Last year, I featured No Parking at the End Times by Bryan Bliss, and I’m happy to announce his new book, MEET ME HERE is getting tons of buzz, including a starred review in Booklist.
In a single night—graduation night—Thomas has to decide: Do what everyone has always expected of him? Or forge an entirely new path? Bryan Bliss’s absorbing examination of one boy struggling with expectations and realities will appeal to readers of Sara Zarr and Chris Crutcher.
Thomas is supposed to leave for the army in the morning. His father was Army. His brother, Jake, is Army—is a hero, even, with the medals to prove it. Everyone expects Thomas to follow in that fine tradition. But Jake came back from overseas a completely different person, and that has shaken Thomas’s certainty about his own future. And so when his long-estranged friend Mallory suggests one last night of adventure, Thomas takes her up on the distraction. Over the course of this single night, Thomas will lose, find, resolve, doubt, drive, explore, and leap off a bridge. He’ll also face the truth of his brother’s post-traumatic stress disorder and of his own courage. In Bryan Bliss’s deft hands, graduation night becomes a night to find yourself, find each other, find a path, and know that you always have a place—and people—to come back to.
Since our last interview, you and your family moved to Minnesota. What advice, if any, do you have on re-filling the creative well during life transitions like this one?
Well, I think part of it is actually letting the well be re-filled. I see so much “advice” out there that seems to be written in stone. Write a 1000 words a day, etc. And while I definitely think that can be good practice in certain situations…I’m not sure it’s gospel. I think you need to be able to take a break, to write a few good words instead of a thousand forced words. When we moved to Minneapolis, I was suddenly surrounded by a huge community of kid lit writers. It was amazing and inspiring and I constantly felt like I should be writing something. But I was tired. Moving across the country, starting a new job, figuring out schools for my kids. I didn’t have anything to say. So I gave myself permission to not write for the summer. Instead, I focused on revising my next book (MEET ME HERE) and trying to really think deeply about what I wanted book #3 to be whenever I got to the actual writing.
Giving yourself permission…definitely a great way to make your own expectations. MEET ME HERE addresses the challenges and choices that come with negotiating expectations against reality. How did Thomas’s story develop as you wrote it, and what do you hope teens will glean from his story?
I think we expect teenagers to know exactly what they want when they’re 18 years old. That’s insane. I’m pretty sure I didn’t know what I wanted out of life until just a few years ago. And if I’m being honest, I still have moments when I think, “Maybe I could be a paramedic…” From a parenting perspective, I think it’s the fear that you’ll stand by and watch as your children waste their lives, whatever that means. But at the end of the day, I firmly believe there aren’t many decisions that are irreversible. I guess that’s what I’d want teenagers to glean. You can take chances. You don’t have to follow the path everybody follows. Of course, that’s easy for me to say. But I think I’ve lived it, too. Even though it’s hard, it’s almost always been worth it.
As far as Thomas goes, his story has been pretty solid from the beginning. I think the biggest change would be his relationship with his friend Mallory. As I kept working on the book, I realize that–while important–his friendship with Mallory wasn’t his ultimate concern. Instead it was his brother, Jake. Once I figured that out, it was fun to explore the depths of family and brotherhood.
Wonderful advice for teens, and adults alike–and something I wish I’d realized as a teen too. In our last interview, you mentioned that MEET ME HERE was in its editorial stages, and you were working on a third book. Can you tell us more about book three, or is it still under wraps?
Book number three is called We’ll Fly Away. It’s a book I’ve been wanting to write for five years, but it never felt like the right time. I just couldn’t put any words down on it. But I knew I was going to write it, so it kind of lived in the back of my head like a trapped bird. It’s the story of Luke and Toby, best friends. The main narrative of the book is their friendship, broken up by letters from Luke to Toby written from death row. So, you know, really upbeat stuff! Like everything I seem to write, it’s really focused on family and friendship and the implications of being poor. More specifically it deals with the question of redemption. How do we forgive somebody who has done something unforgivable? What does it mean for the people who love them? It’s a heavy topic and I hope I’m able to do it justice.
I’m sure you will! Thank you so much for such thoughtful answers, and I’m so glad your stories are reaching the readers that need them.