Terri Guiliano Long : Thank you so very much for inviting to visit, Niina! It’s an honor to be here today!
In Leah’s Wake tells the story of a family in collapse. Sixteen-year-old Leah, a high school soccer star, 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—all this feels like freedom to her. Her terrified parents, afraid they’re losing their daughter, pull the reins tighter.
Unfortunately, her parents 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.
Jodi Picoult fans often tell me the book reminds them of hers. I’m not sure she – or I – would agree, but we both write topical family stories. And it’s a lovely compliment.
Niina : What did you most enjoy about writing In Leah’s Wake? What chapter or scene?
Terri : In a chapter called “Sisters Redux,” Justine, the geeky, goody-two-shoes little sister, asks Leah for a cigarette. It’s almost painful to see her trying so hard to win her big sister’s acceptance and affection. At first, Leah scoffs; then it dawns on her that Justine is actually serious and her conscience takes over. Leah has made difficult choices and been ostracized for them; for Justine, that path would be wrong. In certain arenas, dorks have the advantage, she thinks.
As she’s about to say no, it occurs to Leah that Justine has a right to make her own choices. With this insight, for the first time since they were young kids, Leah sees Justine as her equal. Despite her reservations, she gives her sister the cigarette. In a sweet moment, later in the chapter, Leah teaches Justine to dance. This love between the sisters was, to me, heartbreaking and special.
Niina : Which character in your book became your favorite?
Terri : The characters are all imperfect. They behave badly and they’re sometimes, perhaps often, enormously irritating, and self-involved - but I love them all, for their strengths as well as their weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Justine is sweet and caring and kind, so it’s hard not to love her, but I also love Leah. Although Leah drives the parent in me crazy and she can be a real brat, her heart is in the right place. The parents, Zoe and Will, often make terrible choices; despite their failures, they want the best for their children and they act out of love.
Jerry Johnson, the police officer, is the only non-family member with a voice. Though flawed like all the characters, he takes his responsibility for others to heart. I see police officers as the connecting force in communities. Every day they put their lives on the line. To me, they’re our real life heroes. As the connecting force in this novel and for this family, Jerry became my favorite.
Niina : What about your lead character makes you go, “oh don’t do that!”?
Terri : At different times, I want to tell every one of my lead characters to stop, think, listen. Hardworking parents, Zoe and Will want the best for their kids. When Leah rebels, rather than listening to their daughter, accepting the fact that she’s growing up and responsible for making her own choices – rather than guide her - Zoe and Will pull the reins tighter. This is a classic problem between parents and teens. The minute we put our foot down, say no, they can’t do this or that, many teens focus all their energy in that direction. Zoe and Will’s escalating attempts to control their daughter result in her pulling away. This is a difficult cycle to break. If only they’d listen, realize how much their daughters love them and how desperately both daughters need them, they could solve their problems before they blow up. That they don’t, perhaps they can’t, is the central irony in the book – the irony in many relationships between parents and teens.
Niina : Were any of the characters/events based on real life characters/events?
Terri : Bob Sullivan, the owner of Sullivan Farms Ice Cream, and Dorothy Klein, the lovely woman who designed the button bracelets Zoe buys for herself and Leah, are real people.
No other character is based on a real person, although I did borrow habits and physical characteristics from real people – the runaway arm comes from my youngest daughter, KK, and my husband is a physical stand-in for Will. Of course, borrowing identifiable traits can make characters feel a little too real and lead to unfortunate assumptions. I’m lucky – I have a good-natured family; they put up with my thievery and ignore the conclusions some readers draw.
The personality, motivation, behavior of all my characters – those I’m fully responsible for.
Niina : Now my readers are mainly paranormal romance readers, how would you do in writing in that genre? Have you thought of straying from YA?
Terri : While my stories differ—my novel-in-progress, Nowhere to Run, is a psychological thriller with a historical twist—they always tie back to the family. Families fascinate me - the ways we love, yet often hurt one another, the grief, the revelation, the joy. I think readers connect with family stories. They identify with the characters and care about them. This connection is, for me, the most important reason for writing.
Although I’ve never tried writing paranormal romance, I think I’d enjoy it, especially one with a family story at its center. I’m a firm believer in the paranormal. I’m convinced that the worldly and spiritual realms are closely connected and I’ve felt the presence of ghosts. Although writing in a new genre would be a challenge, I think it’s important for writers to push themselves. Writing a paranormal romance would be a terrific growth experience for me. Wow, Niina – answering your question has made me want to give it a whirl!
Niina : LOL! Thanks. ;) Now little about how you write… What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
Terri : I’ve heard other writers express similar feelings, so I’m not sure if this is different enough to be interesting: when I first sit at my desk, especially if I’m starting a new project, I feel like I’ve forgotten how to write. I don’t know where to start, the editors on my shoulders heckling: A writer? Are you crazy? Nine times out of ten, I dig in. The writing may be choppy; as I continue writing I gain fluidity. If the demons are too loud to ignore, I read. Like meditation or yoga, reading settles my mind, calms me. Soon I find my mind wandering to my story, and I can’t wait to start writing.
Niina : What is the biggest “no-no” when it comes to writing for you?
Terri : I’m easily distracted. If I stop writing to do anything else – take a phone call, pay a bill, find information on the Internet – I fall into a rabbit hole and can lose the entire day I’d hoped to spend writing.
Niina : How do you write, chapter here and there or follow from beginning to an end?
Terri : I write from start to finish. Often I go over and over the beginning before moving on. This helps me work out the story, giving me a foundation and a sense of direction. It also helps me flesh out the characters. Without that, I’d have trouble finishing a novel. I do often think ahead. I’ll jot down ideas or sketch a scene, but I very rarely jump ahead and write an entire chapter.
Niina : What’s the worst advice for writers you’ve received?
Terri : Write what you know. This is not only the worst advice I’ve ever heard; it’s also the silliest. While I agree in principle – we should write honestly and from the heart – we’d never learn or discover anything if we wrote only what we knew. For me, the sense of discovery that comes from writing about the unfamiliar is the most exciting aspect of writing. It gives me a reason to write.
Niina : Now bit more personal! Your current Top 5 dangerous bad boys in literature? (and why?)
Terri : Except for Todd, my bad boys aren’t bad in the traditional sense. They’re single, haunted by their past – the kind of men we women fool ourselves into believing that, with love, we can heal. In that sense, they’re quite dangerous.
Leah’s boyfriend, Todd Corbett, is a former roadie in a rock band, arrested once for drug dealing. A modern day James Dean, Todd is a rebel without a cause. He makes Leah feel comfortable and safe and he encourages her blossoming independence. These positive qualities draw her in and make him dangerous. A tall, blue-eyed blond, he’s also very handsome and sexy.
U.S. Marshal Teddy Daniels in Shutter Island, by Dennis Lehane. A veteran, Teddy has seen harrowing things and his past haunts him. He wants to do the right thing, yet he’s driven by demons – the kind of guy you can fool yourself into believing you can help. It doesn’t hurt that Leo DiCaprio plays him in the film.
Detective Rob Ryan, In the Woods, by Tana French – another scarred hero haunted by his past, this one a police detective. This divorced cop comes from a dysfunctional family in a rough and tumble suburb of Dublin. He has a young daughter he adores and wife he doesn’t realize he wants to win back. Extra points for the sexy Irish accent.
Mikael Blomkvist, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Stieg Larson. He loves the strange, haunting Lisbeth Salander and puts himself at risk to help her. Need I say more?
Private detective Jackson Brodie, Case Histories, by Kate Atkinson. Jackson is a divorced ex-cop. He’s smart and caring and real, tough but only on the outside. Like Rob Ryan he’s devoted to his daughter.
Niina : Good list! Can you share with us 3 closest to you books you have on your bookshelf?
Terri : The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. This powerful novel transports us to a gray, post-apocalyptic world, where humans have been reduced to animal instinct--for inhabitants of this new world order, murder and cannibalism are a means of survival.
Within this harsh environment, McCarthy gives us a tender, elegantly rendered father and son. In their travels, near starvation, they meet terrible challenges and hardships, yet they face every one with dignity and grace. Near death, the man says to his son: "You have my whole heart. You always did.” That line has stayed with me – as have so many other stark, tender moments.
Olive Kitteridge, by Susan Strout, is a quirky book of linked stories. The stories take place in coastal Maine. Although the inhabitants of each New England state are a bit different – I’ve lived most of my life in Massachusetts - I understand and relate to these characters. These deeply human stories, often about family, portray the heartache, the wonder and the joy of ordinary life.
Susan Straight’s elegant novel A Million Nightingales is another favorite. A Million Nightingales tells the moving story of a beautiful young slave girl in nineteenth century Louisiana. Sold upriver, Moinette is repeatedly assaulted and must rely on her intelligence to survive. This powerful story stayed with me long after I’d finished reading.
Niina : What's a typical day like for you?
Terri : Ideally, I blog in the morning and either write or edit my novel-in-progress from early afternoon until dinnertime. Of course, life often gets in the way. During crunch time, when I’m busy editing and grading students’ papers, my own work falls by the wayside. Since the summer, marketing In Leah’s Wake, I’ve neglected my novel-in-progress, Nowhere to Run, and I’m eager to dig in again. When I go back, it will take me few weeks to establish a consistent routine.
In the past, I insisted that students write every day. I now see rules as counterproductive. The right way to do anything is the way that works best for you. Life interferes with the best-laid plans. You can fight it or go with it. I try to go with it. That’s not to say I always succeed.
Niina : And now before we say goodbye some Quick Fire Questions:
Cats or dogs? Cats for their independence, dogs their love
Beach or forest? Beach for the sound and the majesty, forest for the quiet
Night or day? Day
UF (Urban Fantasy) or PNR (Paranormal Romance)? Paranormal Romance
Bad boys or good cops? As you can probably tell from my responses above, a little of both.
Brunettes or Blonds? Brunettes
Vampires or werewolves? Werewolves
Romance or erotica? Romance
Mystery or Thriller? Thriller
Men: Alpha-male or submissive? Alpha-male
Male POV or female POV (Point Of View)? Either, as long as it’s believable.
Pick-up or Mini-van? Mini-van
Beer or Wine? Wine
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Pizza or Restaurant? I’m Italian. I love both.
Dark chocolate or milk chocolate? Dark chocolate, preferably studded with nuts
Cake or Donuts? Cake
TV or DVD? It depends. I watch only a few shows, so prefer those on DVD to a random TV show
Golden Girls or Family Ties? Family ties
Movies: Romantic comedies or Action/Adventure? Either/both - really depends on my mood.
Halloween or Midsummer? Midsummer
Rocks or flowers? I love flowers but gardens can be too orderly; a rock face is awe-inspiring
Times New Roman or Courier? Courier
Crayons or markers? Crayons – more colors!
Pens or pencils? Pens, but I’m weirdly particular about my pens. They have to be blue roller ball
Kids or pets? Kids. Pets are nice, but kids make the world go around.
Niina : Thanks for visiting the For The Love of Reading, Terri!
Terri : Thank you so very much for giving me this opportunity to share my thoughts with your readers, Niina! I’m grateful for your generosity and support. Thank you, readers, for the invaluable gift of your time.
Terri Giuliano Long is the bestselling author of the novel In Leah’s Wake. Her life outside of books is devoted to her family. In her free time, she enjoys walking, traveling, and listening to music. True to her Italian-American heritage, she’s an enthusiastic cook. In an alternate reality, she might be an international food writer. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. In Leah’s Wake is her debut novel.
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IN LEAH’S WAKE
Terri Giuliano Long
Format: Paperback, Kindle
COMING DECEMBER 1 – NEWLY EDITED UK EDITION, PUBLISHED BY INSPIRED QUILL PRESS. NEW DISCUSSION QUESTIONS, AUTHOR INTERVIEW AND A BRAND NEW ALTERNATE ENDING!
ABOUT IN LEAH’S WAKE
2011 BOOK BUNDLZ BOOK CLUB PICK
Recipient of the Coffee Time Reviewers Recommend (CTRR) Award
The Tyler family had the perfect life - until sixteen-year-old Leah decided she didn't want to be perfect anymore.
While her parents fight to save their daughter from destroying her brilliant future, Leah's younger sister, Justine, must cope with the damage her out-of-control sibling leaves in her wake.
What happens when love just isn't enough?
This mesmerizing debut novel tells the tale of a contemporary American family caught in the throes of adolescent rebellion - a heartbreaking, funny, ultimately redemptive quest for love, independence, connection and grace.
PRAISE FOR IN LEAH’S WAKE
Susan Straight, National Book Award Finalist, author Take One Candle Light A Room
“Terri Long’s accomplished first novel takes the reader on a passionate roller-coaster ride through contemporary parenthood and marriage. It’s sometimes scary, sometimes sad, and always tender.”
Margot Livesey, author of Banishing Verona and Eva Moves the Furniture
“I felt I knew these characters better than my friends and neighbors. In Leah's Wake is a beautifully written and absorbing novel."
Holly Robinson, Contributing writer, Family Circle, Parents, Ladies’ Home Journal, author of The Gerbil Farmer’s Daughter: A Memoir
"By turns howlingly funny and achingly sad, the book details the vivid, harrowing journey of a fragile family that unravels – and finds redemption – thanks to a teenager’s rebellion. In Leah’s Wake is an irresistible read.”
Jennifer Donovan, Managing Editor 5 Minutes for Books, Top 50 Book Blogger
“There are no quick and easy solutions here for Leah or for her parents. They . . . pulled me right along as I continued to make comparisons to my own life.”
Susie Kline, Blogger, Motherhoot
"As a mom, I felt what Zoe felt. It tore my heart out to see the promise of a child being replaced with the nightmare of reality… I’m adding Terri Giuliano Long to my list of authors I want to be stranded with."
Monica Madsen, Blogger, A Mother’s Touch Bookshelf
"I give In Leah’s Wake 5 stars and recommend reading to anyone with tweens. Although it is fiction, this book can be a great reference for parenting teenagers."
Haley Stokes, Blogger, Triumphal Writing
In Leah's Wake is beautifully written, haunting, fascinating, and a book that has a lot to say, a lot to teach you, without getting preachy.
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