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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Interview w/ Jess Rothenberg: Author of "The Catastrophic History of You and Me"

It isn't much of a secret that I absolutely adored Jess Rothenberg's 2012 debut "The Catastrophic History of You and Me". Jess has been so sweet and gracious, in regards to my crazy fangirling, and was kind enough to do an interview for the blog! She really is the sweetest and I feel honored that she took some time to answer some questions for us. Since I haven't already said it enough, this is such a great book and you will definitely want to get your hands on it immediately!

Brie’s heart literally breaks in two, was that always the fate of her character or did she originally die in a different way?

Alas, that was always Brie’s fate!  The basic premise of the story (a girl dying of a literal broken heart) came to me during a time when I was going through a really intense break-up and felt like my own heart was breaking in two.  As anyone who’s ever been through that knows, having somebody you love admit they don’t feel the same isn’t just emotionally painful—it physical, too.  I’ve obviously never died from a broken heart (phew!), but there were definitely some moments during that period when my heart ached so much I thought I might.  Around the same time, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal about “Broken Heart Syndrome”—a rare condition where a person really can die from the cardiac stress brought on by intense sadness or an emotional trauma.  And since first love tends to be all the more intense and emotional, I thought to myself, what if that happened to a teenage girl?  And voila!  CATASTROPHIC HISTORY was born!    

I love the song titles and lyrics that are at the beginning of the chapters! Are those songs you were listening to while writing, or were they put in after to tie in with the story?

I’m so glad you love them!  (I do too.)  Yes, those are the songs that inspired the story—a playlist I had on repeat for months as the book unfolded.  The 80s-songs, in particular, really informed the tone of the book and the arc of the characters, given some of the stuff we eventually discover about them.  (Shhh, no spoilers, I promise!)

Did you always aspire to be a YA author or did you start off writing in another genre?

I’ve loved telling stories for as long as I can remember and, as a little girl, always dreamed of becoming a writer (especially since “Unicorn” and “Mermaid” weren’t exactly solid career options).  I wrote a lot all through high school and college (mostly short stories and a lot of really bad poetry), but my heart was always in YA and children’s books.  When I graduated, I got a job working at a publishing house in New York, where I edited a ton of awesome YA and middle grade fiction (books like Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series, Lili St. Crow’s Strange Angels series, and Josh Lieb’s I am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil & I Want to be Your Class President, to name just a few).  I always had stories of my own brewing on the backburner, but when I started writing the early pages of what eventually became CATASTROPHIC HISTORY, I wasn’t consciously writing it for a genre—it was more just me trying to make sense of the catastrophic dating world in New York!  I guess the truth is, I still feel like a teenager in my head most of the time and, given the kinds of books I’ve been editing for years, it made sense that the story ended up as YA.  But I like to think anyone who’s ever had his or her heart broken (whether they’re fifteen or thirty) will enjoy the story. 

While creating this story, what was your favorite part about the writing process? And do you have any quirky rituals?

My favorite part was definitely the way the characters kept surprising me!  There’s nothing more awesome than starting a chapter with a specific idea of how things are going to go, only to have the characters leap off the page and catch you totally off guard by doing or saying something you never saw coming.  And then suddenly the words are down in front of you and you’re reading them like “Wait, WHAT?  Sometimes the surprises are a bit much, and you’ve got to rein things back in, but other times, it’s like getting a water balloon thrown at you—just the jolt of energy a story needs! 

As for rituals, for me it’s mostly about music.  I literally cannot write without it.  Sometimes it’s just one or a few songs that I’ll play on repeat for days and days until I’ve gotten them totally out of my system.  The songs on the CATASTROPHIC Playlist (which you can check out at were all a huge inspiration to the story, in one form or another, as I mentioned above.  

I know parents aren’t supposed to love one child more than another, but I’m dying to know which of the characters in the book is your favorite?

I’m a major animal lover, so my first instinct is to say Hamloaf, Brie’s family’s Basset Hound!  But the characters I truly love most are Brie and Patrick.  They were so real to me from the very beginning, and I loved watching them come alive, page after page.  It was hard to say goodbye when the book ended—I still miss hanging out with those two!

It’s no secret that I am absolutely in love with The Catastrophic History of You and Me! And I’m positive that everyone who gets a chance to read it will love it too! Tell me you have some more fantastic YA stories in the works, pretty please?

Aw, thank you, Sarah!  I’m so happy you loved it!  Yes, I am currently working away on my second YA novel (still under wraps for now), due out in 2013.  And after that… who knows?  I’ve got a lot of fun ideas for both YA and middle grade stories floating around in my head, so we’ll see!  : )

Just for fun, if you were the captain of a pirate ship, which literary characters would you want as your crew?

First of all, I love this question, since I’ve pretty much wanted to be the captain of a ship ever since falling in love with Avi’s The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle when I was nine.  So here goes:  First Mate would go to Katniss Everdeen, since she’s obviously super tough and awesome.  Plus, I’m assuming she could use her bow and arrow to catch fish for us, which is an instant added bonus.  Quartermaster would be Hermione Granger, since she’s always great in a crisis and, in the event anything broke aboard the ship, she could just wave her wand and be like “Reparo!” and we’d be back in business.  Sailing Master would be Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, since he could check his Seeing Stone to make sure we weren’t sailing in circles, which would be very likely with me at the helm.  Harriet the Spy would keep the daily Sailing Log (top-notch reporting skills and all), Stuart Little would be Boatswain because he’s brave, kind, and someone the crew could really look up to (okay, not literally, he’s a mouse), and Cook/Galley Master would be Willy Wonka for obvious reasons.  As for Swabbie… maybe Mary Anne from The Baby-sitters Club, since she’s pretty OCD about keeping things nice and neat?  Avast, ye scurvy swab!

Thank you for writing such an amazing book and for taking the time to answer some questions! :0)

My pleasure!!  Again, I’m so thrilled you loved THE CATASTROPHIC HISTORY OF YOU AND ME, Sarah.  Thanks so much for having me as a guest on your blog!


Check out my Review of "The Catastrophic History of You and Me", right HERE!


  1. LOVED the interview!! the synopsis is so intriguing. I also LOVE jess's answers for the ship crew! definitely katniss and Hermoine!! <3 aww and Mary Anne from BSC <3 Honestly I can't wait to read this book! it sounds amazing :D

    - juhina

  2. This interview is great!! I love finding out where an author's story originates and everything that goes into writing a story. This book sounds like something that anyone can relate to, and I can't wait to read it! =)

  3. I can't wait to read this book. It sounds very interesting. Awesome interview! I like it when authors talk about the book and the story behind the book. Thank you for sharing!!

    Books For All Seasons

  4. Love the interview! I can't wait to read the book.

  5. Loved reading the interview! I love her pirate crew! haha (:

  6. Okay, I am so getting this book now. Fantastic interview! The book sounds amazing!

  7. Can I just say, I finished reading this book on Sunday and had been sitting all weekend - it's utterly AMAZING! Up there with Elsewhere and Shopaholic books as my favourite books!



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