It was a gamble for Eleanor to rejoin humanity, but she was driven to it. She’d been too successful forgetting. The last vestiges of her family hung by a thread in her transformed brain and drove her to be reckless. Ten years later, Eleanor hides in plain sight. She is an average girl getting average grades in a small Wyoming town: poor but happy, lonely but loved. Her mother, Tabitha, is there for her and that’s all she’s ever needed. But now her mother is sick and David has returned. The only friend she’d ever had, the only other person who knows her secret, is back. And Eleanor again becomes reckless. Eleanor is a modest girl, unremarkable but extraordinary, young but old, malleable but fixed. She is scared and confused. She is a liar and a thief. Eleanor is not what she appears to be.
Amie: Why did you want to write YA?
Johnny: Thematically, it was important for me to have ELEANOR be a young adult novel. Young adult is the time of our lives when we undergo the most changes we are likely ever to face. Physically, socially, mentally and spiritually. Change is radical and quick. What is normal one day is changed the next at this age. Think of peer groups and boy friends. It is truly the age of change and change is at the heart of ELEANOR and the whole UNSEEN series.
The protagonist, Eleanor Anders, is a fifteen year-old girl. She’s unassuming and lonely, growing up in a small Wyoming town. When a protagonist is this age, it naturally falls into a YA category provided it doesn’t veer too far into adult material.
I do and I don’t.
I avoid adult language since I didn’t need it, but the themes and situations in ELEANOR are very adult. I don’t dumb anything down for a YA audience, because frankly, I don’t need to. Young adult readers are great readers and I give them the stark challenges and questions as they come knowing that can handle them. From bulllying to prejudice, to appearances versus reality, poverty and wealth, love and fear, it’s all there and young adults to old adults to enjoy.
Amie: I agree - I think there's a tendency to discredit YA readers. Quite the contrary - they're amazing and can handle more than we might think! YA paranormal is a hot commodity right now. What makes your story unique?
Johnny: The book is unique in a lot of ways. It’s been called a paranormal character study and I think that’s a good description. I think of it as a fable. It’s a slow burn that carries the reader through Eleanor’s life and challenges with a tenderness of family and place not often found in mainstream books.
There is a paranormal element in ELEANOR. It is a metaphor and complication and best discovered while reading it, so I’d rather not spoil it. Let it suffice that Eleanor has a secret, a secret so dangerous that should it be discovered, it would cost her everything she has. She knows, because it’s happened before.
Amie: Ooooh! Sounds intriguing! Tell me about a favorite scene in your novel. (Yes, I'm trying to coax more out of you...)
Johnny: There are so many, but I often think of the bittersweet kiss between Eleanor and David atop a mountain. Their lives stretched out before them like the vast view, roads in different directions, beautiful and stark and all too short. It is a rare and beautiful moment that still sends chills up my spine.
The ending is also a fantastic moment for me. It’s springtime and… well you’ll have to see.
I’d like to say, that ELEANOR, though it begins the UNSEEN SERIES, is in fact a standalone story. I always hate picking up a new books and finding out an ending is not included. It is here. If you like it, Eleanor’s story continues in CELESTE and then DAVID, coming later from Jolly Fish Press.
Amie: Kissing scene? I'm there! All right...last question. Pickles or ice cream? Black licorice or muddy gummies?
Johnny: I'm a big fan of pickles and ice cream. Lately I’ve been eating more ice cream than pickles, so I better change it up before it’s too late. Black licorice, the real stuff, like I had in Europe, that stuff is for superheroes, not for me. Give me gummies every time.
Thanks for joining me today, Johnny, and good luck with the release and launch of Eleanor!
JOHNNY WORTHEN graduated with a B.A. in English and Master’s in American Studies from the University of Utah. After a series of businesses and adventures, including running his own bakery, Worthen found himself drawn to the only thing he ever wanted to do - write. And write he does. When he's not pounding on his keyboard or attending writers conferences, Worthen spends his time with his wife and two boys in Sandy, Utah.