1. What motivated you to write your book, to force you from
taking an idea or experience and turning it into a book?
have several ideas for books circulating, and for that matter, a number of
books half-started. When this kernel of an idea presented itself to me in a
conversation with my niece (Why would a 15-year-old girl have to
drive across the country?), it immediately seemed like a good premise for a
book. When I talked about it with others, I could see the interest in their
eyes. Especially students during school visits. I was working on some
other writing projects, but this one finally muscled its way to the top.
2. What is it about and who is it for?
tells the story of a fifteen-year-old adopted girl, Mari, who, upon losing her
single mom and afraid of going back into the foster care system, convinces her
younger brother to get in their mom’s old car and drive across the country from
Los Angeles to the Boston area, hoping to be taken in by her adoptive
grandmother. Pshew. All in one sentence! So, it’s an American road trip. The
trip is complicated by her being too young to have a driver’s license, short on
cash, and responsible for her brother, Conor, who is brilliant but challenging,
as he’s on the autism spectrum. Just to make it even more exciting, they plan
to see the solar eclipse that happens the week of the trip. The book is aimed
at 10–14-year-olds, but that to me, has to do with the necessity of marketing.
It’s for all of us who feel like we don’t quite fit and are looking for our
place in the world.
3. What do you hope the reader will be left with after reading
I’d love to
have them feel like they just took the ride with Mari and Conor. I’d like to
give young readers a sense that finding their place in the world is a journey
we’re all on (one that, apparently never really ends, as far as I can tell). I
would also hope that readers gain compassion for people who are different from
them and gain a perspective on other’s lives as we learn about Mari’s struggles
in the foster care system and Conor’s view of the world.
4. What advice or words of wisdom do you have for fellow
Years ago, I
had a short conversation with the novelist Russell Banks. I was struggling with
getting anything written. He said to me, “I think if a a writer writes for one
hour a day, consistently, they will do their life’s work.” That somehow freed
me up - it’s the consistent showing up and working at the craft that is more
important than how many hours a day you write, or how inspired you are. There
are many things you can work on in developing the craft, but the routine of it
is at the heart of the work.
5. What trends in the book world do you see -- and where do you
think the book publishing industry is heading?
I try to
keep to my own lane in my work, and not pay attention to what trends are. I’m
too old to be trying to figure out what’s hot and what’s not. That said, I’m
very aware that we’re in an exciting period in children’s literature, hearing
voices and stories that haven't been heard from before. And as an old white
guy, it does present challenges - what role do I play in this? How do I listen to
these voices and still offer my own stories? As a creator, what is my role in
the new landscape? And while I have to be careful not to presume and
speak for others, in the end, writing is an act of imagination. One
reason we write is to have readers (especially younger ones) develop an empathy
for the lives of others. I think a good writer develops a deeper sense of
empathy through their writing – as they put themselves in someone else’s shoes.
In writing Now You Say Yes, my thinking about what is “normal” changed a great
deal in my study and thinking about autism. I only hope I did Conor and those
like him justice.
As far as
where book publishing is heading - I’m glad I don’t have to be responsible for
that. I do know that people need stories, and books are one major way of
getting them. The publishing world happens over my head - I’m down here trying
to figure out the next paragraph.
6. What challenges did you overcome to write this book?
There were a
lot of challenges - the book was a long time being born and went through many
rewrites. Because it’s a contemporary story, and has to do with children at
risk, there was a lot of laboring over how they were presented. I’m very aware
that it would be easy to be misunderstood or taken to task when speaking about
foster care and autism, or the presentation of different groups in our culture.
I still don’t know how people will respond. On the craft end, I worked a long
time trying to find the right voice in the story - trying different tenses,
different perspectives, different registers of voice and language, before one
really started to work. The book is a very subjective third person present, and
there’s a very intimate interplay between the narrator’s voice and Mari’s
perceptions - I was constantly asking myself, “Who’s speaking here?”
7. If people can buy or read one book this week or month, why
should it be yours?
Well, I hope
they read two or three! Now You Say Yes is a page-turner. I
think kids will REALLY want to find out what happens with Mari and Conor. After
all, what kid hasn’t imagined taking their parent’s car and going on a long
road trip? Conor and Mari do it, and they don’t know what they’re getting into.
They meet really interesting people. They run out of money! They get stopped by
the police! They lose the keys to the car in a very horrible way! Some people
on the road are not to be trusted, but many are kind. It’s a lot like life. But
it’s a story, so it’s all jammed together. I’m very proud of the book and, of
Mari and Conor.
Harley is a two-time Grammy
Award–winning storyteller, musician, and author who has been writing and performing
for kids and families for more than forty years. He has published several
picture books and novels for middle readers—among them Night of the
Spadefoot Toads, the popular Charlie Bumpers series, and Now
You Say Yes. His books have received many honors, including Parents’ Choice
and ALA awards. He lives in Massachusetts. You can visit his website here.
Please Contact Me For
Feinblum, the founder of this award-winning blog, can be reached at email@example.com He is available to help authors promote their story, sell
their book, and grow their brand. He has 30 years of experience in successfully
helping thousands of authors in all genres.
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Brian Feinblum should be followed on Twitter @theprexpert. This
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