I had the privilege of reading In Leah's Wake by Terri Giuliano Long recently. The novel follows the story of a family affected by an out of control daughter. One common thing I kept feeling when I read the story was that it felt very personal. Part of this is because I've seen similar to what is found in the story, and I couldn't help but wonder if the same thing was true for the author.
Thankfully, I had the opportunity to find out the answer, and Terri answered some of my questions:
1. Before getting into questions about the story of In Leah’s Wake, what is it that inspired you to be a writer?
I’ve always been a writer at heart. As a child, I entertained myself by making up stories and acting in my own improvisational plays. In high school, the majority of my hobbies and activities somehow involved writing. One day, brazenly, I walked into the editor’s office at the town paper and asked for a job. For a while, I covered sports and general high school news. Eventually, the editor gave me my own column. I was sixteen. That column was my first paid writing job. I earned about a dollar a week – and I knew then that the only job I’d ever want would be as a writer.
I can’t imagine not writing. I’ve been a writer, in one form or another, my whole life. Writing transports me; I lose myself in the process.
2. The story in In Leah’s Wake, an out of control daughter and how she affects her family, felt very personal. Was there something in your life that caused you to come up with this story and want to tell it?
Years ago, I wrote a series of feature articles about families living with drug and alcohol-addicted teens. The moms talked candidly about their children. Their heartbreaking stories stayed with me.
My husband, Dave, and I have four daughters, all now adults. When I began writing In Leah's Wake, our children were adolescents. Most families struggle in some way or other during their children's teenage years. We’re no different - though, thank goodness, we experienced nothing remotely like the problems and challenges the Tylers face.
As a parent, I know how it feels to be scared, concerned for your children’s future. All of this came together and became the driving force behind this story. Funny, I’m asked this question a lot – no, this is not autobiography.
People also sometimes ask who the In Leah’s Wake characters really are – in real life. Dorothy, the designer and creator of the bracelets Zoe buys for herself and Leah, and Bob Sullivan, owner of Sullivan Farms Ice Cream, are real people– and I’ve tried my best to capture their spirit.
No other character is real. I borrowed habits and physical characteristics from real people – for the runaway arm, I owe my youngest daughter, KK; and my husband is a physical stand-in for Will. Writers, as you know, B.C., do this for the sake of realism. People who know us notice similarities, and this sometimes results in unfortunate assumptions. I’m lucky – I have a good-natured family who puts up with my thievery, and – I’m smiling - claims not to mind.
Personalities, motivations, and behaviors – these I’m 100 % responsible for.
3. Which character did you identify with the most in In Leah's Wake and why?
This is a tough question, B.C. For me, this is a story about a family. That’s the reason every family member has a voice. No one, of course, is all good or all bad. As awful as Todd is – believe me, as a parent I can relate to Zoe and Will’s frustration – he cares about Leah, and she falls in love with him for a reason. By using multiple points of view, sometimes overlapping the stories, I hoped to show this. I also hoped to provide insight into each of the characters – and give readers reason to empathize with and love them.
To answer your question, there is a part of me in all the characters. It was Justine, though, who kept the book alive in my mind. I worked on this novel for years; whenever I’d think about letting go, moving on, putting the book in a drawer, I’d see her image or hear her voice in my head, and feel compelled to go on.
4. If there was one lesson you wanted someone to take away from In Leah's Wake, what would it be?
The epigraph, from The Grand Inquisitor, says it best: “everyone is really responsible to all men for all men and for everything.”
Readers tell me – and reviewers have noted – that the book feels real and complex. People understand this family because they’ve been here – as a parent or a teen. They feel like they know the characters, and they care about them.
The Tyler family is far from perfect, but they love one another, deeply. Our flaws make us human and that humanity connects us. While I hope readers enjoy In Leah’s Wake, and read the story for pleasure, it’s important to me to share this sense of connection—and hope.
5. Do you have anything else you are writing that we can look forward to in the future?
I’m currently at work on a contemporary 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 complete the novel this fall.
Please vote for my blog in the traffic-breaker poll for this tour. The blogger with the most votes wins a free promotional twitterview and a special winner’s badge. I want that to be me! You can vote in the poll by visiting the official In Leah’s Wake blog tour page and scrolling all the way to the bottom.
The next word for the book give-away is OUT. Learn more about the give-away and enter to win 1 of 3 copies on the official In Leah’s Wake blog tour page. The other 2 copies are being given-away courtesy of the GoodReads author program,go here to enter. And don’t forget to stop by the Q&A with Terri Giuliano Long Group to discuss In Leah’s Wake (including questions from the official book club guide), the author, her writing process, and advice.
Book Trailer forIn Leah’s Wake:
Terri Giuliano Long grew up in the company of stories both of her own making and as written by others. Books offer her a zest for life’s highs and comfort in its lows. She’s all-too-happy to share this love with others as a novelist and as a lecturer at Boston College.
While her passion lies in the written word, Terri’s primary inspiration comes from her interest in existential philosophy and her observations of people and human nature. Her stories expand upon the subtle truths and what-ifs of everyday life. No matter where her stories journey, they always tie back to the family—the ways we love yet, in loving, too often hurt one another, the grief, the sorrow, the revelation, and the joy. Terri’s goal is to offer lasting hope and deep emotional connection in a compact and entertaining package.
Her life outside of books is devoted to her family. In her spare time, she enjoys walking, traveling to far-flung places, and meeting interesting people. True to her Italian-American heritage, she’s an enthusiastic cook and she loves fine wine and good food. In an alternate reality, she could have been very happy as an international food writer.