Today is World Cancer Day, devoted to raising awareness of the disease and supporting those individuals and their families who are facing it head on. And that’s exactly what MUF contributor, Andrea Pyros, has done with her newly released novel, Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas. We’re pleased to interview Andrea and to shine a light on this heartfelt and important book, especially today:
Twelve-year-old Josephine has a lot on her plate―best friend issues, first crush issues, divorced parent issues, twin brother issues . . . and then her mom hits her with news that shakes her to her core: a breast cancer diagnosis. Josephine doesn’t want anyone to know―not even her best friend. Sharing the news means it’s actually real, and that’s something she’s not ready to face. Plus it would mean dealing with the stares―and pity―of her classmates. She got enough of that when her parents split up. Unfortunately for Josephine, her twin brother, Chance, doesn’t feel the same way. And when Chance dyes his hair pink to support his mom, the cat is out of the bag. Suddenly Josephine has to rethink her priorities. Does getting an invite to the party of the year matter when your mom is sick? And what if it does matter? Does that make her a monster?
Andrea Pyros is the author My Year of Epic Rock, which was called “a perfect read for anyone who feels BFF-challenged” by Booklist and “a charming addition to upper elementary and middle school collections” by School Library Journal. Andrea has written extensively for young adults, starting with her stint as co-founder of the pop culture website Girls on Film and then as a senior-level editor at a variety of teen magazines. A native of New York City, Andrea now lives in New York’s Hudson Valley with her husband and their two children. For more information, visit her at www.andreapyros.com.
Read the interview and scroll down to enter the Rafflecopter widget below for a chance to win a signed copy of Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas. Good luck! (This giveaway is only available in the United States.)
Why was it so important to you to write a book about cancer?
When I was in sixth grade, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. On top of feeling worried for her and scared about what might happen to me if something happened to her, I also felt guilty, because I still had regular middle school kid concerns, like about friends and crushes and school. That seemed wrong, somehow. I wrote Pink Hair… because I wanted kids like me to know it’s totally normal to still think about themselves when a loved one is sick. Life keeps going!
Aside from your own experiences in middle school, was there anything else that sparked the idea for Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas?
The idea was born when I saw an article about a student who’d dyed his hair pink in honor of his mother’s breast cancer diagnosis and his school suspended him. I was shocked. Like, here’s someone coping with a parent’s illness and trying to do something positive and he was being punished for it. I was nowhere as brave as this kid. When my mother got sick I was embarrassed to talk about it and didn’t want people to know. That’s why I gave Josephine a twin brother who copes in a vastly different way than she does to their mother’s news—none of us deal in the exact same way when facing a hard time.
What kind of research did you have to do for the book?
I drew quite a bit on my own experience as a child and my memories of my mother’s surgery, and how scary that time was for her and for me. I also spoke with a breast cancer surgeon to learn more about how breast cancer is treated today, compared to back in the 80s. Things have changed quite a bit in how we speak about and understand cancer.
What was your greatest challenge in writing this story of Josephine?
Josephine is a confusing and messy person. She loves her mom and twin brother, but she’s also mad at them and frustrated, and doesn’t always behave the “right” way with them. I wanted to make her real and human, but it’s hard when your main character sometimes does things you don’t approve of.
Have you ever dyed your hair pink?
I WISH! I’ve been thinking about it, but I’m intimated by the upkeep. 🙂
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process with this book?
Sure! I had a writing group, which is a fantastic motivator. We’d meet every other week and share pages and give each other feedback on our projects. Their notes really helped, as did the enforced deadlines, because otherwise it’s too easy for my fiction writing to get pushed to the side by other job projects, time with my family, or just goofing off. I worked on the first draft with them, and then wrote the first revision with my writing group, as well.
What are some of your favorite writing tips?
My writing tips that work for me (but may not work for you, so take these with a grain of salt): 1) When I’m writing, I block social media on my computer so I’m not distracted quite so easily. 2) I remind myself that a first draft is going to sound clunky and stilted. Don’t panic, it’s going to take shape over time! 3) People write in all sorts of ways—between work and family obligations, or they write during lunch breaks or just on weekends or for thirty minutes in the morning. Whatever it is you’re doing to get words onto paper, you do you. There’s no wrong way to write.
Thanks so much, Andrea, for taking the time out to share a bit about Pink Hair and Other Terrible Ideas!