Peg Lewis is author of such coming of age stories as Triple Divide and Haymarket:A Sharley Adventure.
Where did the inspiration for Triple Divide come from?
Interesting settings always start the juices flowing. I discovered the unique nature of Triple Divide Peak while camping and hiking at Glacier National Park. Here’s a single not very spectacular mountain where rain that falls on it may end up in one of 3 different oceans. Of all the peaks in Glacier Park, it’s this one single one that has that attribute! And then one thing led to another….
Is the story biographical?
No more so than any other story. Naturally we pull from our personality and experience, probably unconsciously much of the time. That’s true about this story. Other than the very basics, this is not my story.
Sharlie is a very independent child for her age. Why did you write her that way?
Sharlie responds to a complex tragedy in her family structure in her own way. At first she just had to be independent: no one was there for her to lean on. But I understood later, while writing/reading “Haymarket: A Sharlie Adventure”, that she had always been somewhat that way. I think it must come from her being a first child, a creature halfway between a child and a parent. Sometimes she’s one, sometimes she’s the other. And on that tipping point the whole story evolves.
The setting is very important in this story. Have you been to Triple Divide?
I have been to the environs of Triple Divide but not on the hike itself. Of course I have read about it, including the hike descriptions of people who have been up there. But it was too hard a hike for me to attempt. I’d like to go back and do it now, that is now that I know Sharlie has attempted it.
What role do parents play in your books?
Parents are complex creatures with roles and interests other than those related to their kids. And when tragedy strikes, they react as people and not necessarily as parents. I have cast Sharlie’s parents as people responding to their circumstances as the complex people they are, which in the early days (see “Haymarket”) means as parents, and then after the tragedy, as their own needy selves. How this impacts their kids is a good part of what this story is about: how they actually impact them, and how the kids respond, and then how the parents react to that response.
But these responses are painted with a broad brush. They remain complex characters, all of them. By their nature they are not predictable, either to themselves or to each other.
Are you going to revisit the characters from Triple Divide in the future?
Is it too corny to say that these characters are alive and will probably continue getting themselves into challenging situations that we might want to visit? I know for a fact that Sharlie at age 6 is quite eager for a bicycle (a real two-wheeler). Where is that going to lead her? And her dad is keen on boats…. I doubt we’ll be able to stay away from young Sharlie. As for Sharlie and Sissy as they grow up, we know that such passionate (or opinionated) girls are going to be ready for relationships that take them beyond the family circle. I want to be there when that happens.
Why children’s/YA novels?
All the promise is built into children and only a bit is lost in the young adults they become. Each minute in a young life is a crossroads. In a YA novel we get to watch the decision process that takes our characters down a path that we know is full of uncertainties. We know that they’ll face obstacles and challenges and dangers and joys that they will have to grow to deal with. I want to be part of that process as my characters go through the growth spurts of their being. I want to watch their emerging courage and character develop. I’m not so sure I want to be there for the scary parts, but if I’m on this journey with them I have little choice. And I do want to be on this journey with them. After all, they become us, one or another of us.
I have other series in the works, some ready for dusting off, some only in development. Most of these are YA novels or series of novels, or like the Sharlie Adventure series, a combination of stories and novellas and novels. But there’s one book I’ve worked on for several years that is about a tiny girl who grows within the story to late middle-age. Not a word has been put on paper but all but the but the parts that will yet surprise me are worked out in my head. It will have a great deal of love in it, some passion, some sorrow, and a lot of character.
Beyond these, I have some collaborations that I may do with my husband John S Lewis. The complex epics we’ve worked out together will require a great deal of research, and to tell you the truth, I’d rather be writing.