Interview of Lesley Anne Cowan By R. Lynn

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General Questions

Question: In both As She Grows and Something Wicked the girls lack a responsible female figure and have absentee fathers. In your opinion, do most youth succeed or rebel as a direct reflection of their parents?

Answer: Of course, every young woman is different, as is her family situation. My experiences with youth (almost always absentee fathers!) will vary dramatically from other people's experiences. I definitely don't think a young woman will succeed or rebel as a direct reflection of her parent, but I do think parenting (and family history) can play a HUGE role in a teen's behaviour. Having said that, there are many young women with questionable upbringing who find success. There are also many young drug addicts with affluent, "stable" parents. I've personally met some wonderfully caring and strong moms who struggle with their teen's behaviour. I think it's the "stacking" effect that's key - a young person can cope with three or so problems (family history, drug abuse, learning disability, abuse), but add on more to that, and they will probably topple over.

Question: As a teacher, you likely encounter a lot of different life experiences in your students. Have you included any of those moments in your books?

Answer: Everything in my books is fiction. The characters are completely made up, as are the things that happen to them. However, anyone who works with at-risk teens will find that my characters are very, very common. For instance, many young women I know have been assaulted or abused. They also have very similar family issues. In As She Grows, Snow's grandmother, for instance, is not an uncommon figure. When I'm writing I don't think of one particular girl or situation - but I'm sure that by osmosis their lives are reflected in my work. I can only hope I do this respectfully and with integrity.

Question: Is writing the story of these girls therapeutic to you? (Does it help you process what you see on a daily basis?)

Answer: Good question. Yes. I definitely think it's therapeutic to me. More so in the fact that I want to continue exploring "why?" when everyone else (staff) has moved on to the next case/client. I find myself eternally thrilled and in awe of human behaviour (especially through my experiences with teens). I have an insatiable appetite for the "why?": Why would she behave like that? If she knows getting pregnant will destroy her future success, and she knows it's a high risk for her, why does she do it anyway? Why does she sabotage success? So many questions. Since I can't find the answers directly from the teen or her family, I try to find the answers (and an outlet) in my writing.

Questions/Comments About As She Grows

Question: If there is only one thing we could take away from As She Grows, what would you like it to be?

Answer: That some people have to fight like hell not to repeat their family histories.

Question: It's so authentic the way you describe Snow's need to inflict self-pain to release the overwhelming amount of emotional hurt. Is this something you've seen firsthand or even experienced personally?

Answer: I've never experienced it personally, but I've seen it firsthand. Cutting is a somewhat common (and arguably safe) coping mechanism. When I found out that As She Grows was going to be re-marketed as YA fiction, I was most concerned about the self-mutilation scenes, as it tends to be a copycat activity. If you've never seen it before it can be rather disturbing, but the more you learn about it, the less "violent" it becomes. I read a few non-fiction books on the topic, and have interviewed a few counsellors who deal with such clients.

Question: Snow's internal journey is very well mapped; it's almost as if she's on two roads: her external road and her internal one. Which journey was harder for you to connect to as a writer and to translate to readers?

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