Friday, January 13, 2012
Interview with Terri Giuliano Long - In Leah's Wake
Published: October 2010
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?
Interview with Terri Giuliano Long:
How did you get the idea for In Leah's Wake?
Years ago, while working for the town paper, I wrote a series of feature articles about families with drug- and alcohol-addicted teens. The moms talked candidly about their children, their struggles. Their heartbreaking stories stayed with me.
When I began writing In Leah's Wake my own daughters were teens. Most families experience conflict during their children's teenage years. As kids grow up and begin to make their own way in the world, it’s natural for them to rebel. We’re no different from most families, though any conflicts we experienced were tame - 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. I now recognize this as the primary force driving this story. 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.
How long did it take you to write In Leah's Wake?
I wrote the first draft in three months. It was my MFA thesis, so I was under the gun. The writing was dreadful, but it was a breathy process; when I finished, I knew the characters and the novel had a general shape. I spent the next several years immersed in the book - revising, developing the characters. I spent all day with these imaginary people, and they took over my dreams. I almost believed they were alive, that Cortland, the imaginary town, was a real place. It was an adventure, and I loved every minute. Total, start to finish, about five years.
Have you written or are you currently writing any other books?
I’m currently at work on a 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, formerly 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 soon 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 finish the novel this fall.
How long have you been writing?
I’ve been a writer all my life. As a young child, to entertain myself I made up stories and plays. In high school, I worked as a stringer for the town paper - my first paid writing job - and I loved every minute. They paid me ten cents a word. Within a few months, I was offered a column, called “High school news.” I wrote about anything that occurred to me or that I considered interesting, really. People actually read the column. That was exciting – and it launched my writing career.
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. In 1996, I began teaching at Boston College. In the late nineties, I turned my attention to writing fiction. Early on, I’ve published several short stories in lit magazines. In Leah’s Wake is my first novel. Nowhere to Run will be my second full-length work of fiction.
What is the best thing that has happened as a result of your book being published?
When I first published In Leah’s Wake, I had no clue as to what I was doing. Stupidly, too embarrassed to self-promote, I posted the book on Amazon. That was it. I mean really it – not even my parents knew I’d published the book!
I sold two copies in October, four in November, and thirty-four in December. By March, with sales lagging, and I realized that, if I didn’t do something, my book would die. In early March, I began blogging and activated my Twitter account.
Once I got used to the idea that marketing didn’t have to mean shameless self- promotion, 24/7, I actually began to enjoy it. Since May, I’ve sold over 75,000 books. Getting there took a lot of hard work and dedication, and I’m proud of that accomplishment. Publishing In Leah’s Wake forced me out of my comfort zone. I had to learn to respect and value my work and share it with other people. It was hard and it took time to figure it all out. But it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for myself. I’ve also had the great good fortune of meeting many wonderful people!
What are your other interests and hobbies?
Hands down, my favorite activity is spending time with my family. They are the most important people in my life. Without them, nothing else matters.
I enjoy walking and I’m a passionate traveller and foodie. My husband, Dave, and I have had the pleasure of visiting many interesting places over the years. I love ethnic food and I’m fairly gutsy when it comes to trying new dishes. In Beijing, a few years ago, we went to a tiny restaurant with two students. The restaurant was a local hangout, as opposed to a tourist trap. Because the menu was written in Chinese, our friends ordered for us. When the bowl arrived, I dipped my chopsticks into the stew – and pulled out a frog. Its head had been removed, thank goodness, but the body was fully intact. I realize that a lot of people eat frog; this was my first time. And it was green. Dave shot a look my way. A few days before, I’d eaten fish from a lake that was so polluted that the water was a weird fluorescent aqua. (Before the 2008 Olympics, Time magazine published a photo of thousands of people in canoes, clearing algae from that lake.) To his credit, my husband was discreet. I don’t think our friends even noticed “the look.”
If I were not a fiction writer and teacher, I’d might be an international food writer.
If In Leah's Wake was turned into a movie, who would be in your dream cast?
Will Tyler – Matt Damon. Mr. Damon exudes fatherly love and protectiveness and he’s also very intense. If his daughter were in trouble, I can picture him going into overdrive, like Will, and doing whatever it takes to pull her back.
Zoe Tyler – Sandra Bullock. I see her as loving, driven and ditzy, a less strident version of Leigh Anne Tuohy, the mom she played in The Blind Side.
Leah Tyler – For the role of Leah, I’d search for new talent. Caroline Wakefield, as played by Erika Christensen, in the film Traffic, reminded me of Leah, in her all-American beauty and stunning transformation from preppy to drug-addicted prostitute. Ms. Christensen is too old for this role, but she’d be the prototype.
Justine Tyler – Abigail Breslin. Like Justine, she’s sweet and dorky and cute. She’s also precocious and strong.
Jerry Johnson – Vince Vaughn. He’s not the guy who walks into a room and gets the girl, but he’s centered and responsible, the rock for the others to lean on.
Todd Corbett (Leah’s boyfriend) – Jordan Masek. Jordan plays the role of Todd in my trailer. Jordan is actually a sweet guy, in real life. But he knows how to channel his inner bad boy. I can’t imagine a more appropriately cast Todd.
Also, please tell us a fun, random fact about yourself. Just anything you would like.
I’m a closet nerd. On the outside, I appear cool and relaxed, but inside I’m actually very shy; before a public appearance, I’m anxious for days. I’m also a choc-o-holic and a shoe whore.
About the author:
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.
You can find Terri on her site, blog, and Twitter.