Swanky author Kate Hart recently sat down with 2016 debut author, Lindsay Eagar, to talk about her new MG magical realism, HOUR OF THE BEES (Candlewick, March 8, 2016).
While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina—Carol—is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible—and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world.
About the Author
Lindsay Eagar was born and raised in Utah Valley, and the reading and writing of stories quickly became her favorite parts of life. She is also a classically trained pianist and unclassically trained rock guitarist. When she doesn’t have her nose in a book, Lindsay enjoys baking, running, spending time at her local aquarium, and driving alone with the radio on full blast. She currently lives in Salt Lake with her husband and daughter.
You can find Lindsay on Twitter
Kate: What provided the initial spark for your book?
Lindsay: Failure. A huge, terrible manuscript about pirates and sharks that I had rewritten over and over… and still couldn’t get right. After two years of struggle, I finally made the wise decision to trunk that book and begin something new. That something new was BEES. I got out a blank notebook, and when my daughter woke me early on a pink June morning, I started with a strange phrase for the title: “hour of the bees.” I wrote the first draft quickly, knowing ahead of time only a few ingredients I wanted to include—a dry, bleak desert; a rambling old grandfather; a girl caught in the middle of reality and the magic of stories. Those ingredients were randomly selected by my sub-conscious, and now that I have enough distance, I’m able to see that my brain was trying to write something completely opposite the trunked novel. Snakes and dirt instead of sharks and sea; dementia and lost family roots instead of brooding pirates with secrets.
Ten days later, the first draft of BEES was finished. It was a very fast genesis, very magical, and very un-repeatable with anything else I’ve written since then.
Kate: What has been the hardest part of the publishing process so far?
Lindsay: I think it was difficult to get used to the radio silence. Honestly I think I averaged less than ten e-mails a month about publishing-related things last year—and that’s probably pretty good, comparatively! Publishing is 99 % waiting—waiting for responses, waiting for feedback, waiting for your turn in the catalog, waiting for reviews, waiting for money, waiting for good or bad news, waiting for debut release day… But as soon as I learned to spend all that downtime working on future writing projects, instead of pacing and sulking, the time became a precious luxury and I realized how lucky I was to have so much of it.
Kate: Do you have any creative pursuits outside of writing? How do they influence your work?
I do! I am a musician. I was classically trained on the piano until my grandfather, who was my piano teacher, died when I was thirteen. It hit me so hard I put away all my sheet music and took up the guitar instead. Every day I’d run home from school, plug my Dean into my amp, and play along to either Pink Floyd’s The Wall or Nirvana’s Nevermind. Eventually I missed my piano, missed my Debussy and Rachmaninoff, and came back to the piano.
Music is a wonderful influence on my writing work in a few ways. First, it’s a physical art to perform—at some point in many of the more complicated pieces, the brain must go into a higher state of function and the fingers must come alive and do the work. This feels like the opposite of writing, where my brain is awake and aware of every passing thought, and the body is inert.
Also, and this was a weird revelation for me to have, but writing doesn’t always scratch my creative itch. Yes, there is plenty of creativity required in the initial stages, and certainly brainstorming for plot hole fixes can feel creative, but for me, writing is mostly a left-brained activity. It is solving for X. But playing music feels like a creative task to me, even if I’m playing music written by someone else. Something about the blending notes and rhythms feels like painting sonically. I also really love writing songs—they feel like short stories, and confirm for me that there are so many ways to spin a yarn.
What are you working on next?
Remember that book about pirates and sharks that I was working on before HOUR OF THE BEES? That’s my next middle grade! For some reason, my mind needed to get BEES out of its system before it was really ready to get Pirate Book right. Working on this book has been the antithesis of my debut in every way. After many, many (MANY) rewrites, my editor and I are just about ready for its fall 2017 release.
Pirate Book (true title: RACE TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA) is about Fidelia, daughter of famous marine biologists Dr. and Dr. Quail, who is kidnapped by a vicious pirate and forced to retrieve his sunken treasure. It’s a book about grief, and how everyone experiences it differently, and also about regret. And yes, it’s another book about death.
6 Question Lightning Round
Best compliment ever received?
Whenever someone tells me my daughter is gorgeous, smart, sweet, etc. Because, yes, she came with a lot of that naturally, but I also like to take credit for her awesomeness. It was a lot of hard work.
Most thoughtful gift?
Gift cards for books! No, really—I know it’s cliché, and I know I have hundreds on my shelves, and so it seems impossible that any new one could stand out, but a gift card to buy books means a day spent at the bookstore (bliss!). It means a new addition to my home.
Big brother, little sister, in the middle, or one and only?
Oldest of four! And I wear that label proudly and brightly.
Music to write by?
I have dedicated playlists or soundtracks for every one of my projects. (It’s kind of how I outline.) For HOUR OF THE BEES, it was Clint Mansell’s soundtrack for The Fountain. For Pirate Book, it’s Flogging Molly and the soundtrack to The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.
Just my kid. I am a documentary animal person, meaning I love to read about and watch animals on film (the more exotic, the better!), but I am not the person who will snuggle up with a furry friend or pick up a lizard. I love the animal kingdom though—it inspires so much of my work.
Best vacation ever?
Every Labor Day weekend, my family rents a house in Park City, Utah. We spend our days cooking and playing board games and lazing about in the mountains, and making our annual appearance at the library’s used book sale! It’s heaven. (Is it September yet?)
About the Interviewer
After studying Spanish and history at a small liberal arts school, Kate Hart taught small people their ABCs, wrote grants for grownups with disabilities, and now builds treehouses for people of all sizes. Her debut YA novel, AFTER THE FALL, is coming winter 2017 from FSG. She also contributes to YA Highway, hosts the Badass Ladies You Should Know series, and enjoys taking so many books out of the library that her children ask why people are staring.
AFTER THE FALL – 1/24/17 from FSG: The story of a girl who refuses to play the damsel in distress, even in the face of sexual assault, and the boy who has always hoped to rescue her, until she seeks comfort in his brother’s arms and a terrible accident changes everything.