All this month, we’re featuring Sea by Heidi R. Kling for our June Book of the Month — and Heidi was kind enough to answer a bevy of interview questions for us (despite her insanely busy schedule — what with writing a new book, contributing to a Vampire Diaries anthology, heading off to BEA, preparing for a book launch, caring for her family, etc., etc. … you get the idea. Today we present part 1 or 3 of our exclusive interview. Thanks once again to Heidi — we hope you enjoy!
For those who aren’t familiar, tell us the story behind Sea. How did you get the idea to write the book?
The long story is on my website, but the short story is my husband spent time in Indonesia after the tsunami. He’s now a cross-cultural PTSD expert; then he was fresh out of residency and wanted to help.
While writing Sea, did you travel to Indonesia yourself? What sort of research went into the novel?
I didn’t travel there, but I interviewed survivors of the tsunami, who we continue to be in touch with, a friend who volunteered at a pesantren similar to the one in Sea, and of course my husband who was a tremendous resource. I also used the Indonesia guide book like the one Sienna uses in Sea. I wanted everything to be new–it was as new to me as it was to her.
We know your husband has done work similar to Sienna’s father in the book. Why do you think this sort of relief/response work is so important after disasters like the tsunami (and more recently, the earthquakes in Haiti & Chile)?
It’s hugely important. Especially in developing countries where resources are already limited. For example, in Haiti things are still a disaster–possibly even more so, with rapist roaming tent villages, the rains coming. What I was most interested in exploring in Sea is what happens after the cameras have gone home, after the donations stopped rolling in–when their disaster isn’t the top story–what about the kids left over? That’s where Sea began. With my urge to draw attention to them and remind people the trauma, the nightmares still hang over months, even years after the disaster strikes and what can we do to help?
What do you hope readers take away from Sea?
A sense of hope. That even in tragedy there is beauty. That sometimes in life we make decisions that other people may not agree with in order to do what’s right. Sienna’s choices, while maybe controversial, were made with the greater good in mind. I think she’d make all the same choices again if she had to. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in order to grow. I think often in YA, the characters aren’t asked to make serious choices or sacrifices or risk actual danger. I think Sienna does. Would I want my teenage daughter to do that? No. But Sienna is a character in a book and again, I feel like literature is meant to inspire people to believe in the impossible. Life is hard, and often it sucks. Often we don’t get the outcome we desire, that perfect happy ending–but it’s essential that teens believe in hope. Hope for a better, brighter day. That good people exist in this mixed up world. That love is real. True tragedy exists, but it’s how we deal with it that defines who we are.
If you met someone in a bookstore, and they were thinking about buying your book, what would you say to convince them?
LOL–I don’t know if I would actually try to convince them in a store. Maybe on Twitter I would. 😉 I’d probably point them to a friend’s book and be like buy that one. It’s awesome.