Joelle Charbonneau on What Makes TIME BOMB Tick
Joelle Charbonneau knows a thing or two about a good thriller—we're still reeling after the ending of the Testing trilogy, and that was years ago. True to form, her new YA release, Time Bomb, offers thrills aplenty. But Charbonneau also weaves in provocative narrative themes around the destructive power of assumption and how there can be much more to a person than what meets the eye. The author is visiting us for a special in-store event on March 20. Before she comes, check out our exclusive Q&A below—and don't forget to preorder Time Bomb from our website. Once you get your hands on it, you won't be able to put it down.
We're so excited to see you again in Houston! For our readers who aren't familiar with you, can you tell us a bit about you and your books?
I am so delighted to be coming back to Blue Willow. Let's see—I'm an opera singer/music theater girl turned writer who loves TexMex food and baseball. Go Cubs! I tend to write in a wide range of young adult sub-genres—science fiction, contemporary and fantasy. But all of my books are thrillers that will hopefully make you have to turn the page so you can find out what happens next.
What was the particular inspiration for Time Bomb?
Time Bomb was inspired by two things. I was struck two years ago by the way the news media covered certain events in our country and how easily some people who committed terrible acts were immediately deemed "evil" while others were categorized as troubled. The act of journalists and those on social media automatically jumping to conclusions about those people bothered me a great deal. Meanwhile, I was traveling around the country talking to students, which is the very best part of my job. I was lucky enough to meet several really special teens who opened up about how they are often viewed as 'different' than other kids at their schools and how they dealt with being judged or how the worry about being judged often changed the way they thought about themselves. Using those two inspirations, I decided to write Time Bomb as an effort to explore how easy it is to judge one another by what we see on the surface and how everyone is more than what we see every day.
We've had the immense pleasure of hearing you sing. Are you still able to work as a vocal coach or have you moved fully into the writing realm?
Well, I'm delighted you think it was a pleasure to hear me sing. Thank you! And technically I am now firmly in the writing realm for my career, but I still have a few students who use me as their coach and their industry phone a friend. Which is wonderful because teaching is something I love and I am grateful to still be part of their journey.
How does your musical background and skill influence your writing? Do you have certain music playing while you write? Do you have specific playlists for your books?
Well, my theatrical background certainly makes me very aware of pacing and character as I write. After all, if a show drags in the middle and the characters are boring, the audience might never come back after intermission. But because I am a music and theater girl, I have found that I can't listen to music when I write. If I have music on, I stop and listen and break out into song, which is fun, but not helpful when it comes to productivity. So, my playlist is often whatever is on the TV. I like having background noise and have no problem tuning out whatever is on the screen, much to my husband's dismay. When he asks for an update on what is happening on a show I always frustrate him by admitting I was focused on my writing and I haven't a clue.
What are you reading?
I was lucky to just finish reading Empress of All Seasons, by Emiko Jean, which will be out in the fall. It is a wonderful Japanese inspired fantasy with shapeshifting and weather magic and the hardest quest of all—learning to accept and embrace who you are meant to be.