Author Spotlight- Neal and Jarrod Shusterman

Posted November 11, 2021 by stuckint in Uncategorized / 0 Comments

Hi everyone, fancy seeing you here in the Stacks!

Today, I’m continuing my three post series featuring Neal and Jarrod Shusterman along with their new YA contemporary release: Roxy.

I loved this book and I was thrilled to chat with Neal and Jarrod about their latest project. Be sure to check back for a spoiler free review of Roxy and drop any questions you have for Neal or Jarrod in the comments!

About the Book

Author Spotlight- Neal and Jarrod ShustermanRoxy by Neal Shusterman, Jarrod Shusterman
Published by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers on November 9, 2021
Pages: 384
Goodreads

From the team that brought you the New York Times bestselling Dry comes a riveting new thriller that proves when gods play games, even love is a lie.
The freeway is coming.
It will cut the neighborhood in two. Construction has already started, pushing toward this corridor of condemned houses and cracked concrete with the momentum of the inevitable. Yet there you are, in the fifth house on the left, fighting for your life.
Ramey, I.
The victim of the bet between two manufactured gods: the seductive and lethal Roxy (Oxycontin), who is at the top of her game, and the smart, high-achieving Addison (Adderall), who is tired of being the helpful one, and longs for a more dangerous, less wholesome image. The wager—a contest to see who can bring their mark to “the Party” first—is a race to the bottom of a rave that has raged since the beginning of time. And you are only human, dazzled by the lights and music. Drawn by what the drugs offer—tempted to take that step past helpful to harmful…and the troubled places that lie beyond.
But there are two I. Rameys—Isaac, a soccer player thrown into Roxy’s orbit by a bad fall and a bad doctor and Ivy, his older sister, whose increasing frustration with her untreated ADHD leads her to renew her acquaintance with Addy.
Which one are you?

About the Authors

Neal Shusterman , american writer of young-adult fictio

Neal Shusterman is the  New York Times bestselling author of more than thirty award-winning books for children, teens, and adults, including the Unwind dystology, the Skinjacker trilogy,  Downsiders, and  Challenger Deep, which won the National Book Award.  Scythe, the first book in his latest series, Arc of a Scythe, is a Michael L. Printz Honor Book. He also writes screenplays for motion pictures and television shows. Neal is the father of four, all of whom are talented writers and artists themselves. Visit Neal at StoryMan.com and Facebook.com/NealShusterman.

Jarrod Shusterman is the  New York Times bestselling coauthor of  Dry. He has a passion for storytelling across many mediums, with love and multiculturalism as an ethos. Jarrod writes and directs with his partner Sofia, under their company Dos Lobos Entertainment. Together they enjoy traveling the world and learning new languages, living between Los Angeles and Spain. They can be found on Instagram @DosLobosMedia.

The Interview

  1. -For readers who haven’t read Roxy what is the novel about and what was the inspirational behind it?

Neal:  Jarrod and I had gotten together to brainstorm ideas for our next book—and we got to talking about unique storytelling perspectives.  For instance, there was a story I had co-written with Jarrod’s brother, Brendan, for Shaun David Hutchinson’s “Violent Ends” story anthology.  Our story, “Presumed Destroyed,” was about a school shooter, as were all the stories in the collection—but ours took the point of view of the weapon itself.  We thought how powerful it would be to tell a story about drug addiction from the point of view of the drugs, personified.

Jarrod: It wasn’t long until my dad came with the idea:what if they were just like Greek Gods? And that’s when ROXY just took off. We had the story worked out within a few weeks, and then naturally it grew and evolved during the writing process. So often a story comes together in a series of defining moments, and for us, ROXY was formed as a concept very quickly. It was surprising to both of us in that regard.

  1. -Do either of you have personal experience with drug addiction? How did that impact your writing of the book and how you told the story?

Jarrod: I’ve known people in life who struggled with addiction, whether it was short term or an ongoing struggle, and all accounts were prescription drug related. The story so often starts the same way. They’re prescribed medication for a physical ailment and develop a tolerance. Which is the natural progression for the resilient human body. There is a portion of this that is choice, but there is often an even greater portion that is human nature, and we’re just as much slaves to it, as Isaac and Ivy become in our story.

Neal:  I also know people who have died from addiction—I think everyone does, so it’s very relatable.  The Opioid epidemic shatters the idea that only “those kinds of people,” become addicts, because it crosses all social and political lines.  This can happen to anyone.

  1. Roxy is told from four main POVs with a few interludes. What part of the story came first? What was your process like for getting into each character’s head? Did you find any of the POVs more challenging than others? 

Neal: Once we came up with the concept, I felt so inspired that I wrote the opening chapter – which is really like the interludes – a short piece told from the point of view of Naloxone—the drug they administer to save someone from an overdose.  We’re never in his first-person point of view again, so it became the open bookend from which to start the story.  Then Jarrod Introduced Isaac’s point of view, (one of our human main characters) and we were off. 

Jarrod: I read what my Dad wrote and was like “woah.” Okay. This is where we’re going. And from there I knew I had a big task when it came to introducing our main characters. I wanted it to feel cinematic, as always. I wanted to accomplish and set up a lot of things at once and establish what the third person voice would feel like—something that comes very naturally for the both of us, and I’m sure was pretty in tune with what my Dad was expecting. A good story writes itself, and I felt like that’s what happened here. So I just hoped my instincts were correct, and that what we were writing was as good as I felt it could be in my gut.

  1. Can you speak to the importance of bringing attention to the ongoing opioid crisis? How do you hope Roxy will contribute to the ongoing conversation?

Neal: The crisis is not something that can be hidden under a rug.  We can’t pretend it doesn’t exist—especially for teens who are at the age where they start experimenting. If our story troubles them enough that they think twice before taking that pill, then we’ve done our job.

Jarrod: My partner Sofi asked me, “What would a teenager need to read to stay away from drugs.” So I got right to work. And it’s so funny saying, because just reading my own words I feel like a trope. Stay away from drugs. How many times have we all heard it, but how true does it ring the longer you live on this planet and see and hear about the atrocities of the opioid epidemic. That drug related deaths have skyrocketed considering the last few years’ hardships. There’s a hidden story, that needs to be screamed for all to hear, and we feel that with ROXY we’re making a lot of noise.

  1. More generally, can you speak to the importance of tackling difficult topics in YA? 

Neal: Shielding kids from real-world issues does nothing but leave them ill-equipped for dealing with the world.  Tough subjects must be introduced with care and a sense of responsibility, though.  It’s like teaching kids to swim.  You don’t hide the deep end of the pool and pretend it doesn’t exist; you help them develop their skills so they can navigate the deep end on their own.  

  1. What is it like writing as a duo? What is your writing process like? How did it differ from Dry? 

Neal: Jarrod and I work really well together, and the process is a fun, bonding experience. There’s a level of respect for each other, and professionalism keeps it a smooth process—much faster than writing alone—which you can’t always say about a collaboration.

Jarrod: I can often second guess things about my father’s thought process in a way that many collaborators cannot. It allows us to blend our storytelling voices pretty seamlessly.  Writing together is always a positive experience! And very rewarding when what we’ve written finally sees the light of day!

7- While reading Roxy I found myself looking up the different drug names and their effects. What was it like developing these chapters from the drugs’ POVs? What was your research process? 

Jarrod: It wasn’t too difficult, because the drugs belong to three primary families, the uppers, downers and the hallucinogens. And where each drug falls on the spectrum is pretty intuitive. Much of what went into creating the characters came down to what story needed to be told, or what lessen needed to be taught. For example, cocaine is a really insidious drug that is pretty accessible, so we felt it needed to be painted in an antagonistic light. However, Mary Jane does have the potential to help, so we would be remiss to not paint it in a nuanced way.

  1. Was there anything cut from the novel that you wish would have made it into the published copy? 

Neal:  Not so much things that were cut, but bits we didn’t get to write.  I loved the “interludes” which were first-person monologues from different drugs’ points of view.  I would have loved to write more of those pieces, but the book didn’t need anymore.

Jarrod: The best part about the editing process with ROXY was that it was really additive. There were things our editor noticed that we just couldn’t see while writing. In that sense, it really was a writer’s perfect case scenario, because every note we addressed just made the story better. I have no regrets, or things that I wished could have been there, because there was so little that was cut!

  1. As an author, what would you like readers to know about author life, writing books, etc? 

Neal:  That it’s not easy.  But the trick is making it look easy—and that’s hard!  It’s also a responsibility.  I often think to the basic tenet that doctors adhere to: “First, do no harm.”  Books are more than just entertainment.  They influence.  They open minds.  They can make you think.  I believe it is an author’s responsibility to illuminate.

  1. What books inspired your love of reading?

Neal: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Lord of the Rings, Lord of the Flies, Ender’s Game, and the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, to name a few.

Jarrod: Sounds corny to say, but my dad’s books really made me want to read. It was hard to keep up though! I was really lucky, because I wasn’t much of a reader, so I learned to love reading through my environment and unique situation.

  1. Can you share anything about your next writing project?

Jarrod: For me, it’s RETRO! A new S&S book coming in 2022 that I’m writing with my partner Sofi, which we are so excited for! Going through edits now, and we already have our sights set on the next writing project! We are so excited about the ROXY release, and what comes next!

Neal: For me, it’s Gleanings, — the Scythe short story anthology, and Courage to Dream – a graphic novel I’ve been working on for over ten years, with illustrations by Andrés Vera Martinez.  Also, Scythe, Challenger Deep, Game Changer, Scorpion Shards and Unwind are in active development as either feature films or episodic TV/streaming.  

Rapid Fire Questions

  1. Favorite season?  

Neal:  Summer. Jarrod: Spring

  1. Favorite dessert or treat?  

Neal: Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia.

Jarrod: straight up vanilla ice cream. Throw in some cookie dough and we’re best friends.

  1. What was the last book you read? 

Neal:  The Actual Star, by Monica Byrne.

Jarrod: Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.

  1. What are your reading essentials?– outside of a good book of course!  

Neal: Characters I care about, and a story that makes me say “I wish I thought of that!”

Jarrod: A book that entertains me more than Netflix, or slows me down, and pulls me into the present moment.

  1. What are some 2021/2022 releases you are excited about? 

Neal: Honestly, I never know what’s coming.  I like to be surprised.

Jarrod: regretfully, I write too much to be excited about things in the new year. Maybe someday when life calms down I’ll go back to being more of a fan. 

  1. What do you hope readers will take away from Roxy?  

Neal: An understanding and respect for how dangerous and deadly these drugs can be.

Jarrod: They need to know how bad drugs are. But seriously. Not just in the typical sense. They’ve got to feel it.

  1. Lastly, where can readers learn more about you and your work?  

Neal: www.storyman.com, and @NealShusterman, on all social media.

Jarrod:  @doslobosmedia on Instagram!!!

What About

Have you read or do you plan to read Roxy? Do you have questions for Neal and Jarrod? Let me know in the comments!

Leave a Reply

(Enter your URL then click here to include a link to one of your blog posts.)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.