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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

ℚ♫ The Girl Who Flew Away - Val Muller

Today we have the pleasure of meeting up with author to talk about The Girl Who Flew Away (, Barking Rain Press, 178 pages), a Young Adult Literary Fiction novel.

Val Muller is also the author of The Scarred Letter, a young adult reboot of Nathanial Hawthorne’s original novel; her reboot has been called “a powerful book.”

In her young adult works, Muller (who is a high school teacher in the US) has been praised for her accurate portrayal of high school students: “Muller has done an excellent job drawing three-dimensional characters who look, act, and feel like high school students.”

She also writes a mystery series for younger children, Corgi Capers.


|| The Girl Who Flew Away || The Man With the Crystal Ankh || Author Q&A || About the Author || Giveaway & Tour Stops||


A very warm welcome to Val Muller; thank you for joining us on BooksChatter!

Here at BooksChatter we love music; do you have a music playlist that you used in The Girl Who Flew Away, or which inspired you whilst you were writing it?

"When I write, I have to listen to music that is instrumental or whose lyrics are not too distracting. To that end, I enjoy Lindsey Stirling’s album “Crystallize,” Pink Floyd’s “The Endless River” (instrumental, mostly), and Erutan’s “Court of Leaves” (instrumental)."
What was the inspiration for The Girl Who Flew Away?
      "I’ve always felt fortunate to be relatively sheltered, meaning even though I didn’t grow up having everything I wanted, I had what I think is important: a stable home, consistent food on the table, and a safe place to read/do homework/learn/grow.

      As a teacher, I’ve been exposed to students who don’t have that. One of the reasons I read is to realize I am not alone—that the conflicts I confront and thoughts I have are constant in the human experience.
       I wanted to create a book that others could relate to, especially those struggling with  something seriously life-changing while trying to continue with ordinary life.

      In my county—and across the United States—heroin abuse has become a major problem. It’s such a terrible addiction because it truly does take over, and it seems I see an article about an accidental heroin-related death on a weekly basis, without even trying to find one.


       One of the problems main character Steffie confronts is the effects of heroin abuse on family members of the victim. I realize that any kind of addiction is hard on the person addicted, but I also see too often as a teacher the quiet suffering of those who see their loved ones struggle with the addiction, those who try to help but don’t know how, and those who are left with an empty spot in their life as a loved one fills time with their addition instead of family. I wanted to share one perspective on this through Steffie."
How much of yourself is reflected in this book, and how?
      "I think it’s impossible to write something that isn’t at least partly true. To that end, everyone in the novel is either a tiny sliver of me or a piece of someone I know or have known.

      Steffie and her neighbor don’t quite fit in with other girls their age. Seeing other girls, they feel pressured to grow up too fast. But when they think about conforming, they are pretending to be something they are not.
      When I was young—only ten, eleven, maybe twelve—my grandmother asked me if I still played with toys. When I told her I did, she made some kind of comment—I don’t remember the words, exactly—but something to the effect of her being shocked that I still played with toys and wondering when I was going to start kissing boys. I remember having the thought: ten years? Is that all we get? Ten years to think and play and use our imaginations before we have to “solidify” into an identity?
      Growing up, I never felt truly free enough to be 100% myself. I always felt that pull to conform. I hope in writing this novel to share the idea that being “you” is okay.

      There are other, smaller, parts of the novel that reflect my experiences as well. Some of the teachers and administrators at the school are inspired by real people I’ve met over the years in various schools I attended.
      One of the characters, Ian, is based on my love of drawing. Trying to avoid the cliché of the “Starving Artist,” I didn’t take that many art classes—but I do have a talent for drawing and wish I had fostered it the way Ian does in the story. (I know—there is always time!)"
The first thing that draws me to a book is its cover. Can you tell us about your cover for The Girl Who Flew Away - why you chose that concept and who the artist is.
      "This novel is literary fiction, so I wanted the cover to reflect some of the symbols contained within.
      The dragonfly is a symbol on the jewelry that both Steffie (the protagonist) and her mother wear. It also appears as an insect several times in the novel.
      The novel is about Steffie’s journey—both an internal and external one. The woods in the background of the cover play a role in her growth—they are both the site of her guilt and the chance for her redemption. Her bike is the only thing she has that allows her to find the independence to confront herself. The green color resonates with me because there is so much growth in the novel—it’s symbolic.

      Incidentally, long after the cover was designed, I happened upon this blog post by the artist, Stephanie Flint: Behind the Scenes – The Girl Who Flew Away. It details a “behind the scenes” view of how she worked with me and my publisher to design the cover. And to Stephanie’s credit, this is my favorite book cover of all my books!"
Can you tell us something quirky about The Girl Who Flew Away, its story and characters?
      "Sally. This is the name of a character in the novel. I chose the name because it’s my sister’s middle name—a name I chose when I was not even three years old. She was never quite fond of it, but when I was a kid, everything I owned was named “Sally.” My horse. My doll. I have no idea why the name stuck to me. It’s sort of an ongoing joke. When my daughter was born, my sister jokingly asked if she could pick the middle name as a sort of pay-back. I said no!"
Who would you recommend The Girl Who Flew Away to and what should readers be aware of (any warnings or disclaimers)?
      "I would recommend the book to readers ages 13 through 18, though older readers could certainly benefit from the teenage perspective (as a teacher, I enjoy reading books for young adults because it reminds me what my students are dealing with and how they are thinking).

      My publisher made sure the book would be appropriate for American schools, so there isn’t a lot to warn about. There is drug use discussed but never done by the characters: it’s more about the ramifications of drug use on the family of the abuser.
      It’s a book that mixes adventure and personal growth, a poignant page turner that wraps secret within secret."
If you could / wished to turn The Girl Who Flew Away into a movie, who would be your dream team?
      "You said dream, so: Maisie Williams would play the main character, Steffie. I love her range of characters, and I think she could appropriately show Steffie’s growth.

      Guillermo del Toro would be the director. I enjoyed his work in Pan’s Labyrinth. I think he could truly capture the balance of the physical details of the natural world Steffie encounters in a symbolic way as it applies to the emotional struggles she encounters in the real world and the guilt she feels in her dreams."

What do you like to write and read about? Do you stick to a particular genre or do you like to explore different ones?
      "When I first started writing, I was warned to stick to one genre, and I’m glad I didn’t listen.

      My first series written was Corgi Capers (it’s still ongoing; I’m working on book 4 now). But I didn’t want to dig myself into a hole and only be known for one type of writing.



      My father-in-law read the first book in the Corgi Capers series and identified a particular passage, in which the main character is walking down a darkened street at night, and told me it was one of the most beautiful things he’d ever read. He told me that if he’d had such books when he was in school, he would have actually enjoyed reading. That meant so much to me. But it also reminded me that I have a talent writing about things that are slightly dark.
      From the “fun” spookiness of Corgi Capers to the darkness of human nature in The Scarred Letter, I guess you could say all of my works have at least a small element of darkness. But they range from works for kids to young adult to adult.
      I have an idea for a semi-apocalyptic thriller and one for a middle-grade steampunk novel. I love not limiting myself to genres as a writer—and as a reader as well. The one genre I truly don’t prefer are hardboiled detective and hard-core mystery novels. I guess you could say I prefer a bit of Romanticism in what I read and write."
What is your writing process?
       "I write by hand, mostly. There’s something about having a pen on paper that makes my brain work more creatively. That said, sometimes I’m “on a roll” and simply can’t write fast enough. When this happens, I jump on a keyboard simply because I can type almost as fast as my brain can form the words (with a lot of typos, of course!).

      Once I handwrite the first draft, I go back and type it, making changes as I go. And from there: countless revisions before seeking beta readers and publishers."
What is in store next?
      "I have Corgi Capers book 4 outlined already. I have been putting it off because it takes place over the holidays, and there’s a big snowstorm. After going into labor during a historic blizzard and needing several snowploughs and rescue vehicles to be diverted to get me to the hospital, I am not looking forward to thinking about snow enough to write about—but I do promise to do it soon!"
And as a final quirky thing, to get to know you a little bit better... do you have a pet or something that is special to you that you could share with us?
      "I have two corgis—Leia and Yoda. They are the inspiration behind my kidlit series Corgi Capers. Yoda is afraid of too many things to mention, and Leia is rambunctious and always getting into trouble."
Hello Leila and Yoda! You are an absolutely gorgeous pair :-)
Lots of head scratches and belly rubs to you both from all of us at BooksChatter!
Thank you for sharing them with us :-)

"Thanks for having me!"

The Girl Who Flew Away
Available NOW!

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