the forest. “What did he say…something about how it will soon become clear why we’re here, and there’s some ultimate purpose for our creativity?”
“I know. That whole creativity part was a bit bizarre.”
He shrugged. “It seems everyone is going with the flow. But I have so many questions.” Then he touched my arm to stop me, so I turned toward him. “I’m thinking they’re isolating us for some special reason,” he admitted in an embarrassed tone.
I tried not to laugh—he was acting paranoid. But I didn’t know Ben well. Maybe he was joking, trying to freak me out. Or was he hitting on me? The flutter in my chest moved to my stomach. I was already anxious about being away from home and whether or not I could hack the academics. I didn’t need to obsess about anything else. But I still had to know about Ben’s dream.
“So…I also had a dream about Dickensen before I accepted the offer.”
Ben’s head snapped toward me. “You did?”
A bit more about Christine:
Dickensen Academy is Christine’s debut YA novel. After graduating from the University of Washington, she earned her MBA at the University at Albany. She honed her technical writing skills in marketing and consulting but attributes the creative part of the process to her passion for reading.
When she isn’t reading or writing, Christine can often be found running, skiing, or hiking. She lives in Newcastle, Washington, with her supportive husband, two avid teen readers, and their energetic wheaten terriers.
Where you can find her and her books:
The Wild Rose Press