Now it's my turn to answer eight questions and then to tag several authors. Here we go:
What is the working title of your book? Half-Truths.
Where did the idea for the book come from? That's a long story. I visited Wing Haven gardens with my youngest daughter about 15 years ago. At the time I thought it would make a great picture book but found that there were too many stories for that genre. Then I thought I would take some of the real stories about this bird sanctuary and write a book for young boys. My son-in-law said there was not enough blood and guts in a story about children rescuing a robin for boy readers today. Now Wing Haven is the quiet sanctuary where both main characters find refuge.
Joyce had shared Carolyn Yoder's advice to "write the story in your own backyard." I started thinking about how the same last name for both blacks and whites were on signs all around Charlotte, NC. Obviously there was a connection there. I visited the Rosenwald school in the Grier Heights community and noticed the pictures of many several light-skinned principals. That day I spoke with two gentlemen which further stimulated my thinking about the connections between white and African American families in Charlotte.
One to two sentence synopsis of the book: In Charlotte in 1950, two teenage girls--one black and one white-- break racial restrictions, uncover family secrets, and discover they are second cousins.
I think that many young adult readers today don't fully realize the problems that African Americans faced before integration. Lillie, the light-skinned African American girl, will flirt with the idea of passing as a way to get everything that whites have. The white girl, Kate, has her own set of problems as she doesn't fit in with the debutante lifestyle her grandmother wants her to have. I am hoping that these issues of "belonging" will resonate with today's readers. There is also an unlikely romance threaded throughout the book.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
I have no plans to self-publish and will look for agency representation after it is as close to perfect as I can get it--with the help of many critique partners!
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the story?
That is a REALLY hard question to answer! I had many starts and stops along the way as I had a hard time figuring out where my story began. As a result, I spent a lot of time writing what I now understand to have been the back story. In 2008 Joyce challenged me to participate in NaNoWriMo. I had already been working on this novel, but that helped me spill more of the guts of this book. By the end of 2010 I had completed my first draft. At the SCBWI-Carolinas conference in 2011, my critiquer was Mary Cate Castellani. She suggested that I write my story from both girls' points of view. That was a major shift in my thinking and writing and it took about nine months of working on and off with Rebecca Petruck to come up with a really good outline. I am now over half-way through this draft; which is tighter and better than any of the previous drafts!
What other books would you compare it to in this genre? This is a scary question because I don't want to feel presumptuous at all. Since it deals with issues of segregation I'd like for readers to think of To Kill a Mockingbird--but I hesitate to even admit that since that is such a Southern classic! Since it deals with a light-skinned young woman passing, I also think of Flygirl by Sherri Smith, although that takes place about five years earlier. When I have described the book to others, some adults have thought that it was The Help for teens, but the books are very different.
What actors would you chose to play a movie rendition? I am not a movie person, so I couldn't begin to answer this question. But Price Davis, my 92-year-old African American expert keeps telling me to hurry up and finish the book because he wants to see the movie! Now, that's encouragement!
|Price Davis, outside his childhood home.|