Today I have an interview with Karen Schrek, author of the recently released novel While He Was Away. I hope you enjoy the interview!
There are two answers to this question:
1. Yes. I had to start by facing my fears that I wouldn’t be able to do justice to the subject, and the moving beyond those fears. I also had to do a lot of research, and though I love research, because it took me a few years to write the book, and because over the course of the writing, the time frame changed, it proved tricky to keep up with the ever-changing developments in Iraq. Not everything I learned in my research showed up in While He Was Away, by any means, but I felt I had to know as much as I could in order to write the book. And of course, some of what I was trying to explore proved painful.
2. No. I care so deeply about this subject that the difficult thing would have been to NOT write about it. I had to move through it, the better to understand.
2. Who is your favorite secondary character in While He Was Away?
That’s hard, but I guess I’d have to Penna’s grandmother, Justine.
She carries so much history for me—both my specific family history, and also our greater cultural heritage. She carries memories, and I love the past and the experience of remembering. She breaks my heart, too, since she suffers from Alzheimer’s and her perceptions of the past and present are becoming confused, breaking down. I love her like the grandmother I don’t have anymore, I suppose.
All that said, Ravi is a close second.
4. What was your favorite part of writing this book?
Oh, every stage had its best part. I do really love revision, especially when I have a good reader to help me see the forest for the trees. My Sourcebooks Fire editor, Leah Hultenschmidt was definitely that person for me. And before her, my good friend, the writer Carmela Martino who blogs over at Teaching Authors, was an incredible sounding board as I explored what motivated the characters, and a great plot wizard, too.
5. Describe While He Was Away in five words or less.
Oh, dear. Does every novelist balk at this question? J
Love, longing, loss, loyalty, liberty.
5. What novels have influenced you as a writer and a reader?
Speak, Laurie Halse Anderson. Good Girls, Laura Ruby. The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Franweiler, E.L Koningsberg. Harriet the Spy, Louise Fitzhugh. To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee. Franny and Zooey, JD Salinger. The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje. Beloved, Toni Morrison. Beyond the Bedroom Wall, Larry Woiwode. Old Filth, Jane Gardham. To name a very few.
This blog tour is hosted by Teen Book Scene.