Interview With Elizabeth Summers
Today Greedy Bug Book Reviews would like to say a big hello to Young Adult author E. Summers. Recently Josh had the pleasure of reading Beneath Angel’s Wings – review here and now Josh has a chance to ask some questions. So we are glad to welcome E. Summers to our blog.
Also, there is a link to Goodreads LGBT YA group for a free read / review copy of E. Summers book, Beneath Angel’s Wings – https://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1575342-beneath-angel-s-wings-by-e-summers
A great opportunity for someone to read a terrific YA book.
Josh: Tell us a bit about E. Summers – hobbies, interesting fun facts, passions. Pets?
Liz: Hi Josh. First, please call me Liz. The E. sounded better as an author initial, but no one ever uses my full name. I don’t have pets at the moment, though for ten years I had a bunny who was litterbox trained and had the run of the upstairs of our house. Besides reading, my favorite hobby is rubber stamping (as in paper crafting, not bureaucracy.) An interesting fact is that I was born in Eastern Europe, behind the Iron Curtain, back when the Soviet Union was still a world superpower. I moved to the United States right before the start of 5th grade.
Josh: Where do you call ‘home’ and what do you like the most about ‘home’?
Liz: I live in a small suburb outside Chicago in a home that was built over a hundred years ago. Our house has lots of character and the “historic district” we live in and our village have a very “small town” feel right outside a big city. We have a very close-knit neighborhood where everyone knows each other, but we’re only a short drive or train ride away from everything Chicago has to offer. It’s fantastic!
Josh: Where would you like to most visit in the world and why?
Liz: We travel a lot, but the one set of destinations that’s been elusive, mostly because of the distance and travel time, is Australia and New Zealand. I bitterly regret not taking the opportunity to take classes in Australia for a semester as part of a college student exchange program. I’m sure my husband and I will get there someday, but I’m afraid it may not be until after we retire and finally have enough time to do that trip right.
Josh: Was writing something you always wanted to do? If it was a long-time passion, can you remember what made you want to write? If not, what prompted you to start writing?
Liz: I made up stories as far back as I can remember, and as soon as I learned how, I wrote them down. The earliest stories I can remember writing were about my toys. I continued to write creatively through high school, but I never thought I would be a published author and stopped writing when I went to college. I didn’t start again until I stumbled across the world of Twilight fan fiction five years ago. After reading several stories, I decide to write my own, and then I eventually moved on to original fiction. For me, writing has not only been a great creative outlet, but also a way of meeting wonderful people – both readers and other authors- all around the world. I love it!
Josh: What made you decide to write in the LGBTQ genre? Were there muses? Or was it to do with other reasons?
Liz: What compelled to write Adam and Angel’s story were numerous news stories about gay teens killing themselves after being bullied. I kept thinking that if only one person had reached out to these kids and showed them they weren’t alone, it could have made all the difference. The idea kept brewing and eventually began forming into a story, and during last year’s NaNoWriMo I finally translated my thoughts into a novel.
Josh: Is Beneath Angel’s Wings your first LGBTQ YA book?
Liz: Yes it is. I’ve written YA stories featuring straight characters and gay stories that were geared to a new adult or adult audience, but this is the first time I wrote expressly for the LGBTQ YA audience. I find it amusing that my writing seems to be getting more niche within each passing year, but what I love about writing in niche genres is that the community of readers and authors becomes very small and intimate, almost like a family. I think for authors who write LGBTQ YA stories in part to help their readers, that’s especially gratifying.
Josh: Beneath Angel’s Wings deals with a number of very real issues that teenagers can certainly face – suicide and bullying, primarily in the case of LGBTQ youth. What inspired you to write a novel dealing with these darker issues?
Liz: Bullying and suicidal thoughts aren’t exclusive to LGBTQ teens, but LGBTQ teens are particularly targeted by bullies, possibly because the bullies grow up in households and communities where discrimination against gay people is prevalent and accepted. I consider this a huge national tragedy, and one that too many people are content to ignore. I wanted to write a book that dealt with these issues as realistically as possible, while still giving young people hope. I also wanted to write a story where one person taking the time and interest in a bullied teen can make a huge impact.
Adam and the other characters in Beneath Angel’s Wings don’t have easy, smooth lives, but I hope their story shows how LGBTQ youth can redefine love, friendship and family for themselves, and that when they do build their own tightly-knit community, things really can get better.
Josh: I was highly interested reading through Adam’s struggles over the course of the book. How did you manage to capture the mindset of such a fragile and self-loathing (at least at the start) teenager?
Liz: I’m thrilled that you think I portrayed Adam’s angst well, because one of my biggest concerns while writing the story was that I’m too far removed from my teenage years to portray that inner struggle accurately. I think many teens, gay and straight, go through a fragile and self-loathing phase, and I was no exception. Fortunately, I was never bullied and I had lots of external ego-boosters to counteract my internal self-doubt. In writing the book I tried to remember how I felt back then and to imagine how much worse it would have been if my negative inner thoughts had been reinforced by everyone around me. I think anyone, teenager or even adult, would be hard pressed not to feel as Adam did in the face of all that negativity, so I just channelled that into my writing.
Josh: This book is full of memorable characters and locations. I understand you are a resident of Chicago, which I’m sure explains how you captured the location so well. Are any of your characters drawn from those you’ve met in this city? In your life?
Liz: I’m so pleased that you enjoyed the characters and the setting. In the book I tried to convey the “feel” of Chicago, which is a multi-cultural, economically diverse, vibrant, sprawling metropolis. I’m really happy that I managed to bring it to life for you. I wish I could say that the characters were based on people I’ve met, but unlike many authors, I don’t usually need external inspiration. For me, the characters just form in my mind, and they’re almost never related to anyone I’ve met or even seen in real life.
Josh: Religion is normally a tricky issue to tackle in LGBTQ books. I was pleasantly surprised to read about a series of characters who are able maintain their spirituality and be accepting of their sexuality. Is this something you strongly believe in?
Liz: This is something I feel very strongly about. I consider myself a very spiritual person, though I’m not at all religious. I find it disturbing how many religious leaders focus on persecution and condemnation of sin instead of encouraging tolerance, forgiveness, charity and love, and leaving judgment to God.
I don’t believe anyone should give up their spirituality simply because some current religious leader doesn’t agree with their life choices. It’s perfectly okay to believe in and have a close personal relationship with God while rejecting some religious dogma, especially since the dogma often changes over time. I love that Adam takes that spiritual journey and eventually discovers that he can be just as spiritually fulfilled as his parents, even though their beliefs are drastically different.
Josh: In your author’s note you explained that half the proceeds from book sales would go to charity. Would you like to elaborate on the charity and who the money will help?
Liz: The first charity that will receive half of my proceeds from the sale of the book is Lost ‘n Found Youth, which is an Atlanta based non-profit organization that helps homeless LGBTQ youth. http://www.lost-n-found.org/ I learned about this issue and the organization from fellow author, Brandon Shire, who is a homeless LGBTQ youth activist. The statistics on percentages of homeless youth who are also LGBTQ are staggering. So many young kids from the LGBTQ community are either rejected by their families or are persecuted to such an extent that they choose life on the streets to staying home. It’s horrifying and we as a society should be doing everything we can to give as many of these kids as possible a path to a better future. Lost ‘n Found Youth is one organization that can help do that.
At some point in the future, and I’m not sure when, I may direct the money to different organizations, perhaps finding a similar charity in Chicago or contributing to an LGBTQ youth suicide prevention cause. I will always post on my blog which organization is receiving the funds, and the funds will always go to a charity for the benefit of LGBTQ youth.
Josh: What books should we be looking forward to from you in the near future? Any works in progress?
Liz: At the moment my only works in progress are adult fiction (mostly original, though I’m also trying to finish up my last fan-fiction story), but I very much intend to revisit the character cast from Beneath Angel’s Wings and, in fact, have completed outlines for two follow-up books in the series. Each book will focus on different characters, but in the background readers will get a glimpse on what the future holds for Angel, Adam, Keenan, Javier and many other characters. Can you guess who will be the focus of the next story? I won’t confirm or deny, but it would be fun to hear the speculation.
We would like to say thank you to Elizabeth Summers for dropping by Greedy Bug today and taking the time to have a chat with Josh.
Liz: Thank you so much for having me!
For more information and contact details for Elizabeth Summers please see below.
Twitter: http://twitter.com/esummersbooks (@esummersbooks)