What inspired you to write Twigs?
Sometimes it only takes a name or one page to start a book. J.K. Rowling imagined a boy on a train, which led to—well, most of us know that famous character, don’t we? The name ‘Twigs’ and an image of a small young woman filled my head, perhaps inspired from revising my first picture book This Tree Counts! I do love trees and contribute a portion of my book sales to AmericanForests.org, but Twigs refers to a nickname about my main character’s appearance at birth. So, from that inspiration I wrote a page—just one page of Twigs working at her ho-hum job. It was enough to hook me on this character and after “pantsing” through half of the book, I wrote a rough outline of where Twigs’ journey would lead her. I’d never compare myself to J.K. Rowling, but from interviews I’ve read or seen, she couldn’t get Harry out of her head once that first image came to her. I felt the same pull from my title character, too.
What does this tag line mean?
One pint-sized girl. Ten supersized crises. And it’s high noon.
Twigs is not a western like the classic film High Noon, but there is that common element of being pushed to the brink, that we’ve all felt, and facing an intense situation that might take your life in a new direction.
Here’s a bit more of the jacket copy from Merit Press:
They call her “Twigs,” because she’ll never hit five feet tall. Although she was born early, and a stiff breeze could knock her over, Twigs has a mighty spirit. She needs it, as life throws a whole bucket of rotten luck at her…
(visit www.alisonashleyformento.com to see the full jacket copy)
This is what I sent my awesome agent, Courtney Miller-Callihan in my original query for this novel: Just like her name, Twigs is small and sometimes brittle, and this first year at the local “loser” community college may break her right in two. With her brother missing in action in Iraq, Twigs’ long-time-gone dad reappears, but won’t even talk to her. She leaves home and her Arkansas hometown in search of some answers, but life’s freak factor ramps up to uncontrollable when her mom reveals the real reason her dad left. Twigs will have to count on some unlikely friends—a hair-dye flinging scorned woman, a neighbour who noses into everyone’s life, and a loudmouth college DJ—to help her learn to bend without breaking.
Why YA as opposed to some other genre?
For me, the answer is a question—why not multiple genres? I love to read in several genres and that echoes in my writing, too. I’ve been fortunate enough to write for several national magazines and newspapers. I’ve had short stories and poetry published, as well as my award-winning nature picture book series published by Albert Whitman & Company. I’ll continue to read and write in multiple genres because it keeps the creative process fresh for me. I love reading YA and I value the variety and quality of writing in new books out lately, especially those I’ve read by my fellow Merit Press authors. I’m most inspired by authors who publish great books in multiple genres, such as my Merit Press editor and New York Times Bestseller, Jacquelyn Mitchard. I think any way I can creatively challenge myself will help boost my writing skills and, hopefully, lead to more published books.
You can learn more about Alison from her website and follow Twigs news by liking her Facebook page.