TTBF Q&A 2019: Author Joelle Charbonneau

Joelle Charbonneau interview graphic

A #TTBF Q&A with Author Joelle Charbonneau

What is the most adventurous thing you’ve eaten?

My son and husband’s Mother’s Day Breakfast cooking.  Trust me—eggs made with vanilla and who knows what other spices is a culinary adventure that wild boar and escargot can’t hope to rival. 

Assuming all your loved ones and pets are safe, what would you save in a fire?

Hmmm…well, my guess is my husband would be making me help carry his 6 saxophones out of harm’s way and the 11 year old would want assistance with his bass, banjo and ukulele. But if we got all of those things out and I got to rescue something of my own I would grab the Cubs home jersey my parents gave me back in 1999 and that I wore the night the Cubs won the World Series.  It was like my dad was with me when I watched that final out and is still there every time I put it on.

You have trained as an opera singer. What do you think great opera and great YA have in common, if anything? 

Whenever I hear friends talk about opera, it sounds as if they think it was created for certain people who appreciate a specific type of cultural experience.   But opera was created for and is intended to be viewed by everyone.  Some of the greatest operas were written to be entertainment for the masses and seeing those shows were not only fun, but an important shared experience. Like opera, YA is often perceived by people as books written for a specific group, and as a whole aren’t really meant for a broader audience. And yet, while teens are at the heart of YA novels, the themes are meant for everyone to experience.  

Oh -and there is a ton of drama and romance and death in opera and YA. In my mind—those are good reasons to dive into both.

Verify delves into very timely topics of trust in government and the power of truth. What do you hope readers take away from this story? 

Out of all the topics I’ve written about, VERIFY’s story is the most important.   I think we all need to look at the power words have and the danger of believing what we assume or are told is true instead of verifying facts for ourselves. It is my greatest hope that readers will realize believing things because it confirms what we want to think as opposed to doing the uncomfortable work of looking for what is real and changing our thinking is dangerous.   Words have power—often more than we understand.  

Are you someone who tries to root out the truth in real life (either on large or small scales)? 

I think you are trying to ask if I am annoying.  Yep!  If you post a quote online or share a meme—I’m the girl who will fact check it because I believe that there is no big or small truth. All facts matter.  I remember fact checking a quote someone shared online. It was a quote that has on a number of posters and then memes throughout the years been attributed to Thomas Jefferson, but that researchers have proven was not part of writings or documented speeches.   When I pointed out that the quote wasn’t real, someone told me it shouldn’t matter if the quote was correctly attributed because the statement was morally correct.  To me, it does matter.

It matters a great deal because attributing the quote to Thomas Jefferson turns a statement of opinion into something that too many will have more import.   Facts matter.  We can disagree about what those facts mean, but when you ignore the truth when it serves a purpose, I am going to probably fight with you about it—even if I agree with the points you are trying to make.   In addition to memes and quotes, you’ll find me fact checking political debates (this is why I learned how the poverty rate is calculated in the US—which BTW is totally bonkers), getting annoyed with poorly sourced news articles and desperately tweeting that facts need to matter.

Oh – and I am guessing all of this is why I turn the same color as my hair when I try to lie.  This is why I will never play poker professionally.

What are your best strategies for sorting through all the noise in our media saturated world?

Kitten videos and cute baby otter pictures rank high on the strategy list.  So do copious amounts of buttered popcorn and Skittles.  You think I jest, but those things are important.  With the media saturation we are facing every day—and so much of it unpleasant or combative— means that we are paying attention to a lot of the surface noise.  I ignore the controversy of the day as much as possible (unless it involves the Chicago Cubs and then I am totally dialed in) and while I am on social media, I limit the time I spend there and try to spend more of it reading from a variety of sources I find useful. If there is something I am missing, more often than not the teens on tour stops and school visits will let me know.

If you could choose three books to include on our official “Read Everything” book list for 2019, what would they be? What flowers would you pair each of those books with?

Otherwood by Pete Hautman   – Daisy – a simple flower that we often take for granted.

It is an amazing story of how lies divide people and can alter our worlds.  It is technically a middle grade story, but should be read by people of all ages.

The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Alison Weir – The White Rose of the Tudors!

History is often distilled to names and dates.  The best historical fiction takes what are dry facts and uses that as a skeleton to bring the people and their actions to life.  

This is one of the first I read years ago that made me jump with both feet back into history –no longer looking at the people as names on a page, but as passionate, and often seriously crazy individuals.

Catch you later, traitor  – Avi –  Lily of the Valley – a pretty, typically seen flower with a lovely fragrance that is also incredibly poisonous.

A story set in McCarthy era Brooklyn where a boy has to learn the truth about his family’s past and discovers how it feels to be judged by others who without facts have decided what is true.  And there is baseball!