Welcome to the Literary Road Trip and my Spotlight On . . . Carol Larese Millward. Even though we live in an age when premarital sex is common and perhaps assumed, teen pregnancy is an issue that is as life-changing as it has always been. Carol's novel Star in the Middle addresses teen pregnancy from both the young mother's and the teen father's points of view.
Although Carol now lives across the border in Maryland, she is definitely a Pennsylvania author. Both she and her husband were born and raised here, and they have deep ties to the state. Carol became interested in teen parents when she began working with them as part of her job. Take a moment to get acquainted with Carol.
I grew up in Pennsylvania, and my husband and I now own a house along the Juniata River. We plan to escape there often after he retires, to visit with family in the area and in Cambria County.
I like to believe that my desire to write came to me, at least in part, from living on an old country road with violets and Johnny jump-ups growing along a tiny stream bank in the spring and beautiful foliage exploding everywhere in the fall. I remember brilliant shades of green in the summer, and layers and layers of crusted white snow in the winter—and that moon! Okay, I know it’s the same moon that rises over my current home in Maryland, but memories of my childhood Pennsylvania moon are larger than life—as is the whistle that summoned my father to his job deep in the coal mines with other Pennsylvania miners. (A story about my father entitled "Whistle Prayers" has appeared in Pennsylvania Magazine, as well as several other publications, and can be found on my website.)
I’ve always been a writer, but truthfully, writing a novel about teen parents was never on my radar. I literally got talked into working with pregnant teens and teen parents at one of Maryland’s family centers, testing and tutoring them as they prepared to take GED classes. Although I felt ill-prepared to work with young adults, after having worked with preschoolers for many years, I soon found that I loved working with young families. I started incorporating parenting topics into their writing assignments and talking them through their voiced concerns and challenges as they learned to parent their babies. I was then asked to teach parenting classes and trained in two parenting curricula.
Star in the Middle started as a character sketch that I wrote for a writing class. That assignment helped me to focus on the difficulties teen mothers face as they attempted to complete their educations and raise their babies, often without the support of their babies’ fathers. The assignment got tucked away, but every time I found myself concerned about rising teen pregnancy statistics, I vowed to write a novel about the difficulties pregnant teens and teen mothers face.
When I finally sat down to write Star in the Middle, I felt like I knew the characters personally. Their voices were in my head, and it was their voices that told their stories. Star, the teen mother, had a very strong voice, but Wilson, the teen father, wanted his voice heard as well. Although I never intended to write a novel in dual voices, I soon found that his was a voice that could not be ignored. In retrospect, I see that this was the novel I intended to write all along, and even though Baby Wil was not old enough to talk at novel’s end—I felt he had a voice as well.
Star in the Middle is a story about a girl who has a secret. Star’s secret, in fact, has been identified as a factor in putting girls at a higher risk of becoming teen mothers. It’s also a story about a boy who is privileged and who is forced to face some facts about himself and the mother of his baby—a baby that he denies is his, even to himself.
I hope that readers will find the suspense in Star in the Middle exciting, the characters both likable and engaging, and their stories compelling. I also hope the novel will demonstrate the importance of young adults protecting themselves against unplanned pregnancies and STDs.
Thank you so much, Carol. There are couple of things about your novel and your guest post that interest me. First, teen pregnancy continues to be an issue, even in this day of easy access to reproductive information and birth control. I think many people tend to forget that. Second, I am sure your personal experience of working with young parents has brought an authenticity to Star in the Middle. Finally, I love that you have included the father's voice. So many teen pregnancy books and movies leave the young father's issues out of the story.
Oh and I just love the photos Carol shared of the Pennsylvania countryside. I'm glad she's kept her Pennsylvania roots close to her heart.
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Carol Larese Millward is a writer who for several years was a family advocate and parent educator working with teen parents through Family Support and Education Centers. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and when she isn’t writing, Carol enjoys spending time with her two children and their families, which include six grandchildren. She lives in Maryland with her husband of 40 years and their two cats. Star in the Middle is her debut novel.
To learn more about Carol, to read her short story, and to see the book trailer, visit her website.
Thanks to Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves for hosting this fabulous project. For more Literary Road Trip posts from around the world, visit the LRT page.