Erin Stewart: “…we can let people in and find a new normal, together.”

Erin Stewart
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[Note From Frolic: Our resident YA expert Aurora Dominguez got the opportunity to interview author Erin Stewart and ask her five(ish) questions. Erin’s novel Scars Like Wings is out now!]

Aurora: What was your inspiration behind your most recent novel?

Erin: Marius, a friend of mine, was burned and severely scarred by a house fire as a child in Romania. Now 20, Marius’ story has always inspired and intrigued me, not only because of the power of his tragedy, but because he chooses every single day not to let it define him. He has had children run screaming from him. He has had bullies call him Freddy Krueger. I wanted to write a story that would go to these dark, lonely parts of tragedies like his, but also to the beautiful, hopeful parts. As Marius has told me, the only way he survived was because every time he wanted to give up, someone was there, helping him choose to live. I hope Ava’s story can show readers that we all have a choice after a life-changing event: We can choose to be alone, isolated and angry that our normal is gone, or we can let people in and find a new normal, together.

What character do you most relate to and why?

I related to both Piper and Ava in very different ways. Ava because I struggle with a lot of insecurities and anxieties about how people perceive me. But also Piper because I tend to compensate for these insecurities by going out of my way to appear loud and confident so no one will know my inner struggles. I actually think this is pretty common, especially among girls, which is why I think a lot of readers connect to both of these characters so strongly!

Why do you feel books with powerful and relatable characters are so popular and have such a voice right now?

I think teens are searching for someone who understands them, the real them and not just the Instagram image or persona they are putting on in public. There is nothing like reading a character who feels exactly like you do, and seeing how that character is able to hold onto hope as they struggle to find their way in the world.

Please describe the content of your latest book and what can readers expect from the read.

Readers can expect a gritty, real and heartbreaking story, but also one that is filled with humor, hope and love. Scars Like Wings tells the story of Ava Lee, who has lost everything there is to lose: Her parents. Her best friend. Her home. Even her face. She doesn’t need a mirror to know what she looks like–she can see her reflection in the eyes of everyone around her.

A year after the fire that destroyed her world, her aunt and uncle have decided she should go back to high school. Be “normal” again. Whatever that is. Ava knows better. There is no normal for someone like her. And forget making friends–no one wants to be seen with the Burned Girl, now or ever.

But when Ava meets a fellow survivor named Piper, she begins to feel like maybe she doesn’t have to face the nightmare alone. Sarcastic and blunt, Piper isn’t afraid to push Ava out of her comfort zone. Piper introduces Ava to Asad, a boy who loves theater just as much as she does, and slowly, Ava tries to create a life again. Yet Piper is fighting her own battle, and soon Ava must decide if she’s going to fade back into her scars . . . or let the people by her side help her fly.

What’s next for you in the book world?

My second book is slated for spring 2021 and is another young adult contemporary, totally unrelated to Scars Like Wings. The book is about living with mental health issues and is based on my own experience with anxiety. I read so many books (great ones!) about heavier-hitting mental health issues, but I felt like there wasn’t much out there for kind of generalized anxiety and everyday battles against the what-if monster. With social media and all the intense pressure on teens today, I wanted to look at what anxiety is doing to this generation and how many are suffering silently

Who is your favorite writer right now and why?

I love that you asked “right now” because favorite books and writers do change all the time! Right now I am really digging Australian writer Helena Fox and her beautiful story in How it Feels to Float

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