Hey there rgz:
I've been in hibernation for the past few weeks on a quasi-maternity leave, but what better way to ease back into the writing world than with a post from your Everett Host, Carole Estby Dagg?
Readergirlz Report – Helen Landalf and FLYAWAY
Flyaway, by Helen Landalf
Harcourt, 2011, 167 pages
I love going behind the scenes with authors to hear how their books came about, so last Saturday I drove to Bellingham to hear Helen Landalf talk about her debut YA novel, Flyaway, at Village Books.
As I approached the back of the store, strains of a mellow guitar wafted up the stairwell which led to the events area in the basement. A cozy group of us met Helen’s guitar-playing husband, Steven Bishofsky, and chatted with Helen and amongst ourselves until she started her introduction and read from the second chapter of Flyaway.
In that scene, the main character, Stevie Calhoun, is alone in the apartment, waiting for her mother. Stevie is used to her mother’s irregular hours—she is, after all, a free-spirited exotic dancer whose job requires late nights. But this time, Stevie hasn’t seen her mother in three days, the collection agency is calling again, and she’s afraid that if anyone finds out about her situation Child Protective Services will take her from her mother.
Without warning, her Aunt Mindy shows up. She’s indignant that Stevie has been left alone for so long and horrified by the rumor that the place Stevie’s mother works is a front for dealing crystal meth. Under duress, Stevie leaves a note for her mother and goes with Aunt Mindy to her home. She refuses to pack a bag because she intends to return to her mother’s apartment the next day, when her mother is sure to be waiting for her.
The reading ended with a provocative cliff-hanger, so what could I do but buy the book to see what happens next? Helen signed my copy and I read it in one sitting. Without giving too much away, I’ll tell you this much: A perfect twist near the end of the book refocuses Stevie’s picture of the world around her, causing her to re-evaluate herself, her mother, a boy she meets in a bird rehabilitation center, and her aunt. Throughout the book are recurring images of things broken - things that can be mended and things that can’t.
I could have read an un-autographed copy of the book, but without seeing Landalf in person I’d have missed the answers to all these behind-the-scenes questions:
What was the inspiration for Flyaway?
Trying to explain why a teen would remain fiercely loyal to irresponsible parents.
Is this your first book?
Flyaway is Landalf’s first published YA book, but she also published a series of books for teachers on using dance in the schools and two picture books. Two previous YA books were rejected, but Flyaway had publishers in a bidding war over it!
Do you write full-time?
No, the day job is teaching dance and Pilates…hmmm. Any similarity between the loving Aunt Mindy (who owns a Pilates studio) and Helen are purely coincidental, of course.
How did you learn how to care for injured birds?
Landalf spent time at two wildlife rehabilitation clinics.
The event concluded with Steven Bishofsky singing a song, "Flyaway," which he composed for Helen about the book’s main character and about the struggles of the writer—or any artist--to persevere until her inspiration takes wing.
I love the ambiance of a reading—think of the difference between hearing a recording of a favorite band and seeing them live. Check out your near-by bookstores to get a schedule of author appearances and get a group together to see an author in person!
Carole Estby Dagg is a former librarian who is now writing historical fiction. Her first book, The Year We Were Famous, earned a starred review in Publishers Weekly and a place on the 2012 Amelia Bloomer list of books chosen by the Feminist Task Force of the American Library Association. The Year We Were Famous is based on the true story of Clara Estby and her mother, who walked from Spokane to New York City back in 1896 in a race against the calendar to win $10,000 to save the family’s farm and to prove women could do it. Carole is lucky enough to have a song composed for one of her main characters, too – it’s on Linda Allen’s CD, Here’s to the Women, which honors women of the suffrage movement.
Under the supervision of a bossy cat, Carole writes in Everett and a converted woodshed on San Juan Island.