Interview with Joelle Charbonneau author of Independent Study

Parajunkee: Welcome to Parajunkee’s View Joelle, first I have to say I’m a HUGE fan. THE TESTING was one of my favorite reads of 2013. And of course Happy Release Day! I know you have published a good amount of books in your career as an author, but do you still feel the release day excitement?

The Testing

The Testing (The Testing #1)
by Joelle Charbonneau

Joelle: Each release day is filled with huge amounts of excitement, adrenaline and nausea.  In fact, I have to admit that the more books I publish, the more nervous I get as release day approaches.  It isn’t uncommon to find me reading or watching television most of the night before pub day because I can’t sleep.  If I keep publishing, it might end up that I don’t sleep for days leading up to a launch.  Yikes!  Maybe I’m in the wrong business!

Parajunkee: For my own selfish reasons, I am also a fan of the fact that the trilogy has a new book out every 6 months, but do you feel rushed with the heightened timeline?

Joelle: The compressed publication schedule was a real challenge.  One that I am so glad I accepted because it meant that I had all three books written before The Testing hit shelves.   It’s probably a bit selfish, but I loved feeling like the characters and their journeys were mine and mine alone as I wrote.  There were no expectations for what they might do or the choices they might make.  I just got to follow the story as it unfolded for me.  That was a luxury few authors who write trilogies get to experience.  And I would totally do it again.  

Parajunkee:  What inspired you to publish a young adult trilogy in the dystopian genre?

Joelle: It probably sounds strange, but I never intended to write a young adult trilogy or a dystopian book.  In fact, when I got the idea for The Testing, I really wanted to set the series in modern day.  But I couldn’t find a way to make our current society and education system (as crazy as it might be) accept the testing structure I wanted to create.  So I had to search for a time where picking the wrong leader could have catastrophic consequences and therefore allow a system like The Testing, which puts future leaders through an extreme process to measure their decision-making abilities and their character.  The whole series was conceived as a thriller, which happened to have a teen at the heart of the story…which, of course, made it a young adult book.  Who knew?!?

Parajunkee: What other books have inspired you to write within this genre?

Joelle: I adore thrillers and I have always loved science fiction and dystopian books.  One of my favorite stories growing up was Stephen King’s The Running Man.  So, I guess I have to say that it was my love of that book and the reading of other novels like Battle Royale, Clockwork Orange, Lord of the Flies and The Hunger Games that made me want to explore my own dystopian world.

Parajunkee: What would you say is the defining aspect of your series THE TESTING?

Joelle: I think the defining aspect is the question – what makes a leader?  Is it a test that you can pass?  Is it an election or a government appointment or something more?  At least, that was the defining question for me as I wrote the series and I’m not sure readers will all come to the same conclusions that I did.

Parajunkee: I found some of the scenes within THE TESTING to be quite frightening, do you have to reign yourself in to keep it more geared for young adults?

Joelle: Since I didn’t completely understand that I was writing a young adult book, I never considered reigning in the story.  Of course, now I find myself constantly amazed to see The Testing Trilogy books listed in the same catalogue as Curious George.  The world is often a strange and wonderful place.

Parajunkee: What I found most fascinating about your series was the world that you created, the United Commonwealth and the city states, what inspired you to create this world? Did you find any inspiration in today’s society?

Joelle: The United Commonwealth was conceived not from today’s society, but from the founding fathers of The United States.  I looked at how they grew a country – by establishing colonies and sculpting the shape of the country one area at a time.  To me, it was the most logical way to build a society from the ground up.  And in the case of The Testing, the United Commonweath isn’t just rebuilding a society, they are piece by piece fixing the world that was corrupted and broken during world wars.  I used the inspiration of the original colonies and build the world from there.  

Parajunkee:  What would you like your readers to understand about your trilogy? Is there something that you would like to them to feel, or experience while reading your book?

Joelle: Wow…that’s a wonderful question.  I wish I had an equally fabulous answer.  I guess I would like readers to see that very little in life is black and white.  There are lots of shades of gray.  And many things that are bad or seem evil might not have started off that way.  Often the worst things in life are started with the best of intentions.  And I really hope readers enjoy taking this journey with Cia.  I am  so honored by each reader who picks up these books and takes the ride.

Thank you Joelle! I can’t wait to read more from the series!

About the Author:

Independent Study, Interview with the authorEver since I can remember I loved telling stories. As I grew up, I started performing those stories on the stage. Creating vivid characters and singing wonderfully complex songs were my passion. I graduated from Millikin University with a Bachelors Degree in Vocal Performance and then continued onto DePaul University for my Masters Degree in Opera Performance. From there I went onto perform across the Chicagoland area in a variety of Operas, Operettas and Musicals. I also started teaching acting classes and private voice lessons to pass my passion along to the next generation.

Not exactly the path you’d expect a writer to take.

I’d never dreamed of writing a novel. But I loved to read. Then one day I had an idea and I started to write. I found my passion for creating characters lived on the page as well as the stage. It is my hope that the characters I’ve created resonate with you and make you smile.

I still teach voice lessons and sing for the occasional professional event. But the rest of my time is spent with my husband and son while dreaming up new and interesting stories. I hope that someday I hear yours.

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Independent Study

Independent Study – Releasing January 7th

In the series debut The Testing, sixteen-year-old Cia Vale was chosen by the United Commonwealth government as one of the best and brightest graduates of all the colonies . . . a promising leader in the effort to revitalize postwar civilization. In Independent Study, Cia is a freshman at the University in Tosu City with her hometown sweetheart, Tomas—and though the government has tried to erase her memory of the brutal horrors of The Testing, Cia remembers. Her attempts to expose the ugly truth behind the government’s murderous programs put her—and her loved ones—in a world of danger. But the future of the Commonwealth depends on her.

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