I had the chance to meet author Heidi Willis in person when she flew from DC to Seattle for my book launch, and I am so glad she did!
Not only did we have a blast, but I’ve had her book SOME KIND OF NORMAL on my TBR pile since it came out in December (but, you guys, my stack of books is so high that I may have never gotten to it). So when I heard she was coming, I bumped her book right to the top. And, OMG, I just have to say: I LOVED THIS BOOK! Lovelovelove loved it! It’s the first non-YA book I’ve read in ages (not because I don’t love grown-up books, but just because there are so many great YAs I want to read), and this book SO did not disappoint!!!
But here’s the deal, the book itself sounds serious and deep, maybe even a little depressing, and at its core, the issue of a twelve-year-old girl dying from Type 1 Diabetes is a heavy one, but that’s not this book at all. This was a book about a family, it was about a woman trying to find herself, it was a love story, but mostly, it was about a mother’s choices. And all of these things were handled with such perfect care that they felt real and poignant, and at times, funny and bittersweet.
Ashley’s mother, Babs, is an uneducated white woman living in the bible belt of Texas and wondering why she doesn’t have the same unflinching faith that everyone around her does (including her husband and children). She goes through the motions, attending anti-abortion rallies and mouthing the words in church, but privately she worries that God will strike her down for lack of faith.
It’s Babs’ voice that keeps you reading, she’s just so unapologetic about her lack of education, and so genuine, and she has a great sense of humor that is just self-deprecating enough to be endearing. One of my favorite things is that throughout the book Babs refers to the fact that she’s secretly studying her son's SAT vocab words, and she sprinkles them into her internal monologue, explaining the meaning to the reader (as if we’d never heard the word “surreal” before). I honestly fell in love with this woman. I already have a thing for Southern voices, and Heidi Willis nailed these characters for me.
So not only should you buy the book (and here’s the link to order it!), but I’ve invited Heidi to stop by and answer a few questions for us:
1) You get into an elevator and someone immediately asks you what your book is about. What’s your elevator-pitch description? Keep in mind, there are only 3 floors in our imaginary building and you just pushed the button for floor 2.
An uneducated Texan mom finds out her 12 year old daughter is dying from a rare and incurable complication of diabetes, and she determines to find a cure, even if it's an unethical treatment that will cost her her friends, family, and even possibly her daughter. But it's funny. There's this hilarious Willy Wonka scene. And a teenage boy with a multi-colored mohawk. Only, you'll probably cry too. Maybe that was just me, though. Is that the fastest elevator in history or what?
2) Where do you get most of your writing done? Better yet, can you show us a picture (before you clean up) of where all of the magic happens?
If I was entirely truthful, I'd send you a photo of the pool where my daughters have swim team practice, because I probably write more words there than anything. Something about lack of internet, I think. Or possibly the kitchen sink, where I spend an inordinate amount of time cleaning dishes. (Seriously, how do those things multiply like breeding rabbits??). But I mostly plot there - you know, write in my head. I don't actually write, because...you know... it's wet. And my hands are busy.
So this is where I usually write when I'm home:
I know this doesn't look like a serious workspace for a writer, but I hate desks. I used to use a couch that was VERY comfy, but we have a puppy now that has to be at my feet all the time, usually dropping slobbery toys in my lap and on the computer. I discovered that he LOVES this window, and will spend hours looking out growling at the squirrels and deer, and nap in the sunlight, affording me a much greater chunk of time to focus. Also, the internet is very sketchy in the kitchen, which is a bonus for getting work done without constantly checking emails and such.
(I'm not going to call Heidi a liar or anything, but c'mon, neither my kitchen nor my writing area look that clean before I pick up! Who are you kidding, Heidi???)
3) What book or series do you wish that you wrote? And, no, you can’t say Twilight or Harry Potter because those are my answers.
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. The characters are so well drawn, the plot is incredible, and the writing is nothing short of stunning. (I named my puppy Scout - does that tell you anything?)
4) Ok, your book just won the SUPERFABLOUSGREATESTBOOKEVER award and you are asked to give an acceptance speech. Who are the top three people you thank and why?
Can I choose three groups? I'm going to pretend you said yes.
I'd like to thank my family - my fabulous husband and kids - for letting me take all this time to obsess – I mean write – when I should have been folding your clothes or cleaning toilets or fixing edible meals on time. And thanks to my writing group, without whom I might have given up after the 100th query, or gone on Prozac. And who made the book so much better than its first scribblings. Lastly, thanks to my parents, who always told me I should write; especially my dad who constantly hounded my poor husband as to why I wasn't writing. I love you all!!
5) Recently, the blogosphere had a day dedicated to all the great things our agents do for us. Can you tell us something you love about your agent? If you don’t have an agent, tell us something great about your editor.
My editor always wrote positive notes in the margins of my manuscript along with editing suggestions. Things like, "I cried right here," or "This paragraph is so beautifully written," or "I had to read this section three times because I kept forgetting to edit it... I got so drawn in by the characters and story, even though I've read it so many times!" Every time I got a section, I'd go through to read these comments first. It made the rest of revising and editing so much easier.
6) We know you are really, really good at writing, but what is something that you are you really, really bad at?
Team sports, especially if it involves a ball. Once an ophthalmologist asked me what I did when someone threw a baseball towards me. I said, "duck."
To find out more about Heidi, check out her website. And to order her book (because you should SO order her book!), click here!!!!
And because I really want to convince you, you should watch the trailer too: