Hello everyone! Today I am so excited to welcome author Johanna Parkhurst to Joyfully Jay. Johanna is here to talk to us more about her new release, Here’s to You, Zeb Pike. She has also brought a copy to giveaway. Please join me in giving Johanna a big welcome!
The Hardest Author Question (That Really Shouldn’t Be Hard)
As a newly published author, I’m learning a lot of hard lessons these days. You know, things like how to properly use Twitter (still working on that one) and to not check my Amazon sales rank every hour. But the most important lesson I’ve learned is to be well-prepared for a lot of people asking you this question: “What inspired you to write this book?”
You’d think that would be a super easy question for me to answer. After all, I wrote the thing. But the truth is that about a million different things inspired me to write this book. So the first time someone actually asked me that question, I had to pause for waaaay too long before I finally figured out what to say.
I ended up mumbling something like “oh, a million different things.” But lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the kids who were the very first inspiration for this story. See, I’ve been a middle school teacher for a lot of years, and while I will always remember the many students who inspired various pieces of this book (such as Emmitt struggling with being a hockey player who doesn’t like girls, or Casey’s distrust after his father leaves), this story definitely wouldn’t exist without the three students who inspired the initial premise of the book: a kid trying to take care of his brother and sister because his parents are never around.
We’ll call these students the Donnells. I met the Donnell kids early in my teaching career; the oldest one (we’ll call him Tim) was in my eighth grade class. The Donnells were a lot luckier than the Porters are in Here’s to You, Zeb Pike. While the Donnell parents had struggled for years to get their acts together, they eventually had. By the time I was teaching Tim, it was almost like his parents were pushing to be nominated for Caregivers of the Year. Dad helped with projects around the school; Mom was a volunteer in our classroom. But I heard stories (it was a really small school) about what the years before that one had been like, when grandma and other family members had essentially taken over for weeks and sometimes months at a time because those same parents couldn’t be trusted with their own kids.
I saw how independent Tim was, how determined he was to prove that he didn’t need me, his parents, or anyone else to be successful in life. While his independence could be maddening, his drive made him an amazing student and person. It all made me wonder: when his parents were struggling, how much more had Tim taken on than anyone had realized?
And so, Dusty’s story was born.
Overtime, Dusty’s story would grow into something about much more than child neglect. It would become about a teenage boy finally having the space to search for his identity, and about another teenage boy coming to terms with being something he doesn’t really think the world will let him be. But for me, I think this story will always be about the millions of kids who take on more than they should, the hardships this causes them, and the amazing character it can often grow within them.
Last night, someone asked me again what inspired this story. This is what I said: “it was first inspired by a student I had who grew up too fast because his parents weren’t there for him….and then it was inspired by a lot of other students’ stories as well.” Because truthfully? No story is ever just one story. The human experience just doesn’t work that way.
(If you’d like to know even more about what inspired this story, or just help me get my Twitter act together, you can follow me there at https://twitter.com/johannawriteson. I’m also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/johannaparkhurstwriteson.)
That’s the last thing Dusty Porter learns in his Colorado history class before appendicitis ruins his life. It isn’t long before social services figures out that Dusty’s parents are more myth than reality, and he and his siblings are shipped off to live in Vermont with an uncle and aunt they’ve never met.
Dusty’s new life is a struggle. His brother and sister don’t seem to need him anymore, and he can’t stand his aunt and uncle. At school, one hockey player develops a personal vendetta against him, while Emmitt, another hockey player, is making it hard for Dusty to keep pretending he’s straight. Problem is, he’s pretty sure Emmitt’s not gay. Then, just when Dusty thinks things can’t get any worse, his mother reappears, looking for a second chance to be a part of his life.
Somehow Zebulon Pike still got the mountain named after him, so Dusty’s determined to persevere—but at what point in life do you keep climbing, and when do you give up and turn back?
Johanna is giving away a copy of Here’s to You, Zeb Pike to one lucky winner. Just leave a comment to enter. The contest will close on Monday, December 2nd at 11:59 pm EST.
- By entering the giveaway, you’re confirming that you are at least 18 years old.
- Winners will be selected by random number. No purchase necessary to win. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning.
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- Void where prohibited by law.