Today we are visting with Lisa Rowe Fraustino, the author of The Hole in the Wall, which is being released on November 8th. Thanks to her wonderful publicist, Barbara Fisch at Blue Slip Media who had a copy of the e mail I lost, here is the interview in a timely fashion!
Ms. Yingling:The Hole in the Wall has a very strong environmental component. Is the strip mining based on something you have lived through? If not, what drove your interest in this issue?
Dr. Fraustino: Happily, I’ve never lived as close to strip mining as my characters in The Hole in the Wall had to, except in my overactive imagination when I was writing the book. But I lived in northeastern Pennsylvania for many years, where a history of underground coal mining had left its toll on the land.
In the news we often heard stories of big holes opening up in people’s backyards due to mine subsidence, sometimes even swallowing up vehicles and houses. An underground fire smoldered for years under a nearby town, impossible to put out. And plenty of older people in the area who had worked in the mines as children were now suffering physical ailments like Black Lung Disease.
So it was always in the back of my mind that mining could lead to unintended harmful consequences long after the mined material was all used up, and the people who had profited most from the industry weren’t the ones who suffered through the damage.
Then I found out that more and more companies were using “mountain top removal” strip mining methods because machinery made the job easier and required fewer workers. By tearing the topsoil off and getting the coal out that way, companies could make more money, keep the costs of coal lower for customers, and even lower the health risks for workers—but with a terribly high cost to the environment and the neighborhood.
In The Hole in the Wall, Odum Research Corporation isn’t mining coal, but something unknown that causes strange things to happen in Kokadjo. And Sebby, the narrator, is stuck right in the middle of the mystery.
Ms. Yingling: You have written a wide range of fiction, from historical to fantasy. What do you enjoy writing most or feel you write best?
Dr. Fraustino: The variety itself is what I most enjoy. For me, writing the same kind of story all the time would be like having my favorite sushi rolls for lunch every day or singing my favorite karaoke songs every night. They wouldn’t stay favorites very long!
With each new book, I love to take on a new challenge and figure out how to do it. Each genre has its own pleasures and difficulties. With historical fiction, I love doing the research and figuring out how things would have happened for my main character. It’s easier to plot than other forms because the “story” is already right there inside “history.”
Fantasy is the flip side of that. The writer makes things up that never happened, but details still need to feel real and true. That’s harder for me to do. But I worked very hard to bring to life the fantasy elements of The Hole in the Wall and had a great editor helping me.
Ms. Yingling: Several of your short stories have been included in anthologies. Do you write a lot of short stories? Are these harder to get published than novels?
Dr. Fraustino: I love writing short stories and am always excited when the opportunity comes up to submit one to an anthology. Unfortunately, there’s not a big market for them, so I haven’t edited a new anthology or written a new short story in a long time. Some day I’d like to publish a collection of my own short stories.
Ms. Yingling: You are a university professor—how do you keep in touch with what young adults like to read?
Dr. Fraustino: My students are great at helping me with that. Some of them still read young adult literature for pleasure, and they often have brothers and sisters in middle school or younger. I assign students to go find recently published children’s and YA books to share with the class. And I also keep up with what’s going on by reading reviews, visiting bookstores, and sneaking peeks at the covers of books I catch kids reading in public.
Plus, I’m still young inside and write to please the reading addict I was as a kid.
Ms. Yingling: Were you a big reader as a teen? What kind of books did you like?
Dr. Fraustino: As a teen I read everything with words on it, literally (right down to the toothpaste tube in the bathroom…actually, I still do that). During the school year I’d read one book a day, and in the summer I’d read up to three books a day. After I finished the new adult books my relatives always had around, I’d reread my beloved paperback children’s and YA books like Mr. Popper’s Penguins and Queeny Peavy. But my favorites were the sweeping sagas by James Michener, biographical novels by Irving Stone, and any historical fiction or biography of queens.
Ms. Yingling: Should we be looking for any more of your work in the near future?
Dr. Fraustino: I sure hope so! But I can’t say for sure what it will be. Sebby’s readers will have to let me know what they think of this book.
Sit in on a session of Dr. Lisa’s Class! Visit Lisa’s web page at http://lisarowefraustino.com/?page_id=276 to read “Place & Plot.” Other class sessions can be found at http://lisarowefraustino.com/?page_id=249.