Thursday, July 29, 2010

Interview with Jan Blazanin, author of Fairest of Them All

Jan Blazanin is the author of Fairest of Them All, about a teen dealing with sudden hair loss. She graciously agreed to an interview as part of Body Image Self Perception Month.

When you were doing your research, did you speak to any teens with alopecia?

I didn’t have an opportunity to talk to teens with alopecia while I was writing Fairest of Them All. At the time I was teaching middle school, and I was discreetly on the lookout for a teen or teens to interview. But none of my students were dealing with the condition, which was wonderful for them, of course. I wasn’t on Facebook yet, so I didn’t have many options for finding interview subjects. Instead I studied all the information I could find about alopecia and interviewed a dermatologist to learn how he treats patients with alopecia. To get the teen perspective I read the first-person stories and photos of teens posted at the National Alopecia Areata Foundation website and the recipients on the Locks of Love site.

Did you receive any feedback from teen readers with alopecia?

I have, and so far it has been positive. But for me there’s always the worry that someone will be hurt or offended. There are several different types of alopecia, and each person’s experience is unique. Although I did my best to understand and convey Ori’s thoughts and feelings, I can’t speak for anyone else.

At the beginning of the novel, Phil does not take care with her appearance while Ori is obsessed with hers. What advice would you give to teens about maintaining the right balance or attitude about their appearance?

That’s an excellent question, and one that’s not easy to answer. My advice to teens is to love yourself and treat your body with respect. To me this means eating and drinking healthfully, exercising, and maintaining good grooming. Exercise combats weight problems and depression, puts teens in control and brings a feeling of accomplishment. It’s easy to grab fries and a soda, but afterward they’re going to feel let down and sluggish, which does nothing for anyone’s self-esteem. Eating wholesome foods and drinking plenty of water has the opposite effect. And they can’t go wrong with clean hair, skin, teeth, and clothes. Teens who take care of themselves glow with good health, which is always attractive.

Did you struggle with negative body image or self-perception issues when you were a teen?

Oh, yes, and I still struggle with some of them. As a teen I was slim and had a very small chest. So that was an issue for me. In my later teens I had terrible acne, and there were days when I didn’t want to leave the house because of it. My teeth were crooked, I wore glasses, I had awful hangnails—the list goes on and on. On top of that I was an awkward kid in a high school where athletics was the gold standard. And being a good student didn’t win any points with my peers. To sum it up, I perceived myself as a skinny, unattractive, unpopular geek. Issues? Yeah I had a few.

What message do you hope that teens come away with after reading your book?

I hope teens will see how important it is to focus less on their appearance and find ways to become thoughtful, caring people. Volunteering is one great way to put others first. Participating in extra-curricular activities is another. The other message, of course, is that physical appearance does not make a person beautiful. The kind of beauty that matters comes from inside.

Are you currently working on any YA books?

Thanks for asking! I have a humorous YA novel coming out next year from Egmont Publishing. The working title is ASPEN AND LAUREL DO SUMMER. It’s about two best friends who are determined to have a fabulous last summer in high school but create chaos instead.

I’m also working on a paranormal in which a teen ruler from 3,000 years ago is transported to the present time on a quest to save her people. It’s my first attempt at paranormal, and I’m really enjoying it!

Thank you Jan for participating in BISP Month and for taking the time to chat with me!

If you haven't, please check out my review of Fairest Of Them All.

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