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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
LISA WINGATE is the national bestselling author of novels published by Penguin Putnam and Bethany House Publishers. Beyond Summer is her fourteenth novel. She began writing before starting school, drawn to the career by a blue ribbon her older brother won in a poetry contest. A special first grade teacher convinced her that writing actually was something you could do for a living, and she has been writing ever since.
by Lisa Wingate
Published by NAL Penguin Putnam
ABOUT THE BOOK
When a financial turnabout causes three women from very different worlds to land in the same Dallas neighborhood, life-altering friendships flourish and unexpected lessons are learned…
When Tam Lambert learns that her family's upscale home is in foreclosure, the life she's known is forever changed. Her father, facing prosecution for financial schemes has fled to Mexico. Tam, her high-maintenance stepmother and four pre-school-age siblings must move to a tiny house owned by her father’s company, Householders, in a changing Dallas neighborhood called Blue Sky Hill...
New resident Shasta Williams knows nothing of real estate schemes when she and her husband purchase a home in Blue Sky Hill. To her it's the perfect place to raise her children. Better yet is getting to know Tam, who lives across the street. But even as Tam and Shasta form a bond, something about Tam’s family doesn’t add up. When news of Householder’s corrupt mortgage scheme breaks, and neighbors realize that, barring a miracle, they’ll soon be forced from their homes, friendships and loyalties are tested.
Over the span of one summer, two young women discover the strength and maturity to do the impossible. They find that even in Blue Sky Hill, life-altering relationships and amazing possibilities can begin to blossom...
Readers, buy your copy of Beyond Summer (Blue Sky Hill Series) today!
1. What gave you the inspiration for this story?
Beyond Summer is really a story pulled from today’s economic headlines. In a time when reversals of fortune have become common due to mortgage problems and over-extended family budgets, many people are finding themselves in circumstances and living situations they never expected to face. In the previous book in the series, The Summer Kitchen, the Blue Sky Hill neighborhood was under siege by unscrupulous development companies. It occurred to me to wonder whether some of the CEOs of those companies, who collect paychecks while remaining comfortably above the dirty work, really understand the devastation their faulty mortgages can cause to a family of moderate means. Then, I wondered what would happen if one of those comfortably-wealthy families lost everything and ended up with no place left to live but a tiny house in Blue Sky Hill, right across the street from one of their intended victims. If identities weren’t revealed, would the families become friends? Would they begin to lean on one another and care about one another? What would happen when the truth came out? Beyond Summer is a story families, friendships, and about community--how we find it, what it means, and how strong communities help us to survive in difficult times.
2. How much of your own experiences influenced your characters? What aspects became traits that were theirs and theirs alone?
There are always bits and pieces real life in every story. For one thing, I think life influences the subjects you’re interested in exploring. Once I have the central idea for a story, I start looking for who might tell parts of this story, and in searching for the other storytellers for Beyond Summer, I knew I needed someone who’d been in the neighborhood for a while. I realized there was a person’s story I’d been waiting to tell for a long time. She became the inspiration for Sesay, the tiny, dreadlock-wearing wanderer in the book. I met her in real life years ago when I was sitting in a college class, and the teacher, who’d been letting us do pretty run-of-the-mill journalism stories up to that point, suddenly announced that we were to write a story about marginalized people. Then the professor walked out, leaving us to ponder what that meant.
I don’t remember exactly through what series of connections I found my person to write about, but I ended up at a mission shelter interviewing a woman I’d been told had an interesting story to tell, and did she ever! It’s just proof that you never know how those seemingly-pointless school assignments will pay off later in life. Twenty-some years later, that little woman with skin the color of coffee beans, long gray dreadlocks, and cloudy gray eyes became the inspiration for Sesay, who is living homeless on the streets of Dallas when the story begins.
3. If your hero/heroine were an ice cream flavor, what would he/she be and why?
Tam, who has grown up in surrounded by privilege, would probably be something fancy and expensive sounding—Neopolitan, but with some surprises inside.
Shasta would be a Dilly Bar—funny, impulsive, a small-town girl who can talk to anyone about anything.
Sesay would be the whole Baskin Robbins case of fifty-one flavors, as she’s a collector of stories. Inside her is a bit of everyone she has met in her wanderings.
4. Are there any themes in Beyond Summer that you hope the reader sees? Are there any themes that weren't overt but developed as the story progressed?
Beyond Summer is really a story about families, friendships, and about community--how it develops, what it means, and how strong communities help individuals from many different backgrounds survive in difficult times. Human beings are, at the most basic level, communal creatures. There’s so much evidence that people are happier and healthier, that we’re more generous and open with one another, that families are stronger and children achieve more when strong ties of friendship and community are there. These days, technology, busy schedules, and an on-the-go lifestyle compete with community-building activities, chipping away at the very thing we need the most. So often, our society tells people, especially young people, that success is in not having to rely on anyone, but we were created to give and take, to need each other. I hope that Beyond Summer provides a challenge to all of us, to see what we can contribute and what we can gain from our communities. There’s also a secondary theme of looking beyond the surface of people, of really seeing the value of every person in the community, regardless of age or economic status. We each have value, and our stories are equally valuable.
5. What were your most difficult parts to write? Your favorite?
People often ask me if I have trouble with writer’s block. I don’t battle writer’s block nearly as much as I battle writer’s laziness. For me, the battle isn’t so much about what to write, or what part of the book I’m writing, as it is about getting myself to the keyboard and getting down to business. On any given day, there are a million other things that seem tempting—there’s email to answer, the house is dirty, something neat is happening in town, the kids think it would be fun to go swimming (so do I), I don’t want Dr. Phil to miss me when he comes on TV at 3:00. You name it, I can become distracted by it. That, for me, is the biggest writing struggle. The hardest thing about writing Beyond Summer was probably researching the sort of real estate schemes that take place in neighborhoods like Blue Sky Hill. My favorite part was probably writing about the literacy class the brings Shasta, Tam, and Sesay together in the book. My first book, Tending Roses, has been used to help mentors teach adult learners to read. As I was writing about the literacy class, I was thinking about that—somewhere, someone who has never known the joy of living in a story might be reading that book (in which my grandmother’s true stories were interwoven) right now!
6. When is your next book coming out and what is the story?
I write for two publishers, so I’ve just finished writing two books for 2011. Larkspur Cove (Feb 2011) will be the first in the Moses Lake series for Bethany House. Moses Lake, Texas is the sort of little lakeside community you might pass by on a vacation without even noticing—a peaceful sort of place, but the unexpected lurks beneath the surface. Right now, I’m editing the next book for Penguin Putnam, Dandelion Summer (July 2011) , which will follow Beyond Summer in the Blue Sky Hill series. Dandelion Summer features the unlikely partnership of a spunky teenage girl and a cantankerous old man, with a bit of the turbulence of the 1960s space race stirred in for good measure.
Thanks to my awesome publishers, we’re celebrating the upcoming 2011 releases with a contest on www.Lisawingate.com. Readers can enter for a chance to win a Girlfriend Getaway weekend in historic Jefferson, TX, where we’ll be celebrating the release of Larkspur Cove at the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend, 2011. Girlfriend Weekend is the fun-filled book and reader event of the year, and our Girlfriend Getaway includes two nights at the beautiful Delta Street Inn bed and breakfast in Jefferson! For more info, go to www.Lisawingate.com.
Entry Question: Beyond Summer is a book about women’s friendships, and you’re having a Girlfriend Getaway contest. If you were planning a Girlfriend Getaway, who would you take and where would you go?
I’d probably grab one of my long-time shopper girlfriends, and we’d end up anyplace the weather is beautiful and there are antiques, crafts, jewelry, and little boutiques to wander through. At some point during the day, we’d linger in a tea room and talk about the old days when our shopping trips included diaper bags, strollers, and taking turns in Walmart, so that one of us could keep the car running during naptime. Friends who’ve walked along the path beside you through life’s joys and challenges are valuable beyond measure.
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Thank you, Lisa, for being in the spotlight with us.
ENTRY RULES Readers, answer the question associated with the spotlight in the comments, then leave your email address for your chance to win a FREE autographed copy of Beyond Summer. If you do not answer the question, you will not be entered.
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