An Interview with Ann Jacobus: Romancing the Dark in the City of Light

Hey y'all!First off, I'm ecstatic to be doing an interview again because it has been a very, very long time. I found Romancing the Dark in the City of Light to be a stunning read that really got to me - and you can read more of my thoughts on that in my review. Because of that, I was itching to reach out to Ann Jacobus, the mind behind the book and I'm lucky enough to be hosting her today.

The Book

21525983Novel: Romancing the Dark in the City of Light by Ann Jacobus | GoodreadsRelease Date: October 6, 2015Publisher: Thomas Dunne (St. Martins Press)Format: HardcoverSource: Publisher

A troubled teen, living in Paris, is torn between two boys, one of whom encourages her to embrace life, while the other—dark, dangerous, and attractive—urges her to embrace her fatal flaws.Haunting and beautifully written, with a sharp and distinctive voice that could belong only to this character, Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is an unforgettable young adult novel.Summer Barnes just moved to Paris to repeat her senior year of high school. After being kicked out of four boarding schools, she has to get on track or she risks losing her hefty inheritance. Summer is convinced that meeting the right guy will solve everything. She meets two. Moony, a classmate, is recovering against all odds from a serious car accident, and he encourages Summer to embrace life despite how hard it can be to make it through even one day. But when Summer meets Kurt, a hot, mysterious older man who she just can't shake, he leads her through the creepy underbelly of the city-and way out of her depth.When Summer's behavior manages to alienate everyone, even Moony, she's forced to decide if a life so difficult is worth living. With an ending that'll surprise even the most seasoned reader, Romancing the Dark in the City of Light is an unputdownable and utterly compelling novel.

ROMANCING THE DARK IN THE CITY OF LIGHT is a "compelling debut novel that examines the inner turmoil of one teen as she struggles with alcoholism, depression and thoughts of suicide." As the publisher states, many teens struggle with these serious issues and this young adult novel is an "honest portrayal of what is like to try to embrace life when it feels impossible to make it through just one day."

The Author

Marc Olivier Le Blanc photographyAnn Jacobus writes children’s and YA fiction, blogs and tweets about it, and teaches writing. She has a B.S. from Dartmouth College and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. In her spare time she volunteers on a suicide crisis line, attends her kids' soccer games, and reads. Her debut YA thriller is Romancing the Dark in the City of Light, out from Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press October 6. 2015. San Francisco is home to her and her family.Author Ann Jacobus is a weekly volunteer at a suicide hotline in San Francisco and helps real teens with their struggles. Information on how readers can help is included in the book.

The Interview

In the book, Summer deals with alcoholism. How do you think you portrayed that differently than other YA?While I can think of a number of YA books that deal with drug abuse (notably those by Ellen Hopkins and Melvin Burgess), I can’t think of any YA books I’ve read that feature a teenage alcoholic. If you have some good recommendations, let me know. I’ve read scores of books that deal with teenage suicide, and while substance abuse shows up in some of them, it’s not necessarily emphasized. Suicidality (the term for feeling suicidal) is complicated and affected by many factors, but throw substance abuse into the mix and you’ve increased the probability of at least an attempt significantly. Apparently THE strongest predictor of suicide is alcoholism, the next being a psychiatric diagnosis. An addict is six times more likely to commit suicide than a non-addict. And sadly, someone who is feeling suicidal is likely to be “self-medicating” with alcohol or drugs in an attempt to numb their pain. It’s a chicken and egg question. Anyway, alcohol or other substance abuse so often goes hand in hand with suicidality that I felt I had to include it. I’m familiar with alcoholism, thanks to a couple of family members, and have tremendous respect for Alcoholics Anonymous.How much research did you have to do for the psychological elements of the book?I volunteer for San Francisco Suicide Prevention and take calls on the Lifeline nationwide suicide crisis (and text) line every week. This is the third such organization I’ve volunteered (and been trained) for since the age of eighteen. I’ve been interested in and studied suicide for a long time. I did do research while writing RTDITCOL as new data comes out each year. The huge CDC (Centers for Disease Control) survey of about 40,000 high school students in the 2013 Youth Risk Behaviors Surveillance was very helpful and eye-opening.Who's your favorite character and why? Who do you think is the most sympathetic character?My character, Munir Al Shukr (Moony), is probably my favorite character. I think he’s the most sympathetic, too. His father is Kuwaiti and his mother is American, although he has grown up in Paris—a third-culture kid who is comfortable just about anywhere. He’s also partially physically disabled from a serious childhood car accident that he was given a 5% chance of surviving. He has a huge heart and befriends my difficult-to-like protagonist, then patiently, if sometimes gruffly, puts up with her because he sees beyond her bluster. In fact, he falls for her. He’s spiritual and almost hyper-positive because he fully understands the value and fragility of life. His life has purpose. A little too perfect? Well, he harbors some secrets.How did you aim to portray the love triangle? (And give us a few of your favorites!)This is difficult to answer without spoiling the story! I think mine is not your traditional YA love triangle as done so well in Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games trilogy or Stephanie Meyers Twilight series. The best ones are not a clearly-good versus a clearly-bad choice, but two goods (or two bads). I love classics Gone With the Wind, and Pride and Prejudice, and I know Jenny Han does a great job with triangles. The Summer I Turned Pretty is in my TBR pile.I run a book club and so I'm interested in the book club questions featured in the back of the book. What do you hope readers will get out from the story?You write something, let it out into the world, and it then belongs to the reader. RTDITCOL is meant to be an entertaining thriller first. But at its core, the story is very much about suicide and being suicidal, and is based on hard facts. I’d be thrilled to contribute simply to more discussion about suicide and depression both. Suicide especially suffers from stigma that leads to untold suffering of victims and their families, and to greater loss of life. We can change that if we’ll just talk about it.What have you read and loved recently?Two books I read this year that also happen to deal well with the subject of suicide are, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, and My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga. I just finished The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, which was excellent.

 Thank you Ann! Have y'all read Romancing the Dark? What do you think?