Interview with Laura Golden, author of Every Day After--and a giveaway!
Probably because of my prodigious begging skills :) Laura agreed to join me here for an interview. I can't wait for you all to learn more about Laura and Lizzie and her story--I think you're going to fall in love with all three! (And be sure to read onto the info about the giveaway at the end of the post!)
Faith: I think a lot of people have the mistaken impression that all historical fiction writers would jump at the chance to live in the past--but I have to say, Every Day After reminded me of a few reasons I'm glad I don't live in the 1930's at any rate! Is there a historical period you'd like to visit (for a short time)? Or any you'd particularly avoid?
Laura: Hmmmm…this is a toughie. I love historical eras, so I can’t say I wouldn’t want to try life in a different time period at least once, but I will say I’m grateful to live in the present. We in modern times reap the benefits of advanced medical science, and we enjoy communication conveniences like email and cell phones and lifestyle conveniences like electricity and running water.
If I chose to live in another era, I would be far more likely to die during childbirth or of an infection or influenza. I would have to buckle down and learn some patience because most communication would occur in the form of mailed letters, and I don’t believe mail was as speedy a service in olden days either. (Regarding true snail mail, I am reminded of the cause of the tragic deaths of Romeo and Juliet.) I would also need to develop my upper body strength for hauling buckets of water from well to house each day.
But, if I could go and zip back whenever I pleased, I would love to visit late 18th and early 19th century England—yes, I’m referring to Austenian times. My second choice would be America’s Gilded Age, especially if I could visit as a member of the Vanderbilt family. While I’m dreaming, I may as well dream big!
As to the historical era I would avoid, most definitely Europe during the mid- to late-14th century—the time of the bubonic plague (aka the Black Death). Not a fun time in history. At all. And, as a total hypochondriac, this era amounts to my worst nightmare!
Faith: What are 5 things/fashions/trends from the past you wish could be resurrected?
1. Women’s clothing from the 40s and 50s. Oh, how I love the cinched waists, the tea length dresses, the heels, the white gloves and pearls. It’s all so put-together and lovely.
2. Dinner parties and balls. I adore dressing up. I’ve always been a girly-girl, and formal dinner parties and balls, whether during Austenian times or the Victorian Era, would present me the perfect opportunity to wear a fancy dress and an ornate hairstyle.
3. Formality in general. Historically speaking, people held a gentility that has all but vanished. Now, I’m not saying that I would care to bring back social rankings based on inheritance or anything overly ridged, but a bit of the formal manners of bygone eras would be nice.
4. English cottages. I have always, always wanted to live in an English cottage—the fairytale type that Snow White occupies with the seven dwarves. They’re so charming.
5. Belief in the unknown. As man has progressed through the centuries, we seem to have lost our sense of wonder. Humans have become overly clinical (and critical) when searching for answers. The belief in something greater than us has waned as science and general knowledge has advanced. We have become a bit jaded. Why must knowledge come with an automatic disregard for the spiritual? I would certainly resurrect Wonder.
Faith: I agree with all of the above! Especially the last; beautifully said. Now to move on to your story... Can you share one (or a few) of your favorite sentences from the book?
Laura: I’d love to! In this small excerpt, Lizzie has just lost her best friend Ben and is worried that unless Daddy comes home, she’ll lose everything else she loves as well.
I knelt on the dusty boards beside Mama's rocker and rested my head in her lap, just as I had many times before when I was sick or upset. I sat there thinking of Ben and everything he'd said. Thinking of how he'd told me I'd be alone. And now I was, even with Mama beside me. I sat like that till the sun sank behind the trees, waiting for her to stroke my hair and tell me everything would be all right.
Faith: Beautiful! As for Lizzie...What is her greatest flaw? And what is her most outstanding virtue?
Laura: Lizzie has many flaws, but I believe her greatest is an inability to put herself in someone else’s shoes. She is hyper-attentive to her own troubles, and is blind to the needs of others. More than one person has said they felt like shaking Lizzie. It’s by design that readers feel this way. I wanted Lizzie to hold true human traits, to be imperfect, to make mistakes and not realize it. This is the way we all are, each and every day. Just as others see the flaws in us that we don’t see in ourselves, readers see flaws in Lizzie that she can’t see in herself. Lizzie is an unreliable narrator, a naïf of sorts. She will get on your nerves, but I hope she will also win your heart.
I would say her most outstanding virtue is determination. She is no quitter. When she sets her mind to something, she will stop at nothing to get it. And, also true to human nature, this is at first driven by a form of selfishness, but as she journeys through her trials and grows, the motives that drive her determination become more selfless and pure.
Faith: Your story always felt so authentic and well-researched. Was there a favorite bit of research that didn't make it into the story?
Laura: Thank you! Yes, there were several bits of research that didn’t make into the final version of the story. I was most disappointed that the research I had done on marathon dancing would not make it into the manuscript. I was fascinated by endurance dancers—people who would sign up for endurance dance contests and stay on their feet days at a time. The last couple standing won a cash prize. It’s easy to guess why marathon dances were popular during the 1930s. People needed money, and endurance dance contests seemed an easy way to get it. In reality, though, it was more of a challenge than it would appear. The movie They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? starring Jane Fonda is about a dance marathon in the mid-30s. If you’re a fan of The Waltons, episode 9 of Season 3 (“The Marathon”) depicts John-Boy participating in a dance marathon.
Faith: I love it! Sounds fun...and exhausting. :) I loved all the maxims from Mama's book. Do you have a favorite, or one that most resonated with you?
Laura: I love maxims and proverbs. I love each and every one used in Every Day After. But if I were to choose a favorite, it would be: Life is like the moon; now full, now dark.
What a true statement. And so poetic.
Faith: Who are some of the authors who inspired you to become a writer? (Personally, I couldn't get L. M. Montgomery out of my head as I read your book--I think she would have loved it!)
Laura: That is the best compliment ever! Thank you, Faith. I love the Anne of Green Gables books, and I’ve watched the movies countless times. Someone once commented that the cover of the book reminded them of that scene in Anne of Green Gables where Anne walks the ridgepole of Moody Spurgeon’s kitchen roof. Swoon!
While I do remember reading books like Anne of Green Gables as a child, it is the authors whose books I read as an adult who most inspired me to write stories of my own. When I first began writing for kids, I went to the library and checked out books by Christopher Paul Curtis, Karen Cushman, Katherine Paterson, Karen Hesse, and Jerry Spinelli. You probably know from this list of authors that I was aiming to write a literary historical novel. The first book I read off that stack was Bud, Not Buddy. I fell in love with the voice, the plot, the emotions I felt, everything. The more books I read, the more I wanted to write. These are the authors who first inspired me to buckle down and pursue writing.
Faith: Those are some of the best authors ever. You can't go wrong keeping those beautiful voices in your mind. As a newly-published author with the glories of querying and submissions fresh in your mind, do you have any bits of advice for us lowly aspirants? :)
Laura: First of all, you are not lowly. And if you are, I am lowly, too. My editor acquired the manuscript that became Every Day After through an SCBWI conference. I had no agent then. I have no agent now. Should my editor decide not to publish my next book, I will be back in the trenches right alongside you! ;)
The best bit of advice I can offer (and I suppose it has become a bit of a cliché) is don’t give up. Submit to whomever you deem appropriate to see your manuscript. When I sent my editor, Michelle Poploff, my manuscript, I never in my wildest dreams thought she would acquire it. Never. I mean she’d edited Moon Over Manifest and Hattie Big Sky for heaven’s sake! It was a long shot, but I tried. Keep the faith, and keep submitting. Don’t sell yourself short, or talk yourself out of taking advantage of an opportunity to get your work out there. A publishable manuscript will eventually land on the desk of the right person. I speak from experience. I often wonder what would’ve happened if I had never worked up the nerve to drop that manila envelope into the mail. Likely a very different outcome!
Faith: That's quite a notch on the SCBWI success story board! :) And great advice that we need to hear over and over... Finally, could you share with us any hints of future projects?
Laura: Sure! I’m not far along in the planning process for my second book (yes, I’m a plotter, not a pantser), but I can share the general idea. Like Every Day After, this next novel will be historical fiction based on family stories, but while Every Day After is loosely based on the experiences of my paternal grandparents, this story will focus on my maternal grandmother. She was born in the same small town (population less than 300!) I was raised in. In fact, I still live on the same 40-acre tract of land that I was raised on. While Every Day After is set in the fictitious town of Bittersweet, Alabama, the story I’m working on would take place in the real town of Cook Springs—a town with an interesting history indeed. Though it’s tiny, during the early 1900s it was a nationally known resort community. The resort hotel was torn down in 1954, and the mineral springs for which it was famous were covered by railroad tracks. Sad, but true. Still, there are whispers from the past all around, and listening to my grandmother talk about life here back in the 1940s got my creative wheels churning. We’ll see how far those wheels take me.
Faith: That sounds amazing, Laura! I can't wait to read it.
Laura: Thank you so much for having me on your blog, Faith! Your questions were fantastic. I can’t wait till we can celebrate the publication of your debut novel. I have a feeling it won’t be long!
Faith: Thank you, Laura! It's been such a pleasure to get to know you better and learn more about your story!
Okay....so the giveaway! I have a lovely ARC of Every Day After that I'd love to share with one of you (who has a U.S. or Canadian mailing address). I'm not one for complications...so all you have to do is leave a comment or question for Laura, and you'll be entered into a random drawing--just make sure I have your email address so I can contact you. I'll announce the winner next Monday--and the rest of you won't have long to wait; Every Day After releases on June 11!
To learn a little more about Laura and her book, you can visit her website (http://authorlauragolden.blogspot.com/) or find her on Twitter (@laurapgolden).
And for more Marvelous Middle Grade Monday recommendations, visit the blog of Shannon Messenger.