Q&A & Giveaway with Terri Giuliano Long!

Today’s featured author is Terri Giuliano Long, author of In Leah’s Wake!

Read below to discover more about Terri and her writing… and enter the special giveaway – One Grand Prize winner will receive a tote bag, signed paperback, and a bookmark, plus three additional winners will receive a Kindle Copy* of  In Leah’s Wake! Just leave a comment on this post for entry!

See the bonus entry details after the Q&A!

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Thank you for spending some time with us Frugal eReaders! Can you please tell us a little about yourself?

Thank you so very much for featuring me, Elizabeth. I’m honored to be here!

Above all, I’m a wife and mom. My family centers and sustains me. My husband and I walk 4 or 5 miles nearly every day. We love to travel and I’m a passionate foodie.

I received my best my parenting advice from the Robert Fulghum poem “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” In kindergarten, he writes, he learned to: “share everything; play fair; don’t hit people; put things back where you found them; clean up your own mess; don’t take things that aren’t yours; say you’re sorry when you hurt someone.” When our eldest daughter, Jen, was in fifth or sixth grade, I met a mom whose overweight daughter was ruthlessly bullied. The mom hugged me and said that Jen was the only one who’d ever stuck up for her daughter, never bullied her. As a mom, I’ve enjoyed many proud moments. This one is at the top of my list.

Fun facts: I’m a closet nerd. On the outside, I appear cool and relaxed, but I’m actually quite shy. Before a public appearance, I’m anxious for days and it takes me forever to decide what to wear. I’m also a choc-o-holic and a shoe whore.

When did you first know that you wanted to write? What inspired you to start?

When I was a child, my mom read to my siblings and me every day before our afternoon nap, instilling and nurturing a love of reading and story. Throughout my childhood, I entertained myself by making up stories and plays. In high school, nearly all my hobbies and activities somehow involved writing. I wrote for the school paper, edited the yearbook. One day, determined to be a “real” writer, I marched into the office of the town paper and asked the editor for a job. At first, I covered sports and general high school news. Soon, the editor offered me my own column. I was sixteen. That column was my first paid writing job. I earned about a dollar a week. Writing that column – that people read and followed my work – was exhilarating! I knew then that writing was the only job I’d ever want.

When my children were young, I wrote news and feature articles for a local and regional paper, edited technical articles for trade magazines, and wrote marketing and web copy. About 15 years ago, I began writing fiction. In Leah’s Wake is my first novel. Nowhere to Run will be my second full-length work of fiction.

I’ve now taught writing for 16 years. Writing is really the only thing I know how to do.

How would you describe the style of your writing?

My style is very straightforward. Early on, I learned that writing should be transparent, a window into the story. The late short story writer Andre Dubus wrote gorgeous, moving stories about real people, about life. In his work, it’s content—the story, not the lyrical language—that matters. This appeals to me and I’ve tried to incorporate it into my own work.

The Christian Existentialist thinker Gabriel Marcel said, “There can be no hope that does not constitute itself through a we and for a we. I would be tempted to say that all hope is at the bottom choral.”  Marcel believed humans derive hope through despair – primarily through communion with others. This deep need to connect, the idea that we’re all in this together, is central to who I am and all I believe in. In this novel, this theme plays out through the struggles of the younger daughter, Justine. At heart, this is what In Leah’s Wake is about. The themes of struggle, brokenness, and the need for human connection run through my body of work.

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. We’re all part of some family, which, it seems, is why we connect to family stories. For me, this human connection, this dialogue between writer and reader, is what writing is all about.

In Leah’s Wake holds a premise that may be familiar to many families in some way. Can you talk about how you came up with the story line?

When I wrote the early drafts of the novel, our four daughters were adolescents, so I was immersed in that world. I love teenagers—they’re tremendously optimistic and creative—but let’s face it: the teen years are turbulent. When our older daughters were in high school, there was a serious heroin problem in town. I knew of kids, good kids, who used and lost everything. Sadly, several died in car accidents or from an overdose. Their stories touched and saddened me.

When I began the novel, I had no idea where it was headed. It started with a popular high school girl getting involved with a horrible boyfriend—every mom’s nightmare—and the voice of someone in town, criticizing the family. I knew there would be trouble in the family and a loss of connection in the community—an issue that became one of the novel’s central themes. Early on, I thought one of the parents, in a misguided effort to protect their daughter, might somehow hurt the boyfriend. As the story evolved, it became more character-driven, focused on the family’s struggles. The push-pull between Leah and her parents, their failed efforts to communicate, and the ostracism by the community, drove her to go to the lengths she does. I’m sure the true stories I’d heard intuitively came into play.

What were the challenges of writing this novel?

I found Zoe’s scenes tough to write. She loves her children deeply – I hope that comes across. Ironically—she’s a child therapist—she makes many parenting mistakes. She can also be selfish, self-absorbed. When times are toughest, she escapes into drugs. Despite her flaws, I wanted readers to see her as a good, decent person. I also wanted to create a character different from me. I feel this way about all my characters – the stories are not, and should not be, about me – but writing a mom is hard, because I am a mom. With too much narrative distance, I’d lose authenticity. If I didn’t separate enough, the thoughts and feelings would become mine. It was a struggle to find the right balance.

What was your favorite part of writing In Leah’s Wake?

In a chapter called “Sisters Redux,” Justine, the dorky, 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. Leah scoffs; then it dawns on her that Justine is serious and her conscience kicks in. In her quest for independence, Leah has made certain choices; Justine doesn’t have to follow in her footsteps. Sure, Justine’s a dork, but that’s okay. In certain arenas, Leah thinks, dorks have the advantage.

As she’s about to say no, it occurs to Leah that Justine has a right to make her own choices. For the first time since they were young, 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. I loved writing these scenes. For me, the love between the sisters is heartbreaking and special. Leah has many funny, convoluted—yet often spot-on—ideas and beliefs. I also enjoyed inhabiting her body, writing in her voice.

What was the creative process for determining the final title and cover for your novel?

One night, Dave and I were sitting in the living room, batting around ideas for a title. He came up with In Leah’s Wake. I loved the image. I pictured Leah as a speedboat, racing headlong into disaster, her family in the swirling water behind her. Please forgive me—I know this sounds arrogant—I liked the play on the title Finnegan’s Wake. Believe me, I have no illusions. For a grad school class, I memorized the final paragraph of “The Dead.” Gabriel is watching the swirling snow. Joyce writes:

“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead” (225).

For me, ultimately In Leah’s Wake is about connection and life. The image of the swirling water replays in the epilogue, but the snow swirls outward, offering hope.

Cover: I found the image on a site that sells stock photos. I looked first for a photo of sisters, to highlight the bond between Justine and Leah, which is central to the book. The subjects were all too young or too old; none felt like my sisters.

I searched using the term “family problems,” then expanded to teens, teen rebellion, drug use. Coupling these terms with the words “young woman” produced images of teenage girls alone on staircases or in alleys, smoking. “Runaway” turned up vintage images of a young girl, ten or eleven, carrying a suitcase. In one, a younger child was following, as though chasing her. I kept returning to these shots. The older girl reminded me of Dorothy, from The Wizard of Oz. There is a lot of Dorothy in Leah—a good kid with a big heart, desperate for freedom and independence.

I copied my two favorite images of the girl with the suitcase and pasted them in a Word document. Having gone through all my keywords, I turned to metaphorical terms. “Independence” gave me photos of balloons, images of people skydiving, meditating on a beach, standing at the top of a mountain or on the edge of a cliff. I tried anger, frustration. Searching “loneliness,” I found a photograph of a screen door and, beyond it, a yard. The shadow across the grass and the square of light on the door suggested morning, and I thought of new beginnings, change. Now I was getting close. “Abandonment” turned up an abandoned Teddy bear. On the next page, I found the swing—and I knew. This is so corny, but I felt all tingly.

The empty swing calls to mind adolescence, a child growing up. The movement suggests recent abandonment, as if the child has left only minutes ago. The image captures the sadness, the lost innocence, the turbulence of adolescence. Yet, for me, the sadness is balanced by the hopefulness of the sunlight, the grass, the leafy tree.

I would like to repeat a question I found in the “A few minutes with the Author” section of your novel as I believe it is an insightful one: What would you like the readers to take away from reading In Leah’s Wake?

I used an epigraph from The Grand Inquisitor: “everyone is really responsible to all men for all men and for everything.” Although the Tyler family is far from perfect, they’re decent people, and they love one another deeply. They’ve been town royalty—they’re wealthy and beautiful; Zoe is a therapist and popular motivational speaker; Leah is a superstar athlete. When they experience problems, the community that worshiped them tears them down and ostracizes them, almost if their problems are catching.

Had the community rallied around and supported them instead, perhaps Leah would not have gotten as lost. Most teens just want acceptance, to be loved – not for what they accomplish or contribute, but for who they are. I’d be thrilled if my novel inspired readers to consider suspending judgment, to look less harshly at troubled teens and their families. I feel that we owe it to our teens, our communities, and ourselves to support and encourage all kids, not just those who conform. As Hillary Clinton famously said, it takes a village to raise a child. We lead busy lives. I’m not suggesting that we must actively pitch in, but a smile, a kind word cost nothing and they go a long way.

Your new Psychological Thriller, Nowhere to Run, is introduced at the end of In Leah’s Wake. Can you share more about this new release? When can we expect it? :)

Like In Leah’s Wake, Nowhere to Run is a family story. Although it would be categorized as a psychological thriller, at heart the story is about two families—one has lost a child; the other hopes to send a son to the White House.

The protagonist, Abby Minot, has a teenage son, Jesse. Like Justine, Jesse is lost, in his case caught in the dynamics resulting from the horrific murder of his younger sister. His sister’s death drove a wedge into his parents’ marriage and they’re now separated.

Reeling from her husband’s infidelity, Abby accepts a writing assignment in northern New Hampshire, a human-interest story on the powerful Chase family.

Matthias Chase, a self-proclaimed “new Republican”—fiscally conservative, socially just”—has built his reputation on an unsubstantiated claim that his ancestors were part of the Underground Railroad. During a renovation project, workers find a hidden chamber under a barn—just in time for his run for the presidency.

When Abby sees inconsistencies in the story and begins to ask questions, both the Chase family and the people in the town of New Madbury turn against her.

While the stories are very different, the books share quite a few underlying themes. I hope to release the new novel in November 2012.

Finally, would you like to leave us with one of your favorite passages from In Leah’s Wake?

A knock at her bedroom door caught Leah by surprise.

“Wait a sec,” she called, fumbling with the screen. Come on. Open.

Finally, the screen popped. She snubbed her butt on the shingles, flicked it away, and tugged the screen, pulling it too far inside the frame. She righted the screen as best she could, and yanked down the sash. Grabbing her perfume mister, she sprayed by the window and around her bed.

“It’s,” Leah said, breathing hard as she opened her door. “Only you.”

***

Only her? Justine’s heart sank. “You didn’t have to get rid of the cigarette. I wouldn’t have told.”

“Yeah,” Leah grumbled. “I know.”

With the heel of her bare foot, Justine pushed the door closed and then she hopped onto her sister’s bed. Over the last few months, Leah’s room had undergone a dramatic change, the Nike poster at the foot of her bed the only memento left from before. Leah’s old soccer schedules, which used to be taped to her walls, were gone. In their place, she’d hung posters of arrogant hip-hop artists and moody rock stars. There was a glossy picture of Sugarloaf, skiers gliding down the lush, sun-dappled mountain, a poster of a fat lady on the toilet reading the paper.

Justine crossed her legs, Indian-style. A package of Marlboro cigarettes lay on the nightstand. She wondered what her sister would do if she filched one. Justine was tired of being Queen Dork. She wanted to be like her sister. Fun and exciting and brave . . . It was time to make a stand, time to grow up. Time to earn some self-respect. Today, Justine told herself. Today is the day.

Justine rose, sweating, went to the window. “Okay if I open it?”

Leah shrugged. “Whatever.”

“Leah?” Justine said, faltering. Why was she so nervous? So what if she wanted to smoke? Leah smoked. What could her sister possibly say?

“Can I ask you something?”

Leah shrugged again. No. That’s what Leah could say.

“What is it, Jus? Want me to call that kid you like? What was his name?”

Justine stood alone at the window, shaking her head.

***

Her little sister tried Leah’s patience. Leah couldn’t stand when people beat around the bush. Why not ask for what you wanted? Be direct. Justine was such a baby.

“Well?” Leah said, clearing her throat. “You gonna tell me what you want? Or am I supposed to guess?”

Justine turned from the window, fanning herself. “Are you hot?”

“No. I’m not hot. Look, Justine.” Leah set her hands on her hips. “If you want me to do something, ask. Okay?” She wasn’t an ogre. Chances were, she’d say yes. “You’re doing algebra, right? I can help with that, if you want. Science, forget it. I mean, I would, but I’m lousy at science.”

Leah plucked a satin camisole off the floor and held it up. She’d never wear this shade of purple now. Too girly. “Want to borrow a shirt? Is that it? You can, but my clothes are probably too big.”

Justine hedged. “Could I—”

“God, Justine. Spit it out already.”

“—try one of your cigarettes?” There. She’d said it.

Cigarettes? Did Leah have cotton in her ears? Justine would never smoke. She was constantly nagging Leah to quit. She was scared of cancer. And heart disease. And all the other vile diseases that smoking supposedly caused. If Justine were anyone else, Leah would think this was a trap. Justine was too earnest. Leah doubted the girl could tell a lie to save her own life. Can I throw out your cigarettes, she’d probably said.

“Can I have a cigarette?” Justine repeated, confidently this time.

Leah swiped the pack of Marlboros from the nightstand. No way would she allow her sister to smoke. Sure, she’d offered a few times, only to tease. Their father was wrong. She’d never corrupt her sister. Leah was proud of her choices. She was glad she’d gone her own way, even if she was always in trouble. She was an independent thinker. The same decisions would spell disaster for an innocent girl like Justine. So what if Justine was a dork? In certain arenas, dorks had the advantage.

“Please?” Justine pleaded.

“Fine.” Leah reached into her pocket, retrieved the cigarettes, and tapped one into her outstretched palm. “Go for it, if you want.”

***

Justine was a dope. No, worse than a dope. She’d been obsessed about smoking. Bent on proving to her sister, proving to herself, she was mature, she wasn’t a baby. Naturally, the second Leah agreed, the urge vanished. Justine could name a hundred reasons smoking was a lousy idea. Yet she’d made such a production. If she chickened out now, Leah would think she was a ninny. How had she gotten herself into this mess?

“I don’t know, Jus. Maybe this isn’t such a good idea.” Leah closed her fist around the butt. “Let’s skip it, okay? Pretend you never asked.”

No. Justine wouldn’t back out now. She couldn’t. “Will you light it for me?”

***

Lighting a cigarette for her sister? Letting a twelve-year-old smoke? Maybe their father was right. Maybe Leah was evil. He hadn’t said those words exactly, but that was what he meant. Even evil people had limits.

Justine was staring up at her.

On the other hand—if the little geek wanted to smoke, Leah should probably let her. Who was she to judge? She could advise Justine not to smoke. But it wasn’t her call. Her sister had a right to decide for herself.

Leah opened the window to draw the smoke out of the room, returned to the bed, and sat beside her sister, their thighs touching.

Leah placed the cigarette between her lips, flicked her pink lighter. “Like this.” She took a long drag, and turned the filtered end to Justine.

Justine took a tiny puff and immediately blew out the smoke.

Oh God. She’s an even bigger geek than I thought. Leah couldn’t help laughing. “Watch. “ Leah took a deep pull, blew the smoke in the air, and handed the cigarette back. “You’ve got to inhale. Or you’ll look dumb.”

Justine brought the butt to her mouth, pursing her lips. Squeezing her eyes shut. Sucking hard, mimicking Leah. Suddenly, she was—

—doubled over, coughing.

Leah swooped, rescuing the cigarette before it burned a hole in her rug. “Easy, babe,” she said, patting Justine’s back. “You all right? You sure? That’s it for today.”

 


Thank you so much for taking the time to let us learn more about you and your book! I wish you the best!

Thank you again for featuring me! And thank you, readers, for your interest and for spending the time with me today!

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Terri Giuliano Long is a contributing writer for IndieReader and Her Circle eZine. She has written news and feature articles for numerous publications, including the Boston Globe and the Huffington Post. She lives with her family on the East Coast and teaches at Boston College. In Leah’s Wake is her debut novel. For more information, please visit her website: www.tglong.com Or connect on Facebook, Twitter or Blog.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tglongwrites/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/tglong

Blog: http://terriglong.com/blog/

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In Leah’s Wake

A Story of Love, Loss, Connection, and Grace

The Tylers have a perfect life—beautiful home, established careers, two sweet and talented daughters. Their eldest daughter, Leah, is on track for a prestigious scholarship. Their youngest, Justine, more responsible than seems possible for her 12 years, just wants her sister’s approval. With Leah nearing the end of high school and Justine a seemingly together kid, the parents are set to enjoy a peaceful life…until Leah meets Todd, a high school dropout and former roadie for a rock band.

As Leah’s parents fight to save their daughter from a world of drugs, sex, and wild parties, their divided approach drives their daughter out of their home and a wedge into their marriage. Meanwhile, twelve-year-old Justine observes her sister’s rebellion from the shadows of their fragmented family—leaving her to question whether anyone loves her and if God even knows she exists.

Can this family survive in Leah’s wake? What happens when love just isn’t enough?

Margot Livesey, award-winning author of The Flight of Gemma Hardy, calls In Leah’s Wake, “A beautifully written and absorbing novel.”

Coffee Time Romance Reviewer Recommend Award

Book Bundlz 2011 Book Pick

Book Bundlz Book Club 2011 Favorites – First Place

Reviewer-nominated for Global eBook Award, 2012

In Leah’s Wake is available from Amazon for $2.99

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How to enter the In Leah’s Wake Giveaway:

Leave a comment on this post!

Bonus Entries {leave an additional comment for each one!}:

Happy eReading!

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*Please note that the copies will be purchased and gifted directly from Amazon to the reader!

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Comments

  1. JJT says:

    Thank you for the giveaway. Sounds like a perfect book for a parent to read.

  2. Mary says:

    I want to read this! great interview and thanks for showcasing this book.

  3. Christle says:

    I would love to win this :)

  4. rhonda says:

    Thanksfor giveaway would love to read this book.

  5. Digna says:

    I enjoyed reading this article. Hope I win the book next!

  6. Carmee Ross says:

    “Liked” on facebook and enjoyed the interview, thank you for the giveaway!

  7. Carmee Ross says:

    “Tweeted” this giveaway, would love to win!

  8. Debbie R says:

    I enjoyed the Q and A. Now, I wish I win this giveaway!

  9. Can’t wait to read it!

  10. Carla says:

    Loved the Q and A. Would be very happy to win.

  11. Mati says:

    Wow. Another great giveaway! Thank you for all your giveaways.

  12. Krissie says:

    I tweeted this!

  13. Krissie says:

    Here is another comment for another chance to win.

  14. gfc friended !

  15. love how realistic Terry is in her writing and plot !
    always a fave :)

  16. def connected via NB !

  17. Giveaway shared Lovingly!
    posted at Goodreads ! by writer….

  18. on the mailing list too :)

  19. pg liked at faith hope cherrytea on FB

  20. Krissie says:

    I liked this in Facebook!

  21. Debbie Bo says:

    Shared this for a chance. Thank you!

  22. Debbie Bo says:

    Wonderful Q and A. I enjoyed reading this.

  23. Shirley says:

    Enjoyed the interview!

  24. Shirley says:

    Shared this too for additional chance

  25. Diana says:

    Hope I get lucky next week!!

  26. Grace says:

    Thanks so much ! Hope I win a copy

  27. raquel says:

    Here is my entry to win your book.

  28. Gracie says:

    Thank you for a chance to own this book.

  29. Gracie says:

    Shared this for another entry to win!

  30. Miss. Lucinda Fountain says:

    I would like to thank you for a fantastic book giveaway and a most insightful book review, hence i am adding this novel to my to-read list! It looks apsolutely intreguing and i loved being able to find out about the author and how they came up with their ideas for their work, which makes it so personal to them. Thank you once again, and i am following you by email and GFC. x

  31. Brandon says:

    Here is my entry for a chance to win. Thank you

  32. st. james says:

    g+ 1′d it ! love Terri ..

  33. st. james says:

    a story of grace… definitely unusual
    look forward to this one

  34. st. james says:

    entered this i nto giveaway linky at Go YAY entry #569
    http://goyay.blogspot.ca/2010/04/submit-your-giveaways-giveaway-linky.html

    wasn’t sure an end date so put 5/31 ? hoping that’s ok…

  35. giveaway w/ linky added to R sidebar at FHC blog…

  36. Meet and Greet Terri posted to FB wall at Faith Hope Cherrytea
    w/ giveaway deets…

  37. st. james says:

    unsure what to do if this contest is over ? as the end date isn’t posted, yet no winners announced… and don’t want to keep promoing if it is over…
    same as the Lucky One… thx for either updating or concluding somehow that we know ~

  38. FB posted as an intro to Terri at the Christian Fiction Gathering group ~
    https://www.facebook.com/groups/christianfictiongathering/

    • Gayle Mills says:

      Very interesting concept. You never really know what someone else’s family is like. You barely know your own. I’m always wondering about the changes in my relationships with my five siblings now that we’re all grown (and old). Sometimes I feel that I hardly recognize the children that we were. I might need to explore that further.

      Thanks for the insightful post.

      scmema@yahoo.com

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