I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Hannah Bucchin, talented debut author with a beautiful and much talked about book, Paintbrush, now available for purchase here. Grab a tea/coffee and get ready to enjoy reading about this sweet, down to earth and wonderful lady, whose book will take you on a magical journey in a coming-of-age story neatly and provocatively written!
Interview with Hannah Bucchin, author of Paintbrush!
Q. Hello Hannah! First I must tell you, I absolutely loved your book, Paintbrush. Can you tell my readers how you came up with this title? And oh my! I loved the cover! Did you have anything to do with its creation? It is absolutely gorgeous.
Thank you so much! Paintbrush was the original title of my book – I wrote it at the top of my manuscript, before I had written even a single word of my story. I thought that I’d probably come up with something much more exciting and clever while writing, but in the end, the name stuck. It’s simple, and I think it fits well with the story.
I didn’t have anything to do with my cover, but I’m just as in love with it as you are! I said that [I] liked the idea of watercolors, and my publisher took it from there. It was designed by Blue Sky Design (https://www.blueskydesignboston.com/), and I got so lucky to find a cover that matched my book so perfectly!
Q. When I finished reading your book, I was so sad to say goodbye to Mitchell and Josie. This coming of age story was so charming and wonderfully written. Do you have any plans in revisiting these two characters?
At this point, I have no plans to continue Josie and Mitchell’s story. They get to drive off into the unknown, and I think it’s fun for readers (and for me) to imagine the various things their future might hold. However, I never say never!
Q. Mitchell struck me as having an old soul. Did you fashion this character after anyone in particular, or did you create him with having so much depth to his character for a reason?
He’s not fashioned after any real-life person in particular, but I did try to make him an old soul. In my experience, high school boys are made to feel that they’re not allowed to be enthusiastic about things that aren’t sports. It’s just not cool to be a teenage guy who unabashedly loves things, and I’ve always felt sad about that. With Mitchell, I tried to make a character who has this passion for adventures and exploring and reading, but who feels like he can’t show this side of himself.
Q. I love the reference to “Little Women” in your story, does this book hold a special place in your heart? Do you have other favorite authors/books that you’d care to share with my readers?
Yes! Little Women holds a very special place in my heart. My mom gave it to me when I turned 11, and I remember being not very excited. It looked old, and boring, and fifth-graders aren’t exactly dying to read “classics”. But once I started, I couldn’t stop. It was one of the first books that ever made me cry, and I guess I was amazed that a book could make me feel so much. Plus, I always wanted to be just like Jo (even though I’m probably more of a Meg in real life).
Q. You chose writing in first-person, switching point of view often to carry the story forward. Is this your favorite point of view to write from? Did you write this book using first-person for a reason? Did it help you to get closer to your characters, and in turn, help your readers become closer to the characters?
I almost exclusively write in first person POV. It feels so personal to me, and I feel like it makes the reader empathize with the characters even more. I especially like writing from alternating POVs in a story where the characters’ relationship to each other is the main arc of the story. It’s interesting to me how two people can experience the same moments and yet see things so differently.
Q. This community that you created really had a number of great personalities to it. The way you wrote your story, you let the reader inside each one in a very special way that added to the story you were telling. In creating these characters, which was the most difficult to create and why? Did you ever write a character into the story, only to scrap it later because it wasn’t a good fit?
With this story, I never wrote a character that I later scrapped. I get too attached to my characters! Both of the mom characters were the hardest to write, just because their experiences were so different from my own. I had to work to put myself in the mindset of a mother.
Q. So why North Carolina? Is there another setting that you would like to use in a future book? Why?
I’ve always been fascinated by the mountains of North Carolina, ever since I first visited five years ago. I live there now, In Asheville, NC, and it’s such a unique and beautiful place, and perfect for the story of Paintbrush. I love traveling, and whenever I visit a new place I feel inspired to write. Future books will definitely feature different settings from different places around the country – maybe even the world.
Q. Speaking of future books, is there something you’re working on now? Can you share a bit of insight into its premise? Do you prefer to write Young Adult fiction? Will there ever be another genre that you might dabble in?
Yes! I can’t reveal too much about my current project, but I can tell you that it’s another contemporary YA novel, it takes place in Maine, and it follows the lives of two sisters over the course of one summer. I love writing YA contemporary – maybe one day I’ll write books for adults, but for now, YA is what feels the most natural to me.
Q. Can you describe for other writers out there, what your writing process is like? Do you use a white board, story board, outlines, or a special computer program when you write? Do you do up character charts when drafting or fleshing out your characters, worlds, and plots.
Since this was my first time writing a full novel, I had to discover my writing process through trial and error. I wanted to make an incredibly detailed outline before I started writing, but I eventually realized that I was getting bogged down by trying to plan every single aspect of the novel. Sometimes, the characters have a mind of their own. So I try to stick with a very basic outline, with just the main story beats planned. I also make detailed character outlines, outlining backstory and needs/wants, and add to them as I write. Other than that, I just try to sit and write. I like to keep it simple.
Q. Josie’s relationships with her sisters are involved and rather complicated at times. Did you base these relationships and interactions between sisters on your own personal experiences? How were you hoping these relationships would help your story along?
To me, The relationship between sisters is one of the most fascinating, beautiful, complex relationships in the world. I have a sister who is four years younger than me, but she isn’t anything like Libby’s crazy character. We’re super close, and I don’t think we’ve fought or even had an argument in years and years. But I did pull from parts of our relationship to write the relationship between Josie and her sisters. The love I have for my sister is a sort of fiercely protective love, and I’ve witnessed this in many sisterly relationships between friends and family – a “mess with my sister and I’ll kill you” sort of mentality. But this love can also manifest itself in so many other emotions – jealousy, anger, disappointment. It’s why fights between sisters can be especially epic.
In Paintbrush specifically, Josie feels like she’s been unfairly forced into a motherly role to her two younger sisters, because their mother is so laidback and passive. It’s kind of a revelation to her when she realizes later in the story that in some ways she’s actually cast herself in this role, not been forced into it.
Q. Do you have a favorite character? Which character was the hardest for you to write?
I don’t have a favorite character – it sounds like a cop out, but it’s genuinely too hard for me to choose a favorite. Mitchell’s mother was hardest for me to write for sure. I am not a mother – and not at a point in my life where I’m even close to being a mother – so it was hard for me to put myself in her shoes. At first, I had cast her as this two-dimensional, borderline evil character, who just abandons her family for no good reason. But when I went back and reread, I tried to give her a little more dimension. Yeah, it sucks that she fell in love with someone else. But moms are allowed to fall in love, too. And maybe, as kids, we don’t actually understand as much about our parents’ relationship as we think we do.
Q. Was there ever a part of the book during the writing process that you struggled with? Can you tell my readers a moment in the book that you especially loved? What advice would you give to my readers on how they should handle writer’s block? What do you do to combat writer’s block?
For me, the romantic moments are the most fun parts to write – I loved writing the cave scene! There wasn’t any particular part of the story that I struggled to write, but writing itself is often a struggle for me. As much as I love to write, it’s still hard for me to force myself to sit down and start. For me, creating a distinct schedule and sticking to it is the best way to fight writer’s block.
Q. Do you do a large amount of research for what you’re working on?
I do a bit of research, but not a ton. For Paintbrush, I did a good bit of research into communes across the country, and what life on a commune is really like. However, I like to give myself room to be creative, as well. That’s why, even though the book takes place in the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, I also used a lot of made-up places. I don’t want to be tied down by exact geography or meticulous detail.
Q. Being a female author, how hard was it to write from Mitchell’s perspective?
It was definitely difficult. I had no problem writing his dialogue, but his inner thoughts were a little bit harder. I tried to put myself in the shoes of my guy friends and family members, and that helped a lot.
Q. While growing up, did you have a special friendship similar to the one Mitchell and Josie shared? And in Paintbrush, was it important for you to show Mitchell and Josie’s friendship first before it went where it had in the story? Are you a strong believer that good relationships start as friendships first?
I am lucky enough to have lots of good childhood friends, but I never fell in love with any of them like in the story. However, I am a firm believer in a friends-to-romance type story. Especially in high school, you’re almost always friends with the people you date before you date them. Love at first sight type stories just don’t really resonate with me as true to real life.
Q. Do you have a favorite author/book that you’d like to share with my readers. Can you tell us what you like about them/it? Did a particular author inspire you to write?
I’ve read and loved so many books that have inspired me to write. I usually find myself most inspired by relatable female characters. Sarah Dessen’s books got me through high school, and I’ve always been inspired by her ultra-relatable main characters. Jandy Nelson’s writing is so beautiful and unique. Rainbow Rowell writes amazing dialogue. The entire YA community as a whole is inspiring to me.
Q. Have you ever considered writing a trilogy/series? If you did consider this, what genre would you write it in?
At this point, I’ve never considered writing a trilogy or series. I have too many plots and characters and settings bouncing around in my head already to stay with one story too long!
Q. Each mother had her own inner struggle. They each made a dramatic change to their lives in order to fix their problems. What were you hoping to show by including their struggles and choices?
Every teenager can relate to struggling with their relationship with their parents, especially their mother – it’s just part of growing up. I also feel like a part of growing up is realizing that your parents have a lot more depth than you thought they did – that they lived whole lives before you were born. In Paintbrush, part of growing up for both Josie and Mitchell is realizing that their mothers are not quite who they thought they were.
Q. There was a full range of emotions felt while reading this book. Did you feel these same emotions when you were writing it?
I empathized heavily with my characters while writing, so I definitely felt a lot of feelings. However, I’ve been very surprised by the number of people who have told me that Paintbrush made them cry! I don’t see it as a particularly sad book, but makes me happy that people empathize with the characters enough to illicit such a strong reaction. Not that I’m saying I like that I’ve made people cry…
So that concludes my interview with Hannah, I do hope you all enjoyed it! My thanks again to Hannah for spending the time!
Thanks for taking the time to interview me!