Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Where Do Ideas Come From. . . Author Jan Cheripko shares

Dear Friends,

Please welcome my long time friend, Author Jan Cheripko! In this post, he shares about the spectrum of ideas and experiences that ultimately became his book RAT. To celebrate the Holiday season, Jan is generously donating a copy of his book. You'll find details for a chance to win an autographed copy at the end of the post!


Jan Cheripko in his backyard
Jan Cheripko has authored seven books, including three award-winning young adult novels. His works focus on choices that people make and how those decisions affect their lives and the people and events surrounding them. In Imitate the Tiger, a football player struggles with the beginning stages of alcoholism. In Rat, main character, Jeremy Chandler testifies in court against a popular coach whom he has seen molesting a cheerleader. Jeremy then has to face the wrath of the basketball team. sun moon stars rain is a multi-layered tale of love, addiction, power, and redemption.

Jan also taught English and philosophy at a residential school for at-risk teens in upstate New York. He is the past assistant to the publisher of Boyds Mills Press and currently serves as a consultant to the Highlights Foundation where he occasionally leads workshops for writers. He and his wife, Valray, reside in Bethany, Pennsylvania, with their adopted dog, Max, and their cat, Smokey, who adopted them. Jan is a member of the Bethany Borough Council and the Bethany Public Library Board of Directors.

You can learn more about Jan and his work at:   http://jancher.wix.com/jancheripko


Grade 7 Up-This compelling novel begins with Jeremy Chandler, the narrator of the story, testifying against his school's basketball coach, whom he saw trying to rape a cheerleader. At his tiny high school in upstate New York, the teen is not hailed as a hero for his actions: many of his classmates treat him with anger and cruelty. He feels particularly vulnerable because he was born with a withered arm, and even though he loves basketball, he can only be the team manager. The new, no-nonsense coach soon sets the team on a winning course, but the focus of this novel is not solely on sports. Instead, much of it is about Jeremy's efforts to navigate his way through life's moral choices, to better understand other people, and to even come to grips with death. This is a novel that doesn't shy away from exploring the characters' spiritual sides. . . .  the story is filled with emotional power, told through a skillful first-person narration. SLJ--*Todd Morning, Schaumburg Township Public Library, IL*

 

THOUGHTS ON THE CREATION OF RAT by Jan Cheripko

As far as I know there’s no formula for identifying experiences, immediately categorizing them, and shoving them into a file that says: ‘To be used in a novel about basketball.’ On the other hand, I do think that if I pay attention to the world around me, interesting events, people, and ideas present themselves, and they sit there waiting to be used. Such was the case with Rat.

The first occurred a long time ago when I was an English teacher in Waterloo, New York. I attended a basketball game between Waterloo and Geneva, and I was so impressed by the half-time show put on by the Geneva cheerleaders that I actually thought that somehow I should try to capture what I had seen in a story. Now, I had not even started to even think about writing my first novel at that time, but there it sat. Eventually the cheerleaders that I watched that evening morphed into a secondary, yet crucial, part of Rat, revolving around Cassandra Diaz, a beautiful Latino girl.

Another experience that resonated was watching a particular coach of an area basketball team when I was working as a sports writer for the Sullivan County Democrat, in rural New York. I had coached junior high basketball myself at Waterloo, and my short coaching career plus my sports writing job exposed me to some very good and some very bad coaches. One particular coach got my attention because he was so very bad. And, almost as a way to get even with watching a bad coach, I created the creep that attacked Cassandra at the beginning of the novel.

Jeremy Chandler is very loosely based on an incredibly wonderful woman named, Andrea Bown. Andrea was born with severe physical handicaps that confined her to a wheelchair, yet she went on to earn a master’s degree in English, and has done a great deal for children’s literature. While I could never be able to tell her story, I found that I could honor her just a little by giving Jeremy a birth-defect, a withered right arm.

Simpson, the antagonist of the story, turned out to be a surprise. I gave him the name Simpson, as a nod to Bart Simpson – What would he be like as a teen? Not a particularly nice guy. But as I developed the motivation for his anger, I saw that he was deeply hurt because he had lost his mother to cancer when he was just a boy. I had originally thought that he would die, but as his story evolved, I saw that he was aching for the chance to change. He just need the right opportunity.

So the issues of ‘mother’ and ‘cancer’ began to develop, as did questions about addiction when the back story of the new basketball coach took shape. So, too, did questions about abortion, a very controversial subject, rise regarding both Jeremy’s mother and the new coach’s wife, who was pregnant, yet had cancer.

One of my most favorite characters was really just a needed bridge in the plot, but who developed into an intriguing person of his own, and that’s ‘Snore’. A misfit in the social world of basketball and cheerleaders, Snore is a DJ and lighting guy, necessary for the cheerleaders’ routines. He is liked by all, because he’s just a nice guy even though he’s on the margins of school life.

How to pull all these characters and stories together is what an author has to do. One of the cementing glues I often use is music, and in Rat, I use one of my favorite songs, “ Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher”, originally performed by Jackie Wilson. On my website I uploaded a great version of the song by Bruce Springsteen and Friends.

Hope you like the song, and I hope you like my novel.

I'm hooked. What about you? For a chance to win an autographed copy of Rat mailed directly to you from the author, simply leave a comment below. Joining my blog, sharing on Twitter or FB is appreciated, but not necessary to win. The winner will be announced on Saturday, November 14th. 

Thanks for stopping by! Please leave a comment for Jan!

25 comments:

  1. It's always fascinating to learn how a character makes the cut and then the transformation from an observation into a piece of the puzzle. thanks Jan and Clara.
    S Bloom

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    1. Thanks, Suzanne! Let's talk soon--things are happening here!

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  2. So glad to see you got your blog running again Momma Mouse! I may have to pick up Jan's books. They sound very intriguing. :)

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    1. Thanks, Son! I'm sure I can pick up Jan's books for you--no worries! ;)

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  3. I read this book and loved it. SO interesting to hear Jan's backstory about creating this book. No need to enter me in this giveaway--let someone else win it. I am a Cheripko fan and happy to see you got your blog going again too!

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  4. Thanks for stopping by, Carol! Lovely to hear that you're a fan!

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  5. i loved hearing where your stories and characters come from...sometimes i think the characters that emerge in my books are more like the people i see in my dreams. i have no idea where they come from, but there they are. and my job is to make myself acquainted with them and learn to care about them and flesh out a story about them.

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  6. Thank you, Auntie Jenni, for your very thoughtful comment. Your name in entered for the autographed book. Best wishes!

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  7. Loved reading this, Jan, and having you introduce it, Clara. It was a blast from the past! I had some good times with you two. This was an interesting behind the scenes read, Jan. Thanks for posting it, Clara! Happy Thanksgiving to both of you.

    Pat Brisson

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  8. Delighted to hear from you, Pat. Here's to old times with good friends. Happy Thanksgiving to you, too, Pat!

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  9. Jan I could almost see your past students in you character descriptions. I know I use mine. :) Great post. Thank you Jan & Clara.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Gayle! It reminds me of the saying, "Careful, or you'll end up in my novel." (Careful or not, here we come!!!)

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  10. Enjoyed this interview, Clara. Intrigued by Jan's perspective on writing and the process for Rat. Thanks to you both for sharing! :)

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    1. Thanks for stopping by, Melody! You're entered in the giveaway for Jan's book. : )

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  12. Wonderful post, Jan... and thanks for posting it Clara!

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  13. Hi Clara. Thanks for the post. Interesting to hear how Jan's story and characters evolved.

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  14. Thanks for stopping by, Janet! Hope the writing life is good in the Blackberry Patch.

    Your name is entered for the giveaway.

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  15. Great to see how Jan develops a personal relationship with each of his characters. Rat is a wonderful book.

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    1. What a thoughtful comment, Marileta! Thank you!

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  16. Jan, I like how you describe Simpson as "aching for the chance to change." In the complex and challenging world that we live in today, I think that many young people feel this way. Thank you for a great discussion of your timely book!

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Sheila!

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  17. Excellent post! Thanks for sharing your story and inspiration with us!

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