Title: Every Inferno
Author Name: Johanna Parkhurst
Publication Date & Length: July 24, 2014 – 180 pgs
Depressed. Defiant. Possible alcoholic. These are just a few of the terms used to describe fifteen-year-old Jacob Jasper Jones. Lately, though, JJ has a new one to add to the list: detective. He’s been having strange dreams about the fire that killed his parents ten years ago, and he thinks he finally has the clue to catching the arsonist who destroyed his family.
A murder investigation isn’t the only thing the dreams trigger for JJ. They also lead to secret meetings with his estranged sister, an unlikely connection with a doctor who lost his daughter in the fire, and a confusing friendship with McKinley, a classmate of JJ’s who seems determined to help him solve the mystery.
All JJ wants is to shake the problems that have followed him since that fire, and he’s convinced he must catch the arsonist to do it. But as JJ struggles to find the culprit, he sees there’s more than one mystery in his life he needs to solve.
A SMELL that wasn’t there before filled the bathroom.
JJ drew in a deep breath, trying to match the scent to anything that might already exist in his short memory. It was a difficult scent to describe: like pine trees, but not the real ones in his backyard. More like the smell of the stuff his father used to clean the kitchen floor.
He tried to push off the sudden sense of apprehension that filled him; who cared if someone else had also come into the restroom? This was his town, the tiny world he had spent his entire five years in, and there was a good chance he knew whoever else had just joined him.
Even if he didn’t know anyone who went around smelling like pine trees.
JJ took a few breaths and flushed the toilet, eager to get back to the movie and his parents.
As he shoved the door of the stall open, though, the scent grew stronger. The person who had brought the scent in with him—a man—was facing the wall across the room. He was wearing a backpack and hugging his arms to his chest.
“I did it… I did it,” the man whispered. “I finally did it.”
JJ moved to the sinks, more eager than ever to return to the comforting gaze of his mother. But the noise of his sneakers against the tile alerted the man to JJ’s presence, and now the stranger was turning around to face him.
It was the oddest sensation to only be able to see certain details of a person: blue jeans, a red long-sleeve shirt. And then a detail so clear it almost seemed to be the only thing JJ could see: the outline of a long and winding paintbrush, tattooed on the man’s hand, snaking down from just below his thumb to where it disappeared beneath the cuff of his shirt.
But nothing else. No other details were there. The man was faceless. The color of hair was… what was it? It was as if it had never been there.
Then JJ could see nothing, and all he could hear was the man shouting. Something about how JJ shouldn’t be there, and he couldn’t know, and it wasn’t time yet….
The pain began then. Horrible, burning, pain, and JJ knew he was screaming, but he couldn’t hear himself over the roaring in his ears. He needed to find the door, the door, where was the door—
JACOB JASPER Jones woke up sweating, twisted into a trap of sheets and blankets. He frantically cast his eyes around the walls of his bedroom, looking for anything that would remind him he was not in that restroom again. There was the Modest Mouse poster, his bookshelf, the old dresser that had once belonged to his aunt—yes, he was safe.
Safe from what? Or who?
JJ quietly wrestled with the covers, thankful that he wasn’t a screamer and didn’t seem to have woken Aunt Maggie up. If it was up to JJ, Maggie would never know that JJ was having dreams about that day again.
They’d started about a month ago. Before then JJ had never dreamed anything specific about the fire. The nightmares were always vague and mushy, filled with flames and noise and not much else.
Not like this dream. This dream was clear and specific and so real it was as though JJ was reenacting every detail from that day. Right up until the end, when the faceless man turned and everything went black.
It was so vivid that JJ was starting to think it might be more than just a dream. That it might be a memory.
- Can you describe in detail what your writing environment is like?
I love writing in a comfortable chair in my office or outdoors on my patio in the sunshine. Wherever I feel relaxed and at peace—that’s where I’m likely to do my best writing.
- Is there one of your characters that you relate to (from any of your works)? Why?
I relate strongly to Jack from Here’s to You, Zeb Pike. His desire to help others (whether they want to be helped or not) is something that resonates greatly with me. I don’t think I have half the patience that Jack does, though!
- If you couldn’t be an author, what would you do instead?
I definitely need a creative outlet of some kind, so if I had to give up writing, I’d need to replace it with something else creative. Maybe sculpture or pottery? I’m always thought it would be fun to play with clay.
- Is there anything that you learned during the writing process that you wish you had known before hand?
Beta readers make life infinitely better! I used to write in a vacuum, not showing anyone a draft until I was so deep into it that I couldn’t see the forest through the trees. Now I have a circle of fantastic beta readers who tell it to me straight when I’ve got a story line that just isn’t working AND who keep my confidence up when I’m ready to give up on writing. It’s a much happier writing life all around.
- Is there anything that you wish you could change about your book now that it is out?
The ending of Every Inferno sometimes garners criticism because the book plays with elements of the mystery genre and doesn’t follow all the traditions of the genre…which frustrates some readers. So sometimes I imagine a world where I’d written the end of the book differently. But I also write the ending the way I did for a reason, and I like the way it turned out. So I don’t think I’ll ever want to change it.
- How do you come up with new ideas for your story?
They come from all over! Often I get ideas from watching my students (I’m a teacher) or news stories I read about. I once saw YA author Gordan Korman speak, and he said the best way to imagine a new story idea is to ask yourself a “what if” question. (I.e. what if a boy started having dreams about the person who killed his parents?) So I spend a lot of time asking myself “what if” questions. Often in random places, where people then give me funny looks and wonder why I’m talking to myself.
- What’s next for you as a writer?
I just finished drafting the sequel to my first book, Here’s to You, Zeb Pike. That project’s taken me forever to finish, so I’m excited to be one step closer to a finished product.
- Where do you live? Do you think this influences how or what you write?
I live in Colorado and I grew up in Vermont, so most of my books are set in one place or the other. Both are places I know well and love, so it’s natural for me to put my characters in these settings. I do want to branch out soon and start writing into some different settings.
- What is your favorite genre outside of the one you write in? Why?
I love stories, so I’ll read in almost any genre. I just finished a spectacular fantasy novel and immediately followed it up with a romance. Next on the list is a YA sci-fi book.
- Do you have any vices? Shoes, coffee, shopping…etc?
Travel is, in some ways my worst vice. I love to travel and I’ll spend far too much money on trips…on the other hand, travel makes me happy, and I think it makes me a better person and a better writer. So I’m not completely convinced it’s a vice. J
Johanna Parkhurst grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont before relocating to the rocky mountains of Colorado. She spends her days helping teenagers learn to read and write and her evenings writing things she hopes they’ll like to read. She strives to share stories of young adults who are as determined, passionate, and complex as the ones she shares classrooms with.
Johanna holds degrees from Albertus Magnus College and Teachers College, Columbia University. She loves traveling, hiking, skiing, watching football, and spending time with her incredibly supportive husband.