I grew up in Ithaca, New York in the 1960s. I graduated from Cornell University and went on to play saxophone in an R&B band in Chicago, where I met my husband, Bobby, a fellow musician. After raising two children and many years of being a professional editor, we both returned to performing, and I finally had a chance to rekindle a lifelong passion for writing fiction. I work as a curriculum consultant for elementary and middle school students in Chicago, sharing my love of writing and music with young people of all ages, and especially with our two young granddaughters, Kathryn and Kailyn.
Many years ago, I had a chance to travel to Ithaca, NY. I remember it being a quaint town. I enjoyed my visit to the area. Will you tell the readers about A Firefly Life?
Melanie Bell is almost 13 and growing up in a small town in upstate NY in the late 60s. She still has a little-boy body even though she has the romantic dreams of an older teen. When Jonathan, a drop-dead gorgeous, charismatic boy, moves to her town and attends her school, she is instantly in love and can think about nothing else but getting close to him. Through some twists and turns, she becomes his little sister’s babysitter and works her way into his confidence and inner circle.
Melanie is the only white kid at her school who is best friends with a black girl. Her best friend, Jo, is a powerful, smart young lady who sees right through Jonathan’s manipulative nature, but her warnings go unheeded as Melanie contemplates discarding their friendship in favor of pursuing Jonathan. As she is drawn deeper and deeper into lying for him, Melanie’s bonds with her family are also endangered. Jonathan’s little sister, Tracy, is autistic and a real handful. Melanie’s ability to understand and care for her is another avenue of growth that weaves through the story and is an integral part of the story’s climax and conclusion.
The music and culture of the late 60s create the backdrop for a tumultuous time of change and awakening in the mind and heart of this sensitive young girl.
Our daughter, Julie, was about 12 when I started the book, and she was navigating her first big crushes on boys. I was a romantic young lady myself back in the day, and I wanted to write something for her about how powerful these attractions can be—so powerful that you can lose yourself in them, as well as lose track of people, ideas, and beliefs that are important to you. This power needs to be respected and understood, as it can be a real game-changer.
This novel started out as a simple exercise in a small writing group I belonged to: “Write a paragraph or two about a person who reminds you of an animal.” My original paragraph is still the opening paragraph of the book:
“The lion boy stood waist-deep in the pool. There was no other way to describe him.
“Melanie’s magazine dropped to her lap and the watery racket of children’s voices around her faded to a soft hum. The boy held his back and neck with regal straightness, surveying his surroundings with fierce disdain. His eyes flickered at various points around the pool. He was an exotic, caged animal looking for a way out.”
What is the main thing you hope readers remember from this story?
I think the thoughts and emotions of young teens should be valued more than they are. Granted, this age group may seem like overgrown children, but they have very strong emotions and opinions that are helping to shape their habits and choices for years to come. The key adult characters in this book model both successful and unsuccessful ways to connect with and guide a young person going through transitions and tough times. I hope some of what was helpful for my heroine will stick with readers, and teens will make the effort to connect with a wise and loving older person in their lives.
I honor the validity of doubt in anyone’s approach to the difficult questions of spiritual life. I think God can handle it, and what’s more, I think he welcomes it. Tough topics deserve a thorough look, and none are better equipped for this arena than young people, who may or may not have had a religious upbringing, but who are beginning to face the challenges of their own journey. I hope we can all honor that process in each other, and especially in the young people we know.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
After many years as a professional editor, it’s SOOO hard for me to write the first draft stage and allow things to just flow without editing. The more I can let go of that editor head, the more my mind frees up to allow me into that luscious zone of deep creativity where anything goes (and there is no pesky editor voice nagging about things that don’t line up or aren’t phrased at the peak of effectiveness yet).
Do you have a blog?
I do, and I try to add to it weekly, but well, you know how it goes. It’s a great outlet for my reflections and musings on the wealth of inspiration I find in the Torah cycle each week and its partner readings in the Haftarah. It’s downright uncanny how often my other readings in Psalms, the New Testament, and poetry by George MacDonald weave seamlessly into the Torah and Haftarah portions nearly every week. Making those connections helps me with my ongoing study of what it means to be a believer in the One True God as I sort through the Jewish and Christian influences in my life. The blog is at belonging2all.wordpress.com.
Where can readers find you and your novels?
I’m on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100007781806053, on Twitter at @LindaShewWolf, and my blog is at belonging2all.wordpress.com (doesn’t hurt to be repetitive sometimes, right?). My novel is on Amazon at:
and Barnes & Noble at:
Barnes & Noble at:
Linda, I look forward to reading your book and know other readers will enjoy it too.