True Colorz is your web source for all things YA in the LGBTQ community! Our blog features new releases, featured authors, interviews, and reviews/recommended reading.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Featured Author: Johanna Parkhurst

Johanna Parkhurst
Johanna Parkhurst grew up on a small dairy farm in northern Vermont before relocating to the rocky mountains of Colorado. She spends her days helping teenagers learn to read and write and her evenings writing things she hopes they’ll like to read. She strives to share stories of young adults who are as determined, passionate, and complex as the ones she shares classrooms with.

Johanna holds degrees from Albertus Magnus College and Teachers College, Columbia University. She loves traveling, hiking, skiing, watching football, and spending time with her incredibly supportive husband. You can contact her at or find her on Twitter at

Q&A with Author Johanna Parkhurst :

  1. If you could swap places with one of your fictional characters for 24 hours, who would you choose to be? Why? And what would you do that day?

    Emmitt, from Here’s to You, Zeb Pike. I heart Emmitt. He’s the best character to write, because he’s so well-intentioned in everything he does, and in many ways he encompasses the kind of high schooler I wanted to be but never was. What would I do? I would do athletic stuff, like play hockey, because Emmitt is very athletic and I am very much not. I would enjoy being a popular high school student, because Emmitt is a popular high school student, and I definitely never was. And even though I would be super popular, I would still be friendly and kind to everyone, because that’s just how Emmitt rolls, and that’s the main reason he is so awesome. And then I would go hang out with Dusty, the main character in Here’s to You, Zeb Pike, because Dusty is pretty awesome, too.

  2. If you could reenact a scene from any book (not necessarily your own), what would it be? Who would you choose for your scene partner(s)?

    I’ll reenact pretty much any scene from The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton, anytime, anywhere. My middle school students will tell you that I often have, and I usually make them my scene partners. My favorite scene is the one where Ponyboy breaks a bottle to threaten someone and then starts cleaning up the glass. That moment in the novel says so much about Ponyboy’s ability to be both who the world requires him to be and who he really is at the same time.

  3. Tell us something we’d be surprised to learn about you.

    I have mad dairy farming skills. No, seriously. I grew up on my parents’ dairy farm, so I know a lot about dairy cattle. I can milk cows, feed, handle basic animal illnesses and injury. It’s a skillset that has become totally useless in my adult life, but I like to think that years of milking cows at weird hours like 4 a.m. built me some character. And an appreciation for sleeping in.

  4. If you could travel back in time and tell the teenage you one thing, what would it be?

    I would love to tell teenage me to stop worrying so much what everybody thought of me. Who am I kidding—I still need to tell myself that on a near-daily basis. It’s just so easy to get caught up in believing that who you are is dependent on what other people think of you, and I think that goes double for teenagers, who’ve had less time to realize that not everyone will always appreciate you, and there will always be people who do appreciate you. The thing is, though, that I know teenage me wouldn’t have listened. So it would be a total waste of time travel.

  5. Is there anything from your own teen years that has been placed into your books?

    I’ve recently noticed that I keep accidentally setting my books in Vermont. I say “accidentally” because I often try to set them in Colorado, where I live now, and they seem to end up in Vermont. I blame this on the fact that I was a teenager when I lived in Vermont, so it just feels natural to set my teenage characters there. Here’s to You, Zeb Pike is a primary example of this problem. I started the book out in Colorado Springs, but it ended up being set almost entirely in Vermont.

  6. What would you like young readers to take away from your novels?

    Great question. I think Jed, one of the characters in Here’s to You, Zeb Pike, puts it best: “The best you can do—the best any of us can do—is to figure out when you’re going in the wrong direction and find the right one. That’s all you can ever do.” My books tend to be about very real teenagers who are dealing with difficult situation both in their control and out of their control. I want my teen readers to remember that life is about figuring out what is within your control and worrying less about the things that aren’t.

Now Available from Johanna Parkhurst :

Here’s to You, Zeb Pike Fact: When Zebulon Pike attempted to climb what is now known as Pikes Peak, he got stuck in waist-deep snow and had to turn back.

That’s the last thing Dusty Porter learns in his Colorado history class before appendicitis ruins his life. It isn’t long before social services figures out that Dusty’s parents are more myth than reality, and he and his siblings are shipped off to live in Vermont with an uncle and aunt they’ve never met.

Dusty’s new life is a struggle. His brother and sister don’t seem to need him anymore, and he can’t stand his aunt and uncle. At school, one hockey player develops a personal vendetta against him, while Emmitt, another hockey player, is making it hard for Dusty to keep pretending he’s straight. Problem is, he’s pretty sure Emmitt’s not gay. Then, just when Dusty thinks things can’t get any worse, his mother reappears, looking for a second chance to be a part of his life.

Somehow Zebulon Pike still got the mountain named after him, so Dusty’s determined to persevere—but at what point in life do you keep climbing, and when do you give up and turn back?

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