Interview with Linda Garner

Sometimes abuse happens. To children. And when it does, it breaks the heart of those who love the child most.

There is a new book that helps parents teach small children how to protect themselves. It is a book you’ll want to find and get, if you have any small children in your home (or if you are a grandparent). The book is called, Some Secrets Hurt, and it was written by Linda Garner.

Linda spent a little bit of time with me, helping me understand more about her process in writing this book. I appreciate her time!

C.S.: Tell us a little bit about yourself (favorite flavor ice cream, vacation, etc). Or perhaps something no one knows yet.

LINDA: Favorite ice cream?  I had to give up ice cream and such when I found out I had diabetes.  Fortunately I love soups and salads and all kinds of fruits and vegetables.  I walk every day, usually 3 miles.  I am very much into health.  

 
I am a people person.  I think people are the greatest.  I love spending time with lots of different people.  I am very family oriented, and love spending time with my family.  I have twenty grandchildren and two great grandchildren.  Yes, it’s true, I have two great grandchildren.  I really am too young to have great grandchildren, but I do.  It’s a long story, so I’ll save it for another time, but if you ever want to hear it, I’ll tell.

My husband of 37 years is my best friend.  He is so good to me.  I hope you all have a best friend like mine. Years ago my mother coined the title Friend-Husband for my dad.  I always loved that title and now that Mom is gone and not using it anymore, I’m borrowing it.  I hope she doesn’t mind.

I like change and a touch of adventure.  I love music.  I sing and play the piano.  I like to do almost everything and wish I had could find time for all the things I love.  I can’t not write.  Writing makes me feel complete.  I love words.  I love the sound and the feel of words.  I love picture books and that is what I write most.
I really love children.  I think children are wonderful.  I guess that’s why I had seven of them.  I really enjoy teaching.  Since I love music and children and teaching, I found that teaching piano was a nice mix.  I have taught Suzuki Piano Lessons for about 26 years. 

C.S.: You’ve led a busy life. What kind of little girl were you? Did you enjoy books?

LINDA: I was pretty ordinary.  I liked school.  I took piano lessons and dance.  I had friends.  Books were the best.  I always had my nose in a book.  Every book was like a new friend. I adored the library.  We moved when I was in 4th grade and our new school had a library right in the school.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

C.S.: What was school like for you growing up? Shy? Outgoing?

LINDA:  I can remember both.  I can remember feeling shy and also being outgoing.  Mostly, I think, outgoing.  School was delightful for me.  I have always loved to learn and I have never been afraid to try new things. 

C.S.: When did you first think of being a writer?

LINDA: I used to make up stories in bed at night with my big sister.  She was a great storyteller and I learned from her to enjoy creating a story.  I wrote a poem in second grade that impressed my teacher.  She asked if anyone had helped me.  I answered yes, because I had trouble with one rhyme and Mom had supplied the word I needed.  The teacher looked disappointed.  I’m sure she was thinking that the poem wasn’t really my work, but it was.  Sometimes I still need help with rhymes, only now instead of Mom I use a rhyming dictionary.

In sixth grade we studied Romeo and Juliet.  That’s when I really decided to be a writer.  I was fascinated with Shakespeare, and I wanted to rewrite it in modern English with a modern setting. My mother discouraged me from taking on such a big project, so it never happened, but the seeds were planted, waiting for a chance to grow.

C.S.: Tell us about your new book. Who is it for? Why did you write it?

LINDA: My book is called Some Secrets Hurt and it is for everyone.The first question people usually ask about my book is “What age is it written for?”  My answer is always the same.  “What age is it not written for?”  This surprises most people because my book is a picture book and it is simple enough to be read aloud to young children.  

Indeed I hope that every young child has someone who will read it to them. However, Some Secrets Hurt is a story about sexual abuse and the message is so important and so powerful that everyone needs to read it.  Adults need this message.  Teenagers need this message. This message is for boys as well as girls. Every home needs a copy.

C.S.: What was the process like for you writing this? How did you go about it? 

LINDA: I had just watched a talk show on sexual abuse.  It was the Jane Pauley Show and she had interviewed two girls who had been sexually abused over a prolonged period of time.  I was troubled by their stories and I knew that many children experience this kind of abuse.  I was angry and I wanted to make a difference.  I picked up my pen and started to write.

C.S.: What kind of research did you need to do?

LINDA:  First, I just wrote from my heart.  I created a little girl named Maggie and let her tell her own story of abuse and healing.  Later I did some research to help me write the parents’ guide which is included in the book.  I also did some research on statistics and that sort of thing.  This was important so that I could talk intelligently about sexual abuse.

C.S.: Were there ever spots where you felt blocked while writing it? Or did it all just come in a rush?

LINDA:  It came in a rush.  I wrote the original story in an afternoon and I made very few changes as time went on.  This isn’t because of my great talent, but because the story came so clearly.  I knew it was inspired, and I knew it was a story that had to be told. 

C.S.: For those new to writing, will you share with us your revision process? What are your thoughts on the importance of polishing a manuscript before sending it to a publisher?

LINDA:  Since I write for children, I am always looking for a way to economize on words.  Of course I absolutely love words, but the fewer the better.  If I can find a shorter way to say something, that is the ideal.  If I can replace a word with a better one, I am happy.  If I can replace two words with one, or three words with one, then I am ecstatic.

When I write a picture book, I don’t have a whole chapter to set the stage.  I have to set the stage on page one. 

I always try my stories out on others.  My critique group is fabulous.  They give me great feedback.  If the story doesn’t resonate with them, I have to figure out what’s wrong.  I also love trying out my stories on my grandkids.  They love me, and they are always kind, but I can tell right away if something isn’t working.

Editors are very busy.  They are only going to give your manuscript one chance to impress them.  It would be silly to send off a manuscript that isn’t your very best work.

C.S.:  What did it feel like for you to finally hold this book in your hands?

LINDA:  It is amazing to hold this book in my hands and to know that it will soon be in the hands of parents, teachers, and children, making a difference.  I am honored to have the opportunity of representing children in a meaningful way.   It is a privilege to speak out on a topic that most people avoid and to create a tool that will empower children to take control of their own bodies. 

C.S.: The illustrations for the book are very touching. Tell us about this.
 

LINDA: When you write a picture book the pictures carry tremendous weight, so having the right illustrator is crucial.  A picture book writer is almost never involved in the selection of the illustrator.  Publishers have artists that they work with, and they choose the illustrator.  In most cases the author and publisher never meet and never collaborate. 

Soon after I wrote the text for Some Secrets Hurt, I met Brandilyn Speth, and discovered that she was an artist.  Though I had never seen her work, I knew that she was the right illustrator for my book.  I felt that we had been brought together for a reason.  I knew that having the book already illustrated would limit the publishers who would work with us, but it felt right.

Brandilyn was the right illustrator for my book.  She had a vision.  She has a love for this work.  When you read Some Secrets Hurt you will be drawn to the illustrations. They are sensitive and meaningful. Each page is a work of art and came from somewhere deep inside Brandilyn’s heart.   I am so thankful for Brandilyn and for the clarity she brought to Some Secrets Hurt.
 

C.S.: Has there ever been a point where you felt discouraged about this book? What did you do?

LINDA: Discouraged?  Who hasn’t been discouraged?  I have been discouraged often, but I have never been discouraged about this book.  I wrote the book quickly, but the process of having it illustrated and published was not quick.  However, I believed in Some Secrets Hurt and I trusted the process.  I believed that it would all come together when the time was right.

Discouragement is a part of life.  It helps us to make changes and to move forward.  It helps us recognize what is not working for us.  When I am discouraged I turn to my faith.  I have strong religious roots.  I recognize my Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ as my strength and my inspiration.  They are the center of my life.  When things get tough, I trust them to see me through.

C.S.: For your readers, what is one word of advice you’d like them to have?

LINDA:  I would ask them to stand up for kids.  I would ask them to become part of a caring community that works together to keep kids safe.  I would invite all adults to talk to the kids in their care about sexual abuse.  I would ask them to bring this topic out of the shadows and into the light, so that we can empower kids to take control of their own bodies.

C.S.: Thank you so much, Linda, for those words. Any other final thoughts of encouragement?

LINDA: Together, we can make a difference. 

C.S.: Thank you for your time, Linda. You have brought about a very important project and it has been a privilege to talk with you about it!

Linda Garner’s, Some Secrets Hurt, can be found at most Deseret Books, Seagull Books, and even the BYU Bookstore. You can order it online at amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, and borders.com.  Or if you want the book right away, you can also order online at my publisher, deseretbook.com.

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