Jenny Torres Sanchez is the author of the new young adult novel Because of the Sun. She also has written Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia and The Downside of Being Charlie. A former English teacher, she lives in Orlando, Florida.
Q: How did you come up with the idea for your novel Because of the Sun?
A: It’s kind of funny how it started because it was a lot of things just coming together at the right time. I started writing this book over summer and it was another sweltering in Florida summer (where I live).
Every time I stepped outside, all I could think about was the sun and how blinding and powerful and hallucinatory in can be, which made me remember this scene from The Stranger by Albert Camus where the main character (Meursault) does something horrible and he blames it on the sun.
New Mexico was also rattling around in my mind because that’s where my in-laws live and we visit them often in summer, as well as the idea of bears because there a lot of news stories of human encounters with bears on the rise in Florida that summer.
Which then made me remember a short story I’d started in college about a mom and her daughter and a bear attack. So all this stuff was rattling around in my head just as I was ready to start a new project. I started playing around with it and suddenly, I was working on a new book.
Q: What relationship do you see between your character Dani and Camus' character Meursault, who features prominently in the book?
A: I think Dani admires Meursault’s ability to detach himself so completely from people and life. To not feel much toward any of it. She admires this because she’s hurting so much over her relationship with her mother, their history, and her mother’s tragic death.
But Dani also eventually realizes it’s not a great way to be permanently. And while it’s the quality she admires most in Meursault, it’s also one she pities him for in the end.
Q: Did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?
A: I had a very vague idea about how it would end, but nothing solid until I really started understanding Dani and her story. As I write, I learn a lot about my characters and who they really are. So I’m never certain of how a story will end, what my characters will resolve (or not resolve), until I’m well into the writing.
Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?
A: The sun plays a big role in this book, so it seemed like the perfect title. But I also chose it because in The Stranger Meursault explains that he committed his crime “because of the sun.” And people laugh at him and think it’s a stupid answer.
But to Dani, it seems like a deep and truthful answer. Isn’t everything, in some way, because of the sun? Because we continue to revolve around it. Because each day comes and brings with it whatever is going to happen, whether we like it or not, whether we are prepared for it or not.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on edits for my fourth YA novel Crows Cry Emilia—it’s an un-coming-of age story about 16-year-old Emilia DeJesus who was attacked on a school playground eight years earlier.
Though she and her family have learned to cope, the attack has lasting effects on all of them and things only get worse when they find out the wrong man was arrested and prosecuted for the crime.
Q: Anything else we should know?
A: Because of the Sun is out now! And look for Crows Cry Emilia in 2018.
--Interview with Deborah Kalb