Book Spotlight: Everybody Needs a Bridge by Colleen D. Scott

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One fine morning I checked my inbox and found this email with a generous offer to read (I will cite this for you as these are the exact words I was hooked by) “a new coming of age story,” “a moving book about a teen navigating racial tension as she grows up in the South.” I was so intrigued by this brief description and further with the more detailed synopsis that I’ve already known there will be no chance that I won’t fall for this story. And I DID fall. Truly, madly, deeply.

Everybody Needs a Bridge explores difficult choices faced growing up in the segregated South. Colleen D. Scott releases a work filled with adversity and resounding courage. She artfully weaves compelling storylines with emotion evoking characters into biting social commentary.

You must remember my admiration for The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, and I must say I felt pretty the same vibes in here. All in all, it’s turned out above and beyond my expectations. I would like you to make a closer acquaintance with Everybody Needs a Bridge in this blog post. Read my full review on Goodreads.

Book Synopsis

High school is a difficult time for every teenager. When Erin enters a large public high school in 1980, she’s more than a little intimidated. Shocked by the realization that the legacy of her southern Alabama town isn’t a thing of the past, Erin struggles to find her way and in the process forms several important relationships. Brittany, whose genuine friendship and unconditional support help Erin navigate her unfamiliar surroundings. Shelby, whose strength and confidence challenge Erin to make her own decisions. And Emmet, whose magnetism and acceptance inspires her to dream of a different future.

As the years pass, Erin’s new bonds grow stronger. And together, they search for the answer to one important question: How do you define your own path, feel like you belong, and yet resist all of the social pressures and rigid expectations?

Tragically, after their time in high school ends, Erin becomes separated from these important friends. Alone, she struggles to find the courage to continue her journey. Ultimately, she is forced with a life-defining choice. Her decision will catapult Erin into adulthood, will test her faith, love and courage, and inevitably have an impact on the lives of those she loves most. 

Q&A with the author

When writing a book based on real events, how hard is it to keep fact separated from fiction?

The key element for me was to ensure that the events and experiences of the main character were factual. The novel is an obvious social commentary set in a specific place and time. But in order for the reader to identify with and connect with the main characters, their experiences had to be authentic. These events provide the necessary context for their actions and emotions. Once the core structure of truth was in place, it was easy to add the fictional elements by changing physical descriptions, locations, consolidating and eliminating characters and adding dialogue.

There are a lot of negative things explored in the book about growing up in the South – what are some of the positives?

It’s important to keep in mind that the novel outlines a story emerging from the first generation to grow up after the civil rights movement. The primary characters don’t remember life before the civil rights act. And although the civil rights movement technically ended in 1968 when the civil rights act was signed, for the South, that was only the beginning. The subsequent desegregation of schools, organized busing and elimination of many Jim Crow laws, may have changed how people behaved in public, but it takes far more to desegregate society.

I provide that context not to excuse the behaviors and actions. But hopefully, after reading this novel, the reader will understand the struggle and recognize some of the causes of those behaviors. Many of which we still experience in society today. Specifically, I want the reader to examine how the fear of being ostracized socially, the fear of not measuring up to societal expectations, drive behavior.

I hope the reader can see some of the positive aspects of the South beyond the negatives. The ardent belief in the power of hard work, perseverance and dedication are just a few key values highlighted repeatedly throughout the novel. And it’s that level of commitment and dedication to hard work that it takes to bring about the level of change needed.

If you could sit down with three writers, who would they be and what would you ask them?

There are so many, it is difficult to narrow it down to three! I would love the opportunity to ask Pat Conroy how his family members reacted to the storylines of his novels. His novels high light the generational divide in a similar emotional way.

Catherine Ryan Hyde is one of my favorite authors to read. She is a great storyteller and I would love to have a conversation with her about her creative process. I would also like to meet John Grisham. Although his novels primarily center on the legal aspects of similar experiences, he seems to have a similar relationship with the south. And if I am allowed to add a fourth, I would love to meet Jesmyn Ward too! I love her work and she grew up not too far from my hometown.

Why do you think it’s important for adults to read stories classified as YA?

Young adult fiction is my favorite genre. The storylines are compelling, many are thought-provoking, and the stories are told without gratuitous sex and violence. Young adult novels not only reconnect the adult reader with their own adolescence, but they explore struggles which for most of us extend beyond our teens and twenties.

How hard was it to put yourself in the mind of a teenager?

It wasn’t difficult at all! I believe our young adult years are profound and transformational times in our lives. As a result, those emotional times, filled with life-directing decisions, are permanently burned in our memories!

What is your writing process like?

I start by identifying a theme and a storyline which best illustrates that theme. Once I have a general idea of the story, I use sticky notes stuck on a wall to outline the scenes and build a skeleton outline. From that skeleton of scenes, I isolate the main characters that give the reader the best perspective. Then I spend time visualizing the main characters and develop a relationship with them. Once I begin writing I let the story take over. Along the way, I tweak the outline, add and eliminate scenes, combine and develop characters, so it is helpful that the outline is made of sticky notes!

Do you have something you do when stuck with writer’s block?

The story wants to be told. So if I get stuck on a particular scene, I take a long walk. It helps me let my mind

run free and allow the story to take back over Why did you feel like you had to write this book? I strongly believe that it requires courage to live even an ordinary life. I wanted to write this novel in order to honor the people who give us courage along the way and demonstrate how critical those key relationships can be in our lives.

How are plans shaping up for sequels?

I have completed a second novel which is unrelated, titled Everybody Needs To Remember, which should be published later this spring. I expect to complete a sequel to Everybody Needs A Bridge by the end of 2018.

If you had to sum up your message in one sentence, what would it be?

Use your power of support and encouragement in your personal relationships for good not evil. Help the people in your life to live with courage.

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