GETTIN’ LUCKY: An Interview with Laura Golden, author of EVERY DAY AFTER

Today we’re interviewing Lucky13 author Laura Golden, whose middle-grade debut novel EVERY DAY AFTER hits the shelves today. Here’s a little about the book:

Trouble has rained down on Lizzie Hawkins. Her daddy has deserted the family, her mama is silent EveryDayAfter cvr copywith sadness, and the bank is after their house.

Daddy always said Lizzie was born to succeed, but right now she can’t even hold on to her top grades or her best friend, Ben. Bratty newcomer Erin Sawyer has weaseled both away from Lizzie, but Erin won’t be satisfied until Lizzie is out of her hair for good, packed off straight to the nearest orphanage.

Still, Lizzie refuses to lose what’s left of her family. With the bank deadline fast approaching, Erin causing strife at every turn, and Mama and Ben slipping away from her, Lizzie finds comfort writing in her journal and looking at Daddy’s face in the heirloom locket he left her. She’s keeping her head high and holding onto hope that Daddy returns on her twelfth birthday. Still, she can’t help wondering: Why did Daddy have to leave? And can I save us if he doesn’t come home?

Times may be tough in Bittersweet, Alabama, but the unsinkable Lizzie Hawkins will inspire readers with her resilience and determination.

What piece of this story first inspired you? Was it an image, a character, or an idea? 

The inspiration to write this story came from family stories told by my paternal grandparents. I grew up hearing bits and pieces of tales of growing up through hard times, particularly the Great Depression. My grandfather was born in 1925 and had not yet made it through the eighth grade when he left school to work in a local mine. He never returned to school. Of course, children leaving school to help earn money for the family was prevalent in those days. It’s heartbreaking to think about.

My great-grandmother died when my grandmother was only twelve. Her father was quite stern and expected her to take care of her younger siblings as well as the house. My grandmother told of my great-grandfather coming in from working the fields and expecting a hot lunch waiting on the table. No sandwiches for him. I often wondered how that type of pressure would affect kids at that age, and so I wrote EVERY DAY AFTER to explore that.

How–and when–did you decide on the title for your book? 

I have my wonderful editor to thank for the book’s title. When I submitted it to her, it was titled BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON. Aside from being rather long, it was also the title of a Dean Koontz novel, so she thought we should change it. She suggested EVERY DAY AFTER since the story tells of Lizzie’s struggle to keep her life in order every day after her father leaves. I thought it a brilliant suggestion. Brilliant.

You created the setting of EVERY DAY AFTER–Bittersweet, Alabama, during the Great Depression–so well that I really felt like I could kick off my shoes and go fishing for One-Eye the catfish. Is Bittersweet based on a real place?

Thank you, Rebecca! When I was in revisions with my editor, I asked if she thought the setting needed to be more deeply drawn. I honestly thought setting was my weak spot, but most reviews have complimented just that. Proof, I suppose, that we authors aren’t always the best at spotting our own weaknesses and strengths.

Bittersweet is based on the real-life town of Leeds, AL. It is the town my parents and their parents lived in for most of their lives, and I’ve always felt a deep connection to it. It is located just off Old 78 (Lizzie refers to it as the Bankhead Highway which it was indeed known as during the 1930s), and buses did take rest stops at the local Power’s Café (referred to in EVERY DAY AFTER as Powell’s Café). Elvis Presley once stopped there and requested that the café owner’s daughter sit with him while he ate. She did, and their picture appeared in The Leeds News. I have a copy of that clipping. Beyond cool!

Most of the people inhabiting the town are purely fictional. As I took real-life inspiration from Leeds and began to create Bittersweet, the townsfolk in the book began to appear on their own. Mr. Reed, the Hinkles, the Sheriff, etc., each popped into the story of their own accord. With each revision, their stories and personalities grew and developed. I hope all goes this way with the next book. *crosses fingers*

You mention a real book of proverbs and a particular poem in the story. Did you come across those while writing EVERY DAY AFTER, or did they inspire you before you began?

The book of proverbs came in during earlier revisions. I wanted each chapter to have a title relevant to the happenings and theme of that chapter. I’ve always had a penchant for wise sayings and proverbs, so I started digging around for appropriate ones to use. But…they still didn’t feel integrated enough into the story. Since Mama is practically catatonic in the book, and the only times the readers get to see her personality are through Lizzie’s journal entries, I thought letting her be the bearer of wise words before she fell into deep depression might add some depth to her. And, once I made that change, the chapter titles almost read as Lizzie hearing Mama’s wise words as a sort of forewarning. But, as you can guess, Lizzie still chooses to plow ahead in spite of them. Don’t we all on most days?

Each of the chapter titles is a proverb from the book that Lizzie’s mom treasures. Which proverb/title is your favorite, and why?(Mine is “Luck follows the hopeful, ill luck the fearful.”)

I love “Life is like the moon; now full, now dark.”  Gorgeous, and true.

“Trouble rains down” upon Lizzie Hawkins in this book, which was common for kids during the Great Depression. Was it hard for you to put your character in some tough situations?

Not at all. I figured if real-life kids like my grandparents could make it through terrible circumstances and come out stronger people on the other side, then Lizzie could too. She didn’t disappoint.

Despite her hardships, Lizzie remains “unsinkable”–which is such a powerful message. What do you hope modern MG readers will take away from reading EVERY DAY AFTER?

Two things specifically. First, that it’s extremely important for them to discover their own unique path in life. Lizzie tries so hard to imitate Daddy, her idol. She can’t see her own strengths for failing to see his weaknesses. Does that make any sense? What I’m trying to say is that people often aren’t as perfect as we make them out to be, so we should stop trying to be like so-and-so and start searching out who we are and what we are meant to accomplish as individuals. We are often stronger and capable of far more than we believe.

Second, don’t try to do everything all alone. It’s okay to ask for help. It doesn’t make you weak; it makes you smart. Lizzie’s life would’ve taken a turn for the better much sooner had she taken the time to notice all the people around her who would’ve done anything in their power to help her.

And as this community is “All for One and OneFour KidLit,” we’d like to know what two or three books inspired you as a kid:   

Sure!

  1. CHARLOTTE’S WEB
  2. THE ORDINARY PRINCESS
  3. THE SECRET GARDEN

Thank you for interviewing me for the OneFour KidLit blog, Rebecca. It was such fun, and I cannot wait till I get to read WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE and all the other fantabulous debut books of 2014! Exciting times indeed!

Thanks for stopping by, Laura, and congrats on your debut! 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:Laura photo

LAURA GOLDEN loved listening to older generations spin tales about “the good ol’ days.” She was inspired to write this story based in part on her family history. Laura lives outside Birmingham, Alabama. She never dreamed she’d one day become an author, but there is no doubt that she has always been a reader. According to her mother, she taught herself to read at an early age by poring over the words on cereal boxes at breakfast.

This interview was conducted by OneFour member Rebecca Behrens, and is part of an ongoing series of interviews with The Lucky13s —- YA, MG, and children’s books authors debuting in 2013.

Rebecca Behrens lives in New York, where she works as a production editor. Her favorite things are em-dashes, Central Park, running, and doughnuts. Her MG debut, WHEN AUDREY MET ALICE (Sourcebooks, Winter ’14), tells what happens when a lonely first daughter finds Alice Roosevelt’s diary hidden beneath the floorboards of a White House closet.
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