Hi. I’m Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of Don’t Let Me Go, and I’m going to interview two of my favorite characters in as long as I can remember.
They are Billy Shine (born Donald Feldman), once a promising Broadway dancer, now an agoraphobic prone to panic attacks who hasn’t been out of his apartment in a decade—
Billy: That’s not entirely true. It was true when the book started. But I ventured out some. Might not seem like a lot to you…
Me: No, it did seem like a lot to me, Billy, because I know you so well. I apologize. The other character is Grace. Who’s nine. And needs some looking after. I’ve missed these two since telling their story. It will be fun to talk with them again. Please see my earlier tour post about characters who talk to authors for more info on why this doesn’t qualify me for a three-day mandatory psych evaluation.
On with the interview.
Grace: Ooh, ooh! Me first! Can I go first?
Me: I haven’t asked a question yet.
Grace: Oh. Right. But Billy got to go first. And you hadn’t asked a question.
Me: He had a correction.
Grace: A what?
Me: He caught me making a mistake.
Grace: So did I. So there. You said I needed looking after. But that’s wrong. My mom is clean, and she’s around, and I can spend as much time with Billy as I want and Felipe comes over once a week. Don’t you think that’s enough looking after?
Me: I do.
Grace: Billy got apologized to.
Me: Grace, I apologize. Boy, I can see you two are going to be hard to handle.
Billy: I’m being a perfect gentleman.
Me: How about nobody say anything until after I ask a question?
Grace: Okay. Ooops. That was saying something, wasn’t it?
Me: [Sighing.] Here’s the first question. What do you like most and least about each other? Billy, do you mind if I let Grace go first?
Billy: I think you’d be hard pressed to do otherwise.
Grace: See? Right there. That’s what I like least about Billy. He talks weird. I don’t understand half what he says. I have to say, “In English, Billy.” Then he’ll say it again and half the time I still don’t understand. No offense, Billy. You know I love you.
Billy: None taken.
Grace: And the other thing I don’t like is how he’s afraid of everything. Even though he’s better than he used to be. But, really, I gotta tell you…you can be a lot better than Billy used to be and that’s still one big load of scared.
Billy: We’re leaning heavily on the negative end of the question.
Grace: See? There he goes again.
Me: He wants to hear the good things you have to say about him.
Grace: Oh. That’s easy. He’s Billy.
Grace: Nobody’s saying anything.
Me: I think we’re not sure how that answers the question.
Grace: Duh. Pay attention, guys. He’s Billy. That’s huge. Nobody else is. I mean, somebody else has the name Billy, but nobody else is Billy. And I love Billy. So that’s what I love about him. His Billy-ness.
Billy: I’ll accept that if you will.
Me: I’m good with it. Now you, Billy.
Billy: I love that Grace is so unafraid. I mean…I know she’s not completely unafraid. Nobody is. But she’s less afraid than anybody in our building, except maybe Jesse, who’s moved away now. And somehow we got less afraid just being around her. And I love her honesty. Even though it has its decidedly bumpy moments. Now. What I like least about Grace. Have you noticed that her voice can be…sometimes…just the tiniest bit…LOUD?
Me: I might have noticed that. Now. Please both speak to whether Grace is really going to be a dancer when she grows up.
Grace: You’re the author.
Me: I try to stay out of such things.
Grace: You’re as bad as Billy. You made up the story.
Me: But I ended it before you grew up. And, face it, you guys took on a life of your own. So I don’t know that I’m any more qualified than anybody else to judge.
Grace: You better go first, Billy. I’m not sure what we’re saying anymore.
Billy: I was always completely honest with Grace about this. She can be. No doubt. But I’ve tried to tell her that the work she’d have to do to go pro…she probably doesn’t know that much work exists in the world. And it’s a hard life. If it turned out she didn’t want to, I’d respect that. I worry that the life would break her down.
Grace: Now I don’t want to answer. I’m deciding.
Me: Fair enough. Last question. What’s the most important thing you learned from each other?
Billy: That love is stronger than fear. I love Grace, but I’m afraid of the world. But I went out into the world for Grace. So love won. Over fear. And fear is huge. So think how big love must be.
Me: One of my favorite pastimes. Grace?
Grace: That you can meet somebody and think they’re weird and still really love them. And they are weird, you weren’t wrong. But you love them just as much.
Me: So…love is bigger than weird.
Me: Thanks for hitting on my favorite theme, Grace: that we see so many differences on the surface of someone, but when we get down deeper, the differences don’t mean a thing.
Grace: I have no idea what you just said, but you’re welcome.
Me: Thanks, guys. It’s been…almost…real.
Catherine Ryan Hyde is the author of 18 published and forthcoming books. Her newest releases are When You Were Older, Don’t Let Me Go, Jumpstart the World, When I Found You and Second Hand Heart. Forthcoming is Walk Me Home (Transworld UK, Spring 2012). Pay It Forward was adapted into a major motion picture starring Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. Catherine is also founder of the Pay It Forward Foundation.