Hi everyone! Today I have the greatest pleasure in interviewing Laura Golden in honor of her historical middle grade debut, EVERY DAY AFTER. I was lucky enough to read an ARC some months ago, and loved it—I’m a fan of historical novels, and Laura’s didn’t let me down. (You can read my Goodreads review here.)
But ‘nuff said—it’s time for the confetti and cork-popping!
Kit: Yay, Laura! EVERY DAY AFTER is finally out! How do you plan on celebrating the transition from Unpublished to Published author?
Laura: Very quietly. I know, I know. Likely not the typical response or reaction to official publication, but I’ve never been one for huge celebrations—not even on birthdays. I may regret it, but as of right now, as far as my schedule goes, I’m looking forward to a low-stress, low-key release.
Kit: I totally get the need for low-stress! So, for those who don’t know, EVERY DAY AFTER is a Depression-era middle grade. The bio on your website says your favorite time in history is the first half of the 20th Century, so what drew you to the Depression in particular as the background for your first novel?
Laura: I do love the first half of the 20th century—anything and everything from the lushness of the Victorian era to the fashions of the 40s and 50s. I chose the Great Depression specifically for Every Day After as the story is loosely based on the experiences of my paternal grandparents who were adolescents during the early and mid-30s. Hearing their stories generated a not-so-mild obsession with Depression-era America. If anyone would like to read my detailed thoughts on this era, feel free to check out my post “The Good in the Good Ol’ Days” on Corsets, Cutlasses, & Candlesticks—a blog comprised of ten middle grade and young adult authors of historical fiction.
Kit: It’s a great post, which I really enjoyed reading. You have such a feel for the era. I know your Nana was the initial inspiration for Lizzie, so when did you feel Lizzie become independent of her? Was it hard to differentiate Lizzie from a real live person you knew so
well? How are they similar, and how
|Laura'a Nana circa 1937|
Laura: Lizzie had become her own person by the time I’d completed the first half of the first draft. She is a strong character, and, in a sense, took over the narration of her own story. I have described writing as watching a movie play inside my head while I merely transcribe the dialogue and detail what I’m seeing. Weird perhaps, but there you have it.
Lizzie stubbornness, determination, and out-spoken ways are strong traits from my grandmother, just as Ben’s (Lizzie’s best friend) gentleness and subtle wisdom reflect my grandfather. Their essences are the same as I’ve envisioned my grandparents to be at that age. But the story that came from the characters in Every Day After is by no means a retelling of my grandparents’ lives verbatim. This is, after all, a middle grade novel, not a biography. Real people inspired the characters, but those characters had their own story to tell.
Kit: Lizzie’s nemesis, the bullying Erin Sawyer, is probably someone we’ve all encountered in school. Was there an Erin in your life? And how about lovely Ben Butler—is he modeled in anyone you know?
Laura: Oh, there have been many Erins in my life, though I won’t name names. The Bens have been few and far between. The Bens I’ve known are my grandfather, my husband, and my oldest son. They epitomize the gentle soul. Several years ago, my son accidentally kicked a teammate in the shin with his cleat during football practice. The boy cried out in pain, and my son, tears welling up in his eyes, followed the boy around the field for the next few minutes apologizing profusely. Not all girls are fluffy and soft-spoken, as Lizzie and Nana prove, and not all boys are tough and unsympathetic, as evidenced by Ben in EDA and those “Bens” in my life.
Kit: Though EVERY DAY AFTER is historical, and shows us compelling details of life at that time, the core issues in the book apply just as equally to kids these days: poverty, bullying, single motherhood. Tell us a little about those themes as inspiration.
Laura: Poverty, bullying, single motherhood, have been present since the beginning of time, and will continue to be until the end of it—unless someone, somewhere figures out a way to create Utopia, which I doubt will be the case. These are issues that do not discriminate based upon which time period you live in. Each theme arose naturally from the story and the setting. I didn’t force them; I merely allowed them develop and play out. And, as is often so true in real life, not every little issue in Every Day After is resolved and tied up with a beautiful bow. In the end, things are better, but the issues aren’t eradicated. Painting a perfect end picture of the world—even one girl’s world—wasn’t the point of writing Every Day After. It was about exploring how difficult circumstances can bring about growth in people, just as the Great Depression did in real life with my grandparents and in fiction with Lizzie.
Kit: Lizzie remains a strong character in my head, even months after I read the ARC; her voice grabbed me right from the start and didn’t let go. First person narrative is quite unusual for middle grade. How did you decide to speak directly in Lizzie’s voice, rather than in third person? From a reader’s point of view, it’s the perfect choice, by the way!
Laura: Thank you, Kit! Honestly, from the moment I decided to attempt to write this story up until I put the first word on paper, I’ve heard Lizzie’s voice. I never considered another option. Perhaps it’s because I’d grown up hearing my grandmother narrating old stories to me, and thus it felt right to have Lizzie narrate her own story.
Kit: I was really impressed by how you made Lizzie the unreliable narrator: the reader can see her flaws even though she, who’s telling the story, can’t. Tell us about how you achieved that.
Laura: Writing Lizzie as an unreliable narrator—a naïf—was purposeful. In life, we go about our daily affairs oblivious to the missteps and mistakes we are making—mistakes that likely horrify our observers. But we are quick to point out the failures and wrong turns of our neighbors. It’s simply human nature. We are blind to our own faults. I wanted readers to see Lizzie as they would see their neighbor, and realize that she was seeing herself as they see themselves. I wanted it to add another emotional layer to the happenings in the story. Yes, readers will become frustrated with Lizzie, but I think that’s rather the point. You get to see her grow and mature through her circumstances. Just as she has to save Mama and their house, she also has to save herself; she just doesn’t realize that at first.
I will say it was a challenge to balance Lizzie’s good and bad points. I had to show her as flawed without making her completely unsympathetic. I can’t tell you if I achieved that or not. Readers will have to decide that for themselves. Time will tell, I suppose.
Kit: You totally achieved that, IMO—very tough to do, especially in first person. Tough in a different way is taking a hatchet is to one’s darlings. Did you have any murdering to do en route, and if so, is there a favorite deleted scene or few lines you can share with us?
Laura: Well, I don’t know if our editor used this term with you while you were tackling revisions
but she once told me, “Your adult slip is showing.” I thought that was
brilliant. And I got her meaning full on. I would abandon Lizzie’s narrative
and begin to interject things into the story I wanted to say.
The scene I felt most attached to, one that Michelle never actually told me to cut, was a conversation between Ben and Lizzie after their friendship had suffered a blow and Lizzie desperately wanted to win him back. In the scene, Ben was basically psychoanalyzing himself. I was deeply attached to the meaning behind the words he was speaking, but I cut that entire conversation. I wrote to Michelle: I cut this. I believe my adult slip was showing. She wrote back: Yes!
Success! I’d made the right call, and I tried to be vigilant in addressing that issue as revisions continued, but, knowing me, I likely overlooked a few “slips” that should’ve been removed.
Kit: If that’s the case, you’re not alone! I’ve heard tons of authors say they keep editing long after their books are out. Now, what about other inspirations; were there books or movies that influenced you in writing EVERY DAY AFTER, or that have the mood and flavor of the book? Did you use any in research?
Laura: Oh, my goodness! Too many to count. But I do recall being particularly inspired to write this novel after reading Bud, Not Buddy, Out of the Dust, and watching the movie Paper Moon starring Ryan and Tatum O’Neal.
I knew before I started tackling this novel that I was going to write about my grandparents’ experiences during the Great Depression. Long before I wrote the first word, I went to the library to check out as many middle grade novels as I could. Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis (also a Delacorte author!) was the first book I read. I fell in love with Bud and his story. Bud was so lively and determined and yet rather wounded at the core. Next I read Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse. Stark, brutal, brilliant. I read it in one sitting, and it remains one of my favorites.
I didn’t discover Paper Moon until later on in my writing process, and it isn’t anything like the story of every Day After, but nevertheless, I felt as though Lizzie Hawkins and Addie Loggins held a kinship. They are both determined survivors with daddy issues coming of age and finding their way through the hardscrabble times of the Depression. Still, Addie might have Lizzie beat in the toughness category. She does smoke cigarettes after all.
Kit: True, but it’s a great comparison—I didn’t think of it when reading, but I can see their similarity.
Ok, now for a quickie round! 3 songs that Lizzie might have listened to or heard on the radio?
Laura: *It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)—Duke Ellington
*Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?—Rudy Vallee
*I’ve Got the World On a String—Cab Calloway & His Cotton Club Orchestra
Kit: Two things Lizzie would change about her life?
1 Laura: *Her daddy leaving
2 *Erin Sawyer coming to town
Kit: Name 3 fictional characters that Lizzie would be friends with?
Laura: Tom Sawyer
Mattie Ross (TRUE GRIT)
Sistine Bailey (THE TIGER RISING)
Kit: What’s her worst fault? Best attribute?
Laura: Worst fault: stubborn pride
Best attribute: determination
Kit: What’s next for you?
Laura: An attempt to pen another historical fiction middle grade novel and see it released into the wide world. Beyond that, who knows? One day, one word, at a time.
Thanks so much, Laura, for sharing EVERY DAY AFTER with the world! I wish you all the best with the book, and with your own every day after.