Rummanah Aasi
 Today I would like to introduce you to a award winning artist and author, J.B (Bridget) Chicoine, who has just released her first book, Portrait of a Girl Running, in a YA/New Adult series featuring Leila Sanders. The interview below gives us a glimpse into the author's latest novel and her main character.

Before we get to the interview, here is the description and the cover of Portrait of a Girl Running:

All Leila wants is to get through her senior year at her new high school without drawing undue attention. Not that she has any big secret to protect, but her unconventional upbringing has made her very private. At seventeen, she realizes just how odd it was that two men raised her—one black, one white—and no mother. Not to mention they were blues musicians, always on the move. When her father died, he left her with a fear of foster care and a plan that would help her fall between the cracks of the system. Three teachers make that impossible—the handsome track coach, her math teacher from hell, and a jealous gym instructor. Compromising situations, accusations of misconduct, and judicial hearings put Leila’s autonomy and even her dignity at risk, unless she learns to trust an unlikely ally.

What inspired you to write Portrait of a Girl Running?

Well, I have always been intrigued with unconventional relationships (romantic and otherwise) and what makes them endure or fizzle, especially when a lot is working against their success. Girl Running—and also Protégé—aren’t really about taboo relationships as much as they are about the twisted road that love sometimes takes, about letting to of old baggage and grabbing for something far more enduring that lust.

  In Portrait of a Girl Running, the main character, Leila, is seventeen and living on her own after being raised by two biracial fathers, both blues musicians. She plays blues piano herself, and later meets Clarence Myles, a math teacher, who also has an interest in the blues. What spurred your interest in this particular type of music?

I’ve always leaned toward having the blues, so maybe that genre just naturally appeals to. So, when I was developing Leila’s character, I didn’t want her to be typical 17-year-old, and blues is not typically what teenage girls listen to. Blues is unpretentious, like Leila, and I think it suits the tone of the story.

  At the novel’s start, Leila meets Ian Brigham before learning that he is a track coach at her new high school. They develop an obvious attraction for each other, which is an important plotline in the story. What made you want to write about a student/teacher relationship, and how would you characterize theirs?

Leila and Ian Brigham’s relationship is based on not just a physical attraction and compatibility, but on a growing emotional dependency. Although their developing relationship is a major plot point, Leila’s relationship with her curmudgeonly math teacher, Mr. Myles, ends up impacting her life more than Ian, filling her need of a true friend and father figure.

  Both Portrait of a Girl Running and its sequel, Portrait of a Protégé, take place in the Northeast. How integral is the setting to these two stories?

I think both of these stories could have taken place anywhere—I simply chose settings I was most familiar with. That said, the racial “geography”—the line between the black and white sides of town—is important in Girl Running. Millville, the fictitious town based on where I grew up, fits the criteria for that time period in a unique way.

  Leila has a number of interests, including running and painting. How does your own career as an artist inform your work?

I have to admit that Leila and I share a similar style of painting—very controlled and detailed. Of course, Leila is a far better artist at seventeen than I ever was. By the end of Protégé, she has conquered a lot of the fears I still struggle with, so I guess I tried on her daringness just to see how it felt.

 Are you working on another novel? If so, what can you tell us about it?

Yes—it is a psychological drama about a young man whose delusional mother believes he his blind. His story is told through an enigmatic young seamstress, hired to alter the young man’s trousers when he returns from England for his father’s funeral. It is set in New England, of course.

 About J.B. Chicoine

J. B. Chicoine was born on Long Island, New York, and grew up in Amityville during the 1960s and 70s. She has lived in New Hampshire, Kansas City and Michigan. She enjoys setting her stories in New England. She has been writing stories since she was a girl, but didn't complete a novel until she was nearly thirty. Since then, she has completed four more novels: Uncharted: Story for a Shipwright, Spilled Coffee, Portrait of a Girl Running and its sequel Portrait of a Protege
  J. B. Chicoine's novels are character driven, (though she does love a plot twist). As a watercolor artist, people are one of her favorite subjects. She says that developing a character is so much like painting a portrait--adding layers as she goes--creating depth. She also enjoys designing covers and binding her novels. She blogs about her painting and writing. When she's not writing or painting, she enjoys volunteer work, baking crusty breads and working of various projects with her husband. 
For more information about J.B., check out her art blog, writing blog, website, and on Goodreads
8 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    What a fantastic interview, thanks so much for sharing Rummanah! I wish I could paint. I can draw okay and I'm good with computers and graphic design, but I cannot paint well at all. I can copy something, but I can't paint from my mind or from life. *sigh* This sounds like a truly fascinating story, and she definitely has me curious about the "twisted road love sometimes takes":)

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Portrait of a Girl Running sounds like an interesting, rather original YA/NA premise, and I'm really curious to see how Leila's relationships (romantic and otherwise) with her teachers turns out. I also am curious about the book she's working on now about the young man whose mother thinks he's blind. Amazing interview!

  3. I'm pretty sure I've never seen this book before, but it sounds lovely and incredibly complex. I'm especially curious about the student -teacher relatioship and how it was handled, but I'm interested in other parts of it as well. The parents, the blues, pretty much all of it.
    Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. Candace Says:

    This sounds like it has some really interesting themes in it. I'm curious about how things turn out for her.

  5. Oh you hooked me with unconventional and then sold me with painting. :D Yes, I saw those and knew this series would be for me. What a great interview. I am now wishlisting these books.

  6. Interesting stuff. I haven't heard of this book before so I am going to check it out on Goodreads. Her next book sounds really interesting and weird too a delusional mother who believes her son is blind? I am most curious.

  7. Oh, that's a great interview! And the book sounds so interesting, or rather both of them do! Are you reviewing them? I can't wait to see what you think. I love the sound of Leila and the men in her life.

  8. Rummanah,
    Thanks so much for spotlighting Portrait of a Girl Running! :)

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