Peggy Tibbetts is the author of two middle grade novels, “The Road to Weird” and “Letters to Juniper,” a 2012 Colorado Book Award finalist. Her current young adult novel, “PFC Liberty Stryker” is a compelling and authentic story about the Iraq War from a young female soldier’s point of view. Peggy has worked as a professional editor and is a fervent blogger at Advice from a Caterpillar (http://advicefromacaterpillar.wordpress.com) and From the Styx (http://fromthestyx.wordpress.com).
Have you always wanted to be an author?
I have always been a writer, but I didn’t always want to be an author. As a young child I wanted to be a veterinarian because of my love of animals. When I was 13, the Beatles song, “Paperback Writer” was released and I decided that’s what I wanted to be. From then on the writing bug took over.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve ever met? Why?
I could opt for the most famous people I’ve met like Madeleine L’Engle, Judith Guest, Phyllis Whitney, or Hunter S. Thompson. But the award for most interesting goes to fellow author, friend, and now publisher, Natalie Collins (Sisterhood Publications). Her background in the mysterious Mormon faith is fascinating. Oh, the stories she tells in her books. Natalie has endured many hardships throughout her life and career but she keeps on keeping on. She is one of the most talented, determined, hard-working people I have ever known. She inspires me daily.
What books would you say have enriched your life and improved your skills as a writer?
So many books to recommend, but I’ll focus on books for writers: Sol Stein’s “Stein on Writing” and “How to Grow a Novel”; “The Writer’s Journey” by Christopher Vogler; “Writing the Breakout Novel” by Donald Maas; “Story” by Robert McKee; and “Madeleine L'Engle Herself: Reflections on a Writing Life”.
What was your most recent writing project? Could you tell us about the ups and downs you faced?
“PFC Liberty Stryker” was released this year by Sisterhood Publications. Here’s the blurb: Libby Stryker joined the Army to avenge her daddy's death on 9-11 but it's nothing like she expected. Operation Iraqi Freedom takes her on a harrowing journey north with a mysterious Arab through bomb devastation, hot zones, and RPG attacks. A different kind of horror awaits Libby in
. Her past and
present, and why it's all gone wrong, blow up in her face. Baghdad
Our imaginations take us to strange and wondrous new places. One place I never expected to go was to war. But there she was. This young, female soldier stranded in the desert in
Libby Stryker. Her story tormented me – at first during the daytime – then in
my dreams. So I gave in. I went to war with Libby and came back a changed
The research was daunting. I have never been a soldier. I have never been to war. I have never been to
Every single page required research. From baby wipes to weaponry to chai, I had
to immerse myself in the culture of war. To stay in character I often wore a
heavy coat and helmet while I was writing. Iraq
I must confess, before I wrote “PFC Liberty Stryker” I was not in favor of women in combat. Through my extensive research I learned that female soldiers are already serving in combat missions but they are not allowed the same recognition as their male counterparts. Under the current combat rules, women are doing all the compromising. Without defined roles in combat, female soldiers have no voice when it comes to strategy and execution. As a result they can be used as pawns on the battlefield – and often are. This became Libby’s predicament in the story.
Writing this book didn’t change my mind about war. But it did change my mind about women in combat. Women are capable, even outstanding soldiers. They have earned and they deserve fair treatment and equal opportunities.
My protagonist Anjeli in The Scarlet Omen does not believe in love at first sight but soon learns that there’s no escaping certain clichés in life. Do you believe in love at first sight? How do you think this phenomenon should be approached/handled in a novel?
Yes, I do believe in love at first sight – or at least mutual attraction. Love at first sight can be fun writers’ play. A love at first sight situation between two characters is open to all kinds of “what ifs.” The couple is in love but one obstacle after another keeps them apart or prevents their happiness. One of the pair resists his/her feelings. One of the pair (or both) has a handicap or special power. The possibilities are endless.
As I started delving into author community scenes and forums, I realized that no one is really safe from bullying. What is your opinion about bullying, be it at school, work or in the author community? How do you think we should approach this topic in young adult novels?
What a great question! It’s easy to say we shouldn’t tolerate bullying. The problem is the act of bullying stems from intolerance. For example, a kid on the playground doesn’t tolerate the way another kid dresses. Or one person doesn’t tolerate another person’s opinion on Facebook. When it comes to bullying we need to teach tolerance.
When faced with a bully in real life we are far more cautious, even fearful. In fiction, we as writers can let out all the stops and take all kinds of risks with our characters’ behaviors. We have control over the outcome. We can work through our own demons and help readers work through theirs. We can show what makes a person behave like a bully. We can show ways to cope with bullying.
When my novel was first published, many people asked me if my vampires had anything to do with the Cullen family from Twilight. I said no and actually resented being asked in the first place, because Asian vampires really are not something you want to meet during the day let alone have a relationship with. What do you think about trends? What are the implications for writers?
Trends come and go. Trends have always been a part of society. Even Shakespeare probably felt some pressure to come up with a poignant, star-crossed romance to satisfy 16th Century audience demand – or trend. For centuries hence, there have been countless copycats and derivations of “Romeo and Juliet.”
As writers we are often told to ignore trends and write our best stories, the stories we feel passionate about. Yet we are surrounded by trends, not only in books, but also in music, art, film, television, products, etc. We are constantly influenced by trends in our daily lives. How can we not be influenced as writers?
I am currently working on the final revisions for my nonfiction book – a dogoir (dog memoir) – titled “Crazy Bitch.” It’s about our dog Venus’s struggle with Canine Compulsive Disorder (CCD). This is my first nonfiction book and my first dogoir. If dogoirs were not trending upward in popularity, I probably wouldn’t have come up with the idea to make a diary of our experiences with our dog’s mental illness and then write the book.
So you see we can be inspired by trends to write our best stories.
Parting words of wisdom:
It’s not enough to write a good story. You must revise. The process of revision brings your story to life. Read your manuscript aloud. Find a good editor.
Wow! Thanks so much for joining us, Peggy. Very insightful stuff and we wish you loads of success for your upcoming novels.
Hey readers, if Peggy’s work interests you as much as it does me, below are some sites where you can further immerse yourselves in her awesomenessJ Enjoy!!
YAAYNHO -- Young Adult Authors You’ve Never Heard Of (group blog): http://obscurekidlitauthors.blogspot.com/