30 March 2011

Author Answers: Connie Hullander

Today's Answers are from first time novelist Connie Hullander. Connie writes from the point of view of a trouble teen girl. Jump in and hear more.

WN: Tell me more about your protagonist Carly in Snowstorm.

CH: Carly is like thousands of teens struggling to grow up without the support or guidance of a responsible adult; she is angry and depressed. I wanted teen readers to identify with her, so I designed her life to be difficult, but not the worst in the world. She is a tough sixteen year-old growing up in a tough place.

From Carly's blog (Carly's Life) we learn that the blog is for extra credit in English. We also find out that home life is anything but stable for Carly. What role does her teacher play in the novel?

CH: I wrote Carly’s blog as a sort of prequel to Snowstorm to introduce her to potential readers. This particular English teacher doesn’t appear in the novel, because Carly gets new teachers at the psychiatric hospital. The teacher in the blog, however, does represent the many dedicated teachers who look every day for creative ways to connect with floundering students and keep them involved in school.

WN: Writing about Carly and her life must have been tough. What compelled you to write her story?

CH: I guess you could say writing about Carly and the other kids in the book was a little like therapy for me. Putting the story into words provided a way to show how bright, talented children can become belligerent teens and ultimately unhappy adults. As a teacher, I have known numerous kids in desperate need of help they never get. In addition, my husband, Dale, is a psychologist who specialized in working with teenagers for some twenty years. His work, done mostly in inpatient facilities, gave me the setting as well as a lot of technical information.

WN: What's the most important thing to know about Carly and the psychiatric hospital she finds herself in?

CH: The most important thing to know about Carly is she could be any kid you see on the street. She hides her scars as well as she can, but she still suffers from her injuries. Doing well in school or behaving according to society’s rules seem useless to her, when she can see no good things in her future.

What everyone should know about the hospital is this kind of long-term treatment exists mainly for those who can afford to pay privately. About twenty-five years ago most insurance companies stopped covering inpatient psychiatric care for kids beyond a two or three-week stay, usually used to medicate and stabilize a patient.

WN: Switching gears a bit, what is your writing space like?

CH: I had to smile at this question. I have an ancient PC in a basement room of my home. I like using that particular computer because it will no longer access the internet and therefore, I can’t use it to distract myself when I hit a rough patch in writing. I usually play a CD, which I never really hear, because by the time I block out the music, I’ve found my focus. From then on it doesn’t much matter where I am physically. My head is in the book. Oh, and my feet are under a dog named Clancy. I’m not sure I could write a word without him.

WN: Snowstorm is your first novel. How did you feel when you first saw your name on the cover of a book?

CH: In a word, stunned. I opened the attachment from Echelon Press and my hands flew up to cover my face. I just sat for a moment, staring. And grinning, there was a lot of grinning.

WN: What advice do you have for writers looking to be published?
CH: That’s a hard one, because I sure don’t feel like any kind of expert. When I slide into the story the way I described in number 5, I lose all track of time. I think if the same thing happens to you, you’re destined, or doomed, to write. If that’s the case, you use every resource you can find to study writing and improve your technique. Eventually you’ll get your work in front of someone who appreciates your unique style and wants to see more. Some of it is a “right time, right place” thing, but when you find the “right” situation, you have to be ready!

Thanks for the answers, Connie! And congratulations on your first novel.

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