We have a lot of fantastic authors at OneFour KidLit and are excited to introduce them all to you. Today we’re talking to Linda Vigen Phillips, author of CRAZY, coming in Fall 2014 from Eerdmans Books for Young Readers. One author, four questions. Here we go!
I can tell you it wasn’t overnight! Specifically, how about 18 years? Well, it wasn’t exactly all hand-wringing, wrist-slashing, torturous waiting by the mailbox. Let me explain.
I started out writing poetry when I was very young. Thanks to my poetry-loving father it’s been the way I have thought and expressed myself for most of my life. I used to joke that I literally think in rhymed couplets although I have since moved on from the rhyming part. In early adulthood it was also the way I escaped from the trauma at home. My mother was bipolar, with a typical 1960’s misdiagnosis of schizophrenia, and the years when she was most severely ill happened between my fifth and nineteenth birthdays.
I didn’t feel like I had a mother or at the very least I didn’t want to claim her, and I didn’t understand how my father could be so in love with her (thank God he was). I hated everything about her because I understood nothing about her. It was the era of keeping things secret and that fed into my father’s taciturn nature. No one explained anything to me so I was forced to develop all sorts of little quirks, obsessions, fears, and anxieties. Thank God for poetry or I would have followed my mother over the edge long ago.
So that’s how the book started. I cranked out poem after poem, got a fair number of them published in adult literary magazines, and grew psychologically healthier and more empowered as a writer. When I had accumulated twenty poems, my best writing buddy and critique partner said “this needs to be a book,” meaning a novel as opposed to a collection, and the rest is history.
Well, slow history. At that point in my life I was a full time teacher, minister’s wife, and mother of twin teenage boys. The book was written from 4:00 to 6:00 a.m. weekdays, and minutes stolen from Saturday chores and summer vacations with the family. During my last year of teaching I found my agent, Julia Kenny, with Dunow, Carlson, and Lerner, and five months after retirement, I had a book contract with Eerdmans Books for Young Readers.
What’s your debut book about?
You have an idea from what I’ve already said, as it is semi-autobiographical, but here is a synopsis:
Fifteen-year-old Laura Walberg can’t imagine life without a sketchpad or paint canvas. When her artist mother has a nervous breakdown the same week Laura’s teacher pressures her to enter a prestigious art contest, Laura must face her worst fear: that she will end up like her mother if she pursues her own dream.
Driven by fear, shame, and rage, Laura hides her home life from everyone, including her best friend. Both a distant older sister and taciturn father fail to recognize Laura’s fear of losing her own sanity. Desperately alone, she considers suicide, faith healing, an unlikely relationship with a super-jock, and a new artistic endeavor. When Laura’s mother goes on a violent rampage targeting her, Laura vows to find the demon that is driving her mother crazy. Learning that someone raped her mother at fourteen and discovering her own inner strength, Laura opens her heart to the mother she never knew.
What’s it like to be inspired as a writer?
My writing has been all-over-the-board eclectic, because I can get fired up about the quirkiest or tiniest spark in people, places or causes and the idea usually won’t loosen its grip on me until I write it out. So I’ve had articles in secular, religious, children’s and literary magazines, and newspapers, and I’ve written a good bit of curriculum for such things as Clear Channel Entertainment’s traveling exhibit on the Human Genome. But the ultimate inspiration is like some kind of zappy, non-lethal bug bite that puts out an all points bulletin to every nerve in my body. It’s the itch that won’t be satisfied until it transforms itself to the written page, and gets scratched and scratched until the swelling goes down and the message is left resting on the cool, calmed surface of my editorial skin.
What do you do in your daily life outside of writing?
I take Nina, our visiting “Grand-dogger” on walks, ride my ancient Raleigh 3-speed on Charlotte’s wonderful greenways, and enjoy trying new recipes. I love spending time with grandkids Luke (2) and Anna (almost 5) who are just 2 hours away. I volunteer at Friendship Trays (Charlotte’s version of Meals-on-Wheels) and am studying to be a Stephen Minister through our church. My husband and I enjoy taking historical house tours and traveling to points of interest in our area. Both recently retired, we are making plans for some travel in Europe where my husband has relatives and where my WIP is set.
|Linda Vigen Phillips lives in Charlotte but never got over being a native Oregonian. She still goes gaga over mountains with Ponderosa pines and oceans that roar. She is a mother of twins, grandmother of two, wife of a retired minister, retired teacher of learning disabled students, and writer of YA, Middle Grade and poetry. Her debut YA novel written in verse, CRAZY, will be released by Eerdmans Books for Young Readers in Fall 2014.|