Please welcome Linda Oatman High with an Interview all about her new release December !!
It’s All About the Book…
Please tell us about your current or upcoming release. (Title & Blurb)
DECEMBER is a cautionary tale, a dark young adult novel about a new girl in town who gets drawn into a dark vortex of violence. Lake Millay has hopes and dreams . . . until she moves to Lancaster County, PA, and makes friends with the wrong people.
What is this book’s genre? Is this the genre you usually write in? Are there any genre’s you haven’t written that you’d like to try?
DECEMBER is realistic fiction/drama, which is the genre in which I usually write. I’d like to try my hand at a mystery one day, along the lines of “Gone Girl” or “The Girl on the Train”
What inspired you to write this book?
The bullying/stalking murder of my cousin’s 16-year-old daughter Laurie Show, which happened in December of 1991 in Lancaster County, PA. Laurie was stalked and bullied for months before she was killed by three teens.
How did you pick its title? Did it come first or did you have to write the story first?
The title came easily. Laurie was killed on December 20th, 5 days before Christmas, and the cold dark of December always makes me think of her. I can’t hear the first Christmas song of the season or see a lighted tree without being flooded with grief for my cousin Hazel, Laurie’s mother. December has never been the same since 1991.
How did you create your characters? Did you use any real life people in their making?
I created my characters from my feelings about the real crime that took Laurie’s life. They are fictional, but based upon a true crime. In creating the protagonist Lake Millay, I wanted to be sure to make her a sympathetic and likeable character, which was a challenge. Also challenging was writing about the killers, Brit and Seth, who come across as pretty evil in the book. That was unavoidable, I think, because of my own connection to the story and my still-strong emotions. In the end, I believe that writing the story turned out to be a lesson in forgiveness for me.
Who is your favorite character of this book and why?
My favorite character is Holly McGinnis, who is based upon Laurie Show. She is love and light and all that’s good.
What is your favorite part of this book? Can you share an excerpt from that part?
My favorite part of DECEMBER is probably near the end, when Lake has been in prison for 20 years and she is reflecting upon her life.
There are things I especially like to remember: the old silver gazing globe, flowers exploding in blooms of color, the clanking of wind chimes, trees in breeze, driving, petting dogs and cats, Jesus bugs walking on water, the clucking of chickens, bird song. Picking cherries, mowing grass, swimming in the cool creek, catching fireflies and lettting them loose again. Setting them free. These are the good memories.
I open The Life Book of Lake Millay, and there’s the flower that Brit gave me on the day we met. If only I could have known when she handed me the red flower that it was the beginning of the downfall of the almost-once-normal life of Lake Amanda Millay, things might have been different. I wish that gazing globe had been a crystal ball showing me the future. This future.
I take out that dried flower, now brown, and I remember how it was once bright-red and fragrant. I lift the flower to my nose, and of course it has no smell.
When the wind blows just right, in the spring and summertime, I can smell flowers. When I get out of here – if I get out of here – I’m going to plant flowers in honor of Holly. Yellow, the color of hope. I’ll plant some yellow flowers and I’ll get some ducks and a dog and I’ll live my life, because that’s what people do . . . if they’re lucky.
I crumble the dried-up flower from Brit between my fingers, turning it to dust on the floor of this frigid cell. I’m 37, and it’s December . . . again.
What was the hardest part of this book to write? Can you share an excerpt from that part?
The book opens with the murder scene, which is very much as it really happened. It was the hardest part to write, and I literally felt physically ill while doing so.
Brit has a knife. A knife, not scissors but a knife, a sharp knife, a long knife, silver and black-handled, pointy and hard in her red-nailed hand, and holy shit, Brit has a freaking knife flashing out of that backpack she carried in to Holly’s house when we pushed through the door and into this house and pinned Holly to her bedroom floor. I thought we were coming here just to cut her hair, to chop Holly’s shiny red hair that’s still wet from her morning shower and smells like shampoo, but Brit has a knife, a knife, her knuckles are white. Seth is trying to hold Holly’s ankles but Holly kicks hard and she’s fighting and kicking and beside Seth Brit is screaming. I’m pregnant, hold her legs, she’s kicking my stomach. Seth’s pressing his whole body against Holly’s legs, her kicking legs in pink flannel pajamas. His head is bent, and his earring – a silver cross – falls out and it’s on Holly. Hold her head her arms she screams at me, and Brit leans forward with the knife and her eyes are wild weird crazy blue, wide, and there’s spit on her lips and it drips and I’m frozen, so frozen. I scream STOP but it’s inside my mind and it won’t come out and my throat and my heart and my skin melt melt melt and I’m numb and I wonder is this really happening is this real or is it a dream and how can this be. Get her head Brit screams again and I can’t move but I do I do and I get Holly’s head and there’s blood.
Did you have any special rhythm or quirks while writing this?
DECEMBER was my creative thesis at Vermont College of Fine Arts, so my rhythm was that of the semesters of earning my MFA in Writing. I’m quirky all the time (so my family would tell you), so there are no special “writing quirks” that I can share.
v Is this a stand-alone book or is it part of a series? If so, we want to hear about it and what’s next in the series. If not a series, what comes next to be released? DECEMBER is a stand-alone book. It was difficult to dive back into the memories and emotions of Laurie Show’s death, and I would not want to write a sequel. The story is over; Laurie’s life on earth ended with the crime of December 20th, 1991, and my goal in writing the story was to prevent bullying/stalking from happening to other teens. It is indeed a cautionary tale, without a typical plot arc or happy ending.
* * * * *
Linda Oatman High
Contemporary YA Romance/Bullying, 54k
Lake Millay has goals, hopes, and dreams...until she moves to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and becomes ensnared in a vortex of violence.
Bullying and stalking become Lake’s life, and ultimately the destroyer of her dreams.
A cautionary tale based on the true story of Laurie Show, murdered by three teens in 1991.
“This gazing globe’s really old, like from the 1800s. People believed that a witch couldn’t sneak up on you when you were looking into the dome.” The voice comes from nowhere and from everywhere, and an electric bolt of fear buzzes through my body. My heart thunders, filling my chest and ears. I’m dizzy, numb with shock, not able to move.
Then a face appears––a face––blurring and blending into my own in the rounded silver of the globe. I scream, filling my body and my heart and my ears, and I leap and fall backwards, banging hard into flesh and bone: a person.
I scream again and fall on my knees in the mud.
“Man. You’re jumpy. Sorry if I scared you.”
It’s a girl, just a scrawny anorexic-looking girl, about my age, fair-haired and pale, with fake-looking cobalt-colored eyes. She’s one of those girls with an upturned little nose and perfect teeth. Flawless complexion. Makeup. Teeny-weeny, clean white shorts. Tanned cheerleaderish legs.
I gasp, trying to catch my breath.
“You scared the crap out of me.”
“Man, you scare easy.” Knuckles on hips, she cocks her head to the side, pale hair falling over those bright blue eyes.
I press my hand to my heart. Puke climbs up my throat, and then slides back down again.
“What are you so jumpy about? There’s nothing to be scared of around here. Not like it’s an epicenter for crime.”
There are definitely shades of cheerleader in this girl, yet none of that high-pitched perkiness. Clouds of sadness seem to be leaking from her eyes and her smile and her voice, despite the faultless exterior. A tiny diamond-like chip glints on her nose.
“We don’t even lock our doors around here,” she says.
I heave myself to a standing position. My heart’s still racing in a marathon of terror.
“What did you think I was?” the girl asks and I shrug.
“A wacko. Weirdo. Murderer. You never know.”
She barks out a laugh.
“All of the above,” she says. “You better run.”
I try to smile.
“Here,” she says, reaching down to pluck a flower. “Peace offering.” She holds a red-nailed hand toward me––her thumb and finger, daintily holding the stem of the red flower.
I take it. Our fingers graze.
“Servants also used these gazing globes to be sneaky and watch their bosses,” the girl says. “Pretty far-out, huh?”
I’m still shaking, but I nod.
“Cool shirt. I can tell that you’re not from around here.”
I look down, suddenly super-aware I’m about fifty pounds bigger than this chick. This makes me irritable, and I shove the red flower into the pocket of my shorts.
“What are you doing here, anyway?” I ask. “Don’t they have laws about trespassing around here?”
“Just checking out the new neighbors,” she says with a shrug of bony shoulders. Her voice is like cornhusk: raspy and rough.
“Where’d you come from?”
“Over there.” She points with her sharp little chin. “Through the field and to the left. When the corn’s down in the winter, you can actually see our place.”
“I’m Brit Dannon,” she says. “Brit with one T, not two. You’re the new preacher’s kid, I presume? Got any pot?”
“What?” I almost laugh.
“Got any weed?”
“No, I . . . don’t smoke.”
“Man. You really aren’t from around here. What’s your name, anyway?”
“Lake Millay.” There’s a final feeble clank of thunder, like beaters in an empty metal bowl, and then the sun comes out, shining. Brit Dannon seems to shimmer: shiny hair and makeup and nails and that perfect-girl sparkly shirt, with sequins spelling out the word Princess.
“Welcome to Badger Gap, Lake Millay,” she says. “The Center of the Universe! The most happenin’ location on the planet! The place that’s going to freaking change your life!”
About the Author:
Linda Oatman High is an author/journalist/playwright who lives in Lancaster County, PA. She’s published more than 20 books for children and teens, and her books have won many awards and honors, including VOYA (Voice of Youth Advocates) “Perfect Ten” awards. Linda also writes for adults, and her short story NICKEL MINES HARDWARE, based upon the Amish school shootings of 2006, was honored in England in 2012 with the Sunday Times EFG Short Story award shortlist. Linda holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and she presents at schools from K-college both nationally and internationally.
Giveaway: $10 Evernight Teen Gift Certificate and 1 Signed Print Copy