#17DABash interview with the author, Diana Gallagher and a chance to win a free signed copy of the book. Comment on this blog post to be entered in the raffle! “Lessons in Falling” is a beautifully written contemporary YA book. Before we meet Savannah, she’s suffered a career-ending gymnastics injury. The book takes us through her senior year as she faces challenges in the aftermath of her injury, with her best friend Cassie, and Marcos, a boy from school who shows her a different type of life challenges. I highly recommend this book!
Q. In Lesson in Falling you have three storylines braided together: the friendship between the two girls, the relationship with Marcos, and the challenge of overcoming injury and going back to gymnastics. Where did the idea for the story?
A. The story began as an assignment for a graduate workshop in writing the YA novel. In fact, the first chapter is very similar to its initial draft: a girl who fails her driver’s test for the umpteenth time and takes matters into her own hands. Although I only had one chapter written for the workshop, I already knew Savannah was a gymnast and had a best friend named Cassie.
Q. How much of Savannah’s gymnastics experience is based on your own? Did you have a serious injury?
A. Savannah is a much better gymnast than I was, but we do have several elements in common: we both preferred floor exercise over uneven bars, we both pursued college gymnastics, and we shared the same injury that took Savannah out of gymnastics. Tearing my ACL was a pivotal moment in my athletic career; while I reacted quite differently than Savannah initially does, it was a valuable lesson in perseverance, patience, and fighting my way back due to pure love of the sport.
Q. How much research went into the racial part of the book? Was that a theme you wanted to tackle when you began writing or did it become bigger as you revised?
A. I researched extensively as I pursued the racial portion of the novel. From the outset, it evolved as an organic part of the story due to the prevalence of the real-life issues facing the area the book is based in. At the time I began writing, a federal investigation was launched into the hate crime death of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant, in a nearby town. Because I chose to set the story on the East End of Long Island, NY, it was impossible to ignore the contrast between the ostentatious mansions by the ocean and the migrant workers standing on the side of the road each morning, waiting for work.
Q. The issue of suicide is touched on with Cassie, but not fully dealt with. Do you feel that books like Thirteen Reasons Why are exploring the topic or exploiting it?
A. I think works like Thirteen Reasons Why open up the opportunity for conversations between parents, school administrators, counselors, and teens to deal with real issues faced by teens.
Q. Did you have any personal or cultural inspiration for the relationship between Savannah and her parents, especially her father?
A. The original draft of the novel featured a subplot with Savannah and her mother, but I ended up cutting it after the book sold. It’s fair to say that while my teenage relationship with my father was not nearly as antagonistic as Savannah’s is with her dad, my dad has always been a huge champion of my athletic and artistic pursuits!
If Lessons in Falling is made into a movie, who do you envision in the lead roles?
Q. What can your readers look forward to from you next?
You can find me contributing humorous essays to websites like The Gymternet. In the meantime, I’m continuing to write more YA novels with sporty protagonists in complicated situations!
Comment on this post by Midnight 12/27/17 Mountain Time to be entered to win a signed copy of “Lesson in Falling.”