In my ongoing series featuring fellow 2014 debut authors, I am delighted to have Rebecca Petruck with me today to talk about her forthcoming book, Steering Toward Normal, being released by Abrams/Amulet on May 13, 2014.
WHO is your protagonist?
Diggy Lawson is a good kid who likes to think he’s pretty tough, but is a total softie—and would tackle me for saying so. He raises steers to compete at county and state fairs, and is really good at it because raising steers is all heart, and Diggy has a big one. But he’s definitely tested when a half-brother turns up that makes Diggy question a lot about himself, his relationship with Pop, and how he’s supposed to feel about the new kid.
WHAT do you love writing about?
I love to learn a lot about offbeat or overlooked interests like raising competitive steers or entomophagy (the eating of insects for nutrition). I think when a lot of people think of beef cattle, they think of feed lots, and that definitely is where most of their beef comes from. But there’s this vibrant, generous subculture of steer competitors who work their butts off doing something that will only end in the heartbreak of watching their animals loaded onto the packer’s truck. That’s practically the definition of drama.
WHERE is your book set?
I was born in Minnesota. We moved away when I was eight, but all my mom’s family is there—grandparents, great aunts and uncles, regular aunts and uncles, and a ton of cousins. No matter where I’ve lived, Minnesota has always felt like home base. So even though I didn’t have a plan to set STEERING TOWARD NORMAL in Minnesota—honestly, I thought North Carolina would be easier because it’s where I live now—the boys always ended up in a house next to a cornfield with a turkey hangar just up the road. There is something I can’t resist about those long gravel roads and seeming isolation of the country that isn’t really isolated at all because everyone knows everything all the time.
WHEN do you write best?
When I’ve had time to interview people, visit places, research a topic, and mull. Many of my best scenes have come from random asides and chance spottings. But I don’t let myself get lost in the research spiral of happy doom. I COULD, easily and happily, but I’m kind of a peasant. I don’t feel good unless I’ve produced something, so I’ll often write before I know what I’m doing and let that guide further research.
WHY did you decide to write about your book topic?
I really wanted to write about a fairly ordinary, good kid who’s just trying to cope with a crappy situation in the best way he can. Generally, I think most kids are pretty good, trying to cope, trying to be good people in the world, and I wanted to acknowledge that. We hear the horror stories in the news, and that awareness is important, but those kids aren’t the average kid. I think most students today are interested and interesting, generous, kind, willing to help each other, willing to stand up for each other—I’ve seen it in my cousins and in my friends’ children, the students I’ve interviewed and the ones I mentor. Those kids don’t always get a book because the drama of being a decent person isn’t obvious. But it is real and very dramatic because every day they are making a choice to be decent people, no matter how they are tested. I think that’s incredibly brave. Throw in a couple of steers and it’s both brave and funny.
Steering Toward Normal will be released by Abrams/Amulet May 2014. For more information, visit Rebecca Petruck’s web site at www.rebeccapetruck.com or follow her on Twitter @RebeccaPetruck. AND, Abrams/Amulet is hosting a ten-ARC giveaway on Goodreads at http://bit.ly/19ZhjqT right now!
Hey READERS, I would love to hear from you.
Is your MIND FULL of old thoughts or new?