Author Interview: Hannah Orenstein

OUR BOOK OF THE MONTH AUTHOR!

We are back with another incredible author interview, this time with Hannah Orenstein, the woman behind this month’s Ashley Brooke Book Club selection, Head Over Heels.

We had the best time getting to know Hannah better through this interview and our Instagram Live chat last night. You can catch the replay on our IGTV channel here.

I hope you enjoy hearing all the ins and outs of this month’s book straight from the author herself!

So without further ado…

LIGHTNING ROUND Q&A:

WHAT ARE YOU READING RIGHT NOW?

HANNAH: Know My Name by Chanel Miller (the writer and artist who survived a sexual assault at Stanford). What an incredibly powerful, moving book. She’s a brilliant writer. 

WHAT WAS YOUR LAST AMAZON PURCHASE?

HANNAH: I’ve tried to wean myself off Amazon this year! My favorite recent online purchase was a Nap Dress from Hill House Home. I’ve wanted one forever and the pandemic finally made me pull the trigger. It’s comfy but feels fancy. 

WHAT’S YOUR STARBUCKS ORDER?

HANNAH: Large coffee with milk. 

WHAT IS YOUR GUILTY PLEASURE?

HANNAH: I’ve watched literally hundreds of hours of Love Island while drinking wine in my bathtub. 

WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE CELEBRITY OR FICTIONAL CHARACTER?

HANNAH: I love Chrissy Teigen on Twitter. 

WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT ONLINE OBSESSION (WEBSITE, INSTAGRAM ACCOUNT, ETC.)

HANNAH: Bookshop.org! The site launched earlier this year and it’s already raised more than $6 million to support indie bookstores. I’ve been buying lots of books from them. 

WHAT IS NEXT IN YOUR NETFLIX QUEUE?

HANNAH: I just finished I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, the Golden State Killer doc on Hulu — it’s perfect for true crime fans. Next up, I’m watching Outlander on Netflix. 

Okay, Let’s Chat “Head Over Heels”

THIS BOOK WAS PERFECTLY TIMED. I’M SURE YOU AND YOUR PUBLISHER WERE HOPING TO LINE ITS RELEASE UP WITH THE SUMMER 2020 OLYMPICS, BUT IT FILLED SUCH A VOID FOR ME WHEN THE OLYMPICS WERE CANCELLED. WERE YOU SURPRISED BY THE RESPONSE? I FEEL LIKE A LOT OF OTHER READERS FELT THE SAME WAY!

The book was absolutely intended to line up with the 2020 Olympics. I know most people tend to tune into gymnastics just once every four years, during the Olympics, so I was excited to pull back the curtain and show just how intense the training process can be — not just for the gymnast, but for her coach and her family, too. Even though I agree the Olympics absolutely should have been postponed, and my heart went out to the athletes who are affected by this crisis, I was initially a little worried that readers might not connect so much with the book anymore. Just before the book went to print, I was able to add an author’s note to the front of the book that contextualized why this postponement could potentially be so devastating for some athletes: their careers are timed so precisely that even a one-year delay might mean they miss their shot at making the Olympic team, and it’s especially heartbreaking to see the 2020 Olympics postponed when gymnasts have already been through so much these past few years with the Larry Nassar trial. If the sport ever needed good news, this was the time. But despite all of that, I was really pleasantly surprised to see so many readers embrace the book and say that it filled their Olympic cravings for the summer. I’m honored that my book can fill that void. 

AS A FORMER GYMNAST, I’M SURE WRITING THIS BOOK FELT LIKE RETURNING TO THE MAT FOR YOU. WHAT WAS YOUR FAVORITE PART TO WRITE? THE FLOOR SEQUENCES WERE SO BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN.

Thank you! I was a gymnast for 15 years, so I had so much fun packing this book with details that evoke my memories of the sport: the chalk dust in the air, the Gatorade I’d drink at the end of every practice, the can of butt glue my teammates and I would spray on each other, and so on. Floor was always my favorite to practice and compete, and I thought it would provide the most dramatic scenes for the book. Avery’s style on floor is very much inspired by Nastia Liukin — think elegant, dramatic choreography and graceful, long lines. For Hallie, I drew on influences like Simone Biles and Katelyn Ohashi — super powerful tumbling, tons of playful energy. The emotion packed into Hallie’s final floor routine in the book draws on one of Aly Raisman’s 2016 floor routines (I wrote about that here).

I, LIKE YOU, WAS VERY INVOLVED IN A SPORT GROWING UP (COMPETITIVE DANCE) AND STILL MISS IT. WAS WRITING THIS BOOK A NOSTALGIC EXPERIENCE OR DID IT MAKE YOU MISS YOUR DAYS IN THE GYM?

Both, definitely! Gymnastics was such a huge part of my life for so long, and I felt so lucky to be able to dive back into that world for this book. Since I left the sport, a lot has changed. I was always aware that the culture of gymnastics could be incredibly toxic, but I didn’t recognize the full extent of that until the Nassar accusations broke just after the 2016 Olympics. When I started thinking about this book two years later, I realized that I couldn’t write a celebration of gymnastics without also exploring the ways in which the sport systematically fails to protect girls and young women. I was really inspired by the strength that so many gymnasts showed throughout and after the trial. So, the book braids together all those ideas, and writing it felt like a rollercoaster — or maybe more accurately, a complicated tumbling pass. 

I’M READY FOR BOOK 2, TELL ME YOU ARE WORKING ON A SEQUEL!

I’m working on another book, but it’s not a sequel. I can’t share more than that just yet, but watch my Instagram (@hannahorens) for news. 

WHAT PAGE ARE YOU ON?

Okay, now that you’ve read the interview… spill it! What page are you on?! Have you started, finished, or are you ordering today? I’m dying to know your thoughts. I fell in love with this Olympic fix of a book, and I hope you did too!

And for those of you who are literally devouring books left and right, this is for you! Below are three of our favorite books that are similar to this month’s selection. So if you are enjoying this month’s book, you will most likely enjoy these three as well…

Read-A-Likes

party of two // fierce // one to watch

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