Friday, February 26, 2016

Interview with Linda Shew Wolf, Author of "A Firefly Life"

Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing fellow Prism Book Group author, Linda Shew Wolf. Linda is a novelist, teaching consultant, musician, and all-around friendly, caring person. It's my honor to give you a glimpse into the workings of her mind. 

Thank you so much for joining me on Books and Babies today, Linda! Let’s jump right in and get to the good stuff.
For my readers who may not know, you write Young Adult fiction. What inspired you to focus on that genre, specifically?
I find that age group especially fascinating, and I’ve always appreciated YA fiction, even as an adult. I’m not surprised that this genre is gaining such popularity these days with adult readers. Young adults are at a critical crossroads in their lives—trading the innocence and directness of youth for the complicated perspectives of adult life. Caught between two worlds, they are exceptionally well equipped to see things with fresh, honest eyes. It’s a delight to connect with them.
I’ve never outgrown my love for YA fiction, either. In fact, I probably appreciate it even more as an adult than I did as a teen. That said, is it difficult for you to write from the perspective of a young teenager? How do you get into the zone?
I am consistently awed by people who can churn out 1,000 words or more a day. I’ve spent my working life as a professional editor, so it’s difficult for me to “just write” from the right brain and be in the flow of that. When it does happen, it’s a wonderful feeling. More often than not, I begin a writing session by rereading my last writing and fine-tuning it a bit in preparation for the next installment. When I revisit my work first (and I know most writers advise against this), I find I can pick up the thread and immerse myself in the world of the story more fully.
Is it difficult to write from the perspective of a young teenager? Not if you’re an overgrown child at heart! I often ask much younger writers to be careful to keep things PG13 when they read their work aloud to me because there’s a child in the room. I think many of us, especially those in the arts, are very good friends with our young teen wiring and mindset. 
I believe there’s a magic we retain from our childhood that hits a kind of critical mass when we start to grow up. During that chaotic period in our teens, all the sparks start flying and we make critical decisions in our souls about what we will keep and what we will give up.
Wow! I, too, have always felt a connection with my inner teen, but I’ve never been able to adequately put that connection into words. You’ve described it beautifully!
I noticed that, in addition to being a writer, you’re a musician. I think there’s something about music and fiction writing that go hand-in-hand; both evoke the dreamers in us all. Would you agree, and does music ever play a role in your writing?
It definitely does, and I love this question! In this novel, the music of the 60s is frequently quoted and almost functions as another minor character. I agree with you that there is a shared creative process between music and fiction writing. 
Even the most realistic fiction has a transcendent quality that lifts us out of the confines of our working heads, just as music does. I’m always amazed that when I’m playing music (especially when performing), time loses its grip and I find myself in a completely different zone, like a dream state as you pointed out. This can happen during writing and reading fiction as well—such a lovely and important release.
Agreed! So, you also work as a curriculum consultant. Does this profession give insight into the innermost thoughts and feelings of young adults?
Yes, and my respect for these young people has deepened by watching what they respond to, how they gravitate to stories and music. One of my favorite things to do with young adults is introduce them to music they may not hear often (jazz, Balkan folk tunes, Beethoven, African songs, bluegrass) and ask them to write a story or poem based on the feelings created by the music. 
Teens are pretty cagey about expressing deep emotions in a school setting, but some surprisingly powerful writing has come from some of those sessions. I think we would do well to pay more attention to the insights of our young people.
It’s so important to invest in the lives of our youth - you seem to do a great job of that! To close things out, can you give our audience a peek into your recent book, A Firefly Life?
It’s 1968 in upstate NY. Melanie is a 13-year-old who is not developing physically as quickly as the other girls in her class but who has the romantic heart of an older girl. A gorgeous guy, Jonathan, moves to her small town and takes her completely off guard. It’s love at first sight, and to her, it’s the real deal. Unfortunately, most of the other girls at her school feel the same way about him, so she has to get creative to get his attention. Through some unexpected events, she becomes his little sister’s babysitter, and works her way into his inner circle.
The problem is, the boy has plans for his escape from the confines of the town, and most of those plans involve secrecy and lying. Melanie has to figure out where she stands with that, especially when it affects her relationship with her family and her best friend.
I grew very attached to Melanie’s best friend, Jo, and her family, especially since a white girl with a black girl for a best friend was unusual back in the 60s. I also enjoyed developing a subplot about the strong bond that grows between Melanie and Jonathan’s autistic little sister. These subplots afforded more opportunities for Melanie to explore her own inner feelings about right and wrong, loyalty, honesty, faith, and love.
The story sounds amazing! Thanks for taking time to chat with me! Where can readers find your book?
And there you have it, folks. I hope you've enjoyed this interview as much as I have! To learn more about Linda, check out her blog
Happy reading!