All seventeen-year-old Francie Mills wants is to make it to nationals in tennis, because to her, tennis fixes everything. It helps her forget about her alcoholic father and timid mother, and a life where she feels so small. After a knee injury halts her budding tennis career, Francie finds her home life harder to deal with than ever, that is, until musician Chet Jones gives Francie something she didn’t know she needed, a safe person to talk to, one who understands what she’s going through.
In a story about finding friendship in unexpected people and coping with the affects of alcoholism, Blues Harp Green is a stunning debut novel from award-winning screen-writer Nicole Schubert that’ll linger with you long after you close the book.
I was sucked into Francie Mills’, aka FM on the Radio Dial’s, world from the first page, and it kept me up well into the night. I adored Francie and Chet’s friendship, particularly their emails and video chats and how well they connected. The characters came alive in a way that had me reminiscing about my own young adulthood, and the whole story messed me up in a good way. Schubert writes such likeable characters that you can’t even hate them when you want to. Even one particularly annoying character grew on me in the end.
If you love stories that shine light on dark issues, coming of age stories with a focus on new experiences, friendships, and love, and stories that refuse to let you go long after they’re over, then Blues Harp Green is the novel for you. Both young and young-at-heart will enjoy this story.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Nicole Schubert about Blues Harp Green and her writing life. I had so much fun getting a peek into her mind and how Blues Harp Green came to be. I hope you enjoy! You can get your copy of Blues Harp Green on Amazon.
1. Without spoiling too much, what was your favorite scene to write in Blues Harp Green?
I loved writing the last scene of the book, when Francie discovers a smidgeon of hope and writes about it in her diary (that she hates to write in). It’s bittersweet but personally cathartic as I can relate to Francie’s love and family experiences, so it was like I was finding a glimmer of hope too, which is why it was my favorite. I also loved writing the scene in Austin when Francie meets Chet. It was exciting to discover who Francie and Chet were to each other, the magic spark and why they connected.
2. Describe Francie Mills in three words.
Self-doubting, determined, dreamer.
3. Were there any particular musical inspirations behind Chet Jones and Blues Harp Jones?
Yes! Chet, the band, and their music are a mix of several inspirations. First, I was inspired by this pop band from Sarajevo (Bosnia) called Plavi Orkestar. I met them at a music festival in Sopot, Poland. They had an innocence about them but also the music spoke of love and a deeper emotional connection, a yearning, even though it was simple. They were wildly popular in their country. That combined with brilliant humor and how cute they were, made them easy targets for my imagination and Chet’s songwriting. The way I imagined Chet’s song “Louisa, Hey,” and how it was about a girl he loved, was inspired by Plavi Orkestar’s “Suada,” “Kaja,” and “Bolje Biti Pijan Nego Star.” I also imagined Chet and the band’s music to have a little punk and ska—punk because Chet has a darker, angry side. And ska because it’s playful, has humor and adds depth to the music. Also, the inspiration for the Jones brother’s Uncle Pete, a music agent in the story, is the late Ian Copeland, who was the agent for The Police, Sting and a bunch of punk bands in the 80s (he was also the brother of Stewart Copeland, drummer of The Police), so I imagined that Chet got some punk and ska inspiration from Uncle Pete. Also, I think Chet is obsessed with studying the greats of guitar because he is so passionate about music, so he listens to Robert Johnson, which I got from reading the autobiographies of Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. Lastly, I have a crush on Jack White and his music so that also influenced how I wrote Chet and the band.
Here’s a video of Plavi Orkestar for your amusemement:
4. What character did you most relate to in the novel?
Francie! I can totally relate to Francie. Falling in love with cute, deep boys in bands that I feel magically connected to and who I wish would take me away and save me and make everything fabulous and wildly fun too…right here! Also, I grew up in a family torn apart by alcoholism. Pretty much that’s why I even wrote this book…to get that out there and maybe connect with other people with the same experience and offer a glimmer of hope. Plus, I played tennis. So, yeah, I really relate to Francie!
5. Apart from Francie, who was your favorite character to write?
Stella! I loved writing Stella. She is so opinionated and says what she means and isn’t afraid and goes for what she wants. She’s also slightly weird, in a good way, like she’ll tongue kiss the phone when Facetiming her boyfriend or she’ll design cool weird music video sets, just because. Also, she gets Francie and knows when to give her space and when to push. Ultimately, Stella helps give Francie confidence by example and by being a loving friend.
6. What’s your favorite quote from the novel?
This is difficult! I guess the quote from Francie’s diary entry that is also the epigraph of the book:
Sometimes you meet someone. And they look at you and it’s a thing. Like, somewhere inside you that is touched. Like your soul. That poetic memory thing. And it’s like you were always connected. You’ve always known each other. Now. And before. And forever in the future. And it’s like you were always traveling together through the galaxy and different universes. And your souls are connected always without time. And you love that person. And they love you. And sometimes they just make you happy for a minute. And then they’re gone. In this now, this life. But that knowing of the connection makes you know everything will be okay. ―FRANCIE MILLS
7. Where do you find your writing inspiration?
Somewhere between and including my heart and my bellybutton. And whatever comes out of the ether. Also, some writers and books and movies in particular, like Oscar Wilde, John Hughes, JD Salinger, Neil Simon, Franny & Zooey, Loves of a Blonde.
8. When do you write?
9. If you could tell your readers one thing, what would it be?
It’s hard to pick one thing, but I can get it in one sentence: Go where the love and laughter is, where life flows easily and doors open, and to concerts, and be in the space where your heart does a happy dance several times a day.
10. Which band mate from Blues Harp Jones would you have hung out with as a teen?
Chet! I would’ve been madly in love with Chet! And maybe still holding onto that.
Thanks so much to Nicole Schubert for writing this beautiful novel, making me fall in love with Chet Jones, and for participating in this interview!
About the Author
Nicole Schubert is a first-time novelist and award-winning screenwriter with a big soft spot for comedy and romance. She also dabbles in other behind-the-scenes activities, like producing the monthly Improv Diary Show at Santa Monica’s Westside Comedy Theater. She’s produced a music awards TV show and European-wide photo exhibition out of Brussels and enjoyed another side of storytelling working in the editing rooms of numerous Hollywood feature films.
Nicole lives with her family – including The Kid and pirate cat Biddy – in Santa Monica, by way of Brussels and New Orleans, where she was born during a hurricane…for what that’s worth.