Author: Tonya Fitzharris
Publication Date: September 1, 2012
Now she has precisely six seconds until she hits the water below her—just six more seconds until she is finally freed from her mundane and aimless existence. Freed of all of the regrets and disappointments that have haunted her throughout her nineteen years.
She just needs to be free.
But as she falls, the most pivotal points of her life start to replay like a movie in her head: her family falling apart, her first love, her first heartbreak, her first true friends, and her first betrayal. As she remembers these moments that brought her to this point, will she feel a sense of peace? Or will her death be her greatest regret?
1. Tell us a little about yourself.
Well, let’s see. I’m a Scorpio, which means that I have a very depressing birthday coming up in a few weeks (think of a depressing age. You probably guessed correctly). I was born in Upstate NY but raised mostly in Central Florida. I went to Florida State University (Go Noles!) and worked as a Middle School English Teacher for four years before moving to Philadelphia, where I went to grad school at The University of Pennsylvania (Go Quakers!). I’ve been married for three years (on the 24th!) and JUST moved home (as in yesterday) from a 2 ½ year stint living abroad in Belgium and Germany with my husband (We were there for his job. He’s a super smart computer engineer. Think of Penny and Leonard on Big Bang Theory. That pretty much summarizes our relationship). We’re starting to settle down in our new home in Central New Jersey (where we will hopefully stay for at least a few years).
2. What inspired you to venture into the world of published writing?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer, so it was just a question of when I would try it. I dabbled in high school, took a few creative writing classes in college (I was an English Education major), but never really felt that it came easily. After college and about a year into teaching, I really wanted to go back and get my MFA, but again, I just didn’t have the drive to actually sit and do it yet. I think I needed some time to really grow up and experience life before I was ready. Right around the time I got married, I finally signed up for a writing class and started what would become my first manuscript (which will never see the light of day). But when the opportunity came up for us to move abroad and give me the chance to focus 100% of my time on my writing, it really took off. I think I really needed to be secure and happy with myself before I was ready to explore that part of me.
3. Describe your writing 'space'.
All of my writing was done at a little white Ikea desk that was pushed up against a huge window overlooking Belgium. It was nice. Now I need to be on the lookout for a similar sanctuary while we look at potential houses!
4. Which writer(s), dead or alive, do you highly esteem?
Laurie Halse Anderson has been my favorite author since she released Speak back in 1999. I read it as part of my program in college and it really re-awakened my love for young adult literature. Speak has been challenged multiple times because of its content, but she always handles those situations with grace and stands behind her books no matter what. She even counteracted with a video in which she read fan letters to from teenage girls about Speak and the impact it had with them. I hope to someday be as wonderful of an author as she is and create a novel that has as much impact as Speak does.
5. What has been your favorite read this year?
Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard. I read her debut, Like Mandarin last year and fell in love with her writing style. And I’m a sucker for great stories about post-high school kids trying to make their way on their own—especially if it includes some great travel. My other novel is set in another country and whenever I have a tough time writing vivid descriptions about settings, I look to Wanderlove for help.
On 6 Seconds of Life
6. How did you come upon the idea for 6 Seconds of Life?
It was actually inspired by a real suicide that happened while I was in college—I delve into the story with much more detail on my website. That girl that killed herself without ever sharing why has haunted me since that day, and I knew I wanted to share that story someday. I was finally ready to put it together this year.
7. What was your favorite aspect of writing this novel?
It was definitely a challenge to write such an emotion-driven story, and I really enjoyed trying to find that part of me, even if I’ve never been to the point of despair that Maura was. I think the great part about being a writer is taking the chance to really put yourself in someone else’s shoes and experience life from their perspective.
8. Why did you choose to write this genre?
Contemporary young adult has always been my favorite. I’m still fifteen at heart, and I feel as though I’m always going through the same emotional turmoil. I also find contemporary stories about real people to be almost therapeutic—it can be a way to help explore some of my own issues through another voice. And when I started to write my own stories, the voice was always that of a young college girl—which is why I’m so happy that New Adult is finally starting to take shape and give stories like this a home.
9. Describe 6 Seconds of Life using four words.
Love. Loss. Loneliness. Longing.
(No, I didn’t set out to make it an L-themed set of words. But I couldn’t just have three L words and one non-L word…)
10. On your site, you mention that you are a "perfectionist", how has this affected your writing of 6 Seconds of Life?
It made me doubt myself every time I put my pen down and proclaimed “it’s done.” I would take a day to think about that one scene, and get an idea of how to fix it, which would cause me to re-read through and find yet ANOTHER scene that I should fix…it’s a vicious cycle. I think it’s even worse being self-published, because the book is still mine and if I feel the urge to want to change something, I can. I’ve done pretty well though at leaving it alone and just letting it be out in the world. It’s tough for me to ever feel 100% done with a story.
11. Does Waffles ever distract you from your writing?
Actually, when she wants attention, she can be quite demanding. There are many instances where she will simply jump up on my desk and plop down right in between me and my laptop, preventing me from reaching the keys or even seeing the screen. She’s cute though, so I usually work around her.
12. Do you have any message for the readers?
I hope that everyone who takes the time to read 6 Seconds of Life can find something to take away from it. If you’ve gone through some of the same things as Maura, I hope you find solace in learning that you’re not alone. If you know someone who may be feeling the way she did, I hope you will find the strength to reach out. And if this story can help just one person get through a tough spot, it’s all worth it to me.
Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog!
It was a pleasure to interview you Tonya!
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