Jasmine Warga is the author of three acclaimed novels, as well as the upcoming novel The Shape of Thunder. Other Words for Home (one of our favorites from 2020), which centers around Jude’s journey to finding a new home in an unfamiliar country, is the recipient of many starred reviews and awards, including the John Newbery Honor. We were thrilled to interview her for this month’s post!
RapunzelReads: Other Words for Home is written in (gorgeous!) free verse—what made you choose that style of writing?
Jasmine Warga: Thank you! Initially, the book was written in prose, but I didn't feel like Jude's voice felt right. Verse helped me to capture the immediacy and rawness that I wanted her narration to have.
RR: Jude is both inspiring and deeply relatable—what inspired her character?
JW: She is loosely based upon my own cousin who is also named Jude! I borrowed my cousin's love of American movies, specifically, and her large heart. That said, Jude is an entirely fictional character, and I built her the way I build all my characters--through lots of brainstorming and daydreaming.
RR: Who is your favorite character in Other Words for Home, and why?
RR: Do you have any tips for an aspiring writer?
JW: Read! Read as much as you can. Reading is the best way to learn how to write.
RR: What books inspired you when you were growing up?
JW: Some of my favorite books when I was young were The Bridge to Terabithia, Holes, The Giver, and Ella Enchanted. I was also obsessed with The Princess Diaries.
RR: What was your favorite part of writing Other Words for Home?
JW: When I finally realized the book needed to be in verse and everything started to fall into place! I love when I finally feel that "click" of the character's voice coming to life.
RR: What inspired you to write Other Words for Home?
JW: It was really a combination of different things--meditations on my own cultural background, feelings about the growing Islamophobia in the United States, and also how inspired and moved I am by the resilience and bravery of refugee and immigrant kids. They're truly my heroes.
RR: What are you planning on writing next?
JW: I have a new middle grade novel coming out next May. It's titled The Shape of Thunder. I'm really excited about it, and am looking forward to being able to talk about it more soon. Here is a link to add it on Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/44651791-the-shape-of-thunder?from_search=true&from_srp=true&qid=M5RHmWturo&rank=1.
RR: What is your favorite thing about being an author?
JW: Interacting with young readers! I'm so inspired by my readers, and am very grateful they take the time to interact so passionately with my stories.