|S. A. Harazin||Interview with S. A. Harazin, March 2008|
by S. A. Harazin
Ages 14 and up
Without his job at the hospital, Clay would be lost. The hard work, the struggles of the patients, the drama in the ER—they make his days seem worth something and give focus to his dream of someday becoming a doctor. Clay can’t afford to go away to college like the rest of his class, but what other seventeen-year old has delivered a baby or helped to save a life?
Still, Clay wishes his life could be more like his best friend’s. Joey has it all—a great family, a good college waiting for him at the end of the summer, money, a car. Clay has to bike everywhere, and the miles are starting to wear him down.
But Joey’s bright future shatters one day when he overdoses at a party. Now he’s clinging to life at the hospital where Clay works—and Clay may be blamed for his condition. Tension and emotion rise as those who love Joey gather and wait. Clay will do whatever he can to find out what happened at the party, and to help Joey recover. But to survive this ordeal, Clay must draw on a strength he never knew he had.
BLOOD BROTHERS has received an Edgar nomination and has been selected to be included in The New York Public Library Books for Teen Age 2008 List. It is also an ALA Quick Pick.
ETC: How did you come up with the idea for BLOOD BROTHERS?
Harazin: Most of the story comes from real life experiences that I fictionalized. I am a Registered Nurse and when I was a teen, I worked in a hospital.
Harazin: The spark for the story occurred several years ago. I went to work and one of my patients was a teen who was on life support. He was going through tests to see if he was brain dead. I quickly got to know his parents and a little about what had happened. He was a great student with many hopes and dreams, but he made a bad choice and ended up in a coma. During the time I was taking care of him, I kept asking myself, why did this have to happen to him—or to anyone? I never intended on writing this story, but it was something that haunted me for years. I could not forget him. I had to write a story about a great kid—the almost perfect kid—who made a mistake that changed everything.
ETC: Did you do much research?
Harazin: I didn't do any for the first draft. That came to me easily because I was writing what I knew. In later drafts I had to research police procedures and verify some of the medical detail.
I paid attention to stories about how PCP had reemerged as a drug, and sometimes users committed crimes—including murder—while using it.
I studied new research about the brain. The frontal lobe—the part that controls impulses—is still growing and developing even into the early twenties. This is why teens sometimes make rash decisions.
At the end of the book, I included a list of resources if anyone wants more information.
ETC: What do you hope readers will gain by reading BLOOD BROTHERS?
Harazin: I hope they have a great reading experience.
ETC: The narrative voice in BLOOD BROTHERS is that of Clay, a seventeen year old male. How did you achieve this?
Harazin: I had three teens, and I would listen to them and their friends closely. Even after I wrote the manuscript I would find great sentences that I knew I had to cut because it was not the voice of my main character.
ETC: Why did Clay and Joey become Blood Brothers and what was their bond?
Harazin: Clay and Joey met when they were seven years old and spent all their time together. They spit into a bottle to become blood brothers. They dreamed of taking a cross county bike trip, and they spent the next ten years preparing for this trip.
If they would have met when they were older, they probably would have never become friends because they were from different socio–economic classes.
ETC: How does the difference in socio–economic classes affect each of them in their lives and expectations?
Harazin: Clay began to notice the differences when they were in high school. Joey had more friends, more money, a car, and was planning to go to Duke University and someday become a doctor—something Clay wanted desperately to do. Clay worked hard, but he never seemed to get anywhere. Even Clay's girlfriend preferred Joey. Joey saw Clay as his best friend, but he did not completely understand Clay's life. Most of the time, the two boys were at Joey's house.
ETC: Both Mrs. Hunt and Chief Baker are strong supporting characters. Tell us a little about them.
Harazin: Mrs. Hunt is a nursing supervisor, and she took a chance when she hired and trained Clay as an orderly. This was an opportunity for Clay, and he was good at his job, but he made mistakes. He realized how much he wanted to become a doctor. On the outside, Mrs. Hunt is stern and expects the best from Clay. Later in the story she does something offstage to help Clay that is both risky and surprising.
Chief Baker has grown children, so he tries to understand Clay. He looks at the facts, he listens, and he realizes there is more to the story than Clay knows. He sees Clay as vulnerable and worries that he will get into trouble.
ETC: What is Clay's relationship to his father?
Harazin: Clay's father is stuck in his life and sees no way to make it better so he merely functions day to day to survive on a poverty level income. He works most of the time, and when he isn't working he is so tired that he is sleeping. Clay gets annoyed with his father because he is so static. Years before, Clay's father lost his wife and was raising two children as a single parent. Then he lost his job. He moved his family to GA in hopes of making things better—but he was still stuck in a low paying job. He found it impossible to get ahead in life. Clay does not want to become like his father.
ETC: What about Clay's sister, Darcy?
Harazin: Darcy is ten years older than Clay and was like a mother when he was a child. Darcy eventually moved to Nashville. She had dreams of becoming a country music singer, but like her father, she is stuck in a low paying job. Clay loves his sister and sometimes calls her on the phone for advice. She provides support long distance.
ETC: Is there anything you would like to add that you haven't ever been asked about?
Harazin: Before publication and reviews, I did not know that BLOOD BROTHERS was a fast paced mystery. I did not know it was about drugs. The characters used drugs and drank alcohol, but that was part of the plot. I did not know BLOOD BROTHERS was a cautionary tale. To me, the real story is about Clay and Joey's friendship and their hopes and dreams.