Thank you for joining us today, Linda! When did you know you wanted to become a writer, and what drew you to it?
First of all, let me say that I loved reading Cheryl Golden’s and Kim Dare’s interviews on your blog. I think it is so fitting that you hosted a teacher, a librarian, and now a writer, because that is where it all began for me.
I grew up in a one-stoplight town in Pennyslvania, and there wasn’t a whole lot to do there. But my sisters and I could walk to the local library, and we visited it every Saturday morning to turn in our books from the previous week and check out our books for the next week. That is one of my favorite childhood memories, and a love of reading was certainly the foundation of my desire to write.
Then, in the third grade, my teacher kept a box full of writing prompts in the back of our classroom. We could choose a prompt and write a story to earn extra credit for our English grade. Well, I was a pretty good student and English was my strongest subject, so I doubt I needed the extra credit, but I do know I went through that entire box by the end of the year.
It’s hard to say what draws me to writing. In fact, “drawn to” may not even be accurate, because whenever I sit down to write it seems I end up spending half an hour on Facebook and Twitter, procrastinating and avoiding it. Writing can be hard, painful, frustrating work. But at the same time, it’s magical and so rewarding. My characters say and do things that surprise me all the time. Sometimes it’s like they have a mind of their own and I’m just along for the ride. That part of the process is a lot of fun and makes it all worthwhile.
You were the student most English teachers only dream of! And all that practice and hard work paid off – congratulations on the publication of your first novel! Why did you write THE FUNERAL SINGER? What was your inspiration?
I first got the idea for THE FUNERAL SINGER at a children’s writing conference about six years ago. The keynote speaker was T.A. Barron, author of the popular middle-grade Merlin series. Barron made an offhand comment during his talk that kids and teens today have a skewed perception of what it means to be a hero.
That comment really struck me, and I knew I wanted to build a story around that. On the four-hour drive home, I began imagining the story of a girl who experiences both pop-culture heroism and real-life, everyday heroism, and the differences between the two.
I also wanted to explore the idea that teens today, with all the social media available to them and the potential exposure that offers, are susceptible to having their image and their reputation, built up or ruined within an instant. That whole idea fascinates me. Ultimately, THE FUNERAL SINGER is a tale of a teen’s rise, fall, and redemption.
As a teacher, I have often seen the power of social media wielded in a frightening way – rather than for good. It certainly is a subject rife with potential. Speaking of the selection of subject matter, what advice do you have for writers?
Writers are often told, “Write what you know.” And that’s great advice, but I would add, “Write what you don’t know.”
As its title indicates, THE FUNERAL SINGER has two important elements to it—funerals and singing.
Well, before I started writing the book, I knew a lot about funerals. I’d worked for about 14 years for a non-profit association in the funeral profession. So I was writing what I knew.
But I was also writing what I didn’t know, because I knew nothing at all about singing, about high school choir, or about rock bands. I’d never done any of that (and if you heard me sing, you’d know why). But it’s so easy today to do the research you need to bring your story to life with realistic details. For example, I found an online bulletin board about high school choir and read through it and learned so much about that world. Not just the mechanics of it, but also the challenges facing teens who are involved in it, and how they feel, and how they talk about it. It was fascinating!
After the book came out, a writer friend told me she’d been active in choir in high school and she loved reading those parts and found them so realistic. I was thrilled! Had I shied away from writing what I didn’t know, I never would have taken the time to learn about it, and that would have been a shame.
Wow – that is a high compliment to have received from the former choir singer. You obviously did your homework! It’s certainly an inspiration to us all to always look for a new experience, a new challenge. Thank you for sharing your time with us today!
To find more info about Linda and/or buy her book, just click below!