Interview: Jaye Robin Brown, YA Author

Photo credit: Kristi HedbergJaye Robin Brown, or Jro to her friends, lives and writes in the mountains north of Asheville, North Carolina.  She is fond of horses, dogs, the absurd and the ironic. When not writing, you can find her in the art room of the high school where she teaches.

Her debut young adult novel, NO PLACE TO FALL, comes out in the fall of 2014 from Harper Teen. It’s about dreams, singing, friendship, lust, love, betrayal, family, and mistakes. It’s also a love song to small town girls and mountain music, both of which shape the area that Jaye now calls home.

Find her on FacebookTumblrTwitter, and her website.

Let’s see how Jro answers the Proust Questionnaire!

What is your idea of happiness?
Being absorbed. In a story, a moment, in art, in friendship, in love. I think when you are so swept up in something you are able to forget all of the day to day adult worries and anxieties, that is happiness. Also, the smell of a horse and the friendship of a good dog.

What is your favorite song? When do you first remember hearing it?
Like everyone else before me, how can you name just one song? I wouldn’t call this my favorite song, but it’s one I have a memory of hearing the first time. Lou Reed singing “Take a Walk on the Wild Side.” This was back in the days of walkmans and I was hanging out at the yacht club where my father sailed. This boy I knew, a regatta brat from New Orleans, had it on his walkman. It transported me. Big cities, a she who was a he, all concepts far, far removed from my upper-middle class Old South upbringing. It stirred something in my bones. I remember searching for months afterwards to find this song and who sang it. I desperately wanted to take a walk on the wild side and finding this music seemed key to my freedom.

Which talent would you most like to have?
I wish I could sing. Really sing. I think it’s why I gave the talent to my protagonist in my forthcoming novel. I’m flatter than a train-hit penny.

On what occasion do you lie?
Sadly, to myself. “Should I order these shoes?” “Why sure, self, no problem. You really do need them.” Sometimes to my students if they get too nosy about personal moments, past or present, though usually I’ll try to deflect rather than flat out lie.

What is your present state of mind?
Excited, Anticipatory, Slightly Terrified.

What is your motto?
Walk through the open doors.

What character trait do you most value in your friends?
My closest friends are genuine, honest, and have wicked senses of humor. They tend to be well-versed in something and are often individual in their nature. I don’t care how old you are, what you look like, what your religion, color, or creed is as long as you can set everything aside to get deep into conversation. Also good huggers, deep laughers, animal lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts. (This totally makes me sound like a hippy!)

Jan Van Eyck, The Arnolfini Wedding (1434)

Jan Van Eyck, The Arnolfini Wedding (1434)

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
Ya think? and Awesome!

Your favorite painting?
You are asking this of an art teacher and a former craftsperson. It is truly impossible for me to name only one. I love Jan Van Eyck’s Arnolfini Wedding because it’s tiny as master works go (24” x 32”), and look at the detail! It’s loaded in symbolism (typical of Northern Renaissance pieces) and I spent hours hunting for it in the Louvre then hours looking at it. The works of Vassily Kandinsky––I walked into the Guggenheim and there was an entire room of his work. It blasted me back with its vibrant color and wowness! I literally had to sit down. Picasso’s Blue Period pieces are evocative and beautiful. Faith Ringgold’s story quilts are amazing in their depth and detail and she’s so cool. Sally Mann’s photographs of her children and her “At Twelve” series are eerie, disturbing, and beautiful and speak to the area in which I write and live. I could kick myself a million times over for missing the opportunity to buy one of her prints at an earlier time, easier price.  And finally, a local artist, Robert Johnson, who does beautiful botanical journal pages and paintings from his travels around North Carolina and internationally. I could keep going and going. 

Pablo Picasso, The Blue Room (1901)

Pablo Picasso, The Blue Room (1901)

What is your favorite journey?
Being with one other person for a number of years. My partner and I are going on our eighteenth. It’s not something anyone can ever explain to you, the rises, the dips, the subtle changes, the acceptance, the knowledge. It’s not an easy journey but it’s amazing.

What is your favorite time of day?
Dawn. Total flip from my younger self. But now it’s my best writing time, a time when the rest of my world is sleeping. I’m awake before the sun, even before my rooster and I love hearing him start to crow. He wakes up the songbirds and when they awake, I know it’s time to get ready for work. 

With which literary hero or heroine would you most like to share a coffee?
This is a difficult question. I want to have coffee with someone who’s interesting, that will make me laugh, yet teach me something at the same time. Two people come to mind. Albus Dumbledore and the art teacher from Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. The first because he’s this ridiculous combination of wise, secretive, flawed, and kind. The second because I want to ask him about lesson planning and how the semester long assignment of giving his students an object theme worked out. Did they stay on task? Did they all have break throughs like Anderson’s protagonist? It’d be fun to talk shop.

What do you need to achieve before you can die happy?
I’m happy now. I’ve walked through a whole boatload of open doors. No regrets. Of course, I’d love to stick around to feel what’s it like to have readers, to write more books, to travel to some new places, hike some new trails, but if the proverbial bus hits me, well, I’m good.

Who or what is your first love?
The natural world. I’ve been an outdoor girl for a long time and it’s a place I can endlessly observe and never get bored. 

What’s the last dream you remember?
Ha. This is a funny one. So in real life – they brought the drug dog through my school. Since I teach art, I worry about “my” kids. If anyone were to be feeling experimental, it’s probably some of my art students.

So, after this real life visit, I dreamed I was at an arts workshop with one of my students. I was standing at a table doing some work. She was standing behind me doing her own work. Cop comes in with the drug dog. My student starts jumping up and down and shaking her jacket behind me. In the dream, I’m thinking she better chill or the cop’s going to suspect her. Then she wanders away a few feet. When the drug dog gets to me, he sits (this is how he’s trained to notify the officer). In my open purse was a bag of weed. My student had framed me! When I looked at her (in the dream) she smiled and shrugged her shoulders like “Well, what’d you expect me to do.” 

What’s your madeleine?
Thick humidity, gulf sand under my feet, an ice cold coke in a tiny green bottle, and a perfectly sweet slice of watermelon. 

I grew up on the Gulf Coast of Alabama and every Fourth of July, the entire maternal side of my family would gather for a family weekend at a large coastal house. When I think of being a child this is where I’m transported.

Without thinking, in one word: what is life?

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