I like to read raw stories, tales that sweep me up and tug at my emotions,
and though I’m not generally a fan of High School YA,
All The What Ifs from Angela Lynn did all that and more.
Angela Lynn radiates an exuberance that will beguile you, that’s for sure! She is a sensitive writer and her words are able to pull you right inside her stories. I met her on the Flash Fiction circuit and she immediately became someone I wanted to know. Do yourself a favour, follow her quirky brand of humour and her love of life and you won’t go wrong. In her own words she lives in the desert with her mister and their four awesome kids, and if you ask me you should engage with her on Twitter and have some fun! After reading her debut novel I was keen to interview her. You can read my review of All The What Ifs on Goodreads.
One of the things that struck me in All The What Ifs is the authenticity of your writing and the way you easily got inside the head of a young adult. Your dialogue is brilliant and every word, quip and comment is how I imagine a group of teens chatting. Did you find it easy to inhabit a teenager’s mind to write and did you enjoy your teens or were they difficult years?
Oh man…where to begin!
First off, thank you SO much for having me on your lovely site and for reading All The What Ifs. I’m beyond grateful and thrilled you enjoyed it!
On finding it easy to inhabit a teenager’s mind, I’m often mistaken for one which is basically part of my master plan to never EVER grow up. 😉
As far as approaching the dialogue in All The What Ifs, I’ve been asked this question before and have yet to come up with a good response that doesn’t sound like a bunch of hot air. Ashley and her friends—Natalie, Kendra, Emma, Tyler, and Lucas—felt like close, personal friends of mine. From day one, I could hear them. Some nights they kept me up far too late with their chatter until I got it all written down. From time to time, I still hear them and I hope they’ll never leave me. We had such a good time together and I learned a lot from them.
Lastly on my experience being a teen, like most young adults, I faced many challenges as a teen. Being a young adult is terrifying and painful and beautiful in its newness and discovery. I think adults often forget that wrapped up in all that insecurity and impulsiveness is so much stinking promise. So while I can’t say my teenage years were easy or that I’d go back to them, I do try to weed through my experiences and look for the good that made me—ultimately—me.
There is a real honesty in the novel. What inspired Ashely’s character and situation, and do you fondly or awkwardly recall your own first love?
Ashley and I are two different people. Where Ashley is quiet and withdrawn, I’m loud and easily upset. Where Ashley is methodical in her overthinking, I’m a hot mess of panic attacks. But something we both share is a deep seeded desire to please the people around us and do right by them. Ultimately, Ashley wants to be loved and accepted by her father for who she is, not what he wants her to be. And when that doesn’t work for him, she tries to change for him. What I find complex about her situation is what her father is demanding she follow through with seems perfect for Ashley, but in the end, no matter how perfect the fit might seem, it’s up to Ashley to decide. At the heart of this is a universal problem we all face, do we bow down to the seemingly oh so perfect fit or do we make ourselves uncomfortable and reach for something more?
And I do remember my first love. His name was Michael Shower and I sang “True Love” by Madonna from across the playground to him. Sadly, it was an unrequited love since I had to move the next day. And yes, I’m being serious. I loved that seven-year-old boy with all the love my own seven-year-old heart could muster.
Your Nevada backdrop is evocative and I could feel the heat as I read, as someone from rainy Wales it’s always fun to drop into another location. You mention the Grand Canyon in the book too, have you ever been and where would you like to visit most?
Shockingly enough, though I live a four hour drive away from the Grand Canyon, I’ve never been! It’s most definitely on my must visit list. And right about now, I’m wishing for some rain, so how about I hop on a plane and visit you in a completely non-creepy kind of way!
I loved the scene where Ashley recalled Lucas’s visit and what she’d have said (I won’t add any spoilers) because I’ve had a similar experience in my own life. It really hit home. What was your favourite part of writing All The What Ifs?
This is a big question and I really, really suck at picking favorites.
But if I MUST, I’d say my favorite part about writing All The What Ifs was having my best friends alongside me. I dedicated the book to the two people who pushed me to follow through and believed in me and Ashley more than either of us ever could. Writing this story was a five year long journey, during which I pushed myself to not only be a better writer, but follow through and believe in my ability. My friends—from my mister and my bestie to my editor and my beta readers—made that a reality for me, which is the best part. It’s a beyond corny answer, but I’m learning to embrace that I’m a sappy soul.
We often talk of the need to create or write because of an innate desire, what does writing do for you?
Writing helps me escape and gives me a sense of accomplishment. I started writing during a time in my life when I felt like I was losing myself in the mundane everyday responsibilities that had started to rule me. It took all the energy and passion I had stored up in me and released it onto a page. At first, I did it for fun, but soon it became something I wanted to grow and mature in. There’s always a new story just around the bend and there’s always something new to learn to stretch myself as a person, a reader, and a writer.
Thank you, Ang, you’re most welcome to come to rainy Wales and swap your hot, golden desert for cool, green, rolling hills and valleys! Like I said I don’t generally read High School YA since Sweet Valley High in my teens, but this gave me something new and exciting in the genre. I loved Ashley’s vulnerability and Angela’s beautiful writing. I’m looking forward to more from this author!