I'm very happy to have Jodi Lamm stopping by today to talk about her book Chemistry, which is a YA retelling of the classic The Hunchback of Notre Dame. You can also win an ebook copy! Be sure to check out my review as well.
by Jodi Lamm
You don’t want to read this book. I’m warning you. This isn’t a heartwarming, boy-meets-girl, high school romance. I wish it were—God, do I ever. No, if you read this, you’re going to be angry… with me, mostly. You’ll probably yell at me, if you’re the type of person who yells at books. You’ll tell me not to be so stupid, but I won’t listen. I’ll be exactly as stupid as I need to be to destroy everything I love because that’s who I am: a walking, talking tragedy. That’s who I’ve always been. But if you’re determined to read on despite my warning, I may as well introduce myself. My name is Claude Frollo, I’m nineteen going on ninety, and this is my story. It isn’t pretty, but it’s honest. And it’s the only story I have left to tell.
What three words best describe CHEMISTRY?
Modern Romantic Disaster
Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers to give CHEMISTRY a try?
If you ever wondered what on earth Claude Frollo was thinking when he decided it was Esmeralda or bust, or if you're curious what THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE-DAME would look like unfolding in a modern high school, you should give CHEMISTRY a read.
Grab a copy of CHEMISTRY and answer the following:
Book Ten, probably. I decided to give Claude a taste of what he'd been missing, so there's this feeling of hope before the collapse. It's my version of that moment in the 1996 modernization of ROMEO AND JULIET where they're both awake at the same time, and you think for just a second things might turn out differently.Favorite page?
I kind of like Book Nine, scene V. I had an easy time picturing the scene when I wrote it, and I think the whole voyeurism aspect of Claude and Esmeralda's non-relationship comes across in a new way. I hope, anyway. But it's also the scene where you get to see how Valentine interacts with someone he cares about (other than Claude), and he's such an angel, I can't help but love him.
The original Claude Frollo is one of my favorite characters in all of literature, which is one of the reasons I chose him to tell this story. There's just so much to him. He's the complete opposite of a cardboard character. He's almost too fascinating. So it makes sense that he'd be my favorite in my own version, too. But he's in a tight race with Peter and Valentine.
Flip to a random page and give us a 1-2 sentence teaser:
"I hate that the sun still rises and the cows still come out to pasture, that ants still build their nests and birds still sing. I hate that nature is still lovely, even though today, Esmeralda will begin to rot."
CHEMISTRY is a retelling of Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame...what inspired you to retell such a well-known story? How did you make CHEMISTRY your own story?
I fell in love with the original for several reasons, one of the major ones being the fact that it's tricky to pick out an obvious villain, aside from the outrageously flawed justice system. Every individual character is lovable for some reasons and deplorable for others. But most of the retellings I saw chose a villain—usually Claude Frollo—and painted him as wicked as they could. They took the good qualities in him and gave them to other characters. In the popular Disney version, they took his priesthood from him, made him a powerful judge, and turned his completely selfless adoption of Quasimodo into a thing he was forced to do after murdering an innocent woman. And I've seen an older version where they made Claude's brother the villain and turned Claude into somewhat of a saint. It's weird how there's this need for an obvious villain and flawless heros.
I wanted to create a story that stayed true to the moral ambiguity of the original, in which Esmeralda is kind but sort of dense, Phoebus is a fickle jerk with a heart of gold (which abhors a vacuum, according to Hugo), Quasimodo is an angel with a violent temper, and Claude Frollo is an altruistic genius with a maddening obsession. I tried to make the story my own by delving into Claude's head and changing the setting to a modern American high school. It was challenging to remain 95% true to the original tale with such huge changes, but I did my very best.
What was it like writing from the perspective of an antagonist?
I find antagonists easier to write, to be honest. I'm not totally sure why. Maybe because I'm a very flawed person, too.
Let's talk about CHEMISTRY's cover...how does the cover represent the story within?
The cover is an homage to a NASA photograph demonstrating the insulating properties of aerogel. I thought it was appropriate to have the cover be a twist on an original piece of art, too. In the original photograph, the aerogel successfully protects a flower from the heat of a Bunsen burner, but in CHEMISTRY's cover, the protection has failed. It's supposed to represent Claude's failure to protect Esmeralda from himself. You can see the original photo among others here: http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/photo/aerogel.html
What other classic story(s) would you love to tackle and retell?
A few of my trunk novels are retellings (I have many trunk novels). Most of them tend to be retellings of myths or legends. Generally, I tend to allude to classic stories rather than retell them, but I'm sure I'll come across another I'd like to retell in the future. I just haven't thought of it yet.
What's the one thing/event/release/etc that you are the MOST excited for in 2013?
I'm excited to see the next HUNGER GAMES movie! The second book was my favorite, so I hope the second movie is just as incredible as the first.
Fill in the blanks:
I'm really awesome at___.
Imagining horrible things. My nightmares in early childhood were far worse than anything I'd ever seen in life or on television. If I'm told about some tragedy, I'll see it like a movie in my head. It sucks. But it's good for writing, I guess.
I'm really embarrassed to admit ___.
I nearly didn't graduate from high school because of a math competency test. It was timed, and I crumble under that kind of pressure. I'm pretty sure I did horribly on my SATs for the same reason, but I've never looked at my score.
My first literary crush (character or author) was ___.
There was a tiny clockwork man in THE LITTLE COUNTRY by Charles deLint that I had weirdly romantic feelings for. I think I was around twelve. I never finished the book because I was disturbed by a particular scene in it and threw it away. Then I forgot the author and title. I didn't find it again until about three years ago, when I was finally able to read the whole book. I think that was my first literary crush, but it's tricky to figure out where my childish I'm-gonna-marry-that-man declarations ended and my legitimately giddy adolescent fantasies began.
The last great book I read was ___.
DEATHLESS by Catherynne M. Valente. That book threw me. It was incredible, gorgeous, exquisite.
If you were to create and bake a cupcake inspired by CHEMISTRY, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?
Ooh! Devil's food cake with espresso frosting. I'd call it "No Rest for the Wicked."
Website / Twitter
If you care to know the usual, I was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. I currently live in the Sonoran Desert with The Other Lamm, three furry creatures (only one of which is an honorary dragon), and a variety of musical instruments. I write for the love of storytelling. I’m addicted to fantasy, ghost stories, and anything with just the right amount of eerie romance.
Win an ebook copy of Chemistry!
Jodi Lamm has generously offered an ebook copy of her book to give away to one winner...
-Open to anyone who can read ebooks
-will run 4/15 - 4/21
-must be 13+, one main entry per person
-winner will be emailed and must claim prize within 48 hours
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