Welcome to the very first Writer Wednesday! Today I have RuthAnne Snow on the blog talking about her debut, When the Truth Unravels, the friendships and different themes in the novel, and a little bit about writing distinct voices for you writers out there!
I’m so excited for y’all to read what RuthAnne has to say and learn more about her debut! I have it on hold at my library and can’t wait to dive into this story about friendship.
And, we also have a really exciting giveaway for y’all at the end! So keep an eye out for that.
If you missed the announcement post for the Writer Wednesdays series, you can find it here. If not, read on & enjoy!
Hi RuthAnne—so excited to be able to interview you today! For readers unfamiliar with When the Truth Unravels, could you summarize your debut for us—but only using dialogue lines from inside the book? (!!!)
Oh wow. This is a fabulous question! Wish me luck, haha.
“Oh Teddy, it’s going to be such a shitshow.” “I didn’t plan prom so one of my best friends could sit home, moping about the boy next door.” “Miscommunication is not a reason to throw away one of your oldest friends.” “If I wasn’t your boyfriend, why did you come crying to me when Elin tried to kill herself?” “She needs to get back to her old routine.” “She thinks I’m mad at her.” “Where is Elin?” “You thought of everything. Reminds me of me.”
I love reading stories about really complex and meaningful friendships—it’s one of those topics that are a really big part of my life and a lot of other teens lives, and I love seeing the truthful complexity of these types of relationships. Will you tell us a little about the girls at the center of When the Truth Unravels and how they sort of “fit together”?
Absolutely! Elin and Jenna have been best friends since they were actually babies–at one point, I think it’s Elin who remarks that Jenna is the sort of friend you inherit. Ket and Rosie have been best friends since kindergarten, and Rosie’s next door neighbor Teddy joined their crew in elementary school. The five of them meet on the first day of junior high and quickly become inseparable.
Jenna and Rosie tend to be more responsible and they watch out for the others, sometimes to their own detriment. Ket is flighty and gets herself and the others into trouble, but she’s also the emotional glue of the group, the one who will reach out and try to get folks to reconcile. Elin is deeply loyal, which means she is alternatively helping Jenna and Rosie mother someone, or side-by-side with Ket getting into shenanigans. Teddy is literally their “Teddy Lawrence” (I have lots of Little Women Easter Eggs scattered throughout the book, haha)–the sort of boy who is a great friend and totally unashamed of belonging to this group of friends that is predominantly girls.
Now it’s their senior year and their group is splintering apart–first because Rosie rejected Teddy’s crush on her, seriously changing the group’s dynamic, and then because Elin attempts suicide, which is something none of the other three girls saw coming. And for various reasons, they have never really had an honest discussion about what happened and why. Rosie believes that Elin hurt herself because of her ex-boyfriend, but Rosie has a difficult time articulating herself when it comes to emotional topics because her parents have raised in a pretty toxic way. Ket believes that Elin made a rash, almost accidental decision and is fully in support of Elin’s plan to just move on like nothing ever happened. Jenna doesn’t want to talk about it at all and Teddy has not even been told. So now you have these four girls all acting like this enormous thing that just happened did not really happen, like it isn’t still bothering them deeply, and their fifth friend is completely in the dark and feeling kind of hurt and resentful because he’s effectively being iced out and he doesn’t know why.
And that is the group that is going to head to their senior prom together.
I’ve heard from some of the reviews, notably Rachel Lynn Solomon’s gushing blurb, that the message in When the Truth Unravels is really strong and prominent. The idea that you’re not alone and you are enough is something I think a lot of people need to hear—what made you choose to focus on this specifically when you were writing?
I think that is something that everyone goes through, sometimes several times, in their lives. And when you feel that way, it is so hard to have perspective. I think it’s even harder when you’re a teenager and you haven’t gotten a chance to see a wider slice of the world and had the chance to realize, “Everyone feels like they are not enough sometimes. Everyone has serious problems that they aren’t always sharing. I can share these things about myself and it will be okay.”
Elin has this problem, this “there’s something wrong with me, and I shouldn’t talk about it because it’s too weird” belief that she keeps coming back to. And to some extent, so do her friends. As close as they are, as supportive as they are, each of them is keeping secrets from the others. And it’s in finally sharing the truth that they, and their friendship, heals.
Depression is a really important topic to talk about as well, and it’s really wonderful that you’ve written this representation of it into the page with Elin. If you could talk to your characters—what is one piece of advice would you give Elin and teens like her?
Ha, I sort of did get to write that piece of advice into the book actually! (Is this a spoiler? I don’t even know.) At one point, Elin’s therapist tells her to remember that her depression is lying to her. And she doesn’t really understand what he means until the end of the novel, but when she finally gets it, it really changes her perspective on herself and her condition.
Finally—something I as a reader struggle with sometimes is a lot of points of view (I am woefully prone to distraction), but based on some of the amazing reviews, this is very much not an issue in When the Truth Unravels. How did you prevent their voices from blending together, and what suggestions would you give an author hoping to avoid this problem?
I think one of the things that most new writers find most elusive is the idea of “voice.” What is it, why do I have it/not have it, how are different character voices different from each other, etc. If you limit the concept of voice to just to the way people communicate with each other, I think you can miss a big piece, which is perspective. Jenna, Ket, Rosie, and Elin have grown up together, they talk constantly, they share inside jokes and shorthand and slang. If their “voice” was just their communication style, it would be quite similar in many ways. Don’t we all end up talking like our friends, just a little bit?
But their perspectives–all of those are different, and that characterization plays into the way they view the world and then communicate that view to the reader. So for example, Rosie is very cynical and shy but she also has an artistic way of looking at the world. The way she sees things, the way she describes them, is different than how Jenna perceives the exact same situation. Jenna is brilliant and deeply optimistic. Until the recent events in the book, Jenna had a lot of confidence in the power of hard work and authority figures and your ability to control your own destiny, and that worldview has been rocked by what happened with Elin. And then you have Ket, who is clever in a totally different way than Rosie and Jenna. Ket primarily wants to be amused by her surroundings, and as a result, she’s a very funny person who likes to find opportunities to heighten drama. She sees the darkness of the world that Rosie sees but then she can’t help but find a humorous twist on it. And Elin … well, I can’t say too much. Elin’s perspective in the book is very different than the other three.
And really, I think that’s the key–realizing the way that voice ultimately plays into characterization. And if your characters are actually different, and you have their differences clear in your head, their voices start to read differently. And then as you revise, those differences become a little more obvious and you can really play them up.
Ahh–wasn’t this great?!
I loved the response to the dialogue question a lot (although, now I’m a little scared) and hearing about the friendships in the novel just makes me want to read this even more!
To learn more about When the Truth Unravels, check out some of the sections below for more information as well as that giveaway I promised *wink wink*
Content Warnings: suicide, suicidal ideation and behaviors, unresolved trauma, brief negative references to mental health issues, discussion of coercive sexual behavior, brief references to drug use and eating disorders, underaged drinking.
About the Book
When the Truth Unravels by RuthAnne Snow
Sky Pony Press, 8 January 2019
Hardcover, 304 pages
Last month, Elin tried to kill herself.
She knows she’s lucky that her parents found her in time. Lucky to be going to prom with her three best friends, like any other teen. Like it never happened. And if she has anything to say about it, no one but her best friends will ever know it did.
Jenna, Rosie, and Ket will do anything to keep Elin’s secret—and to make sure it never happens again. That’s why they’re determined to make prom the perfect night. The night that convinces Elin that life is worth living.
Except, at prom, Elin goes missing.
Now it’s up to her friends to find her. But each of the girls has her own demons to face. Ket is being blackmailed by an ex. Rosie is falling in love for the first time. And Jenna . . .
Jenna is falling apart.
And no one, not even her best friends, knows why.
Heart-wrenching and utterly impossible to put down, When the Truth Unravels follows four friends as they confront their greatest hopes and darkest secrets in one life-changing night.
About the Author
RuthAnne Snow was born and raised in Kaysville, Utah. She was a sorority girl in college and social activities director in law school—which was a lot like being back in the sorority. She has interned for the U.S. Senate, worked on policy papers for Congress and the State Department, and once spent a year sorting through emails looking for fraud. It wasn’t nearly as fun as writing fiction. She loves travel, dogs, horror movies, and baking. Her debut contemporary YA, When the Truth Unravels, will be published by Sky Pony Press in January 2019.
When The Truth Unravels comes out on January 8th, so there’s still time to order! If you preorder or request from your library, the first 50 people will get a signed bookplate sticker they can put in their book and an art print designed by the amaazing Isabel Ibanez Davis. (Seriously, her art is GORGEOUS.)
And if 100 people enter, 4 awesome prize packs will be raffled off! You can find out more here. No purchase necessary!
And, to top things off, we have a giveaway! One lucky winner will receive a preorder of a 2019 debut (where BD ships), and one lucky winner will receive a 15 page YA or MG critique from RuthAnne! (INTL) You can enter through the Rafflecopter below, and also check out my Twitter for a giveaway tweet later today! Good luck!
Thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed RuthAnne’s responses and my questions! Make sure to reach out to RuthAnne and let her know if you liked them, as well as check my Twitter for the giveaway tweet to RT!