Learning Seventeen: New Hope Academy, or, as seventeen-year-old Jane Learning likes to call it, No Hope, is a Baptist reform school where Jane is currently being held captive. Of course, smart, sarcastic Jane has no interest in reforming, failing to see any benefit to pretending to play well with others. But then Hannah shows up, a gorgeous bad girl with fiery hair and an even stormier disposition. She shows Jane how to live a full and fulfilling life even when the world tells you you’re wrong, and how to believe in a future outside the “prison” walls. Jane soon learns, though, that Hannah is quietly battling some demons of her own.
How do you usually begin writing your stories?
For me, it usually starts with a little voice in my mind that grows into a character. From there, that character’s needs and wants and goals spring forth and from that arises the obstacles or main conflict of the story. I’m big on structure, so I definitely outline my books— it’s a holdover from my screenwriting education, which I am eternally grateful for.
What planning or research did you do for your book?
This is a really personal book. While I am not Jane, and have not experienced her life as it is in this story, at the same time her struggles and issues are very close to me and identify with her very much. She is probably the closest character to my teen self that I have ever written, and that was difficult at times.
Do you have any advice you would give to an aspiring writer?
I would say to let go of the idea of greatness or the concept of talent. Being a writer is not about that. Sure, it’s great if you’re gifted, but this gig is about the work. I’m sure there are many talented writers who have never finished writing a book. That’s sad. So you’ve got to write it, keep at it, and realize that it’s going to be terrible at first. But you can fix it later. Don’t be afraid to suck.
What’s the most prized book on your bookshelf?
A copy of The Outsiders I read when I was 11 years old. I was so inspired to learn that S.E. Hinton was just a teenager when she wrote it. And I was obsessed.
What are your favorite ways to procrastinate? Why?
I like to rearrange my furniture and I often start random projects, like quilt-making, crocheting, restoring old wooden things – but it has to be something I have no idea how to do so that I can spend an insane amount of time learning it (thus avoiding the writing at all costs). That doesn’t usually last long because I’m deadline-obsessed. The good thing is that all the non-writing time allows my subconscious mind to work out story problems.
What would your hero name and special power be?
You know, it’s definitely underrated as far as special abilities go, but I would have to say that my power would be a general willingness to embarrass myself for the sake of forcing other people to have fun. You know, if everyone’s at karaoke and someone has to go first? That’s me. I’ll always grab the microphone, even if I’m nervous. I don’t know what you’d call me. Maybe “The Sillybringer.” Which is super dorky, but there you go.
Do you keep books after you’ve read them, or give them away? Do you borrow books from your local library?
I always keep them but I’m happy to give them away to friends if they want them. I love libraries and wish I had a bit more time to spend in them.
Who would you want to play your protagonist in a movie, and why?
I hope that if anyone is struggling like Jane is that they will find someone to talk to—a friend, parent, teacher, anyone. And I hope that anyone reading this book understands that things do get better after high school. When everyone else is responsible for your life decisions it can be suffocating and seem like there’s no way out. But you do have choices, it’s your life, and you get to decide who you’re going to be. You’re perfect just the way you are.
Brooke Carter is a Canadian novelist and poet. She was born and raised in beautiful British Columbia, where she earned a MFA in creative writing at UBC. She lives with her family in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. For more information, visit www.brookecarter.com.