February 25, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Interview with YA Fiction Author Christina June

It Started with GoodbyeChristina June is the author of It Started with Goodbye (May 2017). June divides her time between writing young adult contemporary fiction and working as a school counselor in Washington, DC, where she lives with her husband and daughter.

It Started with Goodbye is a modern-day take on the classic story of Cinderella. What inspired you to write the book?

It was a literal abandoned shoe. I was walking into my school the morning after the Homecoming dance and saw a lone girls’ dress shoe laying on the side of the road. I knew immediately that I needed to write a Cinderella story, but I wanted to make sure my narrator pushed back against the rules she was given. It was important to me that she have agency and make her own choices when possible.

I also wanted to explore that moment when teens realize their parents are humans and come with their own baggage. I’m a high school counselor by day and I watch kids have this lightbulb moment all the time. It can be difficult to comprehend that your parents have screwed up, especially ones who have been sticklers for rules. My main character, Tatum, gets some valuable insight into what makes her stepmother tick, which changes her whole outlook. That kind of information can be pivotal.

You describe your main character, Tatum, as an imperfect “every girl”. Can you elaborate on that more and explain why it is important to represent these types of characters in YA?

There are a lot of “chosen one” stories in YA, which I love, but I think it’s also important to show ordinary characters who have flaws and screw up because that’s reality. Tatum isn’t particularly special and she even remarked how she feels pretty average and middle of the road. She also thinks she’s right all the time and over the course of the book, she realizes she was wrong about a lot of things. She grows from her experiences and tries to take the high road when trying to repair the relationships with her family and friends. Everyone makes mistakes–but it’s what you do next that’s important.

Is Tatum you at 16? How are you and Tatum similar? How are you different?

Yes, she is very much me at 16. And, probably me now.  We both like to be right, we both have snarky senses of humor, we both wallow when we’re upset.  I think that I am much quicker to seek harmony in conflict than she is. I don’t have much artistic talent, though I definitely appreciate those who do.

Although Tatum is still in high school, she runs her own graphic design business. Why did you feel it was important to make her an entrepreneur?

I figured if she was on house arrest for the summer and angry about it, she would need something to help channel all her negative energy. I’d never read about a teen with her own business before, nor a graphic designer, so voila! I also enjoy how the work Tatum does really lifts her up and helps her regain her confidence over the course of the summer.

With this being your debut novel, what was your biggest creative challenge?

Probably the fact that everything was new! It’s easy to second guess yourself in this process, but I’ve been very fortunate to have an excellent team to work with and hold my hand. I ask a lot of questions and I’m grateful for all the support I’ve been given. Creatively, working with deadlines and not having the freedom of all the time in the world is both a challenge and a benefit. I’m one who likes to marinate on ideas before executing, so having to limit my mulling-over time into a small window has been an adjustment, but one that I think has been successful thus far.



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