Jenna Voris on her new country music inspired YA novel, Every Time You Hear That Song

"when I think back to the music of my childhood, a lot of it is country"


Told in alternating perspectives of two women from separate generations, Jenna Voris’s new queer coming-of-age YA novel, Every Time You Hear That Song, is both a love letter to country music and an ode to complex women. With small towns, big dreams and a whole lot of heart, Every Time You Hear That Song is a beautifully woven story and a road trip you won’t soon forget. To celebrate its release, we had the pleasure of chatting with Jenna all about country music, upcoming projects and more.

Hi Jenna! I’m so excited to get to chat to you today about your fabulous new YA novel, Every Time You Hear That Song. For readers who may just be learning about the book, how would you describe the book in three words?

Swoony, nostalgic, and bittersweet.

Can you tell us a little about your inspirations behind the book?

Every Time You Hear That Song was initially inspired by Parton’s dream box. Basically, she wrote this song, locked it in a time capsule, and it’s not going to be opened until her 100th birthday in 2046. It’s so fun and dramatic, so naturally I was like “omg what if we’ve waited all this time, but then when someone goes to open it, the box is empty?” I also love National Treasure and Taylor Swift’s musical treasure hunts, so the elements of the story kind of fell into place from there.

Every Time You Hear That Song is a pretty big genre shift from your debut YA sci-fi, Made of Stars. Did your writing experience or process differ at all because of this change?

I actually wrote this book before I queried Made of Stars, had an agent, or knew I would ever be published. I just really loved the characters and the story and wanted to see where it could go. Because of that, my process didn’t really change but looking back, it was nice that I was able to write so much of this book without any external pressures or expectations.

Do you share Darren’s passion for country music and if so, do you know where that love originated?

Definitely! I grew up listening to Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, and George Strait in my parents’ car. One of my first concerts was a country music festival headlined by Carrie Underwood and when I think back to the music of my childhood, a lot of it is country.


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Every Time You Hear That Song is split into two perspectives and time periods. What was it like writing two different voices and eras?

The book was originally written in just Darren’s POV but as soon as I finished the first draft, I knew it was missing something. It wasn’t until I added the Decklee POV that things started coming together. On the surface, the two of them are very similar—they’re both ambitious and driven and want out of their small town. But as the story unfolds, we learn more about what makes them different. I loved digging into those tiny character moments with each of them.

Did you do much research into the 1960’s country music scene and if so, did you come across anything surprising or particularly interesting?

Yes—my notes for this project were its own separate document. I based a lot of the research around Dolly Parton’s career, since she was rising to fame around the same time Decklee would have been, and I really enjoyed learning about the intricacies of the different award shows. The CMA Awards in the 1970s, for example, were just getting off the ground but the Academy Awards had been around for decades. Those two shows would feel different and the awards would carry different weight to different groups of people, so it was important that I try to reflect that on page as well.

If Every Time You Hear That Song was a movie, what song would play over the opening and closing credits?

The opening credits would have to be something classic and upbeat, like Dumb Blonde by Dolly Parton or Don’t Let The Good Life Pass You By by Cass Elliot. The closing credits would be Every Time I Hear That Song by Brandi Carlile, so we could have that full circle moment with the title.

Finally, are you currently working on anything new and if so, is there anything you can tell us about it?

Yes! I have another queer YA contemporary called Say a Little Prayer coming from Penguin Teen next spring. It’s about a teen girl who decides to commit all seven deadly sins at church camp and finds herself falling for her best friend (who is also the pastor’s daughter).

Get your copy of Every Time You Hear That Song by Jenna Voris here.

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