We’re delighted to have Bridget Birdsall joining us today on the blog. Her fabulous debut novel, Double Exposure, is out in paperback this month—so if you haven’t yet read it, now’s the time! And we can’t wait for her to share a little more about herself with us today.
1. Why did you gravitate to the genre that you write in?
It may sound dramatic to say that books saved my life, but for me, it’s true.
I desperately wanted to read, but a fairly chaotic home life and serious struggles with dyslexia created challenges in my ability to both read and write. Yet deep in my soul I yearned to connect with others. It was a book called The Sojourner, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, that unlocked some secret code in my soul—a protagonist twice my age, from a different place and time, taught me I was not alone.
Today, I write for young people of all ages, including those that live within us, no matter how old they may be. I do not limit myself to any particular genre, but instead aspire to write books that touch people’s hearts, especially young people’s.
I read for the same reason: to connect. I believe some of the best fiction being written today is in the young adult genre. My fiction focuses on the struggles of those whose stories need to be told, from those whose voices need to be heard. Because these are the books I want to read.
Double Exposure is clearly young adult fiction with a realistic bent, but I am currently working on a middle grade cowgirl novel, and helping an amazing woman tell her story, a James Bond feminist spy-thriller.
Never fear, though; I have more young adult novels percolating inside of me. Including one that tackles another tough topic. Stay tuned.
2. What are you reading right now?
Just finished reading a bunch of middle grade novels. My favorite pick from the pile would be The Secret Life of Lincoln Jones by Wendelin Van Draanen. Last night I started reading E.M. Kokie’s YA novel, Radical.
3. If you could be a character in any children’s book, who would you be and why?
I would be a character in any of Roald Dahl’s books. Why? Because I love the sublimely subversive worlds he created. There are great to read aloud to a mixed age audience and, like me, Roald Dahl was dyslexic. His humorous,truth-infused stories inspired me, as young person who struggled with reading, to actually read. Today, his stories still warm my heart and make me laugh!
4. Where’s your favorite place to write?
I’ve learned to write wherever I am. However, my favorite place to write would be anywhere outside or near an open window (unless it’s twenty below), especially one with a view. In my home, when the weather cooperates, you’ll find me on the front porch or on the deck, tapping away while a remarkably authentic-looking, bubbling brook recirculates rain water.
I have also been known to write in the car, on the sofa, on my anti-gravity chair, standing up in my office at my desk, at coffee shops, libraries, and bus stops, on airplanes and trains.
But I no longer write in bed! Why? Because when I wrote Ordinary Angels I often wrote almost all night, albeit obsessively, because the book both haunted and possessed me. After I finished it I had completely exhausted myself and it took me two months to recover my regular sleep schedule and to even be able to write!
5. What’s your favorite classic movie?
It would have to be a tie between two very different movies: Star Wars, which I found to be completely captivating, and To Kill a Mockingbird with Gregory Peck, who in my opinion became Atticus Finch.
6. If you could have any animal as a pet (current or extinct), what would it be?
A talking falcon. Why? Birds ignite my imagination. They are magical. According to indigenous Shamans, birds are the original shape changers. They can transform themselves into any form they chose: human, angel, whatever. And as the story goes, my last name, which contains the word bird, comes from the royal falconers, those who cared for the royal falcon, who often resided in the castle where the birds where housed: a place called “bird’s hall.”
7. Milk, dark, or white chocolate?
Dark: pure, full strength, good for the heart. Go deep, go big, or go home.
8. What’s your favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving. Experiencing the death of my brother at a very young age taught me that life is fragile, precious, and sometimes the brutal truth is that someone you love can be here today and gone tomorrow. Literally.
Practicing gratitude, even for the hard stuff in my life, keeps me from sinking into fear or grief or despair. It helps me remember what is truly important. Which has nothing to do with how many books I publish, how much money I make, or what kind of car I drive. Nope. None of that matters.
What matters? Did I love and treat with respect the people I was given to love, even the hard ones, even when the hard one was sometimes myself?
Smiley face winking!
10. What did you want to grow up to be when you were your character’s age?
In truth, my focus was survival. But if you had asked me then, I probably would have said an artist. But only if you had let me whisper it in your ear, because my father told me repeatedly that artists starve, and at the time the idea that I might be a writer or a poet was a joke. Now who’s had the last laugh? HA!
Double Exposure by Bridget Birdsall
Fifteen-year-old Alyx Atlas was raised as a boy, but she knows something others don’t: she’s a girl. Born intersex, Alyx has always questioned her gender identity and struggled to fit in. But it’s after her dad dies—and after she sustains a terrible beating from her classmates—that she decides she can’t live as a boy any longer. She and her mother move from California to Wisconsin to start a new life, and Alyx begins again, this time as a girl.
Alyx quickly earns a spot on the girls’ varsity basketball team, and for the first time in her life she feels like she fits in. But as the team racks up one victory after another and the state championships approach, a jealous teammate sets her sights on Alyx. Hotheaded and fiercely competitive, Pepper Pitmani is sure Alyx is keeping a secret, which Pepper is determined to reveal. If she succeeds, the truth could destroy Alyx’s one shot—not just to take home the trophy with her team, but to live as her true self.
Honest, raw, and uplifting, Double Exposure is for every teen who’s longed to be seen, struggled to find the courage to be different, or dared to face adversity head-on.
Bridget Birdsall believes books have the power to change and save lives. She grew up in Milwaukee, earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College, and now resides in Madison, Wisconsin.