Wednesday, May 16, 2012

NARC, by Crissa-Jean Chappell

Crissa-Jean Chappell wrote the award-winning YA book TOTAL CONSTANT ORDER. This coming August will mark the debut of her her second book, NARC. I chose to interview Crissa based on NARC's incredibly intriguing premise (especially the opening line!):

NARC (Synopsis from Goodreads)

"You're going to hate me forever when you learn my secret."

Seventeen-year-old stoner Aaron Foster was offered a choice: go to jail or turn undercover narc to find the dealer who's funneling drugs into Miami's Palm Hammock High School. But Aaron has never been good at getting close to people. He's human wallpaper, a stoner wastecase who's obsessed with video games and street magic.

With a cop from Narcotics breathing down his neck, Aaron gets himself invited to parties where the deals go down. To get close to the school's biggest players, Aaron lies to everyone--most of all, the cute but troubled Morgan Baskin. With the Everglades party on Halloween night--and a planned drug bust there--just days away, Aaron realizes that he's falling hard for Morgan . . . and trying to protect her could cost him everything.


Crissa's answers to my questions are below:

What made you decide to pursue writing, and where do you draw inspiration for your stories?

When I was little, I used to steal my dad’s pen out of his pocket. I’d try to “draw” the story on notebook paper (stapled backwards to make a “book”). Today I still begin every new story with doodles. As I sketch, I think about the characters and listen to their voices.

Inspiration strikes in unlikely places: riding my bike and finding a Santeria statue in the woods, the old hermit’s chimney that sunk into Biscayne Bay, the suburban house with an air boat rusting in the backyard. Miami is filled with ghosts and secrets.

Great idea for character development--I'd try that too if I could draw! 
NARC has a very unique premise--where the idea for the book come from and what do you want readers to take away when they're finished reading it?

Growing up in South Florida, I heard stories about narcs planted in schools. I was drawn to the idea of double identities. However, in my book, the main character is not an undercover cop. He’s just Aaron Foster, “human wallpaper,” a seventeen-year-old boy who has always been on the fringe of the social scene. Now he’s in his senior year of high school. He is given a chance to fit in (by faking his way into parties and pretending to be more extroverted). He grows to like this new persona. Unfortunately, it comes with a price.

School often feels like a battleground. Aaron believes that everybody is wearing a mask. As he grows closer to Morgan and Skully, he learns that the popular girls are sometimes the loneliest of all.

I love how Aaron's character develops--a great way to show the dangers of assumptions and stereotypes.
You wrote a chapter in DEAR BULLY (2011, HarperTeen).  What do you want others to learn from your bullying experience? Did it influence your writing in any way?

 I felt a lot like Aaron, the shy kid who hid in the library. My way of coping was to look inward for answers. I spent a lot of time observing people and scribbling notes in class. I promised myself that I would write about these experiences…and I did. It’s all about finding a way to shield yourself from the noise. For me, the escape was in writing.

What a great way to describe the microcosm of high school: noise. I'm sure your teenage readers feel the same way!
What other projects are you currently working on?

 Right now I’m working on more YA novels set in Florida. I’m often disappointed by the way my city is represented in movies and TV. It usually looks nothing like the place where I climbed banyan trees and hid from wild boars. I want to keep telling stories about kids who are on the outside. They’re the ones launching firecrackers on the rooftop, just waiting for somebody to listen.

For more information about Crissa and her books, go to

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