Aria Abbott has never had a home. Drifting through the foster system for most of her life, she finally finds herself in a situation so unbearable that she has no choice but to run away. Sleeping on the streets pushes Aria beyond any suffering she has felt before; the only thing worse than seeing no escape is the knowledge that no one in the world cares enough to try and find her.
Enter Taylor, a homeless young man with a charismatic smile and a dream of fame, fortune, and the sunshine of LA. Swept up in his energy, Aria and Taylor board a greyhound bus and never look back.
In this bright new world, Aria will discover a whole community of people living in the shadows, in the margins of society. As Taylor follows his dreams, Aria follows her heart. But she will discover that it isn’t always clear who you can trust, that strangers can be kind, or treacherous, or sometimes as familiar as your own reflection, if you’re willing to look hard enough.
I have a giveaway for you guys that could not be easier to win! Just make sure you’re following my blog, and then leave a comment on this entry to make sure I see you! Open until Monday, November 9 at 5 pm PST. I’ll announce the winner here, and then ask for your address so the publisher can ship a copy straight to you!
In the meantime, check out this Q&A with the author
Q&A WITH TEAL SWAN
BEST-SELLING AUTHOR OF THE NEW NOVEL HUNGER OF THE PINE
Question: Tell us what your new book, Hunger of the Pine, is all about?
Teal Swan: Hunger of the Pine is my first fiction novel, and is a poetic novel about life on the streets in America. The book centers on Aria Abbott, a teen in the foster care system. She has been placed in a Christian foster home where the father is molesting her and her delinquency problems have turned her into the ‘scapegoat’ of the family. When the tension between her and her foster parents rises, she runs away and begins her life on the streets of Chicago. She soon meets Taylor, another homeless youth who is dreaming of fame, fortune and the sunshine of L.A. Together they board a Greyhound bus and never look back. In this bright new world, Aria will discover a whole community of people living in the shadows, in the margins of society. As Taylor follows his dreams, Aria follows her heart. But she will discover that it isn’t always clear who you can trust, that strangers can be kind, or treacherous, or sometimes as familiar as your own reflection, if you’re willing to look hard enough.
Q:What was your inspiration behind the writing the book?
Swan: As far as I know, no one has ever written apoetic novel about life on the streets of America. I wanted to highlight homelessness through descriptive writing and used a main character as a lens through which to see a snapshot. I also wrote it because I feel that we as a society — especially in America — need to look in the mirror at homelessness and see that it is a problem caused by many systemic failures within society. For this reason, there are many ‘reasons’ someone ends up on the street. And we aren’t really solving those reasons. People are complex, and it we need to see them with more compassion and understanding. And, it is with this ‘understanding,’ rather than labeling people good or bad, that we may see the root cause of behaviors and accurately resolve that root cause.
Q: You have written a lot of wonderful non-fiction books. Why did you decide to take the leap into fiction?
Swan: I want people to feel the raw reality of a side of life that they might never have experienced themselves by using descriptive writing to emotionally put them there. I am a descriptive writer first and foremost. My other books are informational, which I love, but they were not an opportunity to exercise my skills as a writer. Descriptive writing is a whole other beast than writing non-fiction that is engaging yet informative. It is to convey an emotion or sensory experience with words instead of to convey a concept for the purpose of comprehension. I want people to love the writing in and of itself, and remember it for the writing, and for their experience learning about homelessness as well as.
Q: Why did you decide to tackle the topic of youth homelessness?
Swan: A Great many people don’t relate to homelessness or the issues surrounding it. But a great many do and those people are drowning in the feeling that they were just born to suffer. I wanted to show the reality of homelessness and make it relatable to those who don’t understand it. But I also wanted to insert some answers and hope into this novel for those who do. To be ‘real’ it had to be a mixture of “this is too much to surmount” and “you can surmount it”. It needed to be tragic but also inspirational. And people who relate to these characters, especially the main character will not have thought of themselves as a protagonist.. as significant…As someone capable of love and triumph and of finding belonging and love… until now!
Q: What do you think society can do to help the homeless population?
Swan: The issue of homelessness is not an easy one because so many systemic factors within society contribute to it. This means there is not a one size fits all solution. For example, the failures within parenting and beyond that the foster care system cause youth homelessness.
Society’s complete lack of care for the mentally ill and the fact that there is literally nowhere for them to get help if they don’t have money, contributes to homelessness in the mentally ill and veterans. The fact that a person on social security is not getting enough money to afford both food and housing and often medications causes senior citizen homelessness. The lack of prioritization within society when it comes to understanding and finding solutions for the needs of those who are in need, create this multivariable factor scenario where suddenly a great many people are on the street. It’s time to see the broken-ness of our system and stop thinking things are being taken care of by ‘someone else’ when they are not.
Q: What do you hope readers take away from A Hunger of Pine and Aria’s story?
Swan: I want people to feel the raw reality of a side of life that they might never have experienced themselves by using descriptive writing to emotionally put them there. Also, a better and more empathetic view of the homeless population. We tend to be so uncomfortable with homelessness that we compartmentalize it and tell ourselves that we could never be in the same position… That homeless are like a ‘breed’ of people or another species unto themselves. Understanding this why behind homelessness actually makes it impossible for us to keep this ‘separation’ alive. To keep them marginalized. When we stop seeing people as “other”, when we relate to them, we suddenly have the motive to do something because we identify with them instead. I wrote this book to create this identification, understanding and relatability so as too close this perceptual gap.