Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Memories of High School You - Jeanne Ryan

As a young adult writer, the foundation for most of my writing starts with my own teenage experience.  Times, fashion and music have changed but that overall quest-for-self is still the same.  So in that spirt, I share these bi-monthly interviews:  Memories of High School You.  If you're interested in participating just drop me a line in the comments.
Jeanne's Debut Cover - Click here for Goodreads information

This week I'm so excited to interview Jeanne Ryan, author of the 2012 debut, NERVE. Jeanne is a member of my online crit group, an active blueboarder, and a member of our #wipmadness crew on Twitter. She has an insightful eye as a critique partner and always has excellent chapters for us to read. So without further ado, please meet high school Jeanne!
Jeanne! You still look the same!

Tell us about your high school, public or private, size, demographic, location?
I attended three schools my freshman year, beginning with an American school in Seoul and finally landing in a large suburban school outside of Detroit. It was a jarring transition since the overseas school was very well integrated and diverse, while the Michigan school of about 2000 kids was almost 100% white and very preppy. 

Were there cliques at your high school?  What were they?  Who did you hang with?
Yeah, we had the usual suspects, Jocks, Burnouts, Brains, and everything in between. I mostly hung out with kids from choir, which is odd considering I don’t sing well. But I liked theater and figured that learning to sing would help. (Note, unlike with my writing, dedicated practice did not yield dramatic results.)
Practicing her singing.

Did you have a memorable teacher?  Good or bad?  How did they influence you?
My most memorable teacher was Mr. Button, who taught journalism. I was a kid who mostly went under the radar. But when I missed the deadline to apply for a position on our award-winning paper, he pulled me aside for a little talk about my writing ability, and then accepted me onto the staff without an application. It was the first time I felt “seen” by a teacher for something positive. To me, that "seeing" of students is the crux of being a good teacher, especially at the high school level.

Did you have an inkling as a teenager that you would become a writer?
I always had in the back of my mind that I wanted to write, but it took me a long time to become serious about it. Oddly, the only other occasions when I was singled out in school were from writing professors in college. You think I would’ve taken the hint, but I travelled many detours before rediscovering my passion for writing during a period of crisis.

What book had the biggest impact on you as a high school student?  How?
Mostly I read whatever my mom had around house—historical fiction, suspense, women’s drama (now, my own kid borrows from my YA collection—ha!). One book I discovered on my own and loved was House of Stairs by William Sleater. It’s about a group of teens who find themselves in a mysterious environment of seemingly endless flights of stairs that don’t lead anywhere. It’s a fascinating story of mind control whose message has stuck with me many years later. Oooh, thanks! One for the TBR pile.

What band could you not get enough of in high school?  Were you an album or a CD kid?  Cover art you remember?
Hmm, dating myself here, but I liked Queen and David Bowie. I was partial to a rock station in Detroit which had a brainy, fun DJ, who also happened to give a talk I attended for female journalism students. I was shocked a decade later, after I moved back to the states from Europe, to discover that that same DJ had relocated to New York and become a huge shock jock—Howard Stern. Wow, that's really interesting, sounds like he changed a lot.

What was the fashion rage - the one article of clothing you either got, or didn’t get that rocked your world?
I work a lot of scarves, eye shadow and earrings, none of which I wear today. I loved my black Mary-Janes and still love Mary-Janes, even though my husband teases me when I wear them. 

What hobbies, activities, sports were you involved in that influence your writing today?
I ran track, played piano, did some local theater, and painted god-awful pictures. They didn’t influence my writing much except to provide telling details when I have a character who does any of those things, e.g., the main character of my novel NERVE works on the theater crew.

Good kid or wild child or a little of both?  Details? (Mwaahaa)
Mostly a good kid, which meant that when I wasn’t, no one suspected anything. 

Did you have a favorite phrase or slang word?
If I did, I don’t remember it. I probably said ‘actually’ way too often. Still do, actually.

If you could say one thing to your high school you, what would you say?
Speak up for yourself! Especially around the mean kids. 

Thinking of the characters you’ve written, is there one who embodies more of your high school self than others? What attributes do you have in common? Differences?
Yes, the character in my WIP, a brainy girl who’s terribly shy and decides to do something drastic about it. Well, since I "know" the character of which you speak, this is extra special that you joined us here - two thumbs up for coming out of your shy shell and sharing your teen experience.

How do we find you now? 
Most of the usual places:
Thanks, Jaye! Thanks for stopping by!


  1. Nice interview. I especially liked the part about teachers seeing things in their students and helping those students see things in themselves. And Howard Stern? That must have been a change. Looking forward to the book coming out!

  2. Jeanne is my new critique partner, so this was a fun way to get to know more about her. I love the choir thing because I was in choir and hated singing in public. Haha!

    I would love to participate in one of these interviews. (

  3. Great interview! Thanks for sharing, Jeanne. So looking forward to reading NERVE. And I'm happy to know you're also a piano-track-theatre person.

  4. Thanks for including me on your site, Jaye!

    p.s. Angelina - If only I'd channeled that energy into writing sooner! :)

  5. It was great to have you chime in, Jeanne!

    Michelle, I'll shoot you an e-mail.

  6. I enjoyed the interview, Jaye and Jeanne. Actually, I enjoy all these type of interviews. They show there is so much more to us than just writing.

  7. Awesome! I really enjoyed this interview. **sigh** Another book (soon!) to add to my TBR list. That pile just keeps growing!

  8. Such fun! I love people's real life stories as much as their written/made-up ones. Thanks so much for sharing!

    The best to you, Jeanne, with your debut!

  9. Excellent interview, ladies! I love these installments... Fun to realize how much we've all changed, and how much we've all stayed the same!

  10. I enjoy blog interviews. Thank you both. :)

  11. What fun to see a little behind your stories :) Great interview!

  12. Great idea for a blog series. Fabulous insights. Thanks!


Hey, do you ever wonder why they call it 'your two cents?'