A website dedicated to books in the Young Adult genre, featuring book reviews, author interviews contests and much more!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Interview with Jillian Cantor, Author of The September Sisters & CONTEST!

Today I'm thrilled to welcome Jillian Cantor who stopped by to talk about her debut novel,The September Sisters. The September Sisters is about Becky, a young girl who goes missing in the middle of the night and her family's struggle to pick up the pieces in the aftermath of her disappearance. It is told from the point of view of her older sister Abby.

Jillian Cantor has a BA in English from Penn State University. She received her MFA from The University of Arizona and was the recipient of the national Jacob K. Javits fellowship. Her first novel, THE SEPTEMBER SISTERS, was called "memorable" and "startlingly real" by Publishers Weekly and was nominated as a YALSA Best Book For Young Adults.

Despite their close proximity of age, Abby and Becky constantly squabble with one another and compete for their parents' attention. Can you tell us about your own relationship with your sister? (For instance, did you get along growing up or fight like cats and dogs like Abby and Becky?)

My sister and I did not get along at all growing up! We pretty much fought over everything. Like Becky and Abby, our birthdays are also only a day apart (although we are three years apart in age, and our birthdays are in June), so birthdays were always a particular source of tension in our house. I remember fighting a lot in the pool, too, over inner tubes, the way Becky and Abby do in the first scene of the book. I also remember family vacations where we argued over legroom in the car and sharing a bed in a hotel room. Really, our fighting was constant, and I’m sure we drove our poor mother nuts! I have to say, though, that we’ve become pretty close in the last ten years, and now I consider my sister one of my best friends.

Abby and Becky receive a sapphire necklace from their grandmother as a gift, which ends up taking on special meaning as the novel progresses. Was the premise of the necklace inspired by a gift from your own childhood? Did you realize its value at the time and do you still have the gift?

It was loosely inspired by these necklaces my grandparents gave to my sister and I when we were growing up. They were a little gold “j” shape with a pearl (our birthstone) in the middle. We were probably a little older than Abby and Becky at the time, and neither one of us liked the necklaces or wore them, because, truthfully, they looked way more like something our grandmother would’ve worn. So no, we didn’t realize the value at the time. But I do still have mine all these years later, and I’ve only worn it once – right after my grandfather died two years ago. And then I was really glad to have it, to have something that was a physical representation of him, even after he was gone.

After her sister’s mysterious disappearance in the middle of the night, Abby’s whole world is turned upside down and she must try to pick up the pieces of her life as best she can. What prompted you to write a novel centering around the siblings of missing children?

It was the combination of a few different things. I saw a news program on TV that focused on missing children. In nearly all the missing children cases discussed, they mentioned that the missing child had a sibling, yet they never went into what happened to any of them. So that got me wondering. At around the same time, my sister and I had just started to become friends and actually like each other, and I had this thought – how would my life have been different if I hadn’t had her growing up? – and the idea of the book stemmed from there.

One important aspect of The September Sisters is that Abby falls in love for the first time with next door neighbor Tommy, who becomes the one bright spot in her life. Can you tell us about your own experience with that special all consuming “first love”?

I was a little older than Abby, a sophomore in high school, and the guy I fell in love with is actually my husband now! We met in band and dated all through high school and college. From the first time we went out I knew that I was in love with him and we would stay together, which, I know, is a strange thing for a fifteen-year-old to know, but somehow I did. We’ve been married almost 10 years now and have two kids!

The September Sisters takes place in the winter and a lot of events unfold for Abby during some snow days off from school. Growing up in the northeast, you’ve had lots of experiences with being “snowed in”. What are your fondest memories of snow days from school?

Definitely sledding in the snow with my sister, just like Abby and Becky used to do. It truly was one of the only times we didn’t fight and actually enjoyed playing together. That, and coming back in after the sledding, sitting by the fire and drinking hot chocolate. It was one of the only times our mom would let us drink hot chocolate.

Abby’s favorite subject is English and she loves To Kill a Mockingbird. Can you tell us what types of books are your favorites and why? When you were Abby’s age, what were your favorite books?

Well, I love to read the same kinds of books I write, realistic young adult fiction and women’s fiction. I like books that are well-written with compelling characters, so basically character-driven fiction. I just recently read If I Stay by Gayle Forman and loved it.

When I was Abby’s age I used to love to read mysteries. When I was a little younger than her, I blew through all the Nancy Drew books, but by the time I was in middle school, I was reading adult mystery books and Stephen King – I used to love his books when I was Abby’s age. My mom also loves to read, so around that time we started sharing books (which is something we still do!).

What sort of feedback from you received from readers regarding The September Sisters? Can you share with us one comment in particular that had special meaning for you?

The feedback has generally been very nice! A lot of people have told me than can relate to Abby and that the book brings back memories of their own coming of age (even if they didn’t come of age as tragically.)

My husband teaches middle school, so he comes home a lot with books for me to sign and also passes along his students’ thoughts on the book, which is very cool. But one thing that really stands out was when he came home from Back to School Night this year and told me that some of the moms were gushing about the book to him. I loved the fact that the moms and daughters both enjoyed the book, and that these women found it as compelling as adults as their daughters did as teens.

Your next novel, The Life of Glass is a novel about love, loss and self discovery. Can you talk about the book and also share with us any information on other upcoming projects in the works?

The Life of Glass will be out on February 9, 2010! It’s the story of 14-year-old Melissa, who, during her freshman year of high school, struggles to hold onto memories of her dead father, to cope with her mother’s return to dating, to get along with her beautiful older sister, and to sort out her feelings for her best friend, Ryan.

Up next is my first book for adults, which will be out in Fall 2010 from Avon/HarperCollins. It’s called The Transformation of Things, and it tells the story of a woman, who, in glimpsing the intimate lives of her loved ones, is able to illuminate half-truths in her own.

And on the YA front, I recently finished working on a book that’s a love story set against the backdrop of illegal immigration on the US/Mexico border.


To learn more about Jillian and her books, visit her Official Website & Blog


I am giving away two copies of


Leave a comment for Jillian about the interview or her novel!

Link/post to any social network


US residents only (Sorry!!)


Stacy said...

This sounds like a great book. It will probably make everyone hug their sisters :)

My relationship with my sister was a lot like yours, we could never get along growing up and when my sister moved away to go to college, we became instant best friends and have remained so. I am very thankful for our relationship.

brizmus said...

That is so sad that she didn't get along with her sister growing up. I loved my big sister and always wanted to be just like her (until high school it least).
I can't believe she met the man that she has now been married to for 10 years when she was 15. Lucky her!

Enter me in the contest!
I tweeted about it (@brizmus)

Jessy said...

I have to say me and my sister are 4 years apart and we never got along at all. Even now that we are older we still aren't close, but I couldn't imagine her going missing.

findjessyhere at gmail dot com

Valerie said...

I love coming of age stories and your book sounds like a story I can relate to. Thanks for your generous offer.

Irene Yeates said...

I would love to read this book; winning it would be nice!!

I was the oldest, and my sister was the youngest. With two brother in-between, I was the "second mother," without the clout, and my sister was "La Princessa." Believe me, she played the role from dawn to dusk. I always sang her to sleep, and on a visit one Christmas, I heard her singing to her son at bedtime. Gave me a warm feeling.
Recent events have drawn us closer, and now we have an open and loving relationship. But I still have a dent in my left leg where she kicked me (at age five), when I accidentally stepped on an ant.(She collected live ants.)

Thank you for hosting this giveaway.

cyeates AT nycap DOT rr DOT com

ilonga said...

I have to brothers. Our birth dates: September 11, 16 and 21.
My relationship with the older one: bad. We were always arguing.

I would love to read this book. I'm a September sister too.


Sara said...

I absolutely LOVED the September Sisters - it was haunting and really made me think about my relationships with my own sisters and how it could all change in the blink of an eye. I have an arc of The Life of Glass and can't wait to read it!

I'd love to have my own copy of The September Sisters!

+1 comment
+1 linked to sidebar @ http://thehidingspot.blogspot.com


Michelle (Red Headed Book Child) said...

I would love to be entered.

I have an older sister, 3 years older, and we went through many rough times growing up not liking each other. But like the other grew to be friends later in life.

This book sounds really good. I would love to read it.


Raspberry said...

I would love to read this - I never had a sister, instead having a love/hate relationship with a household of boys.
I also posted this on my sidebar. twoandahalfbooklovers.blogspot.com

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

No need to enter me, ladies. I'm dropping in to say thanks for the e-mail. I've got this posted at Win a Book for you.

Bethie said...

Great interview. I just love that mother and daughters can read the same book and talk about it. My son and I are reading the Percy Jackson series together. I need to race to keep up with him!

lizzi0915 at aol dot com

Erica said...

I cannot wait for The Life of Glass to come out - it looks great!

Tweeted: http://twitter.com/thebookcellarx/status/5072503445

:) Erica

cait045 said...

I have the same memories of being snowed in. We have a hill right by our house that all the kids in the neighborhood would go to sled on. My big sister was the one who took me up.

Tweeted @cait045

Marilu said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marilu said...

My sister and I are fairly close in age. We are 20 months apart. Growing up, we weren't very close, and didn't get along very well. Honestly, we didn't really like each other very much. We fought almost all the time. However, over the years we have grown VERY close. We are not just sisters we are the best of friends. I can not imagine what growing up would have been like without her.
I would love to win a copy of this book. Please enter me. Thanks

Bingo said...

I would love to win this book. My sister is a bit older than me and is in fact visiting me this week as it is the one year memorial of her husband's death. He died unexpectedly and it was a total shock to all--obviously her and I am trying to make the week bearable for her...but in relation to something Jillian said, I also married my first real love when he played in a band. The night of our first date, I came home and said, "This is the man I am going to marry. Don't laugh, but I just feel that this is THE ONE". 37 years and one wonderful son later, we are still happily married. OH, and I am a September sister as I was born in September.
Thanks for the chance!

kdhaney (AT) gmail (dot) com

Wrighty said...

I've been so anxious to read this book! I've heard great things about it.

I fought constantly with my brother who is two years younger. We couldn't stand each other! Now we are very close and so are our kids. I couldn't imagine losing a sibling. This is an interesting perspective on the topic. I always wonder how the family deals with such a horrible thing. Thanks for your giveaway!


Addicted Book Reader said...

Wow great interview! The novel sounds great.
adrienne2093 at comcast dot net

Kelsey said...

Great interview! The September Sisters has been on my wishlist forever!

kelseythebookscout at gmail dot com

RKCharron said...

Hi ;)
Thank you for the great interview.
I hadn't been aware of Jillian Cantor nor The September Sisters before. It sounds like a great read. My daughters are two years apart and are in that fighting stage. I'm getting The September Sisters and (hopefully) the story will cause them to appreciate each other more.
Thank you for sharing,
All the best,
PS - I am Canadian, that's why I said don't enter me. But I just had to comment.

holdenj said...

It sounds like a wonderful book. I always wanted a sister.
I think it's great that Jillian's husband is so supportive and conventiently works with the right age group for some feedback and ideas for her!

Martha Lawson said...

Wow!! I'm absolutely blown away.. I've got to read this book!!! It sounds awesome. My sister and I had a huge (12 yr) age difference between us and were never close and still aren't.. Haven't seen or talked to her in years.

mlawson17 at hotmail dot com

Darlene said...

I'm a September sister, so this book sounds good to me!

jpetroroy said...

This sounds great, especially as I have no sisters :)

jpetroroy at gmail dot com

+1 I tweeted at https://twitter.com/jpetroroy/status/5084403238

Jill of The O.W.L. said...

My sister and I live together, so I'm always interested in stories about sisters!

+1 on my sidebar http://owlforya.blogspot.com

foltzsfantasticbooks at gmail.com

Neas Nuttiness said...

Jillian - I love that you mentioned sharing books with your mother. I have 5 daughters...3 of whom are avid readers. We share books with each other all the time, even though we all live hundreds and hundreds of miles apart:-)


elnice said...

Jillian, it must be hard to transition from YA to adult writing. Do you find it challenging?


Jillian Cantor said...

I LOVE all of your comments and especially your sister stories!

To Bingo: OMG -- I said the same thing after I went on the first date with my husband. I came home and told my mom that he was the man I was going to marry. Funny, huh?

To elnice: I have to say I don't really find it that hard to transition from YA to adult writing. My "writing" pretty much stays the same - the big difference for me is just the age of the narrator, but I find it refreshing to be able to write from the perspective of a teen in one book and a 30-year-old in the next!

Sandee61 said...

I'm new to your blog and enjoying the reviews and interviews. Please enter me in your giveaway for The September Sisters. Thank you!



Diana Dang said...

Yes, I love realistic YA novels. More grounded.

linked: www.orientaldesires.blogspot.com

faked_sugartone at hotmail

writergal said...

How cool that Jillian's husband teachers and his students are fans of hers and the parents of his students are fans as well! love that!

I really like your site and your interviews.

Haleyknitz said...

I remember reading Nancy Drew. when i was really young my mom would read them out loud to us. so much fun! awesome that she read them too.

enter me please! I'd love to win. haleymathiot at yahoo dot com

MoziEsmé said...

Looking forward to reading The Life of Glass! It looks like you don't shy from the hard details of life...

janemaritz at yahoo dot com

Ashley said...

I've been really wanting to read this one. Please enter me, thanks! booksobsession(at)gmail(dot)com

+1 Posted on my sidebar at http://booksobsession.blogspot.com

Michelle said...

Wonderful interview - thanks!! I'd like to know if you take your characters from people you know or if they are just your own creation..


mmillet at gmail dot com

Debbie F said...

I would love to read this! I don't have any sisters but my mother is the oldest of 4 and they have such a great relationship and I always felt I was missing something. I love reading books about sisters or friends that are close and stay close for many years. Would love to read this!

thanks for a great interview
dcf_beth at verizon dot net

Kristen said...

I now have four sisters (2 blood and 2 in-law) and I love books about sisterly bonds. I too was a huge Nancy Drew reader!

dragonzgoil at gmail dot com

Rebecca N. said...

My sister is about 2 and a half years older than I am. We had our moments, lol. She seemed to like to make me cry (spank me, knock me off the swings etc.) so she could be sweet and give me things to make me feel better(pencil erasers, toys that already belonged to me...) , and to bribe me into not telling. I used to sneak into her bed at night so she could tell me stories and keep me safe. I was afraid of ghosts. :)I would get into trouble for not being in my own bed, but I always snuck into hers anyways. Now that we are grown, we are pretty close. Thank goodness, she doesn't try to hurt me to make me cry anymore haha. I can't imagine life without my big sis. I adore her!
Thanks for the awesome giveaway! I would absolutely love to read this book!

imsosweepy { at } gmail { dot } com

Kidzbooks said...

I have heard a lot of great buzz about this book. The author interview was very interesting. I would love to win a copy of this title. iluvsugrray@aol.com

momsblog said...

I can relate to your childhood! My sister and I are also 3 years apart and we fought ALL the time. It was crazy in our house. But ever since she moved out, it's been way more calmer. We've only had one fight within the 3 years since she left. I'd love to read your book.


GFDesignz said...

I would love to read this. My sister and I fought like cats and dogs growing up but are inseparatable now. Cant imagine life without her.


bettycd said...

It was interesting to read about your memories of continual bickering with your sister as you grew up which many relate to. Not all kids engage in this and it could be considered bullying. Do you think parents should be more proactive in stopping this, even to getting family counseling if necessary. So many siblings become close after they grow up. Wouldn't it be great if they didn't have to live thru all those contentious years.

christin said...

Life of Glass sounds great and I can't wait to read your first adult novel!

allisonrocks said...

Your stories about your siblings were interesting. I have a brother and we fight a lot but sometimes we get along really well but then the fighting starts up again. I would enjoy reading the september sisters (because I'm one)

Sarah (Limerick) said...

I like that she has decided to write a story about a siblings feelings about the disappreance of their sister or brother. They are always pushed to the side.

+1 I also linked this contest to my sidebar.

Thanks for the contest, Kim!

two_of_hearts_101 at yahoo dot com

Darlene said...

Nice interview-would love to win!

Anonymous said...

I also am a lover of the classic's much like your charector.
Please include me in your contest.

Jennie Smith said...

Growing up with sisters... what can we say!? My sister and I are 9 years apart so I completely relate to the bickering (we still do and I am 27... she is 18!!!) Can't wait to read the book and I am looking forward to what you have up next!!


posted link on my blog too!!

Emma said...

The September Sisters sounds wonderful.Please enter me in the giveaway.augustlily06(at)aim(dot)com.Thank you.

minishoes1 said...

I grew up with 4 older sisters. There was a time where we weren't close. I can say we are close now,but it took awhile. I also loved Nancy drew books when I was a girl. Thanks! jacquecurl1@gmail.com

Deb K said...

I think that this sounds like a great book too~as I only have one sister that is 6 years older then me and we had our ups and downs when we were younger but I love her with all my heart today :)


Deb K said...


Anonymous said...

what a wonderful interview...thanks for the opportunity to read this book.

karen k

J. Lee said...

Wow...Can't wait till I can read the book


Anonymous said...

This book sounds like a winner. I have 2 kids, 3 years and 4 days apart, just like the author & her sister. I would love to be entered in the contest.
k. Gold, kjgpinelake@yahoo.com

StephTheBookworm said...

The September Sisters looks AMAZING! I would love a chance to win a copy.


StephTheBookworm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
~The Book Pixie said...

September Sisters sounds like such a good book. I'm afraid my sister and I don't share a close bond at all. XD I'm really looking forward to her next book The Life of Glass as well.

Great giveaway. Count me in.

+1 Tweeted: http://twitter.com/thebookpixie/status/5873583095


CherylS22 said...

"The September Sisters" looks like a good read. Relationships between sisters are so interesting - some are really good & others are not.

Thanks ~ megalon22{at}yahoo{dot}com

Nancye said...

This book sounds awesome! I relly hope I win!!

Your snow days sound a lot like mine. I would go out and play with my older brothers. That was one time we didn't fight either! I remember coming home to drink hot chocolate, and warm up, and go back out and play some more. Good times!!

Tweet! Tweet!

nancyecdavis AT bellsouth DOT net