Let's start with you telling us a little bit about yourself, Kari Jo.
I've published two YA novels about gay teens. Having worked with kids for fifteen years in a public high school has been great experience. I've also published a few short stories in literary magazines.
What would people be most surprised to learn about you?
I'm very shy.
When did you start writing, is it something you've always been interested in, or did it develop later in life?
I knew I was a writer when, in second grade, my teacher called me up to her desk and pointed to a very, very long sentence I'd written and told me she needed to teach me about commas, quickly.
Has it been everything you thought it would be or not?
Oh, yes. I've had gay teenagers contact me and say, "Thank you." That's made it worth everything.
How did it feel when you realized that your very first book was going to be published?
I cried and cried, and woke my family up and told them, and cried, and went to school and told my students, and cried and cried. It was wonderful.
What's your favorite part of writing a book?
Just writing it. I LOVE to write.
Do you get time to read for pleasure? If so, which books do you enjoy?
I read everything from bird books to Japanese comics. I try to keep up with what the kids are reading at school as well.
Are there any other genres you'd be interested in writing?
I'd like to write an adult fantasy novel in the vein of Tolkien, my hero.
Please tell us a little about your most recent release.
Silent One is a kind of tribute to so many of the kids I work with whose lives are pretty awful and yet are wonderful and amazing people. It's about a high school junior who has been in foster care and abused for most of his life, but doesn't let that hold him back from his dreams or from falling in love. And it has a science fiction twist.
What can we look forward to in the future from you?
I'm working on a long overdue sequel to my first novel, Under the Willow, which is about two high school boys who learn that faeries are not at all what they'd imagined. I also have a young adult traditional fantasy trilogy I've been working on for a long time. I'm hoping to publish it next year.
Anything you want to say to your readers?
Thank you so much!
Kari Jo Spear's recent releases:
Gareth's life is violent, frightening, and lonely. Abandoned by his parents and left to a series of harsh foster homes, he becomes as tough as the scar on his cheek. Death and destruction follow him. Sometimes, it actually seems like people are trying to kill him. By the time Gareth is in high school, friends are a luxury he can do without.
But deep inside, Gareth is tender, compassionate, and very gay. The only living soul Gareth lets into his heart is a silent young man who keeps saving his life. Every time Gareth gets a good look at his guardian, the man mysteriously vanishes. Does he even exist? Gareth isn't sure, until the day at school when his world implodes. Teachers suddenly know way more about him than they should. His secret guardian lies wounded on the darkroom floor. Before Gareth knows it, he and his guardian are on the run. Not only is Gareth more important than he ever dreamed, but the future of an entire planet depends on him. It's going to take all the courage and love Gareth has to face his destiny.
Under the Willow
Shane and Cody -- two high school seniors, one growing up lonely and abused on a struggling horse farm, the other a privileged sports star. Each carefully hides a secret truth about himself. Both are unaware of the undercurrents beneath the surface of their quiet Vermont town, currents from the society hidden in the woods, by the streams, in the mountains, and even in the air around them.
Shane and Cody -- both chosen to become part of the culture hidden nearby, but chosen by opposite sides in an elemental struggle that has been underway since the beginning of time. It's up to them to forge a bond between the two groups despite the danger, not just to unite them, but to save them all from the dangers posed by humans who are destroying the world that keeps everyone alive.
Shane and Cody -- who must find their own peace with each other in a world more complicated than they've ever dreamed. A world which is also more wonderful than they've ever imagined.
Excerpt from Silent One:
My friend saved my life for the first time when I was five years old.
My parents had decided, with some logic that escaped me even then, that taking up boating would save their marriage. So they bought the only vessel they could afford -- an old aluminum canoe that looked like it had gone over Niagara Falls a couple times.
One hot summer day, they decided to try it on Lake Champlain, the biggest lake in Vermont. My father sat in the stern trying to steer our dented, leaking craft, my mother sat in the bow worrying about skin cancer, and I, their only son, sat miserably in the middle on a blue vinyl cushion -- I can remember how it stuck to my skinny, sweaty little legs -- and tried to squirm out of the red life jacket that was slowing choking me to death. Both of them were yelling at me to sit still and none of us noticed the motor boat coming at us fast out of a narrow cove.
There was only one person in the motorboat -- the driver -- and he was looking over his shoulder at a girl in the water behind him. She was trying to water-ski and couldn't get up. Because she was facing straight ahead, she saw us, pointed, screamed, and let go of her rope. But by the time the man looked around, it was too late, and the boat smashed into our canoe about where I was sitting.
I don't remember much after that, except for a vivid image of a young stranger's blue-green eyes as he pulled me toward the surface, swimming with me. I remember seeing the water around us all turned red and wondered how that could have happened. Later, I realized we were swimming through my mother's blood. In a strange way, that moment, in the young stranger's arms, had been a rebirth for me. It was the moment my world opened up to include him, the boy with blue-green eyes. He was five or six years older than me, and he never said anything, but he held me in a world that had never felt too stable. And now it was suddenly a whole lot rockier than I'd imagined.
The boy gave me to someone in the crowd that had gathered on shore, and later, no one knew for sure where he had gone, or where he had come from, or who he had been.