After finding success twice with picture books for children, Sacramento State Professor Kim Zarins is aiming for a slightly older audience with her debut novel, which uses her passion for medieval literature to bring Chaucer to a new set of readers.
Sometimes We Tell the Truth is a modern interpretation of The Canterbury Tales, told as a young adult (YA) novel. But instead of following a group of medieval Christians on a pilgrimage, it focuses on a busload of teenage students.
“Chaucer is near and dear to my heart, so to be able to adapt him and turn the characters into modern American teenagers was such a fun idea,” Zarins says.
The book was released Tuesday, Sept. 6, by Simon Pulse publishing, an imprint of Simon & Schuster.
As with Chaucer’s original, Zarins’ story begins with a journey – a class of high school civics students en route to Washington. When the students get a bit rowdy, a teacher challenges them to a story-telling competition, with the winner to receive an “A” in civics. As the stories unfold, a number of secrets and confessions come to light.
“The Canterbury Tales has such vibrant characters,” Zarins says. “And turning them into teenagers has allowed for that vibrancy to come across. There’s a lot of humor and heart in the story.”
The new tales are not exact mirror images of their predecessors, but do have similarities. “It’s meant to be something a teen will discover is a fun road trip story,” Zarins says. “I will have an afterword explaining where all of these great stories came from.”
Sometimes We Tell the Truth is a different approach to the typical YA novel in that it is a contemporary story that contains a variety of stories of different genres and themes told by the novel’s characters. Some tales are realistic, others are filled with mischievous pranks, and still others are fantasy. “Each story is complete on its own, but connects to the larger story of the teenagers on the bus and what they’re learning about each other,” Zarins says.
With a doctoral degree from Cornell University in New York, Zarins came to Sacramento State eight years ago and teaches medieval and children’s literature. She became interested in medieval works at an early age after reading the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. “They taught medieval literature, and reading their books had made me realize there must be something really good about that period,” she says.
Her previous children’s books are The Playful Bunny and The Helpful Puppy.
Zarins has a number of book signings following the novel’s Sept. 6 release. They include:
- Sept. 8, 1:30 p.m., Sacramento State University Library Gallery,
- Sept. 11, 2 p.m., The Avid Reader, Davis,
- Sept. 29, 4 to 5:30 p.m., Sylvan Oaks Library,
- Sept. 30, 4 to 5:30 p.m., Fair Oaks Library, and
- Oct. 8, 1 p.m., Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Roseville
For more information, contact Zarins at (916) 278-6586 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For media assistance, call Sacramento State’s Public Affairs office at (916) 278-6156. – Craig Koscho