Jamie Pacton is an auto-buy author forever. Lucky Girl is an action packed contemporary about luck, money, and love. I basically read it in one setting and I begged Jamie to do an interview and she said yes! Keep reading to see all my burning questions!
Lucky Girl Summary
58,642,129. That’s how many dollars seventeen-year-old Fortuna Jane Belleweather just won in the lotto jackpot. It’s also about how many reasons she has for not coming forward to claim her prize.
Problem #1: Jane is still a minor, and if anyone discovers she bought the ticket underage, she’ll either have to forfeit the ticket, or worse . . .
Problem #2: Let her hoarder mother cash it. The last thing Jane’s mom needs is millions of dollars to buy more junk. Then . . .
Problem #3: Jane’s best friend, aspiring journalist Brandon Kim, declares on the news that he’s going to find the lucky winner. It’s one thing to keep her secret from the town — it’s another thing entirely to lie to her best friend. Especially when . . .
Problem #4: Jane’s ex-boyfriend, Holden, is suddenly back in her life, and he has big ideas about what he’d do with the prize money. As suspicion and jealousy turn neighbor against neighbor, and no good options for cashing the ticket come forward, Jane begins to wonder: Could this much money actually be a bad thing
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Where did your inspiration for Jane’s mom come from? I loved watching their relationship unfold throughout LUCKY GIRL.
This part of the story was deeply personal to me, as I’m the oldest of ten kids and I grew up in a house where we didn’t throw things away. Like ever. My dad saved all our old shoes, clothes, books, back issues of magazines, old textbooks, and much more. To this day, parts of my parents’ house are nigh impassible because of it. (I’m not sure anyone besides my dad has been in the garage in decades). Certainly, there are many reasons for his holding on to all this stuff— perhaps it started out as wanting to hand stuff down as kids grew out of it, but eventually I think it signaled a desire to hold on to a past that was quickly slipping away. While writing Lucky Girl, I thought a lot about my parents’ relationship with stuff, and I also really drilled down into my own relationship with material possessions. I mean, I love shopping. I like stuff. (Truly, why have one pair of red shoes when you can have four?) For a very long time I had bins full of every letter, card, note, and drawing anyone had ever sent me. Then, between 2015-16 my children, husband, and I moved across country twice in less than a year. Both times we got rid of about 95% of our belongings and started over. Having to give up so much stuff really helped me disentangle emotional importance from material things. Which has been so helpful for changing how I think about what I buy and what I need.
As I wrote about Jane’s mom’s hoarding, I pulled from my own past and from the many episodes of Hoarders I watched while researching this book. What really stood out to me and what I wanted to highlight in this book was this: although hoarding is often a sign of and/or accompanied by mental illness, there are many reasons why someone starts hoarding. And we should treat them with care and compassion, while also trying to help. Figuring out that reason for Jane and her mom was quite a journey for me, and I hope that reading this book will help other kids who grew up in houses like the one I did.
What would Jane’s mom pick up from your bulk trash and what story would it tell?
Ha! Funny you should ask. My town really did used to have a “Big Junk Dump” day (though I made up that name) and it was fascinating to see what people left out and then what others took from the trash. We just put out some things last week— a bed frame, a patio umbrella, a broken deck box, some old firewood— and almost all it was gone in minutes.
I don’t think Jane’s mom would’ve stopped for any of our stuff, but I just drove by a house in town recently that had boxes of holiday decor, some old infant carseats, a stroller, and some plastic toys on the curb. There’s no way Jane’s mom could’ve passed any of that up.
(Side note: I still remember my dad pulling a red plastic pedal car out of the trash for my siblings and I when we were kids. We thought it was the greatest thing ever at the time. Like free toys!? Yes. Please.)
I found Holden and Jane’s relationship to be super fascinating, how did the character of Holden come to you?
Holden’s awfulness evolved in stages. Although I love YA romances, I really wanted to write a book where the best friend relationship was the heart of the story, and I wanted to write something where my main character was dealing with a breakup. So often we see the Happily Ever After in YA books, but not the aftermath— and I remember a lot of painful, confusing aftermaths of relationships from my teen years. So, I knew I wanted Jane to have an ex, but Holden wasn’t too bad in the first draft of LUCKY GIRL.
Then, my editor encouraged me to figure out his deep motivations for wanting the lotto money (so he wasn’t a caricature villain), and digging into that really opened up a lot of other things for me in his character and his relationship with Jane. Although he’s a guy who might have be slightly sympathetic in his motivations, his actions are gross. I wanted Jane to have to grapple with all that. Here was this boy she had loved so much— here was her HEA first love— but then he changed. A lot. Poor Jane has a very hard time wrapping her brain around these changes, and I think this leaves her open to making some bad choices. (Again, super personal, familiar territory here).
Also, I will add that he’s named Holden after Salinger’s main character in The Catcher in the Rye because I’ve thought that guy was pretty much the worst since the first time I read the book, back when I was Jane’s age.
Do you think Jane and Kit would be friends? I loved seeing the KIT easter egg!
They would absolutely be friends! Perhaps because to create both of them I drew so deeply on parts of myself, but I also think they’d recognize each other as girls who were doing their best, dealing with hard family situations, and trying to figure out their futures. I like to think they’d make great college roommates— very nerdy, very passionate about history and the ocean respectively— who had a lot of fun together (and made a lot of lists to organize their lives).
Was LUCKY GIRL always called LUCKY GIRL? Did you have any other titles you really liked?
I’ve had this one in my head for years, and for a while it was just “the lotto book,” but it quickly became LUCKY GIRL and never changed. (Same with KIT, which is pretty remarkable to me. I still can’t believe I got to keep KIT’s enormous title, lol).
Do you have a favorite aquatic animal?
I’m a huge fan of whales and I have been since I was a child (truly my love of humpback whales in 5th grade was rather terrifying in its intensity); but, these days I also have a greater appreciation for the sheer vastness and diversity of the ocean and the animals in it. (For example: I wouldn’t say I love jellyfish, but wow they are cool to learn about. Same with so many other aquatic animals). We watch a lot of ocean documentaries in my house, and I would love to live by the ocean someday.
Were there challenges writing LUCKY GIRL that you hadn’t experienced with KIT?
Oh. My. Gosh. Yes. This book is so short, that I thought it would write fast— but it took a looooooong time and it was wrenched from my soul in a way that I’ve never experienced with a book. I wrote it during a particularly hard time in my personal life and so many parts of it are pulled from my own experiences with losing love, not feeling like I’m enough, and dealing with parental mental health. I cried a lot while writing certain sections of this book. It was intense. Shew.
About Jamie Pacton
Jamie Pacton is an author, teacher, mom, and inclusive feminist who writes all sorts of books: YA fantasy; contemporary YA with a funny + geeky bent; MG adventure-fantasy; and, even the occasional adult rom-com. She grew up minutes away from the National Storytelling Center in the mountains of East Tennessee; she’s the oldest of ten kids; and, she currently lives in rural Wisconsin with her husband, their two kids, and a dog named Lego. The Life and (Medieval) Times of Kit Sweetly is her Young Adult debut and her sophomore novel, Lucky Girl, is forthcoming from Page Street in May 2021.