I am going to share with you a WONDERFUL and GRIPPING young adult novel that readers aged 13 to 100 will enjoy. It’s Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away by Trisha Slay, and I also have a copy to giveaway! You can enter to win a print or ebook by using the Rafflecopter form below. Trust me, from the moment you read page one with Erika’s voice, you will be hooked! This is a well-crafted, page-turning, often heartbreaking and nail-biting novel that shows what it was like to be a teenager in Ohio in 1977 when Star Wars came out.
Erika lives with her mom, Anita the dance school instructor and MONSTER. Erika is finishing up her first year of high school when the book begins, and she struggles daily with fitting in and poor self-image. Her best friend and beauty queen, Cassie, is running away to Hollywood to escape an abusive police officer father and swears Erika to secrecy.
This is just the first of many problems for Erika to sprinkle the novel, from being bullied at school to becoming a slave in her own home to avoiding answering the police and their questions. She is having the most miserable summer of her life, until she gets the idea to volunteer at the movie theater in her small town, where she can watch Star Wars anytime she wants in exchange for her service. She befriends some of the other workers there, and she starts to grow and change. She also discovers Cassie might not have been exactly whom she thought she was. And finally, she gets hold of a Super 8 camera and starts making movies of different events of her summer. So how does it finally end for Erika and the summer of Star Wars? You’ll have to buy (or win!) the book to find out.
You will not be disappointed–this is a great book for lovers of YA fiction–whether a teen yourself or a mom who likes to read young adult. If you are a Star Wars fan too, you will love all the references to the first movie and the fanfare that surrounded it. I have an interview with the author below where she shares some inside info with us about her book. Read on to find out and then enter to win below.
Margo: Welcome, Trisha, to Read These Books and Use Them. I am so honored (and my stepson and husband are so excited) to have such a Star Wars fan and creative author here. So, how has your book Not So Long Ago, Not So Far Away been received by Star Wars fans–new and old?
Trisha: Thanks for inviting me to your blog! You know, I’m glad you asked about Star Wars fans right away. In the beginning, I was slightly terrified of the negative reaction this book might provoke from the old school, hard core fans…especially if I made any factual errors! Turns out, I had no reason to be afraid. Every Star Wars fan who has read this book–a group that includes males and females aged 15 to 50–has been incredibly warm and encouraging. In fact, my book launch was attended by two fans costumed as a Stormtrooper and Chewbacca. They both looked and sounded exactly like they had just stepped right out of the movie. They did that to support a fellow fan out of the kindness of their hearts, and they only asked for signed copies of the book in return.
Margo: Awesome idea for your book launch, and I’m glad it is being so well-received. I am a Star Wars fan, and I can say, as I did above, I love your book–for many, many reasons. So, what inspired you to write this book?
Trisha: The funny thing is, I did not want to write this book. I wanted to write fantastical stories about magical creatures and Egyptian gods and teenagers who in no way resembled the awkward, uncomfortable geek I had been in high school. But this fifteen-year-old fangirl wearing tube socks and a Pittsburgh Steelers shirt with her hair in Leia buns kept popping into my head. She wouldn’t go away and she wouldn’t speak to me, so I dubbed her my inner teenager and tried to ignore her. One day I read an online article about an experimental program that brought digital cameras and video editing classes to disadvantaged teens in inner city schools. Bam! Suddenly this girl had a Super 8 camera in her hand and she refused to be ignored.
Margo: I’m glad Erika refused to go away! Who is the “perfect reader” for your novel?
Trisha: There’s a black and white picture postcard on my desk that I found in a quirky, little bookstore. It shows row after row of empty theater seats. Toward the top right, there’s a teenaged girl sitting all alone with her nose in a book. While I was writing, I imagined I was writing the book in her hands.
My perfect reader is anyone who has felt awkward or isolated with no safe place to hide. Someone who is smart and creative, but often feels like a misfit in their own skin…or a sidekick in their own fantasies. Hopefully, anyone who loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky would love this book.
Margo: I like to tell readers how they can “use” the book to discuss important topics/themes or to do activities with readers. So, what about your book? How could parents/teachers/librarians use your book with teens?
Trisha: One of the most important themes I tried to tackle in this book is the contrast between the easily-defined, good vs. evil universe depicted in Star Wars and the more complex nature of good and evil in the real world. Good people do bad things. Sometimes, even rotten people manage to do the right thing. Not every villain wears a black helmet, and heroes don’t always look like Greek gods. As Obi-Wan says, “Your eyes will deceive you; don’t trust them. Stretch out with your feelings.”
Erika confronts a lot of very bad things in this book–loss, abuse, neglect, bullying–but her creative spirit helps her to survive and thrive. I would love it if this book helped even one reader understand that creativity is essential for health, happiness, and survival. Whether it’s music, dance, photography, poetry, art, pottery, film making or underwater basket weaving—whatever feeds your creative spirit makes you stronger. How can you be more creative every day? (I would challenge parents, teachers, and librarians to ask this question of themselves as well as asking teens.)
A novel set in 1977 is considered contemporary, not historical. Do you agree? How does the life of a teenager in 1977 compare to your life today? Do you think Star Wars would have the same impact and create the same pop culture phenomenon if it were released on May 25, 2013?
Margo: These are great questions! And I love what you said about being creative. It helps–for adults, too. Anything else you’d like to add?
Trisha: Even though the Star Wars aspects of this book are fun to talk about, I want to emphasize that this is a universal coming of age story. I hope that readers who don’t know a Jawa from Jabba the Hutt will still be able to appreciate Erika’s story.
Margo: Oh, I think so, definitely. It is first a wonderful story about a teen living in Ohio in 1977 and then a tribute to a fantastic movie and the fans. Thanks!
Don’t forget the Rafflecopter form below!