Today we're excited to chat with Rayne Lacko author of
A Song For The Road.
Read on for more about Rayne and her book, plus an giveaway!
Meet Rayne Lacko!
Rayne Lacko believes music, language, and art connect us, and she explores those themes in her novels, Listen To Me and A Song for the Road, and the guided journal Dream Up Now, an interactive exploration of emotions for teens. She now resides on a lush, forested island in the Pacific Northwest, where she sits on the board of trustees at a performing arts organization. She cohosts a library youth writing workshop and an annual filled-to-capacity writing camp, and she established Teen Story Slam, a twice-annual spoken word event for teens. Rayne is married with two children (a pianist and a drummer), and she and her family share their home with a noisy cat and their canine best friend.
Meet A Song For The Road!
When a tornado destroys his Tulsa home, fifteen-year-old Carter Danforth is trapped in the pawnshop where his father hawked his custom, left-handed Martin guitar six years earlier before taking off, leaving him with nothing but a hankering to pluck strings and enough heartache to sing the blues. Carter’s mother, meanwhile, is injured during the storm and winds up in the hospital. She wants Carter to fly out to Reno and stay with her sister, but he’s already spent her hidden cash stash to buy his dad’s guitar. Rather than tell her the truth, he embarks on an epic road trip in search of his father in California. But Carter isn’t a runaway. He reckons he’s a “running to.”
On the road, Carter picks up licks, chord changes, and performance techniques from a quirky cast of southwestern charmers: a rock star, a thief, a bluesman, a chanteuse-turned-chef, and the dream of a girl back home. By the time he reaches the end of old US Route 66, Carter has learned how to deep-fry yucca blossoms―and tell the truth of his life through music.
~ Author Chat ~
YABC: What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
Inspiration is the oxygen every writer needs to see her way to the completion of a novel-length work, and I believe it’s the most important question anyone can ask. Thank you for beginning with it! When I wrote A SONG FOR THE ROAD, I had four significant sources of inspiration.
First, I am deeply fascinated by how music connects people. In every culture, region and era, music creates a bridge of understanding between people. It is a language all humanity understands. Over his journey and coming of age, my protagonist Carter notices how music welcomes everyone, regardless of where they came from. He discovers how the experience of listening and playing music together has the power to turn strangers into friends.
Second, the setting of my book surprised (as much as inspired) me. Most people are familiar with the writing advice encouraging storytellers to, “Write what you know.” A SONG FOR THE ROAD dared me to write what I wanted to better understand. Growing up, my father was fascinated by early 20th-Century history, and the books and music in his office explored the changing landscape of North America, from Henry Ford’s first Model T to the blight of the Depression-era dust bowl. He played old records by Southern outlaws and dancehall crooners, and passed to me his passion for stories and songs from early radio. I remember the feeling those songs, books and stories gave me, and I wanted to revisit my memories from a contemporary point of the view. I wrote about what I wanted to feel, not about what I knew.
Third, there are books and movies that also left a lasting impression on me, and a few old favorites came to mind as I breathed life into Carter’s story. The most significant was THE OUTSIDERS by SE Hinton, which I ended up re-reading (and re-watching); PAPER TOWNS by John Green because I appreciate his attention to the often unnoticed details of small towns; ABOUT A BOY by Nick Hornby because I love the way Hornby handles a motley cast of characters; and GRAPES OF WRATH by John Steinbeck, because that book (and movie) blisters you like a barren dust bowl, leaving a mark long after you’ve finished reading.
Lastly, over the last fifteen years I’ve written primarily adult fiction, as well as non-fiction primarily in the areas of health, family issues and wellbeing. However, four years ago I began teaching a creative writing workshop and summer camp for teens aged 12-18, and these young people have influenced my writing, worldview, and joy for the craft tremendously. This story was destined from the start to be Young Adult, because I am deeply influenced by the stellar young writers who I have the privilege of teaching.
YABC: Who is your favorite character in the book?
When I was writing A SONG FOR THE ROAD, there were two characters I particularly enjoyed bringing to life. Obviously, my main character Carter Danforth is dear to my heart. I had been attempting to write an adult contemporary novel, and he was a secondary adult character in that narrative. Over several weeks, I wrote and dumped chapter after chapter. Nothing I was putting on the page mattered to me. At the end of ten weeks of work, with nothing to show for it, I found myself daydreaming about Carter, contemplating where he came from, what his childhood looked like, and how he became the man he was in that failed story. In just one morning, I fleshed out a skeleton draft of A SONG FOR THE ROAD. I have two young sons of my own, and, having written only adult fiction previously, I am very excited to share this book with my boys.
My other favorite character is Ledbetter. I tend to write several versions of a character while I get to know them, trying out different reactions and voices through several scenes. But from the beginning I knew Ledbetter, and I recognized and respected the goodness in his heart. I could see him clearly in my mind, and I wanted my words to carry him as carefully through each page as his faithful old cane.
YABC: Which came first, the title or the novel?
While writing this story, my working title was, HOW I LEARNED TO PLAY GUITAR. In fact, that title appears in the story during a pivotal moment for Carter. For me, the original title is its heart, the point of the story; it’s the narrator’s reason for telling Carter’s story in the first place. Sadly, titles featuring “I” are often memoir, so A SONG FOR THE ROAD was born. I think it fits beautifully, and Carter would certainly approve.
YABC: What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
A SONG FOR THE ROAD was a huge turning point for me as a writer. This story taught me how to feel while writing, and talk about those feelings. In the past, I’d leaned on fact and philosophy. My characters talked about their thoughts and ideas. With this book, I sought out the emotions of my characters’ every decision, instead of the logic. I am proud of my opening scene; they introduce Carter and his worldview in a way I believe is authentic to his present, his past, and his future.
Midway through the story, when Carter has come to trust Ledbetter’s friendship and the old bluesman’s mastery as a musician, Ledbetter gently pushes Carter to find his own version of the blues with his inimitable teaching style. Please understand, I’m no expert on the blues. I don’t even know how to play guitar. Yet no matter how many times I reread that scene, I always cry.
YABC: Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you've learned as a writer from then to now?
The most important thing, the thing that I always remind the teen writers I work with: Always show your reader why it matters. “It” can be the thing your character wants; it can be your character’s hope or goal going into a scene, it can be what the character learns as a result of a scene; it can be how a character changes with each new obstacle or revelation—but it has to have an emotional impact. It has to matter.
No matter what a story is about, all the characters need to have real feelings about their goals. No amount of poetic phrasing or thrilling plot devices will compensate for a lack of emotion.
YABC: What do you like most about the cover of the book?
I’m honored to have a hand-drawn image by artist Rebecca Lown. Throughout Carter’s epic road trip across the American Southwest, he writes letters to his friend Kaia back home and makes several sketches and line drawings when words can’t capture what he wants to share with her. My cover illustrates (see what I did there?) Carter’s “unplugged” journey, and is truly one of a kind.
YABC: What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2019?
DAISY JONES & THE SIX by Taylor Jenkins Reid
YABC: What was your favorite book in 2018?
THE SMALLEST THING by Lisa Manterfield
YABC: What’s up next for you?
I am very excited to announce that I have a non-fiction self-help book coming out next year. Co-written with Lesley Holmes, DREAM UP NOW is a guided journal that gives teens the space to explore their emotions, discover inherent talents, build confidence, and make positive and proactive choices. We are also creating a DREAM UP NOW after-school program and an interactive app.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
I always struggle because every person has both strengths and weaknesses, but there are gifts in both. It all depends on how we view our strength, and how we negotiate our “weakness.” Every trait can be a strength, depending on the circumstance and point of view. The character who gave me the most trouble in A SONG FOR THE ROAD was Eddie Danforth, Carter’s dad. I needed to understand why he left, and the way he chose to do it, because Carter certainly didn’t. Worse, he didn’t leave only Carter, he left his wife Sandra, too. I wrote a lot of dialogue between father and son that never made it into the book.
Lastly, I needed to come to terms with Eddie’s relationship with his new wife and stepchildren, even though they don’t feature as prominently in this narrative.
I spent a lot of time thinking about Eddie and his new family, and how he’s different with them, having learned from his past. I ended up writing an outline for a follow-up novel where Carter and his step-sisters spend their first summer together at a music camp where Eddie is the celebrity instructor. Maybe it’s a far-fetched concept, but creating that separate reality helped me to make sense of Eddie.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
I am secretary on the Board of Trustees at Bainbridge Performing Arts, a theater, symphony, and theater school that serves to build, educate, and inspire our community in Washington. I’m also an active supporter of Bainbridge Public Library.
A Song For The Road
By: Rayne Lacko
Release Date: August 27th, 2019
Five winners will each receive a copy of A Song For The Road (Rayne Lacko) ~ (US Only)
*Click the Rafflecopter link below to enter the giveaway*