I first heard about Dallas Woodburn when her book of short stories, WOMAN, RUNNING LATE, IN A DRESS came out. Her newest book, THE BEST WEEK THAT NEVER HAPPENED, is a YA novel, and it’s due out this April. Have a look:
After her parents’ bitter divorce, family vacations to the Big Island in Hawaii ceased. But across the miles, eighteen-year-old Tegan Rossi remains connected to local Kai Kapule, her best friend from childhood. Now, Tegan finds herself alone and confused about how she got to the Big Island. With no wallet, no cell phone, purse, or plane ticket, Tegan struggles to piece together what happened. She must have come to surprise-visit Kai. Right? As the teens grow even closer, Tegan pushes aside her worries and gets swept away in the vacation of her dreams.
But each morning, Tegan startles awake from nightmares that become more difficult to ignore. Something is eerily amiss. Why is there a strange gap in her memory? Why can’t she reach her parents or friends from home? And what’s with the mysterious hourglass tattoo over her heart?
Kai promises to help Tegan figure out what is going on. But the answers they find only lead to more questions. As the week unfolds, Tegan will experience the magic of first love, the hope of second chances, and the bittersweet joy and grief of being human.
On your website, you say, “My life’s work is not only to share my stories, but also to help others tell the stories that matter most to them and embrace their best lives.” In your opinion, in what ways can sharing stories help connect us as people?
I believe that sharing stories is part of our DNA. Our spirits yearn for stories, as much as our physical bodies need food and sleep. To me, the core of a story is emotion, and emotion is the fabric that connects us all to each other. I can feel joy and empathize with everyone who has ever felt joy. When we fall in love, the experience is singular to us and yet also universal. Writing has always been a place where I feel free to delve into a full range of emotion—an outlet for exploring anger, grief, longing. Even the happiest of people have felt these painful emotions at times. Sharing stories helps us understand each other on a deeper level, and also reminds us that we are not alone.
We definitely aren’t, and it’s always good to be reminded of it! In THE BEST WEEK THAT NEVER HAPPENED, Tegan gets to explore what her life might have been like if she had made a different decision the summer after graduating high school. If you were given a chance to re-experience a moment from your teen years, what would it be and why?
This is such an interesting question! I had a really great time in high school. One of my favorite memories was when the drama department put on a play I wrote for the spring production. While I’ve never really been someone who feels comfortable in the spotlight, I found “my people” among the theater kids, who really welcomed me into their fold and became my close friends. It was a thrill to see my words brought to life onstage, and so fascinating to watch the actors and directors take my script and make it into this whole new artistic experience. I’ll never forget the joy and pride I felt when the cast called me up onstage after the opening performance to take a bow with them.
What a great experience! Theater provided some of my greatest memories from high school as well. Your other book, WOMAN, RUNNING LATE, IN A DRESS contains short stories. How do you approach writing a short story versus writing a longer piece of work?
I enjoy both forms for different reasons. I used to run track and cross-country, and perhaps that’s why I think of a short story in terms of “a sprint” and a novel in terms of “a marathon.” In a short story, everything is so compressed. Whether I’m reading a short story or writing one, there is a sense of urgency that builds almost immediately, because you have such a limited time to create the arc of a story and capture the lives of the characters. It often feels to me like we are just getting a glimpse into their lives. In a novel, you have more time to explore the world and get to know your characters inside and out. When I’m writing a novel, I generally have a vague sense of where the story is headed, but it might change a great deal as I go along. Writing a novel seems to me like swimming across a giant body of water—I can barely make out the shoreline on the other side. All I can do is keep swimming, keep writing, and try not to focus on how much farther I still need to go.
I’ll have to remember that analogy when I start working on my next book. What are some of your current projects?
I’m currently working on the first draft of my next YA novel, which is similar to THE BEST WEEK THAT NEVER HAPPENED in that it is realistic fiction with a touch of fantasy and romance. I also recently launched a podcast called Overflowing Bookshelves where I interview an author every week. It’s been such a fun endeavor! You can listen to episodes at www.anchor.fm/dallas-woodburn or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.
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