We received an advance review copy of the novel, and found it a very enjoyable read. The book is a romance, spiced with shades of paranormal. T.L. is the accomplished author behind this book; she also wrote the Shadows/Leroy romantic suspense series.
This book deserves to get good exposure from
the Firefly Hollow blog tour which kicks off today. Check the blog tour page for upcoming interviews
and reviews of the book!
Now, on to our conversation with T.L. Haddix!
Thank you! Firefly Hollow is a romance with paranormal elements, and is set in eastern Kentucky in the late 1950s, early 1960s. It isn’t a true paranormal romance in the strictest sense. The paranormal elements are just part of the characters’ lives, not the dominating factors.
How long did it take you to write the novel? Can you give us some insights into your approach?
I had the idea floating around in my brain for about a year before I sat down to seriously write. I’d done about 1,500 words, and then pretty much walked away from it. It was just this nebulous idea, something I thought would be neat. I was in between projects earlier this year, and thought, “I could outline that one book.” So I did - in about an hour right before bed one night. Sat down with pen and paper, and laid the whole thing out. I started the first draft the next day, and I finished it in three and a half weeks. It poured out of me, and left me a little shell-shocked at how easily the words had come. It usually takes me at least twice that long to do a first draft. At least. Of course, I sat on the couch and drooled for a week, recovering, after I finished Firefly, too.
Over the course of the story, Sarah's care for her mother becomes increasingly strong. In comforting her mother during her grief, the mother/daughter role is almost reversed at times. Can you comment on this coming-of-age arc in the story?
The relationship I had with my mother was more one of friendship than the typical adult/child roles. That was something I treasured, even growing up - that she talked to me as though I were an adult. It also had its drawbacks, but that’s neither here nor there. So when I started building Sarah’s relationship with her mother, because of the way their personalities revealed themselves to me, that friendship was the direction the relationship took.
While there were several times Sarah needed her mother, the losses that Eliza faces throughout the book leave her vulnerable. She loses her rock, Sarah’s father, very early on. That shatters Eliza’s foundation, and leaves her unsure of who she is. So it felt natural for Sarah, who had started to establish herself as an adult outside her home life (via going away to college), to step in and be the friend her mother needed.
Early in the book, the revelation that the curious deer is more than it appears is disclosed very matter-of-factly to the reader. Later, the information about Owen's pen name is also revealed in a similar manner. That was an interesting, and effective, writing choice. Can you comment on that?
When I read paranormal romance, which I admit that I don’t do much of because I prefer historical romance and shapeshifters, I’m always struck by how the abilities of the characters are so... predominant. It’s almost as though the supernatural abilities define the person, not the person defines the abilities.
Because of the way I grew up, that seems odd to me. As woo-woo and New Age as it sounds, there is a long anecdotal history in my family of people who are just a little more than human. I’m not making this up. Two families in particular had “abilities,” and a few of the members of those families were rumored to be shapeshifters. So when I started writing Firefly, that was where I was going - using these stories I’d heard and read about growing up to create a world of characters whose abilities were just a part of them. Sometimes they embrace the abilities, and other times, it’s more of an annoyance than anything. Sometimes, like with Owen, the abilities were something to come to terms with.
In future installments in the Firefly Hollow series, we’ll meet Owen’s various relatives and descendants, and not all of them will have his particular abilities. But most of them will have some elements about them that are not commonly found in the general population.
As to his writing, it’s just a part of him. It’s who he is. He could no more change that than he could make his eyes change color. So I used the straightforward approach because that’s how Owen sees it.
The story is strongly rooted in Appalachia. How did your growing up in that area influence this book?
Tremendously so. How to explain? The culture in Appalachia, in eastern Kentucky where I grew up, is very unique. It’s this puzzling dichotomy of old and new, of superstition and pragmatism - very hard to describe to someone who isn’t from there.
Most of the older generation is familiar with stories that are told of people who are shapeshifters, or who can talk to animals, predict the future, etc. Part of that comes, I think, from being so close to Native American tribes, like the Cherokee. Part of it comes straight from the shores of Ireland and Scotland, which is where the majority of the ancestry in eastern Kentucky leads back to.
I grew up with a grandfather who was obsessed with genealogy and heritage, and he passed that obsession on to me. As he was a man who was also religious, I suppose it left an impression on my subconscious when he didn’t poo-poo the notion that there were people in the world who had abilities they weren’t supposed to have, according to mainstream religion. It was just matter-of-fact acceptance that this was how things were.
"I can't focus on the past," Sarah says at one point. "I have to move forward." The notion of persevering beyond one's struggles is one theme that we took from the novel. Can you comment on how you as an author used events of personal tragedy to shape the storyline?
Nothing shapes us like tragedy. We may have tremendous happiness and success in our lives, and the majority of this life can be positive, but it’s the tragic moments, the painful moments, that tend to shape us. Look at the most memorable moments in human history - most of the time, it isn’t the positive that we remember.
That said, we cannot let the bad things that happen define who we are. We have to persevere, to carry on, because if we stop and let the tragedy overtake us, the tragedy wins. This is something I believe personally, and an element that I do incorporate into most of my books in some way, shape, or form. Not losing hope is something that is very important to me. I don’t want my characters to do it, any more than I want to do it. It’s hard to hold onto sometimes, but it’s always there.
In Firefly, Sarah has some tremendous losses. They carry her from being a nice if immature young woman to an adult who understands how quickly life can change, and that it isn’t always a positive change. It makes her cherish the good even more, after she experiences the bad. I don’t think we can fully appreciate the good without the bad.
The love of books, and the love of furthering one's knowledge, is a trait that both Sarah and Owen share. Tell us a bit about your reading interests! What book are you reading right now?
Right now, I’m actually in possession of an almost-empty To Be Read list. I’m making my way through Wheat Belly, am aiming to get The Help soon, and am looking forward to browsing through the new releases on Amazon. As my favorite genre to read is historical romance, and as Valentine’s Day is coming up, I’m hoping I’ll have quite a bit to choose from.
What advice would you give to other writers or would-be writers?
Do your research. Figure out what your goals are - do you want to be traditionally published, or self published? Find people who will be honest with you as to the quality of your work, and make sure you get it in front of as many eyes as you can before the public ever knows it exists. Find services providers - editors, cover designers, formatters - who are professional, and have good reputations in the industry. If you can’t afford the pros, find a way to do it. Take a second job, save up your money, plan and follow a personal budget so that you can afford those things. Don’t put your first draft out there for public consumption. Perhaps most importantly, keep writing. The more writing you do, the better you’ll become at it. Also, be prepared for failure, and grow as thick a skin as you can, as quickly as you can. If you don’t have a thick skin, you’ll never make it in this business.
Okay, let's get a bit more personal. Tell us five random things about you!
I am a cat person. I love painting my fingernails unusual colors, but can’t do it very often because they’re weak and can’t withstand the chemicals. I am a terrible housekeeper. I have the attention span of a gnat a lot of the time. I’m afraid of heights. Anything over three or four stories, and I’ll hug the inside walls of a building I’m in, especially if I’m near windows.
Thank you! We understand that Firefly Hollow is the beginning of a series. When can we expect the next book?
Oh, the hardest question of all! I’m working on a few short books/novellas right now for my pen name, and expect to be finished with those by February. After that, I’ll start on the next Firefly book, possibly the next two books, and so I’d expect by Summer 2013, I’ll have the next one out. Then I’ll go back to my Leroy/Shadows series, in all likelihood, and do another volume in it.
I do expect that there will be a good number of Firefly books. There are lots of family members to choose from, and we’ll see how it goes, but I have great expectations.
T.L., thanks for talking with us. We're pleased to feature your book on KindleBoards!
Firefly Hollow is available now to download to your Kindle!