Q&A With the Author
(Q):You spent several years teaching life skills and best parenting practices to teen parents. How does that experience play a role in your debut novel Star in the Middle?
(A): When I worked with teen mothers, I was struck by a sense of underlying sadness and guilt in many of our conversations as they talked about their lives, both past and present. Many of the teen parents had “accumulated layers” in their young lives that may have contributed to their at-risk behaviors. “Layers” that burdened them as they attempted to care for themselves and their babies. Some were victims of child abuse and neglect, and other serious problems including sexual abuse.
I believe that this book, through its characters, will help students examine at-risk behaviors, and the serious consequences of those behaviors. The book speaks to the heartbreak felt by hard choices facing many teens today – heartbreak felt by the teens themselves, as well as those around them. It is my hope that teens will also talk about words and phrases that may have become just that to them – words and phrases – rather than actions and behaviors that may change their lives in very serious ways.
(Q): Star in the Middle is much more than a captivating story for teens. Can you tell us about who else the book is meant to reach?
(A): I wrote this book for teens, as well as parents of teens. I hope that the characters, and the experiences they encounter in the pages of Star in the Middle, will help young adults ask themselves some tough questions about what they want for themselves. It’s so important to have dreams, and a plan on how to make those dreams come true.
While writing the book, I visited bookstores and was so pleasantly surprised to find both mothers and daughters in the YA section buying books. They shared with me that reading the same books helped start dialogues about topics that were not always easy to talk about. So, I hope that this book will provide those positive interactions between teens and their parents – as well as teens and their peers.
(Q): Why did you decide to write for young adults?
(A): I think teens make a great audience. They are such savvy readers. I became interested in writing for this group while working with young adults, because I have so much respect for them and the issues they voiced. There are several YA authors that I admire. I think they help bring focus to so many challenges facing teens.
(Q): Your main character, Star, was dealing with a painful secret in her life. Why did you choose to add that particular storyline?
(A): Sometimes things happen in a girl’s life, against her will, that put her at a higher risk for becoming a teen mother. Research shows that Star’s secret is one of those indicators. It is a very serious problem that all too often targets both genders. Star kept a secret that she should have not have kept. This type of abuse can escalate and should be reported immediately to a parent, or some other adult that can help.
(Q): Abortion is such a hot topic in America today. Did you worry about how teens might view your characters’ points of view on the issue?
(A): Absolutely. Because it’s a very personal decision, and it’s so important not to judge anyone for the tough decisions they feel they must make for themselves. But, again, I think that teens are very thoughtful readers. They understand that this is fiction, and that there are lots of real stories out there in the world with different outcomes. I think the dialogue should be less about right and wrong and more about making good choices. This is something that you can control. If you choose to become sexually active, choose to protect yourself against an unplanned pregnancy and/or STD’s.
(Q): Do you think that Star made the right decision to keep her baby?
(A): I hope readers will ask themselves that question. The reality is that many teens that become pregnant keep their babies – that’s the story I wanted to tell. I thought it was important to talk about the care and commitment it takes to be a parent. There are also couples that want to adopt and give a baby a good home. Adoption would be a very positive outcome for any mother that is not ready, or doesn’t have the resources to raise her child.
(Q): What is your No. 1 piece of advice for teen parents?
(A): Your are not in this alone. There are people and resources available to you and your baby. If you haven't finished high school, make every effort to do so again, take advantage of any resources available in your area. Your school nurse or guidance counselor can help you locate services. Parenting is not an easy job, but it's a very rewarding one. Taking good care of yourself is such an important part of being a good parent to your baby.
(Q): Do you feel Star and Wilson should get together at the end of the book?
(A): Another reality, and a harsh reality at that -- teen mothers more often than not end up raising their babies without the help of the babies’ fathers. So, without giving anything away, I will let readers come to their own conclusions about how this story should end. There are lots of clues throughout the story to help readers understand the probability of Star and Wilson’s relationship lasting.
(Q): As a successful debut author, what advice to you have for aspiring first-timers?
(A): When I just can't seem to get motivated to tackle a new writing project, or I'm stuck and can't seem to move my characters forward, I take some time to read several good books. There are so many authors I truly admire, and I learn so much about what makes a good book work just by losing myself in the stories that they've skillfully crafted.
I think it's important to be true to your characters, and for me, that means taking some time to get to know them and the stories they want to tell before committing them to paper. I find that walking helps me clear my head, and helps me see my characters more clearly.
Join a writing group, and attend writing conferences. I had a manuscript critiqued at a Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Conference. The author who critiqued my work contacted me when information about WestSide Books came to her via e-mail. Although WestSide Books didn't published that manuscript, I sent the publisher a proposal for Star in the Middle. I was thrilled that she was interested in seeing the completed manuscript, which lead to my first contract!
I tell student groups to always have more than one dream, and to enjoy their lives while they're waiting for their dreams to come true. Beyond that, believe in yourself and your writing, and enjoy the process. I wish you every success.
There is a book signing/author event at The Book Escape,
|Copyright The Bibliophilic Book Blog 2009-2010|