Keeper Shelf: Albatross by Josie Bloss

March 10th, 2010

Warning: Don’t read Josie Bloss’s new book Albatross unless you have no other plans for the night.*

* Edited later to add: Want to win a free copy of this book? Go here.

Because when I received a copy of Albatross, He Who Shall Not Be Not In This Blog and I were supposed to go out, and I ended up having to cancel so I could stay home and find out what happens to Josie’s main character, Tess, instead.

It was totally worth it.

(PS I made it up to HWSNBNITB last night. We went out to dinner at a VERY chi chi restaurant. But I think I caught the norovirus or something because after we got home I spent the rest of the night with my head in a trash can. That’s right, I didn’t even make it to the bathroom! My eyeballs feel like they have popcorn glued to them right now.)

But that’s how compelling this book is! I’m writing this ON MY DEATH BED.

I was so gripped by Albatross that after I finished reading it I contacted Josie for an interview to find out what made her write something so completely different from her first two books, Band Geek Love and Band Geeked Out.

(Which are also great, but in a totally different way. They make you laugh and go, “Awww.” Albatross makes you grip the book and go, “I must find out what happens next!”).

So read for yourself how a writer goes from writing about funny band geeks to dark obsessive love!

Meg: Hi, Josie Bloss! Okay, so first question I always ask: If they were making a movie about Albatross, and that guy who does the voice overs on all the movie trailers was telling us about it, what would he say?

Josie: Oh, difficult! It would be easier for me to tell you the entire soundtrack I’d pick for the movie than the words in the trailer, but I’ll give it a shot…

Starting over in a new town after her parents’ split isn’t easy for Tess, and when she meets Micah, it feels like her first real connection. Everyone warns her that Micah is bad news – a heartbreaker – and a girl named Daisy acts like she owns him. Still, Tess can’t ignore her attraction to this brooding, brilliant, friendless emo-guy who can turn on the charm – or heart-shredding scorn – at a moment’s notice. Caught in an obsessive triangle of jealousy and obsession, Tess must learn to break away from her past and find her true self.

Meg: Oh, I can hear the movie guy’s voice now!

OK, I really felt as I was reading Albatross that I recognized Micah. My friends and I all made the mistake of falling for guys just like him in high school (who all dumped us, but that’s beside the point)!

It’s hard to resist a guy who pays that much attention to you, especially if he seems like a bit of a bad boy. Have you ever been in a similar situation? Was that how you were able to describe it so vividly?

Josie: Oh, I’ve been there and then some. And so had a lot of people that I talked to while I was writing Albatross. The experience of being completely obsessed with someone who is so wrong for you seems like such a common thing…dealing with that desperate feeling that you’re not quite good enough, or that if maybe you changed they would like you more.

And that no matter how carelessly or even outright horribly they treat you, you can’t quite let them go because maybe NEXT time it’ll be different and they’ll realize how awesome you are.

I didn’t want to let my own awful experiences with such things go to waste, so I put it all into a book. My hope is that Albatross will help someone else fighting through something similar know that she is not alone and that she CAN find a way out of it. Life is too short to waste time on people who make you feel bad about yourself and tear you down.

(Josie talks a little more about the story behind Albatross on her agent’s blog.)

(Read the first chapter of Albatross here.)

Meg: Who were your favorite (real or imaginary) heroines growing up? Who are your favorite heroines, real or imaginary, now?

Josie: I loved the heroine from “Beauty: A Re-Telling of the Story of Beauty and the Beast” by Robin McKinley. Beauty was fearless and bookish and unconcerned with her appearance and had an awesome horse, and I totally wanted to be her.

(I still read that book at least once a year. I have a copy that I stole from my 7th grade classroom…sorry, Mrs. Farhat.)

Meg: I freaking LOVED this book. Everyone should read at least one Robin McKinley book at some point. There’s something for everyone, from vampire fans to Beauty and the Beast fans!

Josie: I also loved Dana Scully from X-Files because she was so smart and practical and had all those crazy, interesting adventures with her cute partner.

Meg: Love her too.

Josie: My current heroine is Tina Fey. She’s really helped turn over the myth that women aren’t just as hilarious as men, and I love her writing and her style so much. Though, honestly, her Liz Lemon character on “30 Rock” hits a little TOO close to home sometimes. I seriously almost did this to get out of jury duty once:

Meg: Ha. Excellent. Okay, so did you always want to be a writer?

Josie: I did always want to be a writer, but I was in denial about it for a long time. I barely wrote any fiction during high school because I was so freaked out that it wouldn’t be “good enough” and that I’d fail and somehow everyone would find out and laugh at me. This was a huge mistake! I missed out on a lot of time that I could have spent learning about writing.

One thing I did do right was to obsessively keep a journal from 5th grade through college, which means I now have plenty of material to steal from myself. I thought the journals would be handy to have one day, and I was so right.

For example, I was just able to easily look up the name of my 7th grade English teacher. Useful!

Meg: I think all aspiring writers should keep journals. Like you said, they’re incredibly useful later in life! So, did you ever get rejected? I can’t imagine you did, but if so, how many times and what did you do with the rejection letters?

Josie: Yikes, I don’t even know how many times I’ve been rejected. I guess I haven’t kept count, but all the rejection emails are still lurking in my inbox, making sure I don’t ever get overconfident. I’ve found it gets easier as time goes on, plus rejections have been essential in making me a better writer. Figuring out what DOESN’T work is just as useful as figuring out what does.

Meg: This is VERY IMPORTANT, and I ask all my guests this question: Do you eat while you write, and if so what and how many per chapter?

Josie: Though I’m mostly undomesticated, for some reason I recently became one of those people who bake. Lately I’ve been rewarding myself with a delicious homemade chocolate truffle cookie when I finish a chapter! Believe me, one per chapter is plenty.

Meg: Baking them yourself is a good idea because then you know exactly what’s going into them. Okay, what are you working on now?

Josie: I’m working on a few different things, but I plan to keep with the general theme of a girl casting off her demons and finding her inner-badass. It’s my favorite thing to write about!

Meg: That’s my favorite thing to read about! Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. You’re amazing.

Josie: Thanks so much Meg! I went to one of your signings in Chicago in the Spring of 2006, literally the day before I started writing my first book, Band Geek Love. I waited in line to get my copy of Queen of Babble signed, and told you that I was going to be a writer. You said “Go for it!” I’ve attached the picture from that day (I can’t believe it’s been FOUR years!)

Meg: Uh, I have memory of this. I probably blocked it due to the hideous hairdo I was sporting that day. I can’t believe I’m posting this photo on my blog, but this is a testament to how much I like Josie:

Ugh! Photos like these are the reason I wrote the Airhead series: I want a brain transplant into the body of someone with better hair.

Josie, on the other hand, looks incredibly cute.

OK, final word: When I read Albatross, it was still in manuscript form, so it didn’t have a cover yet. I only saw the cover much later:

I have to say, I was super surprised! Not to judge a book by its cover . . . but would you guess looking at this that this is a novel rich in haunting, dramatic scenes that take place next to and even in the water?

An albatross is a water bird, after all!

I would have thought the cover would look something more along the lines of this:

Or maybe this:

(All photos courtesy of http://vi.sualize.us/.)

I feel like the images above better reflect Albatross and its wild, wavy passion.

But maybe that’s just me.

You should get a copy of Albatross RIGHT NOW, read it, and then let me know what YOU think!

Meanwhile, Josie: Write MORE BOOKS!

More later.

Much love,

Meg