Author Jennifer Salvato Doktorski’s first novel, How My Summer Went Up In Flames, is an adorably funny read about love, friendship, and cross-country road trips. Full of feisty characters, great one-liners, and the travel opportunity of a lifetime, this is not a book that fans of YA will want to pass up.
Ms. Salvato Doktorski was kind enough to talk with us about her inspiration for the book, share a bit about her latest book (Famous Last Words), and give a sneak peek at an upcoming project.
The Daily Quirk: Could you please tell the readers a little bit about yourself?
Jennider Salvato Doktorski: Sure! I live in New Jersey with my family, a dog named Buffy (The Squeaky Toy Slayer), a fish named Kermit and a frog called Munchkin. In addition to writing for teens, I’m a freelance writer. I’ve written articles and essays for newspapers, magazines, and national publications including, Cosmopolitan. My first paid writing gig was as an editorial assistant for the North Jersey Herald & News, where, in addition to developing a life-long passion for coffee and news, I wrote obituaries for eight months. I’ve also worked as a speech writer, bank teller, ghostwriter, bookkeeper in a lampshade factory, pet shop clerk, and music zine editor.
TDQ: How do you like to spend your time when you’re not writing?
JSD: Reading, running, drinking coffee, listening to music, and wishing I had more time to watch TV. I also love the beach. We have a place at the real New Jersey shore and I like to spend as much time there as possible.
TDQ: In How My Summer Went Up In Flames, everything is set in motion when Rosie is placed under a restraining order for accidentally setting her ex-boyfriend’s car on fire after he shows up to a party with the girl he cheated on Rosie with. Did you always know that you wanted things to start this way, or did other revenge ideas for Rosie cross your mind?
JSD: I always knew I wanted to the book to begin with the phrase “girl on the receiving end of a temporary restraining order.” I also knew that Rosie is a good person, who made a bad mistake. Setting her ex’s car on fire was truly an accident. She was hurt and trying to destroy the memories of her first, real relationship. Rosie’s ideas for revenge would never have strayed farther than that. She’s feisty, but not mean-spirited or violent.
TDQ: Is there one particular character that you feel you especially relate to? If so, who and why?
JSD: Yes. Matty. I’m the nerdy, reliable neighbor girl. When I was in high school, whenever my friends and I wanted to go somewhere or do something—party, mall, the beach, whatever—my friends’ parents would always ask: “Is Jen going? Then it’s okay.” I think they had it in their heads that I was the voice of reason. A five foot one Jiminy Cricket, who wouldn’t let things get out of hand.
TDQ: I loved the epic road trip Rosie, Matty, Logan and Spencer take (I’ve always wanted to take a cross-country road trip, so it was great living vicariously through them). How did you decide where you wanted them to stop along the way to their destination?
JSD: I once took a similar road trip in a celery green Oldsmobile with a friend of a friend named Kenny. The trip wasn’t nearly as exciting as the one Rosie took with the guys. I think we traveled through most of Arkansas and Texas without saying a word to each other. But that trip became the literal road map for this book. I made some of the same stops like Graceland and the Grand Canyon. Other stops, like Dollywood, were places I wish I’d gone. It was closed when I drove through Tennessee.
TDQ: Throughout the book, there is definite chemistry between Rosie and the guys she’s traveling with (some more so than others), and she also struggles to get over her ex. Was it difficult deciding who you wanted her to end up with?
JSD: I think I had more trouble deciding if I wanted her to end up with anybody at all. Ultimately, I wanted this to be Rosie’s journey of personal growth. I wanted her to see the value of not being in a relationship.
TDQ: Was there one scene that you particularly enjoyed writing?
JSD: Let’s see. The Cheez-It/Batman scene and the one with Lucca, the cowboy.
TDQ: If you were to go on your own epic road trip, where would you want to travel to?
JSD: I’d loved to travel cross-country again and visit states where I’ve never been and see things I haven’t seen, like Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone, the National Parks in Utah, and The Space Needle. I’d also love to visit Ireland. What side of the road do they drive on?
TDQ: Your latest book, Famous Last Words, just was just recently released. Can readers expect any similarities to How My Summer Went Up In Flames?
JSD: Rosie and Samantha from Famous Last Words are very different characters with totally different stories. Sam’s a lot more timid. Her story is all about jump starting her somewhat lackluster life by spending her summer writing about death while working at the obit desk for her local newspaper. She solves a mystery, meets a cut boy, and finds her voice. There are similarities, though. Both Rosie and Sam hail from the same fictitious town in northern New Jersey and are proud of their home state. Both come from families of Italian descent. In Rosie’s case, only one side of the family is Italian, the other is Ecuadorian. The stories both take place the summer before the girls’ senior year in high school, and both Rosie and Sam have close, loving relationships with their parents.
TDQ: Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
JSD: I’m currently working on a YA that’s somewhat darker than my other two. I also have ideas for sequels to both How My Summer Went up in Flames and Famous Last Words.
- Book Review: How My Summer Went Up In Flames by Jennifer Salvato Doktorski
- An Interview with Author Jessica Park
- Book Reviews: Left Drowning and Flat-Out Matt by Jessica Park
Hi! I’m Abbie. I’m a Wisconsin girl who just completed a degree in journalism, which I hope will help me achieve my goal of reading books and writing about them for a living. In my free time, I enjoy reading, watching Doctor Who and hanging out with my boyfriend and his two cats.
Check out more from Abbie Reetz on TDQ…