I had the pleasure of interviewing one of our TBF debut authors, Harriet Reuter Hapgood! Take a look!
Miranda Reads: Your debut novel, THE SQUARE ROOT OF SUMMER, is coming out in May. Tell us about it.
Harriet Reuter Hapgood: It’s a summer holiday coming-of-age story set in north Norfolk on the English coast. I describe the genre as time-travel-quantum-physics-grief-romance, in lieu of anything snappier. It’s about a seventeen-year-old girl, Gottie H Oppenheimer, who’s dealing with the death of her grandpa, the breakup of a recent relationship, and the unexpected return of her childhood BFF. All of which combine, naturally, to create wormholes in space-time. Also there’s a mysterious kitten called Umlaut, many delicious snacks, and a smorgasbord of cute boys.
Miranda Reads: What inspired you to write THE SQUARE ROOT OF SUMMER?
Harriet Reuter Hapgood: My grandmother died a few years ago, and I found it incredibly difficult – a tidal wave of grief. I was surprised by my own reaction and wanted to explore it, and write myself a little story about my family. And I’ve always loved summer books – there’s something special about coming-of-age stories set outside the confines of school, when there’s too much time on everyone’s hands, and a lack of structure. Books like The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson and The Greengage Summer by Rumer Godden, and the latter half of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I started with just a handful of simple ideas – grief, a grandparent, family, summer, the sea. Oh, and quantum theory.
Miranda Reads: Describe your main character, Gottie.
Harriet Reuter Hapgood: Gottie is a lot cooler and more together than I was at seventeen – not that she’s aware of it. She’s handling things pretty well for someone in mourning, dealing with heartbreak, and potentially destroying the universe… Gottie is a maths and physics prodigy, whose intelligence doesn’t extend to other subjects, or emotional range. She’s something of a loner, a daydreamer who’s maybe a little bit selfish with her time and could do with extending her gaze outwards. She’s also outdoorsy to the point of being part of the landscape – you’ll find her in trees, fields, swimming, folding herself into the world. She’s not afraid of bruises or scabs, she’s very physical, perhaps because she grew up in this weirdo bohemian household with her dad, brother and grandpa – who she describes as Peter Pan, Axl Rose and Dumbledore, respectively.
Miranda Reads: In THE SQUARE ROOT OF SUMMER, Gottie is incredibly intelligent and has a great understanding of physics. Before writing it, did you already have a great understanding of physics or did you do extensive research specifically for the novel?
Harriet Reuter Hapgood: Hahaha! I knew NOTHING. I’m trained as a fashion journalist. My areas of expertise are teen television shows of the nineties, celebrity cats, and skincare routines. I had this innocent little idea that I’d write about a maths nut, a physics whizz – an homage to my grandpa, a legit mathematical genius, and to my grandmother; one of the last conversations we had, strangely, was about particle physics. I wanted to stuff the book full of references to my family. Then I opened a textbook… *makes “mind blown” explodey gesture with hands* The universe really is complicated! I read so many books, googled so many theorems, disappeared down internet wormholes looking up cool theories. The funny thing is, I still don’t understand physics – that’s all Gottie, she’s far more clever than I am.
Miranda Reads: Which author are you most excited to meet at the 11th Annual Greater Rochester Teen Book Festival?
Harriet Reuter Hapgood: My fellow Sweet Sixteen 2016 debut authors, Anna Breslaw (Scarlett Epstein Hates It Here), Janet B Taylor (Into the Dim – time travel, represent!) and Jeff Zentner (The Serpent King). We spend a lot of time on the internet raving about each other’s books, I’m excited to squeal at them in person.
Thank you so much Harriet! We will see you in May!
Be sure to follow Harriet on Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Pinterest!
Talk to you guys next week!