Today we are chatting with Deb Caletti, author of The Epic Story of Every Living Thing!
Read on for more about her, the book, and a giveaway!
Meet Deb Caletti
Deb Caletti is the award-winning and critically acclaimed author of over sixteen books for adults and young adults, including Honey, Baby, Sweetheart, a finalist for the National Book Award; A Heart in a Body in the World, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book; Girl, Unframed; and One Great Lie. Her books have also won the Josette Frank Award for Fiction, the Washington State Book Award, and numerous other state awards and honors, and she was a finalist for the PEN USA Award. She lives with her family in Seattle.
About the Book: The Epic Story of Every Living Thing
From the award-winning author of A Heart in a Body in The World comes a gorgeous and fiercely feminist young adult novel. When a teen travels to Hawaii to track down her sperm donor father, she discovers the truth about him, about the sunken shipwreck that’s become his obsession, and most of all about herself.
Harper Proulx has lived her whole life with unanswered questions about her anonymous sperm donor father. She’s convinced that without knowing him, she can’t know herself. When a chance Instagram post connects Harper to a half sibling, that connection yields many more and ultimately leads Harper to uncover her father’s identity.
So, fresh from a painful breakup and still reeling with anxiety that reached a lifetime high during the pandemic, Harper joins her newfound half siblings on a voyage to Hawaii to face their father. The events of that summer, and the man they discover—a charismatic deep-sea diver obsessed with solving the mystery of a fragile sunken shipwreck—will force Harper to face some even bigger questions: Who is she? Is she her DNA, her experiences, her successes, her failures? Is she the things she loves—or the things she hates? Who she is in dark times? Who she might become after them?
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
In The Epic Story of Every Living Thing, Harper has an anonymous, sperm donor father who she’s sure holds the answers to her real self, one who is more real than the girl, girl, girl in the Instagram squares. She’s also a young woman who’s under pressure in a noisy, stressful world, just after the worst of the pandemic – pressure to achieve academically, to shine on social media, to succeed both now and in the future. She’s feeling pressure from a recent break-up, too, all of which feed her anxiety. Over the past few years, before the pandemic, I’d been thinking a lot about young people like Harper, especially young women, who are under such pressure from academics and expectations and social media and awful world events that are so much out of our control. So, during the pandemic? I was really thinking about them. I wanted to explore the big questions about identity and connection, family and love, and how we get through hard stuff. Who am I, and what matters? How do we survive the shocking and unforeseen things that happen? I also wanted to talk about anxiety again, now at an all-time high. I wanted to say, I hear you. Me too.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
Ooh, tricky. One of the other things I wanted to do was to write a very hopeful book, full of warm, funny, and good-hearted people. There are lots of them in Epic Story, from Harper’s boyfriend, Ezra (and his little terror of a baby brother, Binx), to Harper’s biological dad and grandma to the many characters in their community. If I had to choose, I would probably pick Harper’s half-brother Dario, and his dog, Walter, who, along with other half siblings Wyatt and Simone, accompany Harper to Hawaii to meet the charismatic deep-sea diver and bio dad, Beau Zane.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
The novel, always.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
I’m probably most proud of the scenes describing the effects that social media have on Harper. I did a lot of research about how harmful social media use can be on our self-esteem, particularly on the self-esteem of young women. I wanted to convey this, but also wanted to show how it feels – the confusion of looking at that person in the square and wondering who she is. The vulnerability of the being both too seen and unseen. The whirlwind of noise, where you see a plate of sushi, and a parrot, and then a tragedy. Noise that can sometimes seem to flatten your land and deaden your empathy. We are supposed to feel anxious when we use social media, it’s by design, so that we click and click. I think this is important to talk about.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you learned as a
writer from then to now?
To try, as hard as it is sometimes, to keep the focus on the work. That’s where the meaning is.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
EVERYTHING. I mean, look at it! It’s gorgeous.
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2022?
I just saw that Elizabeth Strout has a new novel releasing in late September, Lucy by the Sea. I love her gentle, wise prose.
YABC: What’s a book you’ve recently read and loved?
Booth, by Karen Joy Fowler, about the family of John Wilkes Booth. I loved Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, and this was completely different and utterly absorbing. It was fascinating to read about the historical parallels with today, something that always interests me.
YABC: What’s up next for you?
My next novel, The Last Unspoken Word, which is about a young woman who travels from Texas to Oregon in order to get an abortion, hearing the stories of many women along the way. It’s coming in 2023!
YABC: Which was the most difficult or emotional scene to narrate?
The most difficult or emotional scene in Epic Story was when harper takes the literal plunge beneath the surface, down under the ocean, and connects to something incredible: wonder.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
The most difficult character to write was one I hope readers will come to know, a character whose story intersects with Harper’s own: Mary Ann Patten. Mary was a true-life heroine, the first female captain of a ship. She navigated the huge clipper ship, Neptune’s Car, around the treacherous Cape Horn when she was only nineteen and pregnant, too. As I said, I love when we see how historical events are relevant today, and Mary, living in the late 1800’s during her own pandemic, had a story both relevant and inspiring. Writing anything with a true, historical elements, though, can add extra time, efforts, and energy in research alone. And with Mary – there was very little information about her. I don’t think very many people even know she existed.
YABC: What is the main message or lesson you would like your reader to remember from this
Several, actually. I wanted to say to young women, especially, that it’s a false story, the one you’ve been told, that you should be afraid all the time, and that you aren’t capable of handling hard stuff. I wanted to say that caring about everything is exhausting and impossible besides, but that your empathy is a pure and permanent thing, a cherished gift, a birthright. I wanted to say – you may look at yourself in all those squares, but there is only one you, the you yourself, a you with your own epic story, as every creature and human being who ever lived has an epic story. I wanted to say that knowing your full, true story, telling your full true story, living your full true story is the most basic right of every human being.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
There are many causes close to my heart. I care about all feminist causes, gun control, (which you may understand if you’ve read A Heart in a Body in the World), abortion rights, protecting both our environment and the rights of all people. There’s a lot to worry about right now.
YABC: What advice do you have for new writers?
Remember that your own honest voice is your true power.
YABC: Is there anything that you would like to add?
Just… Thank you, friends, for reading The Epic Story of Every Living Thing.
Book’s Title: The Epic Story of Every Living Thing
Author: Deb Caletti
Release Date: September 13, 2022
Publisher: Labyrinth Road
Genre: YA Contemporary
Age Range: 14 and up
Three (3) winners will receive a copy of The Epic Story of Every Living Thing (Deb Caletti) ~US/CAN ONLY
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