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?
Paperback: 368 pages Publisher: CreateSpace (October 1, 2010) Language: English
In the end this powerful book is a book about family. How family connects you, defines you, and guides you. It is a story of how family stays with you. Across miles, years and tragedy. And it’s a book of how the bond of family can persevere through the dark times of adolescence. It’s a look inside the private life of one family’s upper middle class life, and their struggle to conform and prosper.
The story follows Leah Tyler and her family through the fall and winter of her junior year of high school. Leah falls for the wrong boy, questions her promising soccer career, and looses interest in school. The fact that her mother is a psychologist only adds insult to injury. After all, she counsels adolescents all day. Why can’t she help her own daughter? In the wake of this storm the Tyler’s marriage is tested, the economy wrecks havoc on their finances and their youngest daughter, Justine, feels like she is the invisible soul of the house. To say the book is timely is an understatement.
Terri captures what all authors strive for. She creates multidimensional characters that feel like they are your neighbors, friends, or even family. Their struggles are real, not sugar coated. Leah is troubled and at times lost. But you know she is at heart a caring person. Leah embodies the typical teenage girl searching for freedom, understanding, and acceptance from her parents. She just takes it a step farther. Her parents could be anyone of us. They are caring to the point of smothering. Struggling to find that balance between parenting and controlling. No one embodies that more than her father Will. He means well. But he wants to keep his daughter “little” for ever. His goal of getting her into a Harvard on a soccer scholarship, of pushing her to achieve dreams he wanted for himself, adds fuel to her fire. Pushing her to the arms of the very guy he wants her away from.
I connected with the mother, Zoe. Her battles with depression, her will to give her children a better life, and doubts about her marriage, all struck a chord with me. To me, the book is about her and Leah. And their story will stay with me forever. I will be keeping this one, and reading it often.
In fact, I loved this book so much I contacted Terri and had the opportunity to discuss the book with her. Terri is a wonderful, sweet person. And I think it really comes across in this interview. I want to thank her again for taking the time to talk with me. What follows is that interview. (At the end we discuss self publishing as a avenue more writers are choosing to explore.)
Hi Terri, thanks so much for taking the time for this interview. Let me start by saying that I loved your book. It gave me hope not only that it took you 12 years to write it, but that it was self- published. I am struggling to write my own novel, and sometimes it seems so out of reach.
So I think I am going to jump right in, hopefully the questions are not too redundant.
Terri: Thank you so much, Rebecca! It’s so wonderful of you to host me on your blog! I really appreciate your generosity!
I’m excited that you enjoyed the book (giant grin). I wish you all the success in the world with your novel! The struggles you express are not at all uncommon. Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22 said, “Every writer I know has trouble writing.” I agree; I don’t know a single writer who doesn’t, at times, feel frustrated or overwhelmed. Eventually, the light flashes and it all comes together. As Dory says in Finding Nemo, “just keep swimming.” I love that advice. I’ve made it my motto.
As the resident of a small town in central Massachusetts I loved the setting of the book. You really captured the feel and "politics" of the towns around Rt.2. How important was the setting of the book to you?
Terri: Creating setting is a skill I’ve had to work at developing, so that you feel I captured it means a lot to me. Thank you!I suspect that the social and political climate in Cortland is fairly common in middle- and upper-middle class towns across the U.S., perhaps outside the U.S. as well. I’ve talked with many parents who’ve expressed frustrations similar to Zoe and Will’s. When their children step out of line, parents feel judged. Culturally – not always or only by their parents - children feel pressured to live up to impossible expectations. That said, central Massachusetts - the rolling hills, the stone walls, the orchards – is a stunningly beautiful place. This family is in tremendous pain; they’re struggling. That such fierce struggles take place in this bucolic setting is, to some extent, surprising; that tension felt important to the book.
The characters of the book are so real and so multidimensional, you feel you know them, that they could be your family or neighbors. Did you have real life inspirations?
Terri: While no character is based on any one real person, I did borrow habits and physical characteristics from real people – the runaway arm came from my youngest daughter, KK, for instance, and my poor husband was a physical stand-in for Will. We writers do this for the sake of realism. Of course, this sometimes results in unfortunate assumptions. I’m lucky – I have a good-natured family who puts up with my thievery. Personality, motivation, behavior – those I’m responsible for.
As a mother and wife I felt really connected to Zoe. But I also could sympathize with Leah. Speaking to women who have read the book I have seen a lot of emotional and personal connection. It gave me a lot to think of both in my marriage and with raising my kids. Did you ever think that the book would make such an impact?
Terri: Thank you so much, Rebecca! I’m deeply moved by this. I’m grateful to you – all of you – for reading my book. This is a hard question to answer. I hoped to connect with readers. I hoped people would recognize themselves or their friends, and that this might encourage a closer sense of community. I really believe, as Dostoevsky says, that we’re all responsible to one another. I wasn’t at all sure how readers would feel.
These types of novels can be hard to write, to get that emotional connection right and not preach too much or be "hokey". Any tips for us aspiring writers.
Terri: Be true to yourself. Oh, gosh, now I feel preachy. Honestly, that’s my best advice. If you listen to yourself, write from your heart, if you empathize with your characters, I think it’s a lot easier to get it right. If there is a common thread in my body of work it’s that decent people, with the best intentions, sometimes do the wrong thing. I try to understand them. Sometimes that means understanding and forgiving yourself.
I actually found myself feeling bad for Todd's character, it was easy to not hate him too much. In fact I found myself imagining a back story for him. You could have easily made him a lot more despicable. Was he a hard character to write?
Terri: Early on, if this says anything, I planned to call him Thunder – when I told my kids, they laughed and said I was weird.
Actually, the contradictions made Todd an interesting character to write. At heart, I think Leah’s a good kid. For her to fall for him, and fall as hard as she does, she had to see something good in him. Despite the clearly negative result, he frees her; ultimately, he helps her grow up. In the end, I think she is, or will be, a better, kinder, more generous and forgiving person for having lived through this. Although both would probably to deny it, I think Todd has a lot in common with her father; that’s partly what attracts her. As much as I wanted throttle Todd, for Leah’s sake I tried to respect him - which, believe me, is far easier when it’s a character in your novel than a jerk your real daughter (or son) drags home. :)
You could easily write a book focused on Zoe and Will's marriage. Has that story ever developed in your mind?
Terri: Not really, but it’s an interesting idea. This probably sounds ridiculous, but I’ve gotten so attached to this family that occasionally I’ve had to remind myself that they’re fictional people. I’ve sometimes wondered what would come next for them. That would be an interesting angle to pursue.
Do you recommend self-publishing as a way for an aspiring writer to put themselves out there? I think in the past the thought of self-publishing has put fear in some people's minds. Have you found the platform more evolved?
Terri: That’s a good question. I think it depends on the person and the circumstances. I’m glad I self-published. I had put the manuscript in a drawer, intending to let it go. When I began to make headway on my current novel-in-progress, Nowhere to Run, I pulled it out, hoping that publishing In Leah’s Wake would help me build a platform. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve learned a lot. Putting myself out there, because it’s something I’ve always been shy about doing, is the best thing I’ve ever done for myself as a writer. I still have moments of self-doubt, but I’m learning to live with it, which means listening (to discern if it’s earned) and then letting go.
Again, self-publishing isn’t easy; you have to have the stomach for it. You can publish and market inexpensively - there are many helpful resources today, a boon to self-publishers - but it’s time-consuming. And a lot of writers hate marketing. If you don’t plan to market, there’s no point in publishing. In 2009, 288,355 books were traditionally published, 764,448 indie or self-published. This was before the e-book explosion, so I can only imagine the numbers now. For your book to stand out, you have to make noise. While this is changing, it’s hard for indie publishers to garner reviews. My traditionally published friends were interviewed on radio and reviewed in places like USA Today and People. A radio spot or review in a large circulation paper or magazine generates interest and gets people talking. Few, if any, indie publishers land those major spots or reviews. If you hire a publicist, as I strongly recommend, you’ll have help with the work, as well as with generating creative ideas, and you won’t feel so alone.
Self-publishing was a good choice for me. I don’t regret it. If this is an avenue you’d like to explore, go for it! This is an exciting time for publishing – with tremendous opportunity for writers. Whatever choice you make, whether you decide to self-publish or hold out for a traditional publishing contract, remember: just keep swimming. Hold onto your dream.
Don’t ever give up!
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 http://www.novelpublicity.com/terri-giuliano-longs-in-leahs-wake-tour and scrolling all the way to the bottom.
The next word for the book give-away is WITHOUT.Learn more about the give-away and enter to win 1 of 3 copies on http://www.novelpublicity.com/terri-giuliano-longs-in-leahs-wake-tour.%20The%20other%202%20copies%20are%20being%20given-away%20courtesy%20of%20the%20GoodReads%20author%20program,href=%3CA%20href=http://www.goodreads.com/group/show/47027.Q_A_with_Terri_Giuliano_Long%22%3EQ&A with Terri Giuliano Long Group to discuss In Leah’s Wake (including questions from the www.novelpublicity.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/In-Leahs-Wake-Book-Club-Guide-