Today my guest is Renée Lichtenhan, author of a middle grade series called “I am Girl.” Renée, thank you for joining me today. Let’s start by telling us a little bit about yourself.
I’ve lived in Mississippi for almost two decades, and I’ve given up on the sweltering, humid summers ever “growing on me.” I’ll never get used to them. I’ve also given up on developing a taste for sweet tea or an endearing southern drawl. But, I’m all about the strong family values and the deep-rooted faith that permeates southern culture. My husband loved raising our three kids around fishing lakes, mud trails, deer hunts, backyard hammocks, and cotton fields. Since they’ve grown up, I spend most of my time either working as a “church lady” in charge of children’s faith formation or working as an author writing and promoting my novels.
What is your new book, Violet, about?
Thirteen-year-old Violet Windsor is obsessed with the rush and thrill of skateboarding through a dangerous, gang-ridden part of New York City. Certain that her high-society parents wouldn’t approve of the rough-and-tumble sport or the sketchy neighborhood, she and her best friend, Sloane, hide her secret adventures in a thick veil of lies.
When Violet’s autistic, non-verbal brother, Oliver, begins drawing pictures that reveal a mysterious knowledge of her secrets, Violet is rattled to the core. Intrigued by peculiar clues in Oliver’s drawings, she follows them down a reckless path toward redemption and truth.
What is the inspiration behind your story?
My “I Am Girl” collection of middle-grade books is inspired by a desire to help parents cultivate faith and virtue in their kids. Honesty is at the root of my most recent release, VIOLET. I chose to spotlight honesty, because — let’s face it, lots of teenagers lie to their parents. That’s what VIOLET chooses to do, and as you’d expect, her choice ends up getting her into a heap of trouble. But, what happens when she comes clean is a surprise even to Violet.
Do you have a day job? If so, how do you find time in your day to write?
Yes, I have the perfect day job! I work part-time as the children’s director of faith formation at my church. I love my job. Not only does it give me a deep sense of purpose, but it’s also an outlet for my extroverted nature. And because it’s very flexible, I can easily find big chunks of time to write.
What book do you wish you would have written?
All of the Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books. As I child, I devoured every one of them. I loved escaping into pioneer days when life was harder in some ways, like surviving the dangers of winter or wild bears, yet simpler in others, like living in a cabin in the woods with a family who danced to fiddle music and ate stew. I think I’m drawn to writing for this same age group because I have so many warm memories of how her books made me feel. I hope that my novels stir emotion in children and make some kind of lasting positive impact like the “Little House” books did for me.
Share your favorite excerpt from the book.
“You skateboard. Could you do any of those tricks?” Mom asked.
Violet glanced at her, then back at the skaters, stalling her response. She wanted to tell her that she came alive when she soared through the air, and how satisfying the slap of a solid landing felt. She wanted to say it was the one place she most loved to be and the only place she felt comfortable in her own skin.
Instead, she pressed her forehead against the cold glass window, stared out at the ramps, and said, “I’d try any of them.”
It wasn’t a lie, but she withheld the whole truth. She had to be careful to keep her skate park trips hidden. Mom and Dad were already freaking out about the one time they knew about her going to Harlem. There was no telling what they’d do if they found out she’d come here tons of times. Violet didn’t even want to think about it.
Where can readers go to find you online?
I’d love you to come visit me at www.reneelichtenhan.com
Catch the first book in the “I am Girl” series also: