Aside from being one of my novel critique group buddies, L.A. is the author of the fabulous debut YA novel, Girl the Reaper. She agreed to be my guinea pig author for this blog. Thank you, L.A.!
Tell us about Girl the Reaper.
GTR is the summer story of Cate Evans, who at 14 is leaving middle school and her childhood behind. Intellectual but shy, her life has always centered around family and their farm in Wisconsin. The cycle of life, including death, intrigues her; she composes epitaphs for fun and wonders what happens to people and animals right as they pass. One day she saves her father’s life by inadvertantly stopping the grim reaper from taking him. Now she has something that the reaper wants, and he won’t leave her alone until she lets her father die. She won’t do that, of course. But her situation has given her the ability to see and speak to other people who have died but not left earth. While searching for a way to save her father, she helps other people and in the end, proves that teens are capable of love beyond anything we normally give them credit for.
What made you decide to set your novel in the mid 1970s?
I was close to Cate’s age in the 1970s and found it an interesting time to both grow up and observe deep changes in the adults in my community. Veterans of WWI were dying with honor but “new” veterans of the war in Vietnam struggled to find their place back in the real world. Many brought the horror home with them. My family of farmers was not drafted into wars though a few volunteered. Our neighbors and friends who did often sought refuge in the rural areas where they grew up, trying to feel some kind of normal again.
The 1970s was an important time for the family farm as well…really the last decade of glory before their numbers rapidly decreased and large corporate dairy farms began to take hold. Dispersal auctions were common toward the end of the decade and with great sadness my father would stand by neighbors with other neighbors as their entire life’s work was sold off to the highest bidder.
Who’s your favorite character?
Cate’s grandparents Nan and Joe are my favorites because they are written as my grandparents really were. They are the only two characters in the book who are not mostly or completely fictional. Nanny and Joe established our family farm and lived through all the wars of the 1900s as well as the Great Depression. They both had a matter-of-fact, no-nonsense way of living which I’m sure was honed through decades of struggle–against nature, the economy, and constant change. And boy, they could make me laugh.
Any upcoming YA projects?
GTR was born out of a struggle to finish a series entitled THE SAME SPIRIT. In the end, GTR became a prequel to it, though it happens much earlier. THE SAME SPIRIT is set in a far-off future, during the next age of earth. Those who died as children during this age return to earth to live out their lives as they were intended. Will Apollo is a provincial farm boy with a mysterious connection to a missing artifact. He joins the frantic search for it–armed only with a storybook, some well-meaning friends, and a disenchanted king.
How do you get your ideas?
By observing people and imagining things about them–what secrets they harbor, how they grew up, what they like/dislike, etc. Daydreaming is the one skill that I’ve practiced every single day of my life.