What inspired you to write WILLOW?
I wanted to write a book for all of us with self destructive urges, a book that would take one person from a place of self harm to a place of healing, and in doing so possibly make people question their own damaging behaviors. I chose to make Willow a cutter because it is a very dramatic and obvious form of self injury, but it could just as easily have been a book about overeating or doing drugs, or even something as innocent as watching too much television.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In fact there is, and if you don’t mind, I’m going to quote a reviewer who said it better than I ever could: “The essential and uplifting message of WILLOW is that not every problem can be solved, but there is no bad situation that cannot be improved.” That’s really what WILLOW is about. I like to say it’s not a book about cutting so much as it is a book about healing, about redemption, and about coming to terms with tragedy.
What was the hardest part of writing WILLOW?
The part that I found most difficult may sound a bit surprising. I didn’t really struggle with the cutting scenes at all. As I have said in other interviews, while I have never been a cutter, I have certainly felt that sense of despair, that isolation, that absolute inability to process feelings in the correct way. With that in mind, the hardest scene for me to write, by far, was the one where Willow finally lets go and allows herself to feel the emotional pain that she has been blocking throughout the novel.
Did you learn anything from writing WILLOW? What was it?
Well, really, I would say what I learned working on WILLOW was how to be a writer, how to apply the discipline and work ethic I had in other areas. Prior to writing WILLOW I went to grad school in physics and philosophy. I don’t know that pondering those subjects helped me much with WILLOW. But, I do believe that doing an independent study in quantum mechanics was a huge breakthrough for me as a writer and as a person. Now when I was in grad school I wrote romance novels under a pseudonym. I had a certain facility for that type of book. I needed it too, as many of them were written under deadlines of a few weeks. However, as much as I loved doing them, and as good a training as they were for more serious writing, they were things that I just tossed off in a rather cavalier manner. I didn’t work at them as assiduously as I should. In fact I didn’t really work very hard at anything until quantum mechanics. That was probably the most challenging thing I ever did, and while I don’t know how much I really took in as regards quantum, I can say that I really learned how to work. The way I worked on WILLOW was vastly different than the way I had worked on my romances, and I couldn’t have done it without struggling through quantum mechanics first. So even though I’d written many romances, WILLOW was really a breakthrough in the writing process.
Are you currently working on another novel? Can you share any details with us?
I am working on something else, thank you for asking! I’m way too superstitious to share many details, but I can tell you two things: one) it is as different from WILLOW as could possibly be imagined, and two) the other day after completing three thousand words, and reaching a climactic point in the story, my computer went crazy and jettisoned the entire days work. I’m surprised I have to tell you, as I assumed that everyone in the known universe heard my screams!
When and why did you begin writing?
1) I don’t know that I ever sat down and said “I want to be a writer.” It’s more that the time came when I could no longer avoid making that choice. I’ve been writing since I could hold a crayon, and in fact submitted my first “professional” effort at the age of eight. I entered a poem in a contest — and came in 39th out of a field of 40. But although I always wrote and always wanted to write, I had several detours on the way to working as a professional. As I said earlier, I went to grad school in physics and philosophy, which although fascinating was not the most direct route towards becoming a writer…. I tell you all this to encourage those among your readers who themselves are considering a writing career, but who haven’t yet made the jump. That’s OK! Not everyone is able to pursue their dreams right away. Sometimes life gets in the way, practical decisions have to be made, or the idea of following an unconventional path seems too daunting. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t ever be able to make that choice, and in fact, sometimes the paths that you take on the way to that choice (in my case physics) will be of greater use to you than you realize.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
Any day now…..
Is there anything you find particularly challenging about writing?
Everything! But really I would say the most difficult thing for me is sticking with it when things aren’t working. Gertrude Stein had a wonderful line about a young writer, she said “he has the syrup, but it doesn’t pour.” We (I) may have the syrup, the inspiration, but that doesn’t mean that the details are always forthcoming, that I know how to get from A to B, it’s being willing to stare at the bare screen and working through those points that are the most challenging.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
So many people write to me and tell me that they want to write, but that they’re too afraid, they don’t feel like their thoughts are worthy of being put down on paper. You know what I say to that? EVERYBODY feels that way, everybody who has something worthwhile to say, that is! I’ll give you an example: Van Gogh wrote to his brother that he didn’t think he was worthy to paint in oils. Van Gogh! The man who forever transformed oil painting! I guess what I’m trying to say is that if you’re discouraged, if you’re beset by self doubt, do
n’t let it get you down. You’re in good company!
What book are you reading now?
I should try and impress you and come up with some really advanced work on Quantum Mechanics, but the fact is when I’m working on a book, I can only read the cheesiest most embarrassing romances!
Finally, if you were to interview yourself what question would you ask, and how would you answer it?
Q) You say that you wrote WILLOW for those of us with self destructive urges, that it is a book about the redemptive power of love. All well and good, but do you really think that a book, any book, can help someone with such severe problems?
A) Absolutely. I can tell you from personal experience that I count many books as good and trusted friends, that there are books that have helped me through the deepest despair and through intense loneliness. Now WILLOW may not be a book that speaks to everyone, but if someone is able to learn from it, to question why they might treat themselves as less than they should, then this author will have truly done her job.
Thank you for your time and I am looking forward to reading more books from you in the future!
WILLOW is now available in paperback, so be sure to pick up your copy!
Told in an arresting, fresh voice, Willow is an unforgettable novel about one girl’s struggle to cope with tragedy, and one boy’s refusal to give up on her.”
I’m not quite sure where to begin with this review. This book is about a teenager named Willow who feels responsible for her parents’ tragic death. To cope with the emotional pain, Willow begins cutting herself. Cutting is a topic that I know very little about. Before reading this book, I couldn’t understand why someone would want to mutilate their body by cutting themselves. It seemed more like suicidal behavior than anything else. After reading this book, I have a greater understanding of the emotional pain and turmoil that leads someone to cutting – and it’s not suicidal behavior at all.
Willow was behind the wheel when a tragic accident took the lives of her parents. Stumbling through life post-accident, Willow becomes estranged from her older brother, David, whom she finds herself living with after the accident. Feeling that he blames her for their parents’ deaths, Willow retreats into herself, trying to deal with the emotions the best way she knows how – through cutting.
One day at her job at the library, Willow meets Guy. He soon discovers her secret, but instead of running the other way, he does everything he can to help her. The development of this relationship is very sweet and I really enjoyed reading it. Through this relationship, we see the healing power of love.
This book is so much more than a young adult novel of teenage angst. It is not an easy book to read. It is raw and emotional and the cutting scenes were hard to read (for me, anyway!). I know this review isn’t doing the book justice, but I just don’t know how to describe the emotions this book brought out in me. It’s definitely a book I would recommend.