Greetings from Sarah Sundin in California! Summer vacation is here for the young people in our lives—which means summer reading! So this is the perfect time to chat with author Heather L.L. Fitzgerald, who writes fantasy novels for young adults. She has a fascinating way of incorporating bits of her real life into her fantasy world.
Heather, tell us about your novel, The Genesis Tree (book 3 of The Tethered World Chronicles).
Deception is rampant, the enemy is subtle, and love dares to tug at Sadie’s heart amid the turmoil that forces her and her family back to the Tethered World below. Creatures from the Garden of Eden are in a battle of wits and might which may cost someone the ultimate price.
What is the primary focus of your book?
When I began The Tethered World, my first book of The Tethered World Chronicles, I wanted to take the “normal” things in my family’s life and write about them in a way that would allow others to relate. Although many readers may not homeschool, may not have a special needs or adopted child, or may not even be a Christian, most people have had all of those things cross their radar at some point—though probably not in a book. I wanted to show that our version of normal, though very different from many other versions, is still relatable and real. I did that by never actually focusing on them in the course of the story. That may sound counterintuitive but, honestly, I have no agenda in including any of those things beyond making one family’s uniqueness less peculiar to outsiders.
My main character, Sadie, happens to be homeschooled. She even pokes some tongue-in-cheek fun at the stereotypes. But beyond that, her schooling, her big family, and her autistic brother merely serve to color her character in much the same way as a divorce and remarriage might color a different teenager’s character in a different story. They’re a natural part of her world and we can learn from her family’s differences because God uses all kinds of people for His purposes.
What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
I hope that readers will see that their own story, their triumphs and trials, are part of something bigger. That the Lord can use us when we are weak and scared and confused. And that He never leaves us or forsakes us, no matter how dark and scary things get.
How has God used the message of your book in your own life?
Having a son with autism has certainly had its challenges. Including a character with autism and giving him a purpose because of his autism was a gift I gave myself and him. The older my son became, the fewer friends he had. In The Tethered World, Sadie’s brother Brock has an important role to play due to his unique and intuitive personality. Brock is destined to become High King of Vituvia, realm of the Gnomes. The Gnomes and other characters love and admire Brock. They are like the friends that my son has not had the pleasure of knowing (yet!).
What a gift for your son! How do you share Christ in your writing?
Although some genres may lend themselves to naturally sharing the gospel message, I think fantasy shares it best through the use of symbolism (and at times, allegory) much like a parable. The impossible situations that fantasy allows for give creative license to the epic grace and love of Christ’s sacrifice for us. I wanted to show faith in action and allow readers to see that this family is able to face their crisis because of their foundation. I strongly dislike preachy stories because they feel flat and unnatural. I’m thankful that readers have said the opposite about how I’ve treated faith in my books.
How has being a writer impacted your relationship with Christ?
If anything good comes from my writing, I know it is all Him! I’m a “pantser” (meaning I write by the seat of my pants) and have been blown away by all the ideas the Holy Spirit whispers to me in the midst of writing these stories. I’m not clever enough to think of all the twists and turns ahead of time (believe me, I’ve tried to outline to no avail), so I know these ideas are not my own. Writing with a tight deadline truly left me writing by faith and praying my way through each chapter. Though it may seem as if I should end up with a sloppy, patchwork story, that has not been the case. By God’s grace, He’s been very faithful to guide the complex layers and subplots into a cohesive adventure that readers have truly loved.
What would be your ideal writing place? And…what’s your actual writing place like?
My ideal writing place would be from a cozy, fire-lit room overlooking the Oregon coast (or Ireland, or Scotland, or…), with delicious coffee. I love the ocean and I love rain. A rocky, misty coast would be the most inspirational place for me.
Instead, I’m in landlocked Texas. I write at home most often but have a very colorful, eclectic house that inspires me wherever I may be sitting (still with delicious coffee). However, I try to write from a coffee house once a week and would do so more often if there wasn’t laundry and dinner and other responsibilities that call from home. I love the funky coffee shops that have popped up in Fort Worth the last few years. The atmosphere and quality brew make me hum along happily from behind my computer.
Coffee seems to be common muse for many writers! Heather, do you have an unfulfilled dream?
I have an unfulfilled writing dream, actually. After reading through The Chronicles of Narnia with my kids, I had a very exciting idea for a spin-off from one of the books. However, I knew I would need to establish myself as a writer before I could be taken seriously with such a project. I’m currently praying about whether or not the time is right to work on it in earnest. I have a good portion of it written, but it needs a complete overhaul as I was an absolute novice when I began the story, long before my published books.
Do you have a “day job” or a previous career? Does it influence what or how you write?
Since 2003 I’ve worked at a fine art school for homeschoolers. We have nearly one thousand students and teach everything from drama, speech, band, choir, and dance (and much more!). I’ve taught ballet there for the past fourteen years and just this past school year added a creative writing class. I love to choreograph for our recitals because dance is a story set to music. I’m so blessed to be able to tell stories both on stage and on paper!
What a fun outlet—and a fun way to give back! Heather, please tell us about your next project.
My next project is a novella that I’m entering into the Rooglewood fairytale retelling contest. This year, Rooglewood has selected Snow White for their book Five Poisoned Apples. I’m using the story of Esther as my basis for the rework of this classic tale—a creative challenge indeed. If the novella isn’t one of the five selected, I will make it available for free on my website after the new year.
That sounds like a fun story! Thanks for sharing with us, Heather!
To learn more about Heather and her novels, please visit Heather’s website.
Writing for Him,