Starting in the 1950s but time-traveling through a parallel universe to the 21st century, my “Fifties Chix” series chronicles the adventures of five diverse girls – each having her own talisman and special talent needed to navigate in the new 21st-century world to find a way back home. Friendship, romance, mystery, fantasy and a bit of history mix together in this series for young teen girls.
The series’ first book, Travel to Tomorrow, is the start of the time-travel story about five mismatched high school classmates whose lives change forever after receiving an assignment from their teacher, Miss Boggs, asking them to predict what life will be like 55 years into the future. The morning after they are given the assignment, tomboy Beverly, studious Mary, artistic Ann, moody Maxine and high-spirited Judy find themselves transplanted a half a century into the future. Once they discover what the future holds, they wonder if they even want to go back home.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always loved to tell stories, whether it’s through words or through painting and drawing. I was inspired to write the Fifties Chix series after first drawing the five different characters–one girl obsessed with Hollywood and the movies, one girl who is a tomboy who loves sports, another who is a homemaker who enjoys sewing and cooking, one girl who is concerned about social issues and a girl who is very artistic and loves to paint. I imagined how they would act and what they would think–and even how others would perceive them–if they were to be dropped right in present day straight from the 1950s.
Why did you select the 50s to write about?
The 1950s is considered by many to be a “golden era” in America that will never be seen again. America had come out of World War II and The Great Depression and people were starting to find success and prosperity. It was a time of hope and dreams. In many ways, there was a picture perfect image of the American Dream being lived out. At the same time, there were many issues like women’s rights and racial equality that were coming to a head. I thought it would be interesting to compare and contrast the 50s with present day because we all want to fit in–and the 1950s was so much about conformity; and we also all value individuality and uniqueness–which is such a focus today. I thought it would be fun to see how these characters in the Fifties Chix went on a quest to find their place within themselves, with each other as friends, and in society.
Who is the perfect reader for your book?
My ideal reader for the Fifties Chix series is a middle school girl who craves adventure, is intrigued by history and treasures the relationships in her life. She has an active imagination, wants to do the right thing, but has a rebellious streak at the same time. She doesn’t like to be told what to do because she wants to figure it out for herself. She tries to remember to value people for who they are on the inside, even thought the world is constantly shoving superficial standards at her. She wants to make a positive difference in the world, but she also just wants to day dream and have fun letting her mind meander!
Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?
I’m currently working on the third book in the Fifties Chix series (“Third Time’s a Charm”) and without giving too much away, I’ll just say that three characters time travel to the Civil War era. I am having so much fun researching the 1860s! I never knew I would be getting such an education writing this series. I’m working on two other books (both first of series; my husband’s refrain is, “Can’t you just write a single title??” But I can’t help it, I love to read series, so I love to write series!). The second Fifties Chix book, “Keeping Secrets” is due out at the beginning of 2012.
Tell us something about yourself.
I’ve always loved creative writing. I used to entertain myself by writing stories and drawing pictures. I just came across a school assignment from third grade with vocabulary words. I used each word in a sentence and as a “bonus” illustrated every sentence. I did that constantly–I loved to create scenes (in more ways than one!). I looked to be a creative writing major in college, but got sidetracked with art and theater. Ironically, it was while working in the art gallery that I owned with my husband that I started writing stories based on characters I would sketch. It all came full circle!
My writing continues to take on new meaning for me; while it’s thoroughly enjoyable, it is also the vehicle for what I am passionate about. For example, I am heartened by the growing movement which is a rebellion against the superficial and hyper-sexualized portrayal of girls and women in the media. I am passionate about this cause that “redefines girlhood” and I champion “Good Books x Strong Girls” on my blog and in my books. So while I write fiction (that is fun and uplifting), I write with the intention of creating strong female characters that offer an alternative to the often discouraging and demoralizing portrayal of girls and women.
What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?
When I first started writing the first Fifties Chix book, I didn’t think too much about how I would publish it; like all of my writing projects, I’m compelled to write them because I love the concepts and characters. The further I got along in writing the story, though, the more I wanted to share it. I realized the quickest way to get it out to most people was to publish it on a blog. My husband set up a website using images of the Fifties Chix characters that I had sketched when first conceiving the concept. People subscribed to the blog posts and I posted sections of the story as I wrote them and included diary entries of the characters, which continues to be an integral part of the story. It was satisfying to immediately start building a community around the Fifties Chix by publishing to the web; the downside was that the posts weren’t professionally edited like my books are now! I try not to think about that aspect too much because it makes me cringe. I guess it wasn’t that bad because the original readers are still fans!
Do you have any writing rituals?
When I’m writing I can’t listen to music at all. Background noise is OK, but if there’s music, I’ll get too easily distracted. I also have to be chewing something. Unfortunately, sometimes my fingernails take the brunt of this, which is why having either gum or sunflower seeds on hand is essential! It’s taken me years to figure out (and not feel guilty) that my best time for writing is in the afternoon. No matter how early I get up in the morning, I just can’t get in a good writing zone until 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I’ve finally given up fighting it and now can have very productive writing sessions (followed usually by a late dinner which is cooked and served by my husband if I’m on a really good jag).
What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?
I’m always thrilled to meet someone who says they are working on writing or publishing a book and I get emails constantly asking for advice, which I am happy to give. The publishing industry is undergoing huge changes right now and I forever remind myself and others that this means there are more opportunities than ever. A writer who is working to get published should be like a tree, rooted and grounded in the love of their writing, strong and always reaching out, but flexible when the big storms (rejection, unforeseen obstacles, etc) come. My mantra is “Keep going!” Though, I guess if we’re talking about being a tree, “Keep growing!” is more accurate! My favorite advice, which you hear from authors time and again, is to write what you want to read. I think this is really important because then you’re being authentic and continually refining your voice and message. When your writing is coming from a place of love, you’re assured of success.
Where can readers learn more about you and your book?
The Fifties Chix website at www.FiftiesChix.com has information about the characters in the series, an active fan club and even fun facts about the 1950s, including slang terms. Because I’m a word nerd, there’s also a wiki with supplemental ideas for learning, games, even cooking and entertaining: www.fiftieschix.wikispaces.com I blog regularly about things close to my heart: “Good Books x Strong Girls,” the writing and publishing process, creativity, and observations about life in general. I also have a very extensive FAQ page (with links to my popular ehow publishing videos) available for a resource for writers who are looking to be published or are just getting started with their book projects at www.AngelaSageLarsen.com. On Twitter: @AngLarsen and @50sChix. On Facebook: facebook.com/FiftiesChix