Jul 8, 2015

Behind The Life and Death of Terry Dodd - Author Interview

Kelsey's the best.

She makes up good questions.
Questions I didn't even know I wanted to be asked until she asked them.

I'm so very honored and so very excited to share this behind the scenes look at The Life and Death of Terry Dodd with you! I'd like to thank Kelsey for the amazing interview, and for agreeing to let me swipe the questions in the future. (Right?) 

Please give her a lovely thank you in the comments if you think her discussion questions are as amazing as I do.

So without further garble, read on, dear friend . . .

What was the biggest unexpected challenge that came up while writing Terry Dodd?
     For a long while I didn't know what it was going to be about. I wanted it to be something important, to actually mean something. I didn't want it to be a just a story with pretty words and turns of phrases that left you with nothing. So in my word processor I put the quote by Isabel Allende at the top of the very first page so I could see it every time I opened it up to write. "Write what should not be forgotten", hoping it would spark some sort of inspiration, some theme. The other thing that was challenging was the ending. I didn't want it to be melodramatic, I wanted it to be real and believable. I worried for a long time over the ending. But in the end it came out and I think I am quite pleased with it.

Which character surprised you the most, and how?
     Looking back now, I think Aunt El was the most surprising. I had no thoughts about her prior to her appearance in the story except that she was a rich woman who married a rich man for his money. When it was her turn to be written she just—appeared in the form she is as you read her.

What drew you to the setting? What interesting things did you find while researching, even if they didn't make it into the story in an obvious way?
     Setting: Well, as I will tell you in another story on another day, the setting was inspired by what inspired the actual Terry Dodd. But when I think 70s I automatically think California, summer, hot and big. I grew up watching The Wilderness Family, about a family from LA. My family loved those movies! Lots of things drew me to the setting: my past, my love of all things historical, distant times and places.

     Research: Skate boarding really took off in the 70s, which I hadn't really known before! I found a whole bunch of pictures of skate boarding and draining pools from the 70s. I researched a lot of music artists who were popular during the time and I came to really enjoy Joan Baez's genre. One thing that really stuck out to me when I watched Starsky & Hutch, was that there were no cell phones! It was completely foreign to me that they had to ask to use someone's phone or have to stop and use the pay phone! I felt quite inadequate, as I have never had to use a pay phone in my life! I am now resolved to make at least one call on a pay phone some day in my life.

What themes from Terry Dodd spoke to you deeply and resonated the most with you?
     It took me awhile to actually grasp the theme! I knew it was in there somewhere, but it was so elusive. Only when I was explaining to a friend what the story actually meant did I FINALLY get what I was trying to say.
    1. Everyone is important. Looking at your neighbor, the convict, the rich, the poor, and seeing them as your equal is one of the most important things we can do in our culture today. All my life I have looked at people and I have wanted them to be loved. I wanted them to know they were important, they were special, that I was not above or below them, that I was a person, just as they were. That though we'd made different decisions in our lives, we were in this life together and it was no mistake.

    2. People are worth your time because they are a whole world inside themselves. We look at people and see only the surface things. Sometimes our assumptions are correct, but we cannot know everything aching in the heart of people. People don't fit one shape—you can't write someone off because of what you assume they are by their outward appearances. Writing Terry Dodd helped me grasp this concept I had been stumbling around trying to find words for my entire life.
Was anything in Terry Dodd drawn from your own life?
     Dad and Joann especially. Dad was inspired by my own dad because like Dad in the story my dad was a truck driver. My dad is amazing. He's a high school teacher, but he's been a construction worker, a truck driver, a carpenter, a salesman, but he's a dreamer, too, kind of a jack of all trades, and that's how I wanted to portray dad. Joann—I'm nervous about giving Joann to the world because she's more like myself than any other character I've written. I wrote Terry Dodd without any intention of giving it to the world at all. I wrote it because I wanted this story to be mine. So I wrote it from my perspective, how I know I felt when I was 14, how I looked at the world. And I hope other young adults will be able to relate to it as well.

What was the biggest thing you learned from your first publishing venture? What's been the biggest hurdle?
    There is quite a lot! But the biggest thing I had to grasp, since I am a natural follower, was that I am my own boss. I'm running a business, and I'm in charge. Knowing that everything in the business begins and ends with my decisions is not very comforting when you're just starting out. Especially when you have no business experience whatsoever. The biggest hurdle is learning the business and learning it well enough to trust myself.

Were there any other authors whose work influenced this story, in subtle or less subtle ways?
     Maybe not the story itself, but the writing. Ann Voskamp completely turned my concept of writing upside down after I read her blog and her book! I really love Lois Lowry and Sarah MacLachlan. Margaret Craven, Maggie Stiefvater, Elizabeth Wein, and my girlhood favorite, Lois Walfrid Johnson, who was the first author who inspired me write, have all inspired my writing over the years.

What appeals to you about historical fiction and writing for young adults?
     I began writing for young adults because I was young adult and I felt I was not capable of writing something good enough for adults. I still feel this way! So through the years I kept on writing about young people. I want other young people to read and love the same kind of books I loved and still love to read! Historical fiction now—that is a bright spot in my heart that will never die! My dad's a history buff, my mom's the reader. So guess what we did my entire childhood and up into adulthood? My siblings I played Oregan Trail and cowboys and Indians more times than I can remember! We played we were hiding Jews and the Nazis were after us, WWII soldiers, Davy Crockett and Georgie Russell, we played so many things (but mostly we played cowboys and Indians). Historical fiction had a most glorious beginning in my childhood and I write it for the plain, wonderful reason that I LOVE IT. My parents taught me to love and appreciate history in general because it is important to how we live today. I love it because of the immaculate places I can go that are impossible today. I love it because of the people who lived and died. I love it for so many more reasons I do not have the words to describe them all!

What themes are you most interested in exploring in the future?/What's your next project?
     I would love to continue writing about self-sacrifice and unconditional love, to me they are the most important themes in the universe. But war, injustice, hope, morality in the face of evil, beauty in ordinary, unexpected places are also of great importance to me.

     My next projects are to begin rewriting my Great Depression Era novel, Like God n' Me: Reney Meyer and the Days of Chance Virtue, and to finish editing The Eloquent Life of Evelyn Crowe. Crossing my fingers that one or the other will be available in fall 2016!

A few words on God/creativity/spirituality:
It's hard for me to think in terms of creativity/creating stories etc. as weird as that sounds coming from a writer of fiction!

I tend to think of stories as beings, as real as the nose on your face, floating like particles in the sunlight, lighting upon anyone open to receive them.

And because I think of them as completely their own, I also believe they were never mine to begin with. Stories, especially stories of the past, stories about the important things in life, are great and awesome things. And we, the writers, are just that.

The writers.

The recorders, preserving and keeping for remembrance. The bringers-to-life of these immaculate characters, places and times.

K.M.Weiland describes us as, and I'm paraphrasing, “the channels through which the stories flow.” The music, the words, the people, the stories—we're merely the portals. The stories, the songs, none of it belongs to us, but to another world, another place and time, and to all who love and treasure them.

Every artist you meet, I'm betting, will tell you that they cannot NOT make art. They cannot NOT write, they cannot NOT make music, they cannot NOT do whatever it is they love doing. It's a compulsion, they cannot NOT look at the world without seeing it through their own eyes, their own perspectives.

But let's be clear about something: Art is the bringing of something new and beautiful into the world. Something genuine and good, something that does not darken the world, but leaves it a better place than it was before.

By that definition many things would be considered art, and rightly so.

That's why I love to make art, because there are so many different forms, so many ways to make beautiful things. I love photography and making music, redecorating my blog, the messiness of my desk after a day of work is even art to me.

Creativity is the collision of the love of beauty, a heart for God and people, and the desire to share these things with everyone and everything for their good.

Art should be made not only with the idea of the pleasure it would bring to you just being able to make it, but with the idea of the good it will bring to others.

Thank you for the interview, Kelsey girl! I can't tell you how much fun I had answering your questions! I must return the favor someday soon.

Don't forget to subscribe to get the first chapter of Terry Dodd and my future newsletter full of art, and stories, books to read, and tips for writers!

Love, me



Katie said...

Very insightful questions, Kelsey! Very awesome answers, Kayla! Thank you for this inside look. I am so proud of you, my daughter!

Love you,

Denielle said...

Great questions! I loved the inside look, because I have been asking myself some of those questions concerning your book as well. So cool to hear your perspective on it as the author!
And I can't wait to read the other books y mentioned!!!!!

I'm excited to tell my daughter of how this example of using your talent for
Gods glory. :)

K. M. Updike said...

Thanks so much, Denielle! What can I say? Kelsey is pretty amazing all around, friends are such a blessing!

Hugs and love.