Author Interview: Tara Altebrando on The Possible

Tara Altebrando is the author of several young adult and middle grade books including thoughtful contemporaries like The Best Night Of Your (Pathetic) Life and gripping thrillers like The Leaving. Her latest novel, The Possible, explores the growing popularity of investigative podcasts and what may or may not be a case of genuine telekinesis. I’m happy to have Tara on the blog today for our interview.

Miss Print (MP): Can you tell me about your path as a writer? How did you get to this point?

Tara Altebrando (TA): I’ve been writing since I was young and actually started out writing for grown-ups. But about ten years ago YA exploded in new ways and I shifted to writing for teens and have never looked back. What’s fun about the books I’m writing now (The Leaving, The Possible…and two more to come) is that the YA psychological thriller zone is a new space for me. It feels like a mid-career rebirth.

MP: What was the inspiration for The Possible?

TA: I’ve always been fascinated with telekinesis and telekinesis stories. Matilda. Escape to Witch Mountain. Carrie. Even Bewitched! And when the podcast “Serial” started I became obsessed with it and thought it would be fun to write a YA novel that featured a podcast that everyone was listening to. Everything grew from there.

MP: The Possible podcast features heavily in this book and you include some scenes about production and even transcribed audio clips that Kaylee listens to during the novel. Are you a podcast fan yourself? Do you have any that you would recommend or any that you listened to while writing and researching The Possible?

TA: I am a fan of podcasts for sure, particularly ones with a true crime bent. I loved Serial and binge-listened to In the Dark and S-Town. I love My Favorite Murder in a big way. I also listened to a bunch of episodes of The Paranormal Podcast when writing The Possible. The interview with Uri Geller, who started the whole spoon bending party trend in the seventies, is especially fascinating.

MP: A lot of the tension of this story comes from Kaylee and the reader not being sure what’s true about Kaylee’s biological mother and what’s been fabricated. How did you work out the pacing of this story and decide when to reveal (or not reveal) key details to readers to maintain the tight narrative?

TA: There is a lot of trial and error with regard to reveals in drafts when writing these kinds of suspense stories. It’s a real hat trick to know how long you can withhold something from a reader or character before it strains believability or patience. I’m still learning.

MP: Kaylee has a lot of “what if” moments in this story as she considers whether or not she may have inherited Crystal’s telekinetic powers. Have you ever had similar “what if” moments? How did you decide which situations would be used to question Kaylee’s presence (or possible lack) of telekinetic powers?

TA: I haven’t had any moments in my life where I thought I had telekinetic powers, no. I think we all have moments where we think maybe we’re psychic, though. Like you think about someone for the first time in ages and they call you right then…that kind of thing. For Kaylee and the book I just wanted a handful of really creepy and ambiguous scenes that could really be interpreted two ways: either she clearly had a hand in what happened, or she didn’t. I like the idea of throwing it back on the reader, making them question what they believe.

MP: Given the choice, would you want telekinetic powers?

TA: I would! And I would be sure to use my powers for good and not evil. Like I’d put the laundry away with my mind and deliver healthy snacks to my children without having to lift a finger. In my fantasies, I see telekinetic me walking down the aisles of the grocery store, filling my cart with my mind; I see the vacuum running around the house while I’m taking a bath. I’m so glamorous, right?

MP: Can you tell me anything about your next project?

TA: My next book is called The Opposite of Here. It’s a Hitchcock-inspired YA thriller set on a cruise ship. Basically, a girl on the cruise meets this amazing guy the first night and then he seems to disappear into thin air. Where could he have gone? 

MP: Do you have any advice to offer aspiring authors?

TA: Just to read widely and write what excites you.

Thank you to Tara for taking the time to answer my questions!

You can find out more about Tara and her books at her website: www.taraaltebrando.com

You can also find my review of The Possible here on the blog.

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