Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Julie Buxbaum (Tell Me Three Things) on Coffee and Music

Tell Me Three Things by Julie Buxbaun
April 2016

What if the person you need the most is someone you’ve never met?

Julie Buxbaum mixes comedy and tragedy, love and loss, pain and elation, in her debut YA novel whose characters will come to feel like friends. Tell Me Three Things will appeal to fans of Rainbow Rowell, Jennifer Niven, and E. Lockhart. 
Everything about Jessie is wrong. At least, that’s what it feels like during her first week at her new ultra-intimidating prep school in Los Angeles. Just when she’s thinking about hightailing it back to Chicago—the closest place she has to something like home—she gets an email from a person calling themselves Somebody/Nobody (SN for short), offering to help her navigate the wilds of Wood Valley High School. Is it an elaborate hoax? Or can she rely on SN for some much-needed help?

The thing is, Jessie does need help. It’s been barely two years since her mother’s death, and because her father eloped with a woman he met online, Jessie has been forced to move across the country to live in LA with her stepmonster and her pretentious teenage son.

In a leap of faith—or an act of complete desperation—Jessie begins to rely on SN, and SN quickly becomes her lifeline and closest ally. Jessie can’t help wanting to meet SN in person. But are some mysteries better left unsolved?


Hello, darling! I thought wed begin with a little about you and then a little about your book.

How do you take your coffee? Personally, I think you can tell a whole bunch about a person by how they like their coffee made.

Totally agree. Honestly? Just a splash of coconut milk. But I was tempted to lie on this one, because this makes me sound super fussy and Im not. Secretly, I’m a half-and-half and two large scoops of sugar type of person who was just born with the wrong metabolism.

Describe yourself in 3 songs. Why did you pick those? Do any of these songs play a part in your writing?
Anna Begins (Counting Crows): Theres this great line—“every time she sneezes I believe its love”—and its just such a romantic and gushy song, but also so full of a fear of commitment and for a long time I was like that: Just a huge terrified romantic.
Blackbird  (The Beatles): No idea why, but I find this song deeply comforting. Something so calming and pedestrian about it.
The Book of Love: (I think this was originally by The Magnetic Fields but I happen to love the Steve Goldberg version.) Anyhow, it starts “The book of love is long and boring. No one can lift the damn thing. Its full of charts and facts and figures…” If Anna Begins represents who I was when I was younger, this song is who I am now. Still a romantic, but I now find romance in more mundane things. Theres a line I love it when you read to me. You can read me anything. And thats how I feel about my husband. Theres romance when we are talking about incredible boring things, like whether my daughter did her math homework. But he can read me anything. He really can.

What 3 books would you take with you on your Save the World rampage? 
1. The Secret Garden because this book has seen me through many a hard time.
2. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, which is so melodic and beautifully written and sort of like reading a novel length poem. It’s a masterpiece.
3.Wonder by R.J. Palacio, which is heartbreaking and charming and an exercise in empathy, as all the best books are.


What are 3 songs that describe Jessie?
Royal (Lorde): I think this song perfectly describes how Jessie feels at her new school. She’s a normal girl stuck in an upside-down fancypants world. (“And we'll never be royals/It don't run in our blood/That kind of luxe just ain't for us/We crave a different kind of love)
Carry On (Fun): This seems as good an anthem as any for someone who is grieving and trying to pick themselves back up. She has no choice, but to, you know, ahem…carry on. (“I’ve closed enough windows to know you can never look back. If you're lost and alone. Or you're sinking like a stone. Carry on. May your past be the sound of your feet upon the ground. Carry on.”)
When You Were Young (The Killers): I picture Jessie lying down on her new bed, with headphones, listening to this song on repeat. I imagine Oville sounding a little bit like The Killers, actually. (“And sometimes you close your eyes and see the place where you used to live when you were young.”)

What are 3 songs that describe S/N?
Under The Bridge (Red Hot Chili Peppers): Actually, pretty much any Chili Peppers. SN is SoCal through and through. (“Sometimes I feel like I don't have a partner. Sometimes I feel like my only friend is the city I live in. The city of angels Lonely as I am. Together we cry.”)
Fake Plastic Trees (Radiohead):  I’ll let the lyrics speak for themselves on this one. (“But I can't help the feeling I could blow through the ceiling. If I just turn and run. And it wears me out, it wears me out. It wears me out, it wears me out. If I could be who you wanted. If I could be who you wanted all the time, all the time.)
Hallelujah (Jeff Buckley version): A broken song for a broken person. (“And it's not a cry that you hear at night. It’s not somebody who's seen the light. It’s a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah.”)

What do you want a reader to get from reading TELL ME THREE THINGS?
Oh man, this is always a tough question, because I like to think of the reader’s experience as being something terribly personal and not at all dictated by me.  That being said, I hope that people realize that there are many layers to the book, and that they take pleasure in unpeeling them. On the surface, TELL ME THREE THINGS is a love story, but it also delves into heavier issues like loss and grief. If there is even just one person out there who reads the book and takes comfort from seeing their own feelings and experiences echoed in some way by Jessie’s, I’ll be happy.

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