By Noah Smith
Author L.E. DeLano’s new young adult novel, “Traveler,” follows Jessa, a big dreamer, as she discovers an ability she never knew she had: traveling through alternate realities. As glamorous as this may seem, Jessa soon discovers that life in these fantasies is not all happy and fun. DeLano was kind enough to speak with us about her new fantasy novel, her process as an author and how being a writer impacts her view on life.
Can you tell us what the novel is about?
“It’s about a girl who steps through mirrors into other realities and steps into other versions of herself when she does that. She slides into a different version of herself; she may be overweight, handicapped, she may be a dancer in this reality or she may be a circus performer in that one. There’s a bunch of strange things that go on so there’s a lot of adventure in what she does. And she’s not sliding just for the fun of it or just because she can: she’s actually tasked with something to do in this alternate reality and she gets those tasks overnight when she’s in her dreams.”
Who would you say the audience for the novel is?
“I would say older high school students and anyone beyond that who really likes reading about teenagers who can travel through reality.”
Which characters would you want to connect with or date in real life?
“She learns that she can travel to these other realities from a young man who comes to visit her and his name is Finn. In a couple of instances, she travels without Finn and ends up in this sort of steam punk reality where she meets a pirate version of Finn who is very dashing and very charming and- – oh boy – I would be with pirate Finn in a heartbeat.”
What do you want audiences to take away from “Traveler?”
“Just a sense of fun and adventure. There’s just a lot going on with her: she’s being systematically murdered in all these other realities and that’s why Finn comes to find her. There’s a lot of intrigue and a lot of mystery as to who is doing this and why, and there are much bigger stakes involved than she originally thinks. But there’s also a lot of heart in this book so I would love for people to take away the fun and adventure but there’s a real ground in there about home and family and what really ties you to another person. I’d like my readers to laugh and fist pump the air and clutch their chest occasionally when I’ve made them feel too much.”
What was the most challenging part of writing your novel?
“I have such a challenge at home with writing. I’m the parent of an autistic child and I actually wrote a character on the autism spectrum into the book because I wanted to represent positively someone who is on the spectrum and also to make them more of a general autistic person. As an autism parent, it’s a real challenge for me to write because my son is very much in my face a lot. He’s not very good about trying to be quiet when mommy is writing or not interrupting when mom is trying to write, so it’s a real challenge for me to work around that. I love the kid to death, but I’ll tell you that I’m a stronger person for how I’ve had to learn to write. I’ve learned to type with one ear on him and one ear into my story and I can really type and work anywhere now.”
I read a quote once by George Martin that said that there are two types of writers: the gardener and the architect. The gardener being someone who improvises as she tell the story and the architect being someone who plans it out completely beforehand with only a few minor improvisations. Which of these two would you say fits your writing style?
“I am a gardener most definitely! I always have a rough idea of where my story is going and I have some definite themes that I want to see there, but I always love to see where a story is going to take me because whenever I think I’m going to be writing at first is never what that story ends up being.”
Do you think that being a writer impacts your view on the world?
“Absolutely, everybody is a story. We are all made up of the sum of our stories and that makes you want to meet people and talk to people and know a lot of people from a variety of places in life. Everybody has a back story and there is always something interesting in there.”
What advice would you give to young writers who want to write their first novel?
“Write the story that you want to read: it’s that simple. Don’t try to write for your market; don’t try to write what you think your readers might want to hear because that’s what’s probably out there right now; don’t try to write the great American novel. Write the book that you want to read.”