Author Spotlight with Holly Cupala and TELL ME A SECRET

I’m so pleased to welcome Holly Cupala, one of the readergirlz, to my blog. Holly’s debut novel, TELL ME A SECRET, will be out next Tuesday! TELL ME A SECRET “illuminates the dark struggle of a girl who must let go of her past to find a way into her future.”

There’s nothing like exploring the darkness within our characters and even ourselves. It can be downright scary and overwhelming. Holly shares a devastating loss to shed some light on how far writers can go when writing about dark topics.

Holly: When I started writing TELL ME A SECRET, I was way out of my depth.

Up to that point, I’d written a stackful of unpublishable picture books, some magazine articles, a Chicken Soup story, and I’d just begun a middle grade novel. Our first daughter would be born any minute, and life seemed good.

Then everything changed in one missed beat of the heart.

After our loss, I couldn’t see the point of writing anymore. There was no meaning in it, no solace. In the dark hours, a story would flutter across my mind, only to be engulfed in grief. Then a friend, Justina Chen, took me out to lunch at a writing conference and asked, “Are you thinking of writing about Ezri?”

Moments later, the story literally landed in my lap—like nothing I had ever imagined before. It would be oh so difficult, so real, so terrifying. And yet, I need to write it.

For months, I only wrote notes, terrified of putting words to the page. I had no idea how to do this, how to write from the heart, how to delve into sadness and difficult relationships and somehow break through to hope and even healing.

And yet, I needed to write it—one word at a time.

At first, I stopped myself at every sentence. Too trite, too cliché, too empty. There weren’t words to dig deeper. I recounted my own stories, trying to get at the truth of my character’s, and beat myself with doubt and unworthiness all along the way.

And somewhere—I’m not quite sure where—it transformed, from my story to her story. Perhaps it was when our second daughter was born, happy and ready for life. The characters came into their own. At the same time, I felt a lightness and a purpose—I’d needed to write the story to get through my own loss, and now I needed to let the characters go where they were supposed to go.

It meant the story taking a different turn than I’d first thought. And that became the road to hope that I’d envisioned from the start.

Looking back, I see the necessity of seeking truth over seeking darkness, of outrunning one’s own writing demons in order to be honest in storytelling. Of living life. There’s the layer of ourselves, and there’s the layer underneath.

Writers, dig deeper to find it.
——

Thank you so much, Holly, for sharing this with us.

Holly’s book, TELL ME A SECRET, is out next week. Click here for a sample read from TELL ME A SECRET. You are going to want to read more.

In case you didn’t know, Holly organized a virtual book tour celebrating her book. She is giving away lots of prizes, so follow her on the tour! Holly will be back on July 13th (will cross-post on my writing blog).

I’m putting together interview questions for Holly. If you’d like a chance to ask Holly a question, please go HERE and fill out the form at the end of the post.

How will you reach for the truth in your manuscripts?

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Vivian Lee Mahoney

Consider yourself warned: I write books about rebels. I'm also a postergirlz for readergirlz, a literary advisory group for teens. Who knew going back to the teenage years would be so rewarding?

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