Today’s interviewee is an educator who as a teenager felt that young adult novels didn’t always address the needs and concerns of her peers so she decided to write her own. The Montgomery Lake High book series is the brainchild of Stacy Padula. Here she is to tell us about the series and how she approaches the writing process. http://montgomerylake.wordpress.com http://stacypadula.com
Susan Palmquist (SP)-Tell us about yourself and how you became interested in writing?
Stacy Padula (SP)-I am an internationally certified English/Math/Test Prep tutor and the Director of JBG Educational Group, a company of about thirty educators that work closely with young adults and their families on everything under the academic blanket. In addition to tutoring, college consulting, educational advocacy, and academic coaching, I also specialize in working with troubled youth. At JBG Educational Group, we counsel families, as well as work in conjunction with students’ therapists, doctors, and school systems. As Director, I manage every operation within the company. Each week, I spend roughly 25 hours with our students, on a personal, one-on-one basis. As a college counselor, tutor, advocate, and academic coach, I serve as a mentor to my students—age twelve to eighteen—and guide them through not only academic, but also social and emotional hardships. In addition to being the Director of JBG Educational Group, I also volunteer with the youth at my church. With that comes more opportunity to encourage teens to steer a straight path, pursue God, and not fall for the false promises of the world (the unofficial tagline of the Montgomery Lake High book series). I also visit schools and churches, speaking about my book series, substance abuse, recovery, and faith in Jesus Christ.
I wrote my first book when I was six years old and continued writing stories all throughout my youth. For me, writing is one of the greatest joys in life. I wrote the first drafts of three of the Montgomery Lake High books when I was in high school.
SP-When did you first get the idea for the Montgomery Lake High books?
SP-I read a lot of different books while growing up that were about high school. When I entered high school, I was completely shocked by what was going on around me! It was nothing like Sweet Valley High or The Babysitters Club. There was an abundance of back-biting, backstabbing, substance abuse, and kids just being mean to each other. I felt that there needed to be a realistic book series out there for kids to read so that they could be prepared for the social battles of high school. That is why I wrote The Right Person. I fell in love with my characters, and the subject matter, so I decided to write the sequel, When Darkness Tries to Hide. Everything in the books is based on things I have witnessed teenagers go through, or emotional/social/physical/spiritual battles that I have fought in my life. The books are filled with lessons I have learned from my own experiences, but I have woven those lessons into the completely fictitious world of Montgomery Lake High. It is my hope that teens and pre-teens can learn from the lessons within the pages of Montgomery Lake High, and avoid going through the pain I had to endure in order to learn them!
SP-Any one thing in particular that prompted it?
SP-Once I entered high school, I saw the need for a book series that provided insight and encouragement for teens regarding social issues like bullying, substance abuse, recovery, and faith.
SP-Are these books that parents will enjoy reading too?
SP-Yes! I have received feedback from many parents who have said that Montgomery Lake High enlightened them on what battles their children were facing within the walls of high school. Parents have also told me that Montgomery Lake High has served as a conversation starter for tricky topics, which would have otherwise been awkward to bring up, with their children.
SP-Tell us about the main characters in the book?
SP-There are many characters within the Montgomery Lake High book series, who alternate taking lead roles. The characters differ greatly regarding personality, lifestyle, philosophy, strengths, and weaknesses. I believe each person, regardless of their gender or age, will connect with one of the characters. Most of the characters are freshmen in high school, just beginning their journeys through the social battles. Throughout the series, Chris Dunkin, Jason Davids, Jon Anderson, Courtney Angeletti, Chantal Kagelli, Cathy Kagelli, Marc Dunkin, Marielle Kayne, and Andy Rosetti are consistently prominent characters.
SP-Anything you learned during the writing process?
SP-Hmmm this is a tough one….Well, I write to learn what happens next. I know my characters, and I know how they will react to situations. I continue writing to see the outcome of the story. Many people think authors have an idea for a story-line when they begin writing a book. That may be true in some cases, but it is not so with me. I pray for God’s guidance before I begin to write, and then the story just flows. Sometimes I have no idea why I’m writing a particular character’s reaction until ten chapters later, when it all comes together. During the writing process, I learn a lot about my characters and the world of Montgomery Lake High that resides in my mind. I also believe that getting inside the heads of so many different characters has sharpened my interpersonal skills.
SP-If you could offer three tips to your fellow writers what would they be?
SP-Keep writing! If you have a story inside of you that wants to be told, then you are the only one who can tell it. Don’t ever let the fear of failure keep you from trying your hardest. If you decide to publish your work, shy away from the self-publishing route. Instead, seek out a reputable literary agent who will represent you. They will advocate for you with the publishing companies and work to land you a deal. Do not grow discouraged after receiving replies from agents saying, “We do not accept work from unpublished/new authors.” I sent out close to 70 query letters to agencies before one of them replied saying that they had interest in representing my book. Do not be afraid of rejection, and do not cower in the face of it. Keep pressing on! In the right time, and with the right agency/publishing company, your work will get out there, into the hands of whomever it was written for.
SP-Do you think you’ll continue to write young adult novels or is there another genre you’d like to try?
SP-I hope to always be working on young adult novels! I have already finished five of the Montgomery Lake High books, and I am excited to begin the sixth. I have a heart for the youth and the many struggles that they face in society, which motivates me to continue writing books that can make a difference in their lives.
SP-What’s next for you?
SP-Finalizing the publishing deal on Montgomery’s Masquerade: The Battle for Innocence and writing Montgomery Lake High #6!