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Book Review - In Leah's Wake

It's time for our next installment of author Q. & A. and reaction! Today's post is special because it's the first stop in Novel Publicity's Blog Tour for debuting author Terri Giuliano Long and her contemporary-family/mainstream stream fiction novel In Leah's Wake. She has given me some great responses to the questions I posed!

In addition to the question and answer and personal reaction, I'm also adding the synopsis from Amazon .  That way you will have everything you need to know about this great book.

Amazon synopsis:
Protecting their children comes naturally for Zoe and Will Tyler—until their daughter Leah decides to actively destroy her own future. 

Leah grew up in a privileged upper-middle class world. Her parents spared no expense for her happiness; she had all-but secured an Ivy League scholarship and a future as a star athlete. Then she met Todd.

Leah’s parents watch helplessly as their daughter falls into a world of drugs, sex, and wild parties. While Will attempts to control his daughter’s every move to prevent her from falling deeper into this dangerous new life, Zoe prefers to give Leah slack in the hope that she may learn from her mistakes. Their divided approach drives their daughter out of their home and a wedge into their marriage.

Twelve-year-old Justine observes Leah’s rebellion from the shadows of their fragmented family. She desperately seeks her big sister’s approval and will do whatever it takes to obtain it. Meanwhile she is left to question whether her parents love her and whether God even knows she exists.

What happens when love just isn’t enough? Who will pay the consequences of Leah’s vagrant lifestyle? Can this broken family survive the destruction left in Leah’s wake?

Personal Reaction:
When I first read the synopsis for In Leah’s Wake, it struck me as interesting, but I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to relate.  Being single and childless left me thinking it would be a good story but I might not walk away with the kind of reaction the author was hoping for.  That idea changed as I got further into the book. Perhaps I don’t have children of my own, but I do deal with kids on a daily basis and I hope that I am teaching them good life lessons.  Also, I found I knew variations of the story from real life experiences when I was younger.  The great thing about this novel is that it is shown from all sides of the experience: the parents, the children, even the cop who is involved.  There is someone in the story everyone can find a way to relate to.  It’s gritty, going into details of wild teen parties and drug use, infidelities, doubts and self discovery.  It shows how each character grows and learns. One thing I especially liked was there’s not a typical fairy tale ending, which makes it even more realistic and relatable.  I would recommend In Leah’s Wake to anyone who enjoys a story of struggles and realizations, a story of growth and discovery, a realistic story we can all relate to in some way.


Questions and Answers:

Q) Is In Leah’s Wake your first book?
Yes. And by first, I really mean first. There are no burned manuscripts or books stuffed in drawers. Of course, I revised so many times that I could have written several books. So maybe it’s actually my third.

Q) What prompted you to write In Leah’s Wake?
Years ago, I wrote a series of feature articles about families with drug and alcohol-addicted teens. The moms talked candidly about their children, their heartbreaking struggles. Those stories stayed with me. 

My husband and I have four daughters. When I began writing In Leah's Wake, they were teens. Most families struggle in some way during their children's teenage years. We’re no different - though, thank goodness, we experienced nothing remotely like the problems and challenges the Tylers face in the book.

As a parent, I knew how it felt to be scared, concerned for your children’s future. That, I think in retrospect, was the primary force that drove me to write this story. I also hated the way parents competed with and judged one another, and I felt, and still feel, strongly that zero tolerance policies, while the drive to enforce them comes from a place of love, are wrong-headed. In the book, Leah is kicked off the soccer team, for a host of reasons, but essentially for drinking. When she's caught at a party, the high school principal forces the soccer coach to dismiss her from the team. I don't understand this – why punish a troubled child by alienating him or her from the community, taking away this positive influence?

My work with families, my personal experiences and core beliefs – all these things played on my conscious and subconscious mind, and ultimately emerged as this book. 

Q) What preparation did you do prior to writing? Did you research?
I wrote the first draft very quickly – in three months – while I was finishing my MFA at Emerson College. Later, I researched various aspects of the book, mostly fact-checking for accuracy. I knew little about drugs and drug use/abuse in general, and next to nothing about hard drugs - opium-laced marijuana, for instance. I used the Internet for this. I also checked the FBI Website to be sure I’d accurately depicted the way the police and FBI handle situations with teen runaways. I looked at police vehicles online, and I checked drug laws. My sister Audrey, a nurse anesthetist, helped me with the medical details.

Q) Why did you decide to use multiple Points Of View, rather than stick to just one?
For me, this book isn’t about any one character. I wanted to tell the story of this family; to do that, I needed to give each person a voice. We tend to live and remember shared events differently, from our own perspective. By using multiple points of view – sometimes overlapping stories – I hoped to show this. Also, by telling their individual stories, I hoped give readers greater insight into the characters.

Q) Why did you decide to add the POV of Officer Johnson, a character outside of the family?
That’s a great question, MaryBeth! In the first draft, his voice just came in as I wrote. I didn’t give it much thought. In revision, themes of connection and responsibility emerged. The epigraph conveys those themes as I hope they come across: “everyone is really responsible to all men for all men and for everything . . .” I see Jerry as the connecting force in the novel and for this family. Although, like all of us, he’s flawed, he takes this responsibility for others to heart. So, for me, his voice is very important.

Q) What advice would you give to parents who may be going through a similar situation as Zoe and Will?
Try to believe in yourself; make decisions that feel right, for the right reasons, then trust your decisions. You’ve done your best, given your child strong values and character; these will prevail. In troubled times, it’s hard to believe you’ll ever see the light. But the challenges we face with teens don’t last forever. Someday, maybe sooner than you think, your child will find his or her way, and you’ll be close again.

I don’t mean to minimize very real problems or heartache, and, believe me, I understand how terrifying and painful it is to watch your child make mistakes or fall. But I’ve also, in addition to my own children, known and worked with so many young people over the years. Some kids take longer than others to grow up and mature, but eventually almost all turn out well. Parenting is the toughest job in the world. We don’t need to make it any harder by beating up on ourselves. Ironically, the qualities we value most as adults – creativity, leadership, independence – often lead teens to rebel. In the end, this pays off.

You love your child; your child loves you. Try to remember this, and remind yourself often!

Q) Any advice for a teen who may be feeling too pressured by family or friends to do things they don’t want to do?
Be true to yourself. I honestly believe that most teens want to please the people they care about. You want to connect with others, belong. That’s a beautiful part of who you are. But it shouldn’t dictate your behavior. People who love you want the best for you, but they don’t always get it right. You might ask what they’re thinking, where they’re coming from, consider and evaluate their response. At the end of the day, though, you know what’s right for you. Listen to yourself, stay in touch, and follow your heart.

Q) What is the lesson you hope readers come away with after finishing the story?
I have to go back to the epigraph again – we’re all responsible for all and for everything. Hillary Clinton said it takes a village to raise a child. I hope the book encourages people to be supportive members of the village.

The Tyler family is far from perfect, but they love one another. Our flaws make us human and that humanity connects us. I very much hope that readers feel this sense of connection—and hope.

Q) How would you describe In Leah’s Wake to entice a non-reader to want to pick it up?
In Leah’s Wake tells the story of a family in collapse. Sixteen-year-old Leah, a star soccer player, has led a perfect life. When she meets a sexy older guy, attracted to his independence, she begins to spread her wings. Drinking, ignoring curfew, dabbling in drugs—this feels like freedom to her; her terrified parents, thinking they’re losing their daughter, pull the reigns tighter. Unfortunately, they get it all wrong, pushing when they ought to be pulling, and communication breaks down. Soon, there’s no turning back. Twelve-year-old Justine caught between the parents she loves, and the big sister she adores, finds herself in the fight of her life, trying desperately to pull her family together.

I’ve heard from many people, friends, reviewers, readers I’ve never met, that the book feels real and complex. They understand this family because they’ve been there – as a parent or a teen. Readers feel like they know the characters, and they care about them. I’d love for people read In Leah’s Wake for enjoyment. I also hope the book offers a sense of hope and emotional connection.

Q) Who or what are your writing influences?
In grad school, I was blessed to study under wonderful teachers, particularly Christopher Tilghman and Jessica Treadway, who taught me the craft of fiction writing and, more important, taught me to believe in myself. For content, I’m indebted to the existential philosophers. I also love Flannery O’Connor, and I see ways that her work seeps into my writing. I’m also influenced by music, particularly Van Morrison and Robbie Robertson. Like most writers, I think, I’m influenced by what I read, listen to, and observe.

Q) What can we expect from you next?  Do you have any other projects we can look for?
I’m currently working on a contemporary psychological thriller with a historical twist. 

Nowhere to Run takes place in the White Mountains in northern New Hampshire. A year after the brutal murder of her six-year-old daughter, Abby Minot, once an award-winning writer, accepts her first assignment—a profile of the philanthropic Chase family, kin of the popular New Hampshire senator and presidential hopeful, Matthias Chase.

In her initial research, Abby glimpses darkness under the Chase family’s shiny veneer. Digging deeper, she uncovers a shocking web of lies and betrayal, dating back to the nineteenth century. Abby finds herself trapped—between an editor obsessed with uncovering the truth and the town and family who will stop at nothing to ensure it stays hidden.

I hope to complete the novel this fall. 

Q) How can fans follow and contact you?
I have a website, where readers can learn more about me. My blog, “The Art and Craft of Writing Creatively,” focuses on writing tips and inspiration. I’ve met terrific people through social networking, and love connecting on those sites. I also welcome email: terri@tglong.com
Website:  www.tglong.com

Q) Lastly, just for fun, if they were producing a new smash hit Broadway musical based on your writing journey, what would it be called?
I wish you could see me smiling. This is such a great question! How about - Long Night’s Journey Into Day. Seriously, it’s taken me a long time to get here, wherever “here” is. I’ve taught writing for 15 years, and this is my first book. There were many nights – and days – when I wondered what I was doing, and seriously considered giving up. As Dory, the little blue surgeon fish in the film Finding Nemo, advises, I just kept swimming. Maybe for a subtitle – Stubborn Crazy Girl or The Little Engine That Could.

For all you writers – hold onto your dream. You can – and will - make it happen. Don’t ever give up!

Tour Notes:

Please vote for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins a free promotional twitterview and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official In Leah’s Wake blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.

The next word for the book give-away is:  TO. Learn more about the give-away and enter to win 1 of 3 copies on the official King Whisperers blog tour page. The other 2 copies are being given-away courtesy of the GoodReads author program, go here to enter. And don’t forget to stop by the Q&A with Terri Giuliano Long Group to discuss In Leah’s Wake (including questions from the official book club guide), the author, her writing process, and advice.

Book Trailer for In Leah’s Wake:


Terri Giuliano Long said...

Thank you so much, MBee! You asked really great questions! You made me think - always good. :) It's an honor to be hosted on your wonderful blog!

MBee said...

Thanks again! It was my honor to be able to help you promote the book. Best of luck with it and future endeavors!

Promotion said...

Great interview and wonderful review. Nice job by both of you.

MBee said...

Thank you!