Thursday, March 12, 2015

INTERVIEW WITH BRENDA VICARS (POLARITY IN MOTION) + GIVEAWAY - HOLLY SCHINDLER

I'm delighted to share my chat with Brenda Vicars, author of the recently released POLARITY IN MOTION.

About POLARITY:



Fifteen-year-old Polarity Weeks just wants to live a normal life, but with a mother diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, that’s rarely easy. Her life gets exponentially more disastrous when her sixth-period history classmates start ogling a nude picture of her on the Internet. Polarity would never have struck such a shameless pose, but the photo is definitely of her, and she’s at a complete loss to explain its existence.

Child Protective Services yanks her from her home, suspecting her parents. The kids at school mock her, assuming she took it herself. And Ethan, the boy she was really starting to like, backpedals and joins the taunting chorus. Surrounded by disbelief and derision on all sides, Polarity desperately seeks the truth among her friends. Only then does she learn that everyone has dark secrets, and no one’s life is anywhere near normal.



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Holly: I love the name Polarity—it instantly gave me the image of a girl being pulled in two different directions. Which came first—the idea for the story or your character’s name?


Brenda: The idea for the story sprang forth fairly well developed, and as I slipped into the mind of the mother, she proclaimed that Polarity was the name of her daughter. I agree with your reaction—Polarity labels the struggle she has.
 
Holly: Polarity’s not in a great place—she’s new to school, her home environment’s not great…Nude pictures are swirling online, and Child Protective Services get involved. Have you known or worked with a teen who found themselves in the midst of so much trouble all at once? How did that affect building Polarity’s character?

Brenda: I’ve never worked with a teen whose nude picture was on the Internet, but I have worked with lots of students in tough situations, and I’ve been awed at how courageous young people can be—how they can work through awful situations and come out stronger.  I wanted Polarity to show the resiliency that real kids have.
 
Holly: You and I have dealt with many of the same issues in our work. You describe Ethan as being the one black guy in the class. My debut MG featured an African-American protagonist. #weneeddiversebooks is such a predominate discussion, especially among writers and readers of juvenile lit. What role do you believe writers should play in depicting characters of differing races and ethnicity? Do you find it especially challenging to write about characters who are of a different background than you are? Why or why not?

Brenda: My first connection with young adults was as their teacher, rather than as an author. I am haunted by the times I took my students to the library and found that the vast majority of the fiction on the shelves featured white characters.  How were my diverse students to develop a love for reading when there were so few books that depicted their races and cultures?  And what message did the omission send? 

I feel as a YA author, I would be negligent to focus only on my own race—white.  That said, I do worry about depicting diverse characters appropriately, and I often ask friends of other races and cultures to read segments and give me feedback.  I also immerse myself in YA books by authors from other races and cultures.

Holly: Another issue we’ve both tackled is a mother with mental illness—Polarity’s mom has a borderline personality disorder. How has Polarity’s mother’s mental illness shaped Polarity’s character? How does it impact the decisions she makes throughout the book?

Brenda: Like any child of an unstable parent, Polarity must navigate the minefield of tripwires embedded in her relationship with ever-unraveling Mom. Polarity, like Aura, doesn’t get to be the child.  Instead, Polarity constantly gauges every move to make sure that she doesn’t set off her mother.  Worse, Polarity, like Aura, is haunted with doubt: Is she like her mother—destined for the same fate?

Holly: I love Emily Dickinson—are you a fan, too? (Polarity references her.)


Brenda: Yes, a lifelong fan.  And Dickinson was the perfect poet for Polarity to love.  Polarity is shocked when she learns that Dickinson said she hated the Irish—wishing that they could be scientifically exterminated.  Dickinson’s poetry and life experience helped Polarity to learn that even brilliant, insightful people can be blind to their own biases—can fail to see their own way of seeing.

Holly: Polarity forgives Tracey. Do you feel forgiveness is an important component in maintaining a healthy existence?

Brenda: Forgiveness is essential for Polarity to move forward. She would have been justified to hate Tracey, but that hatred would not have bothered Tracey in the least. Instead, that hatred would have been a burden for Polarity. 

Holly: My own path to publication was long and winding—what was yours like? How did you sell POLARITY IN MOTION?


Brenda: “Long and winding” is an apt description of mine as well!  I worked about 20 years in education—teacher, principal, director of support services—before attempting to write a novel.  Novel number one is in a drawer.  It’s an adult literary fiction I call THIS HOUR’S TERM—took seven years to write.  POLARITY IN MOTION is novel number two.  It took about a year and a half to write, and I was able to get a literary agent pretty early—Charlotte Sheedy.  However after a year of representation, she said that none of the acquisition editors she worked with were interested in the manuscript, and she recommended that I self-publish. Her words were, “Just get it out there.”  I was considering self-publishing, but friends recommended submitting to Red Adept Publishing.  And here we are!

Holly: What were your reading preferences as a teen? How does that reading experience influence what you write now? Do you write with potential teen readers / audience in mind, or do you find that distracting?

Brenda: I’m not sure why—maybe it was just chance, but as a teen I was totally disinterested in YA literature.  I hungered for fiction about adults—only. I mostly read the classics—Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Dostoyevsky, Dickens, Bronte. I especially loved THE GOOD EARTH and tried to read all of Pearl S. Buck’s books. I loved Maya Angelou’s memoir I KNOW WHY THE CAGED BIRD SINGS. Now, as an adult, I spend more of my reading time immersed in YA.

I do think about teens and people who care about teens when I write.  I think about the students I’ve known and the experiences that were important to them.

Holly: What are your favorite writing tricks?


Brenda: I love to have those days when I can start writing first thing in the morning—still in PJs, and get in several hours before taking care of all the interfering necessities of life!  When writing a novel, I do a lot of editing as I go.  I find that if I edit the work from the day before, I’m ready to flow right into the new segment.

Holly: What are you working on now?

POLARITY IN LOVE.  By the time I finished POLARITY IN MOTION, Ethan and Polarity had matured and their needs had deepened.  They are ready for greater risks!  Ethan has a larger role in POLARITY IN LOVE.



Brenda Vicars (brendavicars.com) has worked in Texas public education for many years. Her jobs have included teaching, serving as a principal, and directing student support programs. For three years, she also taught college English to prison inmates.

She entered education because she felt called to teach, but her students taught her the biggest lesson: the playing field is not even for all kids. Through her work, she became increasingly compelled to bring their unheard voices to the page. The heartbeat of her fiction emanates from the courage and resiliency of her students.

Brenda’s hobbies include reading, making things out of re-purposed wood, pulling weeds in the garden, and going to Zumba classes.

Brenda's giving two copies of POLARITY IN MOTION! Two winners will be randomly chosen on March 26.

Giveaway:

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3 comments:

  1. thanks for the giveaway. :)

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  2. Thanks for featuring Polarity! I love this blog! Brenda

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  3. This sounds good! I love YA that deals with real issues.

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