Jay Bell never gave much thought to Germany until he met a handsome foreign exchange student. At that moment, beer and pretzels became the most important thing in the world. After moving to Germany and getting married, Jay found himself desperate to communicate the feelings of alienation, adventure, and love that surrounded this decision, and has been putting pen to paper ever since.
Connect with Jay Bell on Twitter @JayBellBooks or visit his website: http://jaybellbooks.com.
Q&A with Author Jay Bell:
- If you could swap places with one of your fictional characters for 24 hours, who would you choose to be? Why? And what would you do that day?
Tim Wyman, from Something Like Winter. As for what I would do, I would take my shirt off and stare at myself in the mirror all day. I’m not a superficial person when it comes to appearance. How I or anyone else looks matters less and less to me the older I get, but I always thought it would be fun to have muscles without the tedious effort of having to workout every day.
But that’s not really my answer. I think I would rather be Tim’s dog Chinchilla. She’s a character in her own right, so I believe that counts. Anyway, I would love to hang out with Ben and Tim, spy on their new life together, witness the wonderfully mundane moments they share. I bet they have a very loving home, and I’d love to witness their relationship from the outside. Besides, being a dog for a day would be incredibly cool! If I got bored watching Ben and Tim, I could take a stroll down the street and pee on a bunch of stuff. Bonus!
- Kamikaze Boys is about two very brave high school students who never give up. Please tell us what inspired you to write Connor and David?
With Kamikaze Boys, I wanted to capture a rough time I went through from about twelve to fifteen years old. I had just moved to Texas and didn’t fit in at all. Like David, I was bullied every day and dreaded going to school. I wish I had expressed that feeling more in the book, how just the thought of having to face another day of school made me almost physically ill with fear. I was terrified—every single day—for years. Eventually I hit bottom, or maybe I snapped, and I started lashing out. I became a very destructive person, and while I ended up causing a lot of terror and pain myself, I still believe it was the only way for me to survive.
Later, when I was sixteen, I found balance. Love had a lot to do with that. I came out when I was sixteen and focused more on finding the right guy. My first boyfriend and I were together for nine months, which is a small eternity at that age. Basically I starting living the life that was best for me, no matter the consequences, and that helped to banish a lot of my anger and fear. In Kamikaze Boys, I sort of combined these two stages of my life. David learns to let go of fear and harness his anger, but luckily he has Connor to help temper this out before it becomes too self-destructive. I didn’t have the benefit of someone like that, but I wear my scars with pride.
- Can you tell us a little about Ben and Tim’s journey in the Seasons series and how first love changes over time?
Just the thought of first love makes my chest swell with warm sparkly feelings. There’s nothing more optimistic in the world, nothing with more potential, than young love. And I don’t mean the age of the people involved, but rather the feeling when a new love is born. The power of such love shouldn’t be underestimated, but it also has its limits. We’ll get to that in a second. First, let’s talk about Ben and Tim.
At the beginning of Something Like Summer, Ben as a character has very little room to grow. He’s loyal, brave, and has a good head on his shoulders. His only flaw might be his willingness to sacrifice almost anything for love, but personally, I consider that a virtue. The real conflict begins when Ben becomes divided, when he has two loves worth fighting for. Later in his life, Ben gets his first true taste of fear when he loses someone dear to him, and oddly enough, it’s the decades of unrelenting bravery that makes him unprepared for this.
Tim, at the beginning of Something Like Winter, is Ben’s opposite. He’s absolutely riddled with fear. To Tim, love is a complete mystery, unlike Ben who wields the emotion like a sword. When two opposites such as Ben and Tim come into contact, it’s inevitable that they will have an influence on each other. Ben leads by example, showing Tim everything he could be, and even though it takes more than a decade of nurturing for that seed to sprout and bloom, Tim is forever a changed man.
I don’t believe in karma in the metaphysical sense, but Ben and Tim’s journey is one of a good deed repaid. All the times that Ben stepped into Tim’s life when he was weak and helped him—even at the expense to the stability of his own life—are finally repaid in the end. When Ben is weak, learns what it means to live with fear, that’s when Tim is able to play the shining knight and save him. And it was Ben that gave Tim this armor and polished it up.
That brings us back to first love. The tricky thing about meeting your first love again, is how all of those feelings come rushing back. The intoxication, the youth, the potential—they’re like a drug. The strength of these feelings have a limit, because eventually, reality catches up. We’re not who we were when first falling in love, and neither is the other person. Once the nostalgia dies down, we’re left to discover how much substance is left, so I don’t think Ben and Tim’s journey is over quite yet, but at least this time they will be on equal footing.
- What do you have coming up next?
- What would you like young readers to take away from your novels?
To be brave. Fear is the greatest opponent we face in life. Whether it’s our own, or the fear others have for us, we must learn to be brave. Fear can ruin your chances of falling in love, of working your dream job, and of being whoever you were meant to be. Remain true to yourself, live the life that makes you happy, and you’ll find all those people you worry about now will be happy for you too. At least if they love you they will be, and if not, you shouldn’t let them hold you back. Of course there’s a time and a place for all emotions, so if you’re standing in the road and a bus is hurtling your way, then please do feel fear and get out of the way! But when it comes to matters of the heart, be brave. Be braver than you ever have before, and you will find happiness.
Now Available from Jay Bell:
Something Like Winter, the companion novel to Something Like Summer, tells the story from Tim Wyman’s perspective, revealing new private moments and personal journeys.
The Black Oligarch is dead. Some call his replacement a boy, others call him a threat. Cole lost everything the night he became Oligarch: his family, his home… even Jonah. Now he’s alone, left only with painful memories and the power to destroy the Five Lands.
When Dylan is sent to help Cole, he finds they have more in common than expected. They hope to build a new life together, but dark forces have other plans for them. The dead are rising, bringing secrets from the past that threaten to change their lives forever. Can Dylan guide a young man through the darkness and protect those he loves without making the ultimate sacrifice?
Something Like Winter Giveaway!Jay Bell has generously donated a free copy of Something Like Winter for one lucky winner. To enter the drawing, please leave a comment below along with your email address. A winner will be chosen February 3rd.
Are you familiar with Jay's books? If so, tell us which character YOU would like to be. If not, tell us what you would do if you were a dog for a day!