The 10 most important things about Esme Wong (Ez) of SUPERVISION
1) She’s a big city kid in the country. Like Ez, I moved from NYC to a small, rural town in Appalachia. But unlike Ez, it wasn’t my punishment; I grew up in the country and wanted to return. For Ez, it’s more of an adjustment to be stuck in a town “where there were no malls or coffee shops or stores that stayed open past five o’clock or kids [her] own age or anything to do.” But she finds, as I did, that small towns often hold the biggest secrets.
2) She’s brave. An artist friend recently asked me if my characters are me, and in talking with her about how they definitely aren’t, we realized they’re like alter egos. Ez’s feelings and fears are mine, her emotions and worries—but she’s much braver than I am. She does things I could never do: explores a subway tunnel, tracks down a murderer, gets into fights. Which leads me to…
3) Ez gets in trouble. She gets caught. She talks back. She’s having a hard time in school. She’s not perfect, and at the start of the novel, as in some of my favorite novels like THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnett, things are rough for her.
4) She lives in a creepy old house. Ez comes to live with her grandmother in a house based on the old mansion of a coal baron near my town. It was a glorious mansion—once upon a time. There’s a ballroom, marble fireplaces. But now it’s almost in ruins: falling down and—a bit like the legendary Winchester Mystery House of California—full of weird additions: stairs that lead to nowhere, second story doors that open into empty space. Home is not safe.
5) Ez is Chinese-American. Ez’s great-grandparents emigrated from China to America, and her great-grandfather worked building the railroads. Ancestry and inheritance are very important in SUPERVISION, as is the history of the railroads, and diverse books are very important to me personally: I’m of Cherokee ancestry and I’m deaf, born with profound hearing loss. This has shaped my whole life and how I experience the world; it’s part of what makes me “me.” Kids (and grownups) deserve to read books about all kinds of lives, all kinds of histories and experiences. I’ve never read a book about a girl like me, but I hope to someday. Even if I have to write it.
6) She has a secret talent. I didn’t want Ez to be “the chosen one,” and she isn’t, but I think we all have something inside us that, especially when we’re tested, rises and makes us strong and special, makes us what is needed in that time. Importantly, Ez comes from a talented family, but in her the talent is the strongest (and strangest), even though she’s also the youngest. I teach high school writers in the summer, and I often think: this next generation is going to totally overthrow us all—and that’s awesome.
7) She was named after a J.D. Salinger story. I named Esme after a character in one of my favorite short stories: “For Esme—with Love and Squalor” by J.D. Salinger. Strangers usually misspell my first or last name (sometimes both), and people have trouble with Esme Wong’s name, make fun of it, give her a nickname she hates. Then she gets a nickname she loves, that suits her: Ez.
8) She saves herself (and others) In a bit of tongue-cheek, a boy, early on in the book, saves Ez’s life. More than once. But then she saves him and others, including her own sister. It was important to me that Ez come into her strength slowly. Throughout the book she gets more and more confidence. She learns to fight back, realizes what she alone can do.
9) She’s an orphan. Like the classic books I loved as a girl—THE SECRET GARDEN, and ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L.M. Montgomery—and following the advice I think I heard the writer Richard Peck give many years ago, parents are not in Ez’s life. They passed away when she was a little girl, and she’s been raised by her older sister, The Firecracker. Trouble in books starts when kids are left alone. That said…
10) Ez is not alone. I love writing ensemble pieces. I’m happiest when there’s a whole crew of characters I’m juggling. In SUPERVISION, I loved writing the scenes where everyone is gathered around the kitchen table: the interactions, the differences of opinion and ways of speaking. I also knew Ez had to have help, as we all do. She has her rather interesting friends backing her up, and she has her family: in her case, her sister and her grandmother, a family of strong women.
ALISON STINE’s first novel, SUPERVISION, will be released by Harper Voyager UK in 2015.
Also the author of three books of poetry: WAIT (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011), OHIO VIOLENCE (University of North Texas Press, 2009), and LOT OF MY SISTER (Kent State University Press, 2001), she has worked as an actor, an artist’s model, a high school teacher, and a professor. She holds a Ph.D. in English from Ohio University, and is an avid urban explorer.
by Alison Stine
Published by: HarperVoyager
Publication date: April 9th 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Young Adult
Something is wrong with Esmé.
Kicked out of school in New York, she’s sent to live with her grandmother in a small Appalachian town. But something is wrong with the grandmother Ez hasn’t seen for years; she leaves at midnight, carrying a big black bag. Something is wrong with her grandmother’s house, a decrepit mansion full of stray cats, stairs that lead to nowhere, beds that unmake themselves. Something is wrong in the town where a kid disappears every year, where a whistle sounds at night but no train arrives.
And something is wrong with the cute and friendly neighbor Ez’s age with black curls and ice-blue eyes: He’s dead.