Thursday, May 6, 2010
Special Guest Valerie Hobbs!
I'm happy to have another guest writer here at ASH today, and if you comment below, you have a chance to win some pretty cool stuff! Valerie is celebrating the launch of her new book, The Last Best Days of Summer, which is a very worthwhile read.
Worth the price of admission for me is the whole conversation about acceptance, middle school and popularity (and the realization that some people have never left middle school, but anywho). Featured prominently is Eddie, a boy with Downs Syndrome, whom our protagonist must decide is either duty or friend.
EL: Val, thanks for stopping by to chat! So where did Eddie come from? And how did your vision for his eventual inclusion in the community evolve? And what drove his inclusion into your story?
VH: At first Eddie didn't have much of a part in the book. He was just Lucy's "job". But the more I thought about him, the more I wanted to let him have his say. From the beginning there was an endearing sweetness about him and finally I just couldn't just assign him a bit part. He won me over just as he finally won Lucy over.
EL: I enjoyed Grams' interaction with Eddie, because it resonated with the foundation of her character. But she is also exceptional. Do you agree?
VH: Yes, she is. And isn't it interesting that the best and sweetest of us are the exception rather than the rule. I wanted Lucy to begin to grow into a person like Grams by the end of the novel, the kind who can think outside herself and her own needs.
EL:What I particularly enjoyed is the fact that Lucy's week with Grams was a life lesson in meeting people where they are. Was that your intention?
VH: Absolutely. It seems to me that a big part of life is exactly that. And it's not always easy.
EL:You surprised me somewhat with the arc of your story. I half-expected Justin to be an undiagnosed Aspergers kid, but he factored less into the story than I initially figured. But having said that, your depictions of kids moving into middle school and greater social awareness ring true. How did this blend of circumstance and personality evolve from your initial idea of this story? Was this final version what you originally envisioned when you set out to write this story?
VH: Well, the initial story was just Lucy's and Grams', but when Eddie got into it the circle widened. His interaction with Lucy ends up being nearly as important as the one with Grams. I wanted to work with peer influence--like the self-involved popular girls that so impress Jenna. The most difficult part of middle-school for me--and I think for most kids--has to do with what all those other kids thought. Was I cute enough? Etc. . .
EL: What impressed me about your depiction of Eddie is how much of it/him you got right (and by it, I mean just the whole milieu surrounding a person with disabilities). How did you come about this, how much of it was organic, how much of it was research, how much of it was direct experience?
VH: Eddie appeared in an earlier novel of mine, Letting Go Of Bobby James Or How I Found My Self Of Steam. I can't say that I know any kids with Down Syndrome personally, but I've met a few and watched some of the Special Olympic events here in Santa Barbara. The rest was research. Except for his voice that just came in one of those magical, irresistible packages from the gods.
EL: That WAS a gift--very few people with little direct experience get it right. :)
VH: Thanks! I really wanted not to mess that up.
Thanks for checking in! If you comment today, you have a chance to win free books or T-shirts! Good luck!