I would like to welcome Linda L Zern to the Indie Author How-to couch. I've picked her brain on some burning topics and here are her answers.
Although Mooncalf is a historical novella and I have included elements of fantasy in the symbolism of the orange grove and grafting, I often write straight up fantasy and dystopian books. I’m working on two right now, so I appreciate the challenges. Primarily I struggle to balance moving the story forward with the necessary world building that is essential to the genre. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the descriptions and explanations, you forget the cardinal rule—making things happen when they’re supposed to happen. Beta readers and a great editor is essential in my opinion.
The story behind your novel. Just where did your idea come from?
After reading a rough draft of MOONCALF, my daughter handed it back to me and said, “But, Mom, I liked the characters so much I just wanted them to go off to their fort and start a baby sitter’s club or something.”
“Oh, babe, it’s not that kind of story,” I said. “I wish it could have ended differently too.”
And I do. I really do.
But the world of 1966 provided no place where the friendship of these two little girls could survive and thrive and to pretend otherwise would be patently dishonest. America was a country in upheaval. Adults were struggling with changing attitudes, roles, and cultural parameters. Is it any wonder that Olympia and Leah’s friendship is lost in the turmoil? There were no babysitter’s clubs for a white girl and an African American girl to start.
I often ask readers, “Is it too sad?” And am often surprised and pleased when they reference the relationship between Olympia and Leah. They focus on the love that the two girls have for each other. Maybe, you have to be a child to see past the tragedy to recognize that the in the end our protaganists reject the ‘false traditions of their elders’ and choose love.
My daughter also commented, “This seems like ancient history to me. I can’t imagine people thinking or acting like this, but it’s not ancient history. Is it? It’s your history.”
It’s my history and the history of our mothers and grandmothers. It’s America’s history. May we never forget it. May we never repeat it. May we always choose love.
Some of the challenges of creating the setting and/or world building for your novel.
Historical novels aren’t as different as you might think from fantasy. Instead of created a world, a writer has to re-create a world without sounding absolutely silly. History has its own rules and world building. MOONCALF is set in 1966 in rural Florida, during a tumultuous time. Try using the word groovy in a sentence and tell me if if doesn’t sound like a weird fantasy language. Any world building is about effortless reality. Believe me, it’s not effortless.
Why did you choose to write in this genre?
I love all the genres. I love reading. It’s fun to think about trying to write something in every genre. For now . . . It’s historical and fantasy.
Creating characters that live and breath and have a being, for me, is the most interesting part of the process. Isn’t it the characters that readers remember? The people who we get to become for a time. When you ask a child, “What’s the book about?” They will say that it’s about a boy or a girl or witch or a dragon or a bear or . . . Characters are the heart of the story. And that’s why writers must give their characters hearts to beat, bleed, and break.
Mooncalf by Linda Zern
Over Olympia and Leah's heads, Americans race the Russians to the moon; on their television sets young men fight and struggle in the mud of Viet Nam; and America holds its breath between heartbreaking tragedies. But on Miss Brinker's school bus, in the seat with the rip in the green plastic, Olympia and Leah fall in love, the way children do: immediately, completely, and without knowing or caring why they shouldn't. Olympia Crooms, with her happy hair, and Leah Breck, with her silly red dog, are two smart girls. Olympia's father works other men's orange groves in rural Central Florida and tells his daughter that school is the best way to reach for the stars. Leah's father moves his family from the Space Coast to the country where she and her brother can climb orange trees, imagine lions in the tall grass, and learn to feed baby cows milk from a bottle. At Evegan Elementary, two smart girls find each other and have to decide if they will learn the hardest lessons of all: the false traditions of their fathers.
"One of the most admirable things about Mooncalf is that it's difficult to find a single wasted word in the entire book. Granted the book is short; yet, it is very rare to find a book which treats with such delicacy the choosing of each word--each adjective, verb, and noun. Themes, motifs, and symbols are everywhere throughout Mooncalf, and most impressive of all none of it is discarded. Motifs and themes exist in big and small circles in Mooncalf, circling back in on themselves as well as intertwining themselves with the plot and the characters that inhabit it. And those motifs and themes, those messages and those symbols, don't go away once you've finished the book. They stick with you. It's hard to forget Mooncalf."" ~ The Thousander Club
"I never expected to be moved to tears by a book meant for adolescents. Buy it, read it, share it, and let yourself be changed by it." ~Lacey Smith
Author Linda Zern Linda Zern is a native of Florida where she learned to be moonstruck. She wrote her first children's chapter book, The Pocket Fairies of Middleburg, in 2005. Writer's Digest called "the perspective of these tiny beings [the pocket fairies] refreshing, enchanting, and intriguing." Florida Publisher's Association was kind enough to award her little book the President's Book Award for best children's book of 2005. Mrs. Zern has since published an inspirational book, The Long-Promised Song, serving as both writer and illustrator. Three collections of her humorous essays (ZippityZern’s Uncommon Nonsense) can be found at Smashwords.com, and her award winning essays have been recognized and published at HumorPress.com. Her current project, Mooncalf, is her first work of historical fiction for Middle School readers. Set in rural Central Florida, the author tells the story of two misfit girls and the hard lessons they must learn about friendship and love from their friends, their families, and their world. The mystical state of Florida remains an enchanted and delightsome place for both Mrs. Zern and her husband of thirty plus years, and so they continue to make their home among the palmettos and armadillos in the historic town of Saint Cloud.