Kathie: Hi Jaime, and welcome to Fast Forward Friday. I just finished your middle-grade debut novel, HOPE SPRINGS, which comes out August 10th from Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, and it was fantastic! I think young readers will love this story, especially those who know what it’s like to move a lot and search for the “perfect” place to call home. Can you tell us about your book, please?
Jaime: Thank you so much for having me, Kathie. And thank you for your kind words about my book. HOPE SPRINGS is about 11 year-old Jubilee and her grandmother Nan. They live by a set of Relocation Rules meant to help them find their perfect place. But Jubilee starts to feel that their number one rule- just the two of them is all they need- leaves them a little too close to alone. After she convinces Nan to move to the small town of Hope Springs, Texas, Jubilee begins to think maybe she’s found the place she’s been searching for, but it’ll take quite a bit to make Nan feel the same way.
Kathie: Jubilee lives with Nan, and instead of working through hard things, they usually pick up and move. Now Jubilee is making attachments in Hope Springs and breaking the Relocation Rules. Did you move a lot as a child or stay in one place, and how did that affect your perspective writing this story?
Jaime: I never moved as a kid! I was born and raised in a tiny rural town, but moved to Brooklyn after college. Then as a young adult I did quite a bit of moving from one apartment to the next, and didn’t expect to feel as homesick as I did. One of the unique things about living in a very small town is that everyone knows each other; that can be a mixed blessing, but it makes it almost impossible not to be connected to the community. And that’s what I thought would speak most to Jubilee- connection.
Kathie: I think Abby was my favourite character; I loved how Jubilee didn’t have a choice but to be her friend and be welcomed into her family. Which character are you most like, and what appealed to you about telling Jubilee’s story?
Jaime: Oh my goodness, this is a tough question! I love Abby too, but I’m honestly not sure which character I’m most like. I wrote a draft of this story after my very young family outgrew the first apartment I thought of as home other than my hometown. We searched and searched for our next perfect place, and ended up leaving Brooklyn and relocating to the suburbs.
It took me quite a while to settle into our new town, and I did a lot of thinking about how little a house has to do with the feeling of home. I guess in that way, I’m like Jubilee. I do think my household is like Abby’s, always loud and messy, but a welcoming loud mess…I hope!
Kathie: I fell in love with Hope Springs for its setting and its people. Was it inspired by a place you lived or visited?
Jaime: Yes! Hope Springs is based on the small town I grew up in called Antlers tucked down in the southeast corner of Oklahoma. And just like Hope Springs, there was one stop light in the whole county. My dad and my grandfather worked together at Berry Drug Store on Main Street, and a few blocks in either direction at the stoplight’s intersection made up the entire downtown.
Both sets of my grandparents lived there too. In fact, for a while, my maternal grandmother, my great aunt, my aunt, and my family all lived down the same country road. When I think of home, I normally think of there-not our house, but that stretch of road with its horse pastures and rolling hills. It was called Red Hill Road, and that’s where I set up Nan and Jubilee in a rental house right next to a murky pond, very much like the one by my grandmother’s house when I was eleven.
Kathie: This is a character-driven novel with the themes of family, community, friendship, and belonging that run strongly through it. Where do you consider “home” to be, and what qualities make it so for you?
Jaime: I think maybe what makes a home is slightly different for everyone. For me, home is wherever a person feels loved and supported enough to take risks and pursue what might seem like unattainable goals, a place filled with the people that make you feel more like yourself when you’re there than when you’re not.
Kathie: What have you learned during your debut year that you’ll definitely use moving forward with your writing career?
Jaime: I’ve made plenty of mistakes during my publishing journey, but if it weren’t for my fellow 2021 debut writers, the 21nders, I would’ve made a ton more. So, I think sharing experiences and having a support network of fellow writers going through similar publishing hurdles is really important. Also, writing can be lonesome but connecting with teachers, librarians, and other writers makes it less so. I think like Jubilee and Nan I’ve learned that going it alone, or even close to alone, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Kathie: Are you working on another writing project right now?
Jaime: Yes! I have another middle grade contemporary scheduled to come out in Fall of 2022. I’m really excited about it and couldn’t be happier to be working on another book with Sam Gentry, my wonderful editor at Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
Kathie: Where can we go to find out more about you and your writing?
Kathie: Thanks for joining me on Fast Forward Friday today, Jaime, and I hope young readers love Jubilee’s story as much as I did.
Jaime: Oh, thank you so much! This has been a ton of fun. One of the things I have loved most about this whole debut process is connecting to other people who love middle grade as much as I do. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my book. I truly hope that readers will find some comfort in Hope Springs, and I’m thrilled you enjoyed your time there!
Jaime Berry is a native of rural Oklahoma and a former New York City public school teacher. After years with two small boys in a too-small Brooklyn apartment, Jaime and her husband moved to the wilds of suburban New Jersey and added another boy and a dog to the mix. Hope Springs is Jaime’s debut novel.