As part of her launch of WRONG WAY SUMMER, Middle Grade Mojo is pleased to have had the opportunity to interview Heidi Lang.
Middle Grade Mojo: Where did you get the inspiration for this story?
Heidi Lang: A lot of different threads came together to inspire this story. First, I’ve been interested in van living for years. In 2017, my husband and I sold our dog walking business and converted the dog mobile into a very basic tiny home: insulation, a bed, and wood paneling. No running water, no electricity. In fact, it’s very similar to the van conversion my characters use in Wrong Way Summer, so I was able to use a lot of my personal experiences living on the road—the constant search for a safe sleep spot, the also-constant search for a shower, the freedom to choose places to visit offset with the struggle of traveling on a tight budget—in my story.
At the same time, I was fascinated with all the beautiful Instagram versions of #vanlife. I wondered how many of those people had willingly chosen houselessness, and how many were just making the most of a tough situation. I started thinking about something my grandfather always said: “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” I’ve always liked that motto, and I knew I wanted to play with the idea of made-up stories as a way to reveal all-too-real truths. A story about a family choosing to embrace vanlife seemed like the perfect vehicle…pun intended. 😉
Middle Grade Mojo Mojo: How long did it take from when you started writing until it was published?
Heidi Lang: I started working on this book back in April 2018, so it took about two years before it was published, although the actual writing and revising part of it was closer to six months.
Middle Grade Mojo: What is your writing process?
Heidi Lang: My writing process changes with each book, but for my contemporary stories, always I start with something I’m interested in experiencing, or something I’ve already experienced. For example, my last contemporary book, Rules of the Ruff, was about dog walking, and drew heavily on my years working as a dog walker, while this book drew on my experience trying to live in a van. It’s a good way to keep my life a little more interesting; I try to look at all experiences as potential writing fodder.
Middle Grade Mojo: What is the best writing advice you’ve received?
Heidi Lang: I went to a writing conference back in 2012, long before I signed with an agent or sold a book, and the keynote speaker told us to be happy writers now. She said it is too easy to get caught up in the game of “if I just sign with an agent, then I’ll be happy,” and after that, “if my book just sells, then I’ll be happy,” and on to wishing for a bestseller, a movie deal, awards. That path would always lead away from the joy of writing.
At the time, I scoffed at her advice. I thought it was easy enough for her to say, with all her book deals. And besides, I knew in my case, if I just signed with an agent, then I really would be happy. I’ve been with my agent for over five years now, and Wrong Way Summer is my fifth book out in the world. And I can tell you that author was absolutely right. There is always another milestone to aim for. I’ve found if I keep my eye on those goals, I forget why I’m even writing in the first place. I forget that I love it, regardless of any outcomes, and instead I spend my time bitterly comparing myself to other writers and obsessively googling book reviews, and that way lies madness.