How does family lore shape our experiences? Leslye Walton, author of The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, talks about family stories handed down as truth.
Gigi Amateau: This is one of my favorite multi-generational stories. I love that you didn’t shy away, at all, from drawing sensual, imperfect, passionate older women in a YA book. Could you share something about your own connection to older women when you were a teen? How did you arrive at the thread that connects Ava to her mother and grandmother?
Leslye Walton: I’ve always been drawn to multi-generational stories. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude are two of my favorite books. I knew very quickly after I started writing Ava Lavender that I was writing a multi-generational story. I knew that in order to understand Ava, readers would need to understand Ava’s mother and grandmother first.
GA: How does family – either your own family or your exploration of what family means- influence your writing?
LW: I come from a very large extended family. The thing about large families—and perhaps this isn’t just large families, but rather families in general—is that they have their own lore, stories that are passed down as truth, a kind of unavoidable inheritance. Whether we want it to or not, this family lore shapes us, molds us into the individuals we later become. This is true both for real and fictional families; as I said above, I knew that my readers needed to understand where Viviane and Emilienne were coming from before they could understand the motivation behind Ava’s choices.
GA: The language is just extraordinary. The reading experience for me was very much driven by the cadence and rhythm of the narrative. The way I remember the book now is as if someone else read it out loud to me. Was your experience of writing Ava Lavender auditory or visual or otherwise?
LW: Thank you so much. I think of a novel as both a visual and auditory art form; I want the writing to be as beautiful on the page as it is when read aloud. I try to be very purposeful in the words I use.
GA: What makes Ava a strong girl?
Ava, while quite naïve, is also incredibly resilient. She endures this horrific tragedy, and thanks to the love of her friends and family, she pulls herself through it. And she’s stronger, not because of the tragedy, but because she had to fight to overcome it.
GA: Finish this sentence, strong girls’
LW: know that strength can show itself in many different ways.
GA: What are you working on next?
I try to be quiet about my new projects, but I will say that I am very excited to introduce another strong girl to my readers. I hope they love her as much as I do.