Q&A with Herta Feely

Hi guys! I am extremely thrilled today to post a Q&A with Herta Feely, author of “Saving Phoebe Murrow”. I immediately knew that I want to read this book – since I’ve become a mum myself I am incredibly into novels about mothers and daughter, conflicts between them. This book is also special as it touches upon cyber – bullying, a thing that I am incredibly scared of. Sometimes I think that I’d love my daughter to stay 5 years old for ever, to be honest, as I know that I can’t protect her from the world that Phoebe Murrow has already entered – if you haven’t read the book, I highly recommend it to you (keep your eyes peeled for my review coming here in the next few days). And thank you, Herta, for the lovey Q&A!

  1. Hi Herta, can you please introduce yourself to the readers?

I must admit I always find this question challenging, because it makes me wonder: What do 31328538 readers really want to know? To be quite honest, at the moment, perhaps what I want readers to know about most is my great concern and fervent wish for planet Earth. I hope and pray for a more peaceful and united world, on every front. It is a hope shared by millions, I’m sure, and the question always is, how can I do my part to make it a better place? That is how I begin this month.

 On a lighter note, I am an avid traveler of the world who loves orchids, cats, and butterflies. I also love sitting by a glittering ocean and reading a novel. Favorite times include homemade meals (prepared by my sons and husband!), laughter and food, wine, and chocolate with close friends. I’m a lover of classical music and rock & roll, as well as modern dance and string quartets! I loved reading romance novels as a teen, and science fiction, and some of the classics, of course. Now, I read all the time, including, on occasion, in a steamy tub full of bubble bath. And I do have lots of fantasies, but I can’t tell you about those. Now, I must get back to spinning prose out of straw in my third floor prison, because I’m slightly behind on the deadline for my next novel! (and for those who’d like to know more, there are “fun facts” about my life on my website http://www.hertafeely.com)


  1. What inspired you to write a book about the timeless struggle between mothers and daughters?

I didn’t set out to write about that topic, but it grew organically out of the story I was trying to tell, that Phoebe gets cyber-bullied, in part because of something her mother, Isabel, did. From the very beginning, as I began to write the story, I felt the tension between Isabel and her daughter. I suppose that storyline came naturally because of my own difficult relationship with my mother. Just as Phoebe feels her mother is too restrictive and fails to understand her, so did I with my own mother. However, the similarity between my own story and that of my fictional characters ends there. So, I suppose the tagline “timeless struggle between mothers and daughters” is as true today as it was in my day, and probably will continue to be so. I can’t say that I fully understand this struggle, perhaps in part because I only have sons, but it certainly seems to be the case with many of my friends who have girls.


  1. If you were to describe “Saving Phoebe Murrow” in three sentences…

Saving Phoebe Murrow is a story of mothers, daughters and the devastating potential of social media.  It delves into female friendships and the complicated web of adolescent relationships. And finally, it’s a novel about love and betrayal, but then aren’t most books?


  1. How do you recall your own teenage times? Mine were not SO long ago but I find them much easier… I think it’s somehow much more difficult for the present teenagers to live their teenage years through.

My teenage times happened in the 1970s when a cultural revolution was underway, not to mention political strife in the US and around the globe. It was an exciting, vibrant, but also frightening time and I wanted to participate. I tried everything, much to my parents’ chagrin, including protesting the Vietnam War and spending a few nights in jail. I believe that particular time, which shook up the world and the status quo, was probably as difficult to navigate as the world teens are growing up in now, just with a different set of issues to deal with.


  1. What was the most difficult aspect of the book to write?

Most difficult for me were certain aspects of the teens’ world that I simply couldn’t be sure of. I’d love feedback on that, though I haven’t heard anything negative from the teens and twenty-somethings who’ve read it. To write those scenes, I relied on snippets of what I’d heard from my own children, their friends and the experiences of my friends who had sons and daughters. What young people, who’ve read the book, seem most to relate to is the bullying aspect. Some have written to me, saying that Saving Phoebe Murrow took them back to their own teen years, reminding them of the difficulty of mean girls and bullying, which made me happy in the sense that the story resonated for them.


  1. What would you like your readers to take from “Saving Phoebe Murrow”?

I’d like them to think about the fragility and precious nature of all relationships. That it’s so important to treat others with love and respect and kindness. I’d love for mothers and/or parents to talk about social media and its implication for their children and how to deal with it. And of course I’d like my readers to thoroughly enjoy the story.


  1. Any tips for mothers of teenage daughters?

Stay in close touch. Ask questions. Listen. Be firm but kind. Love them with all your heart. (I know, easier said than done, but it’s important to remember these basic things and to try putting them into action everyday.)


  1. Are you working on a new novel already?

Yes, I am. In fact, I’m closing in on the finale of the story, but it’s just a first draft and still needs work. I’m quite excited about it, because it deals with some very different issues than my debut novel, although All Fall Down, the working title, also features a very strong female character, in fact, two of them. The story is mainly told through the eyes of Charlotte Cooper, a human rights activist about to receive her dream job at Amnesty International in London. Just before assuming her new position, her husband, an archaeologist, goes missing somewhere along the Turkish border with Syria. And her past comes back to haunt her, placing her job in jeopardy. The story then delves into the three men she loved—a Nigerian sculptor she met at Oxford, a Sandinista commander in Nicaragua, and Russ, the American archaeologist. So it’s a bit political and also, more importantly, a love story.


  1. And as it’s almost Christmas, Herta – what would you like to find in your stockings this year?

A trip to Cuba, high quality chocolate, and a movie deal for Saving Phoebe Murrow.


 7755671  Herta Feely (also published as Herta B. Feely) is a writer and full-time editor. Her short stories and memoir have been published in anthologies and literary journals, including The Sun, Lullwater Review, The Griffin, Provincetown Arts, and Big Muddy. In the wake of the James Frey scandal, Feely edited and published the anthology, Confessions: Fact or Fiction? She was awarded the James Jones First Novel Fellowship and an Artist in Literature Fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities for The Trials of Serra Blue. She has also received an award from American Independent Writers for best published personal essay for a piece on immigration. A graduate of UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University, Feely is the co-founder of Safe Kids Worldwide, an organization dedicated to saving children from unintentional injuries, the leading killer of children in the United States. Her newest book, Saving Phoebe Murrow, will be released in September of 2016. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and cats.


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