Q&A with Heather Demetrios + Giveaway Of I’ll Meet You There!

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I’m SO SO excited to have Heather Demetrios here on the blog today answering some of my questions! If you read my review of I’ll Meet You There recently, you know that it was one of the BEST books I’ve read in a while. If you haven’t read my review of it, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? It’s a must read book so check it out!

I loved the answers to my questions so definitely make sure to read this!

Hi Heather!

Heather Demetrios author photo

1. Describe I’ll Meet You There in 5 words or less!
The journey of a lifetime.
(I need to clarify that while I hope this is the case for readers, I’m talking about myself. Writing this book has been a wild ride and the most satisfying writing experience I’ve ever had).

 

2. When I was reading I’ll Meet You There I was so struck with how well you portrayed this small, run down sort of impoverished town (something we don’t see a lot in YA) and it reminded me so much of where I spent much of my childhood that my mom, like Skylar and Josh, wanted to get so far away from. But I also loved how you showed how wonderful HOME is despite that. How did you strike that balance to show just why they longed to get away and wanted but more but also show the charm that lies in the place you call home? What was your inspiration for the setting?

When I was in junior high, my mom re-married and moved us to central California. I hated it with a passion. Part of it was because I was so isolated and far from my family and the life I had in LA. It’s also very different: suburban, agricultural, land-locked. Not the most fashionable place in the world. I longed for the beaches of my childhood, the shopping, the palm trees, and my grandparents. I couldn’t wait to get out. Much like Sky, during the summer before my freshman year of college, I was convinced something terrible would keep me there. I’d get pregnant or develop a brain tumor or I’d die trapped under a building after a horrible earthquake. Luckily, I did get out. I spent years thinking of that region with nothing but scorn, in part because I’d experienced so much unhappiness there. But over the years, I’ve gradually softened and come to feel something like a bittersweet affection for the place. The thing is, when you spend your teen years somewhere, that place takes up residence inside you. It’ll have a hold over you no matter how far you run away. I wanted to show that the places we love and hate and grow in embed themselves in our hearts, whether we want them to or not. For Sky, Creek View is a place where she had amazing friendships and movie nights with her mom and where her dad swam with her in the Creek. You can take the girl out of Creek View, but you can never take the Creek View out of the girl.
Highway 99 runs between LA and Fresno and when I was growing up, we did that drive countless times. I based Creek View on the tiny towns we’d stop in for gas or passed by because, like Creek View, they didn’t even have a gas station. I wondered what it would be like to grow up there, only four hours away from one of the biggest and most important cities in the world, to have a life where four hours might as well be four hundred.

 

3. Josh’s character just felt so ALIVE to me with all the emotion and detail that came together about his time in the Marines. He was so complex and was dealing with a lot — PTSD, grief, his memories and the fact that he lost leg — and I appreciated the depth and the fact these things never felt contrived. You can tell that great care went into portraying his PTSD and being an amputee, can you talk about the research and the people you talked to understand Josh more? Was there anything that surprised you or really stuck with you?

Josh is why I stuck with the book, even when it felt impossible. I had to tell his story, I had to give him a fighting chance to overcome his demons and I could only do that by finishing the book. The bulk of my research went into Josh. The most helpful research were the actual interviews I did with Soldiers and Marines who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as talking to my dad, a Marine with PTSD who served in the Gulf War. Hearing their firsthand experiences of the military culture, reintegrating back into society when they came home, and experiences they had with PTSD were enormously helpful. I think I was most surprised by how poetic they could be in their descriptions of their service or of their feelings. There is so much honor and quiet dignity there—you can’t help but be moved by it, regardless of your politics. I also spoke with my aunt, who worked as a civilian with both the Marines and Army as a family readiness officer. Basically, her job was to help with deployments and service members returning home, so she was really helpful with the logistics of what happened to Josh after the bomb. Of course, I read a lot and watched YouTube videos of boot camp and such. I watched documentaries, like Restrepo or fictional stuff like HBO’s Generation Kill, which one of my Marines has mixed feelings about, but I enjoyed. The weirdest research I had to do was related to Josh being an amputee. I’ve been in touch with Wesley Hughes, who has great videos of amputee life on his channel Amp4Life. A lot of the research I did for this book was heartbreaking, but it was all very, very worth it.

 

4. I found myself just so smitten with Paradise — the motel that Skylar and Josh work at. What was your inspiration for this quirky motel?

I suppose my inspiration is a combination of all the motels I stayed at during road trips, as well as the motels we’d pass on the 99 driving to and from Los Angeles. Originally, it wasn’t quirky. Just run-down and seedy. This is where the beauty of writer’s groups come in. One of my critique partners suggested the place could have themed rooms and I loved the idea. I totally went to town. The Tom Cruise room is my favorite, of course. I wanted this to be a haven for both Sky and Josh, a safe place away from the hard times at home and the drama in the town. They can both let down their guard here, which is what allows their friendship to grow.

 

5. Most of the novel is told through Skylar’s POV but you did have shorter, very distinct chapters from Josh’s. What made you choose to do a dual POV in I’ll Meet You There? (I really liked it and loved getting in Josh’s head).

I wasn’t interested in writing the book without those Josh sections. And I had to fight for them. My earliest readers weren’t convinced they belonged in the narrative. I knew it was just a matter of getting them right and I’m glad my mentors and beta readers pushed me to fine-tune them. To me, they’re almost like prose poems. I just didn’t want Josh to be a set piece, only functioning as the love interest. This is his book as much as Sky’s. I wanted to do justice to his experience and I didn’t feel I could do that without going to his dark places. These were really hard to get right, but the writing I’m most proud of. His headspace is scary, but we need to be there. We need to get in the trenches with him.

 

6. I loved how there was so much diversity in I’ll Meet You There specifically seeing disabilities and poverty in such a real way. The YA community has been vocal about wanting to see more diversity and so I’d love hearing about some of your favorite books that celebrate diverse characters.

Oh, this is fun! Well, I adore Tyrell by Coe Booth. It will absolutely gut you. My good friend Lisa Papademetriou has an awesome middle grade coming out next year that features a girl in Pakistan. Eleanor and Park is probably my absolute favorite because not only is there racial diversity, but there is class diversity. Eleanor and Sky would totally get what it feels like to be dirt poor. There’s a lot of really natural diversity in Sarah McCarry’s books—she just portrays Cali like it is, and I love that. Her books are GORGEOUS. I also think we get lots of diversity in fantasy worlds, such as Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone or Marissa Meyer’s Cinder. I think fantasy is the most diverse genre—so many different cultures co-exist together!

 

Thanks Heather for your thoughtful answers and these AMAZING CHARACTERS!!!

There is a really awesome campaign they are doing so check this out!

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-Get an exclusive hand-written letter from Josh when you order I’ll Meet You There before Valentine’s Day! Details on Heather’s blog!

Also check out:

-Follow Heather on Twitter!
-Check out Heather’s Pinterest boards!
-Become a fan on Facebook!

GIVEAWAY

I'll Meet You There Heather Demetrios1 winner will received a hardcover copy of I’ll Meet You There!

*US/Canada Only.
* No purchase necessary.
* Prize will be fulfilled by Macmillan.

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About Jamie

Jamie is a 30 year old married lady who is in denial that she's actually that old. When she's not reading you can find her doing Pilates followed by eating ice cream, listening to music with oversized headphones and having adventures with her husband and dog.

Comments

  1. I loved this interview! I’m really anxious to read I’ll Meet You There, but I don’t think I can afford it since I’m saving up for my pre-student teaching trip to Scotland this semester — so winning a copy would be absolutely wonderful! And my birthday is coming up… 😉

  2. I want to read this book because EVERYBODY has been raving about it! And the cover is awesome!

  3. Ah, you asked some great questions Jamie! And Heather gave great answers. I can’t wait to read this book fully.

    Something interesting I read in this interview is how Heather had to fight to have Josh’s chapter. I know sometimes editors and such want to change stories around, add in elements or remove elements and I love that Heather didn’t step down from writing Josh’s chapters in.

    Something else interesting I read is how diverse I’ll Meet You There is, it takes place in such a unique and not commonly set area (as you said).

  4. The thing that draws me to this book the most is that I too grew up in a very small town and have a disability myself so I’m always drawn to books that showcase those topics. This Q&A was so cool to read because I love getting insight of how an author puts together a story. Thanks for doing the giveaway! 🙂

  5. I want to win this book for my friend who lives in US ( I live in Prague). We are going to buddy read I’ll Meet You There soon and it would be cool if she could have hardcover copy for it 🙂

  6. I just read this book and LOVED it. (I was a little bit in shock of how much so!) This was a great interview. I’m curious what the book was like without Josh (I read a few times Heather originally didn’t have his POV in the book) and I really think his POV added to the book. IMYT was just a striking look at poverty and disability and moving forward. I am still trying to figure out how to sum up for my blog 🙂

  7. I’m truly grateful when a book has a main character struggling with PTSD or has come back from deploying overseas. We have so many veterans who are 18/19 when they leave, and they find it hard to come back to normal life.

  8. I am so so excited to read this book. It seems very different than anything else out there in YA right now. Great interview as always, you can tell you put a lot of time and effort into writing up the questions.

  9. Stephanie says:

    I would love to win this book for my library. I know I could book talk this into the hands of many kids that would enjoy this story. I loved the in depth interview with the author. I might have passed this book by but reading her take on the story and the memories that are behind the setting really make me want to check it out then pass it on to my students.

  10. Fantastic interview! I can’t wait to check this out.

  11. What an amazing interview!! *-*
    It was so interesting to see how the author researched to give the right depth to Josh’s thoughts and experiences as well as that quirky motel. I cannot wait to read this book!

  12. This book sounds amazingggggg. The setting is something I can definitely relate to.

  13. I want to win and read this because it looks like a GREAT read!

  14. This seems like SUCH a fabulous book. I feel like I can completely relate to Skylar, and I haven’t even read the book yet! Contemporary is hit or miss with me, but I think this one might be a phenomenal hit. 🙂

    Thanks for hosting the giveaway!

  15. The plot line and of course the romance between the main characters. Sounds like my next great read.

  16. This sounds like one of those heartachingly beautiful books! I can’t wait to read it.

  17. Oh man, I cannot wait to read this book. I haven’t read a single negative (or even indifferent) review for it! I’m glad to hear there’s actually some diversity in the book!

  18. Great interview, I’m looking forward to reading this one. I liked that the author is making something more out of Josh than just “the love interest”. I like when YA authors develop these characters.

  19. I can’t wait to read this book! I’m really interested in learning more about Josh.

  20. Loved the interview. I’ve heard SUCH good things about this book, so I’m definitely looking forward to reading it!

  21. Such a great interview! makes me want to read this book 20936465651 times faster!!!

  22. Jamie, these are amazing questions and Heather gave amazing responses! I had no idea you grew up in a setting so similar to Josh & Sky’s. I loved how even though Sky couldn’t wait to leave but then she realizes how important home is. I loved how quirky paradise was, ooh such fun! I loved the themed rooms. Lovely interview!

  23. I love the comment that Heather made about writing the book, that it was the ” most satisfying writing experience I’ve ever had.” I have wanted to read this book since hearing about it and now since reading this interview and reading this comment, I really need to read this novel. Thanks for having this giveaway.

  24. I’ve heard such great things about this book. I want to read this book because I love contemporaries where the character deals with struggle and having to fight your way through.

  25. I’ve been reading such great reviews for this book 🙂 thanks for sharing!

  26. I’ve been reading such great reviews for this book! thanks for sharing 🙂

  27. This book sounds absolutely amazing! After reading your review and the author interview, it has definitely gone to the top of my TBR.

  28. CassieopiaB says:

    My go to books are usually YA fantasy, so I would like to read this book to change my habits up.

  29. read the inspiration is a combination of motels

  30. Oh my goodness, this interview just made me want to read this book more. I love seeing just how much heart she put into this novel and I can’t wait to read it. How I wish to get my hands on it now.

  31. Honestly, I’d seen the cover for this book, but I had no idea what it was about or if it was something I would be interested in. After reading the interview I KNOW I need to read it now. I’m especially interested in reading Josh’s POV and reading about his life/experiences.

  32. After reading the interview, I only want to read this book more. This book sounds so amazing from Heather to us to just… everything. I feel like it’s going to either rip me apart, make me laugh or both. WOW NOW I WANT IT EVEN MORE

  33. Reading it now based on your recommendation. Have just started but see much ahead for Josh and Skylar. I am totally fascinated by the Paradise. Loved the interview.

  34. Oh, what a fun and wonderful interview! I loved this book so much and it’s always nice to hear how the author wrote it and what it means to them. And Josh’s POV was pretty much my favorite parts of the book. Heather executed those chapters exceptionally well. 🙂

  35. I actually didn’t realize that this book dealt with PTSD before (I knew it dealt with mental health issues, but I didn’t know what, specifically). I really think it’s fantastic that this has been addressed in a YA book. This just makes me want to read the book even more!!

    Nicole @ Feed Your Fiction Addiction

  36. I love these interviews that you guys are doing on this blog tour!! You all definitely came up with some really interesting questions. I love how she described Josh’s journey and how this book is as much about him as it is about the m/c. I like it when the love interest has more to him than just being the love interest. Great interview Jamie 🙂

  37. Michelle Lee says:

    I want to read this book because I’ve heard so many people raving about it. It caught my attention and I was interested in what this book was all about. After reading the synopsis, I knew I wanted to read this book and put it on my list to read! Thank you for this amazing chance! 🙂

  38. I was already interested in reading this and the interview made me so much more excited about this book!

  39. I want to read this book because everyone seems enthralled by it! The goodreads rating is one of the highest averages I’ve seen actually! It also seems quite unique. I enjoy when characters don’t have everything going for them and clearly these characters aren’t the most spoiled out there! And as soon as I read “dual POVs”, I knew I was buying it! My wallet doesn’t appreciate that though as I’ve been buying too many books lately, so I am going to do my best to win it first by following the tour! Thanks for the giveaway! 😀

  40. I would love to read this book because I love dual POVs and the premise sounds amazing. I like reading contemporaries with tough subjects.

  41. I have family currently in Afghanistan and I’ve also lived in the same teeny town for years, I want to get out. I think I want to read it because it’s relatable. Plus, I’ve read so many great things about it!
    Xo, Kristi

  42. I was hesitant to pick up I’ll Meet You There because contemporary YA lit isn’t my typical thing, but I’ve been reading more of it lately and have found some real gems. With all of the hype and glowing reviews I’ve heard about this book, I feel like it’s only going to make me fall even harder for more contemporary reads!

  43. I’ve heard so many good things about this book, I’d love to win it!!

  44. I’ll Meet You There has been on my radar for some time now. I’ve heard such good things about it and from reading this interview, I can really tell how much heart the author has put into her work. I can’t wait to check it out! 🙂

  45. I finished this book a couple of days ago. It has to be one of the best books that I have ever read. I now have quite the book hangover- I’m still so attached to Sky and Josh that I can’t get into another book yet. One of my favorite things about this book is that a character with a disability is portrayed so complexly. Thanks for the recommendation, Jamie!

  46. I think everyone loved this more than I did, but I loved it enough that I really want a finished copy.

    The thing that really spoke to me in this interview was Heather’s insistence on having Josh’s voice in the book as well. I agree with Heather that without that voice, it wouldn’t have worked – and even though there’s very little of his POV, it’s so intense and explosive that it felt like it really was his book too.

    Thanks for the giveaway, Jamie!

  47. Great interview. I loved this book! I thought she did such a great job with Josh. It was so realistic. I loved hearing about her research for the book.

  48. I’ve already started reading this book on my kindle….but would love to have a physical copy to read again.

  49. I love your comment in #2 about the portrayal of the impoverished town and about HOME. That actually hit home for me…. I didn’t grow up poor, but we were far from rich. Home was great though no matter how middle class we were. I’m dying to read this book to see more about the world building and character building you’ve mentioned.