Author Interview: Kirsten B. Feldman, author of On the Way to Everywhere

Publisher: KBFeldman Books

Publication Date: September 8, 2014

Synopsis: Though she’s nicknamed for the magical Harry Potter, six-foot, dreadlocked Harry Kavanaugh doesn’t find any wonder in her daily life at an exclusive girls’ school outside of Washington, DC. In fact she wants nothing more than to chuck her lot and enter the wilds of public school—too bad she didn’t reckon on a trip to the hospital, a runaway, and a renegade or three, which just might show her a different path to everywhere.

Interview: Q. How did writing this book affect you?

Most of us have spent a good part of our lives in schools of one kind or another, and for some that part hasn’t had much good to recommend it.  Having noticed this for years, as a student and then later as a teacher, I wanted to follow the arc of someone who goes from hating every minute of school to finding a better alternative for herself.  Since education is such a ticket to better things in this world, I have wished for, and tried to aid in, this accomplishment for many students, and this book was my way of saying that it’s possible, for anyone.

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?

The hardest part is that the rest of life gets in the way.  That’s not to say that you can’t write and have a life or that life and writing are antithetical, just that there are limited minutes in each day and so many demands upon each of them.  When I am writing, I can’t hear or see anything else, so enmeshed am I in the world I am cataloguing.  I consciously don’t say creating because writing often feels more like old-timey channeling, getting down on paper what is spooling by in my head, or as the great writer Alice McDermott described it once, following my characters up and down stairs.

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?

I am working on four books at once and have a few ideas for others.  Sometimes I find that stories burn brightly, unrelentingly, and sometimes they need to simmer.

Q. What are you currently reading?

I am always reading at least one book, sometimes two or three if I have one in my bag, another in my desk, and, say, a third by my bed, but right this minute I am reading The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.  I wish I could say I love it as much as The Secret Life of Bees, but so far I cannot.  What I love to read most are adolescent voices full of angst and yearning and ear-ringing emotion, be it positive or negative.  My happiest times with a book find me brow furrowed, biting my lip, tugging on a piece of hair, and jiggling my foot up and down while I root ardently for my character of choice.  If I don’t have someone to root for, to wish a better life for, then the book will not stay with me.

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?

Sometimes I talk to my characters.  Out loud.

Q. Please tell us a fun-fact about yourself!

At the height of my vegetarianism, I made a complicated, time-consuming recipe for okra.  It tasted exactly the way that you would imagine Lemon Pledge would.  Now I eat more widely.

Q. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?

I would like to learn to fly, so since that’s unlikely, I’d like to learn to skydive.

Q. What gives you the most joy in life?

My family reading at the beach: joy exists all in one place.

Q. Which of your characters would you want to be and why?

I haven’t written a character yet whom I would want to actually be, since I do enjoy being myself quite a bit, but the proverbial night is young.  I relish my time with each of my characters, the good, the bad, and the ugly as the saying goes, and sometimes I can hear how their stories continue beyond the last page.  This thrills me.

Q. How do you like to spend your spare time?

I don’t have any spare time, but if I did, I would travel more.  Italy is first on my list, followed by Bermuda, Martinique, and wherever the last few polar bears are hanging out.  The South Pole?

Q. How did you come up with the title?

I kneaded a few different titles, pulled from the text of the novel itself, and when I had it narrowed down to two that seemed true to me, the one that spoke to the most people in my informal survey won.

Q. When did you know you would be a writer?

I feel as if I have always been a writer.  I was the kid who wrote short stories and poems in little blank journals (when I didn’t have my nose in a book or a paintbrush in my hand) or sometimes just the one who was lost in her head somewhere.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?

Harry is that girl who could have gone either way, and I see that girl everywhere I go: will she choose to tap her potential, or will she give up and fade away?  We can all learn something from Harry, and we can all put a hand out to girls like Harry and then enjoy the ride.

Excerpt from On the Way to Everywhere by Kirsten B. Feldman: Then it’s off to lunch to imbibe my latest cafeteria creation, vanilla frozen yogurt mixed with granola and peanut butter and a side of macaroni and cheese, no crumb topping. As biology teaches us, growth takes fuel, so you’d think I’d limit the calories, but I can’t stand that hungry feeling. I sit as usual at one end of an overflow table, exponentially as far as I can get from Duplicity and her chums. My nearest neighbors are texting, cramming for a test, and picking at salad like touching it will make them fat. We nodded at each other when I sat down, but no one wants more interaction than that. I think they are idiots; they think I’m weird. You try being the ginormous, klutzy daughter of the most beautiful, popular teacher in school and the Head, even if he barely acknowledges you, and see how comfortable you are. Finished at my usual Hoover-like speed, I head outside to sit under the maples, flaming red and dispersing their leaves to their deaths a few at a time. We should all be so lucky going out that way, a quick wrench of the neck and then free to spiral down, dust to dust. Muffled exclamations and yips punctuate my ruminations on death, and I look up. Falling leaves cascade off my head.

“She doesn’t even notice them! What if they, like, bite her?” The tumble of voices merges into one, much like the amoeba of sixth-grade bodies standing in a half-circle a ways away from me, shifting foot to foot, like butterflies debating landing or wheeling away. I scan the leaves, red and yellow and orange, looking for movement among the hulls. I find the writhing, seething pile of young snakes and pick them up. I chant Greenie’s rhyme for determining if striped snakes are poisonous, “‘Red touch yellow, kill a fellow. Red touch black, friend of Jack.’ Harmless," I feint a lunge, and the butterflies are decided. The nymphettes flee. I shake my head and look down at my handful. These snake babies, harmless scarlet kingsnakes, resemble the coral snake but have red snouts. Black rings separate the red and yellow rings. They come from the nest that we watched hatch out right at the beginning of the term, eggs that Greenie had collected over the summer left to her own devices, free of the ever-demanding curriculum. I brought them out for a little fresh air, but they would be eaten alive by hawks if they stayed out, not to mention that they don’t know how to look for their own food, raised on frozen mousicles as they have been. I make sure I have them all and go back inside, through the cafeteria, natch. The screams are tremendous.


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