1. Your debut novel was about depression, and your upcoming release is about OCD. Have either of these serious issues impacted you personally (whether yourself, a family member, or a friend)? Did you have to research anything about depression and OCD before writing each book?
I’ve had both obsessive-compulsive disorder and depression, and people close to me have had both illnesses as well. But in general my books are one-third personal experience, one-third research, and one-third pure imagination. I also mingle the experience, research, and imagined people/events in such a way that my own experience is only fleetingly recognizable to anyone who knows me.
For The Opposite of Music, I interviewed a person who had been depressed, and I read several books about alternative treatments for depression. I also researched specific topics such as electroconvulsive therapy and how it affects the brain. Some of the articles that my character Billy Morrison reads when trying to decide how to help his father are items that I found and reprinted. Others are articles that I created to present a particular point of view for Billy to evaluate.
The Babysitter Murders required even more research. To portray what goes on in the mind of someone with OCD, I supplemented my experience with three excellent books: Getting Control and The Imp of the Mind, both by Lee Baer, and Your Mental Health by Allen Frances and Michael B. First. I also corresponded extensively with an OCD researcher/clinician, Kimberly A. Glazier of Yeshiva University, who reviewed Dani’s thoughts and behavior for accuracy and also told me what kind of treatment Dani would receive. The exercises that Dr. Mandel puts Dani through in Boston, however wild they might seem to the reader, are real. Kim devoted a lot of time into this manuscript for no compensation, because she believed in the project. I was really fortunate to work with her.
The Opposite of Music received praise for accurately portraying how depression affects family members, and many schools and libraries ordered the book for bibliotherapy. I hope the same thing happens with Babysitter.
2. Did your writing process change at all from your first book to your second?
The process was similar both times. I started with a synopsis---a list of the all the events I knew I would include---and then I wrote a little bit every day, not necessarily in sequence. (In order to keep the momentum going I write any scene that I feel I know enough about, regardless of where it appears in the book, then I go back and fill in all the holes.) I also did a LOT of revising for both books. I’ve worked with three editors over the seven years I’ve been with Atheneum, and each editor’s proddings and suggestions added something wonderful to the development of a complete story.
3. What was your publishing process like?
Editors expressed interest in The Opposite of Music as soon as I finished writing it---in fact before that, because I received a prize from PEN New England for an early fragment of the manuscript. One editor loved it and held onto it for a year before sending it back to me. I wasn’t angry though; I was flattered, and that was the second hint that I had something special to publish. Caitlyn Dlouhy of Atheneum signed me shortly after that. Right around the time Opposite of Music came out, Atheneum signed me for two more books. So I didn’t have to shop those around---they were under contract before I even wrote them.
4. What were you like as a teenager?
I looked very much like the conventional popular kids but thought, spoke, and acted differently. The high school I was in was culturally anti-intellectual, and I was smart, analytical, outspoken, and feminist. So people didn’t know what to make of me, and after a while they decided to just ignore me. There’s more about my teen years on my website (http://janetruthyoung.com/
5. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Thanks so much, Janet, for stopping by! The Babysitter Murders was an impressive and complex novel and I highly recommend it.