So very happy to interview another SCBWI Nevada mentee, Abbey Lee Ash, who has just released her debut YA novel, which I am reviewing this Friday.
[JM] Where are you from and how has that influenced your writing career?
[ALN] My parents had a serious case of wander-lust, and so I’ve lived in some pretty interesting places, including on a Christian farming commune in rural Georgia, above a third-world craft store in Kentucky, and on a Salvation Army retreat center in the Pennsylvania mountains. I currently live in a small, close-knit community outside of Philadelphia, which, in many ways, inspired Grandhaven, the fictional town where Lifelinetakes place.
[JM] Tell us about your book! Pretend we’re in an elevator and instead of us all looking around nervously, you tell us all about what you wrote! Go!
[ALN] Popular high school senior Eli Ross seems to have the perfect life. He’s captain of the lacrosse team at LionsHeart Academy, and he’s dating Savannah, the hottest, most popular girl at school. But perfect isn’t always what it looks like. Suffocating under the pressure of keeping up appearances, Eli has turned to opiates, a habit which has quickly become a heroin addiction. When he overdoses at a party, he’s sent to LakeShore Recovery Center, an inpatient substance abuse treatment program where he’ll spend the next twenty-eight days.
There Eli meets Libby, the sharp-edged artist whose freshly tattooed scars mirror the emotional scars Eli tries his best to ignore. Eli soon learns that if he’s to have any chance at a future, he’ll first have to confront his past.
[JM] How did you get into writing? Is it something you’ve always been into?
[ALN] I started writing in second grade when my grandmother gave me my first journal. I’ve had a nearly daily practice of journaling ever since. I’ve always enjoyed writing fiction, but it wasn’t until college that I started to toy around with the idea of writing a novel. In 2008, I decided to go back to school to earn my Master of Arts in English at Arcadia University, and I actually wrote my first (unpublished) novel as my thesis project. The last ten years have been an emotional roller coaster, full of incredible highs and the kind of lows all writers can relate to—rejection, disappointment, and self-doubt. To finally have a novel reach publication is a dream come true!
[JM] What inspired LIFELINE?
[ALN] Lifeline was inspired by my younger brother’s struggle with addiction. Similar to Eli, we grew up in middle-class suburban areas; both of our parents are educators with master’s degrees. But addiction doesn’t discriminate by age, gender, race, or socioeconomic status. In writing Eli’s story, it felt important to create a character who seemingly had everything going for him—athletic prowess, popularity, and a loving, supportive family—and yet still suffered from the disease of addiction. It’s my hope that Lifeline can help to reduce the stigma that often surrounds addiction by starting conversations that will hopefully lead to increased awareness and prevention.
[JM] If you like [fill in the blank], you’ll like LIFELINE….??
[ALN] If you liked Crank by Ellen Hopkins, Looking for Alaskaby John Green, Crackedby KM Walton, or The Weight of Zeroby Karen Fortunati, you’ll like Lifeline. I hope. ?
[JM] How Important has SCBWI been in your writing journey?
[ALN] Huge! The connections and support available through SCBWI have been tremendous. I was lucky enough to be selected for the 2012 Nevada Mentor Program, where I learned so much and met so many incredible people, including Miss Marple! ?I even found my critique partner of almost ten years through my local chapter of SCBWI. If you write books for children and teens, and you are not yet a member, what are you waiting for?
[JM] What artwork do you have hanging in your home?
[ALN] What a fun question! It’s always been important to me that the artwork in my home has meaning. This painting by Bronwen Henry, an incredibly gifted artist and one of my dearest friends, is called “Held.” If you’re curious about Bronwen’s process or want to see more of her work, you can visit her website here (http://www.bronwenmayerhenry.com/).
[JM] What’s your favorite park (state/urban..) in the world?
[ALN] With two children under twelve, I haven’t yet had many opportunities for travel outside of the states. But we’re lucky enough to live close to many beautiful state parks and preserves. I’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite—if the sun is shining, and my kids are having fun, I’m happy.
[JM] Cats or dogs?
[ALN] Dog. This is Brooke, my jogging partner and snuggle buddy extraordinaire!
[JM] Adorable! Please recommend a coffee shop or restaurant for me to visit in your city/town!
[ALN] Be Well Bakery is one of my local favorites—lots of yummy breakfast and lunch options, great coffee, and incredible desserts.
[JM] Cheers! What was your first paid job out of high school?
[ALN] I worked as a summer camp counselor in high school and college. This also happens to be the setting of my current work in progress, so stay tuned!
[JM] Oo, I am a big fan of camps as a setting. The novel I am subbing right now is set in a camp, though not one you’d want to attend! Go to snack/drink to sustain your creative juices?
My kids and I have a new favorite—we make a smoothie with frozen banana, Greek yogurt, peanut butter, and cocoa powder. It tastes like a (healthy) chocolate, peanut butter milkshake—delicious!
Thanks so much for sharing with us today, Abbey, and I hope everyone will come back on Friday to check out my review of LIFELINE.