In the novel “Traffic Jam” teenaged Val Delton’s world is upside down. Her father has just lost his job, her mother has to work fourteen hours a day, and she discovers her sister is harboring a dangerous secret. As she works to uncover the truth behind her sister’s extra spending money, she becomes determined to protect her family. In my interview with the book’s author, Melissa Groeling, on November 30, 2012, we discussed “Traffic Jam” and what went into the writing of it.
Q: How much planning went into “Traffic Jam” before you actually began the writing process?
A: Not much at all! It was really weird—I saw a show on MSNBC and the idea literally popped into my head and off it went, like a run-away train!
Q: To what extent, if at all, do you identify with Val?
A: I definitely identify with the loner in Val. I think we all have that facet in our personality somewhere. Even when we’re in a room full of people, we might still feel like we’re somehow not a part of it. I think Val started out that way, keeping her distance from everything, not wanting to get involved. But then she gets thrown into the middle of everything and there’s no way for her to get back to that spot inside her head where she could just be by herself.
Q: What did you enjoy most about writing “Traffic Jam”?
A: The whole thing! Well, okay, if I had to pick one thing, I would say the family scenes. Family is, hands down, the most frustrating, psychotic, intensely loving thing you could ever be a part of. Being from a crazy family myself, I wanted to convey those deep-rooted emotions—ones that always swing violently from one end of the spectrum to the other—but also the commitment that family members have for one another. To me, those scenes come from such a deep place that I know so well so I hope I was able to show that!
Q: Describe what you think your typical fan is like.
A: Oh wow, I have no idea! If I had a fan *insert self-deprecating laugh here* I would say he/she would be someone who’s able to do the right thing even if it frightens them. Maybe a teenager, a young adult, on the cusp of something, struggling with an issue, wanting to make an decision, weighing both sides and ultimately making the one that will define who he/she is.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from “Traffic Jam”?
A: I hope these wonderful readers take away the fact that the dangerous problems that Val and Sam face in this book are very real. It’s a society issue that exists not only in other countries, but in this country as well. I hope they take away that how important it is to fight for what you have, fight for what you want to keep and most of all, fight for your life because you only get one shot.
Q: Did you write “Traffic Jam” with a particular audience in mind?
A: I did write it with teenagers in mind, absolutely but I think any adult, male or female, can pick up this book as well and hopefully enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it!