Saturday’s Pick: Middle-Grade & Young Adult Author
This week’s Saturday’s Pick is Author D.G. Driver, who writes for young adults and middle-grade readers. Her passion for writing books about diverse characters and difficult topics make her a stand-out for those who love to read and are also passionate about caring for the environment and people with special needs. She loves to read fantasy and adventure stories when she isn’t writing.
Thank you for joining us here today!
More About D.G. Driver
D.G. Driver lives near Nashville, TN and is a teacher in an inclusive classroom of typically developing and special needs children in an Early Intervention program. She drew on her experience as a Special Education teacher and growing up with an autistic brother to write her newest release.
No One Needed to Know was released by D.G. Driver on January 15, 2017. It’s about an eleven-year-old girl named Heidi and her autistic brother, Donald. Everyone knows how life changes when you’re eleven. Kids worry about how others view them and Heidi isn’t any different.
She’s embarrassed to have her brother around and doesn’t want her friends to know about him. High school boys bully him. When the kids at her school find out about him, she gets bullied too. It’s not fair. No one seems to understand. But Heidi needs to understand too. She can’t change her brother, but she can change how she feels about him, and she can get people to see why her brother is special.
Promoting kindness and tolerance and overcoming bullying are topics near and dear to my heart. Did your brother experience bullying when you were a child? How did you deal with it?
Yes. My brother was often called the “r-word”, and I witnessed it many times. It always made me cringe, and it still does to this day. I hate that kids today use that word so flippantly. Being 4 years younger than my brother, I was able to avoid most of the
Being 4 years younger than my brother, I was able to avoid most of the fallout of that name-calling. Our middle brother had a harder time avoiding it; he sometimes got called names too and people teased him by saying things like “Are you an ‘r-word’ too?” Even as a young man, my oldest brother was harassed by people. One time he was chased home from his job and run off the road (he rides a bike instead of driving).
I was bullied in 6th and 7th grade by mean, popular girls at school who decided one day that I was “stuck up” and made sure no one would be my friend. It was a very difficult time. I stayed home from school, pretending to be sick a lot. My mom finally caught on.
One day she arrived at school just in time to stop a physical fight and we all had to meet with the principal. It got quieter but not better. In 8th grade, I joined the theater kid crowd, and I was in nerdy theater Heaven forevermore. Finding the people you belong with is definitely helpful.
How did your personal story influence Heidi’s reactions to the other students?
I basically combined the experiences of my brothers and me to create this story. In addition, I remember the embarrassment and fear I felt regarding my oldest brother. And, I remember the heartache and pain of being bullied. Mostly, this book is about that time in life when we go from being carefree children to being aware of other people’s opinions. It’s a difficult time to navigate.
What is the one thing you want everyone to understand about those with autism?
First of all, there is a wide range of ability in autism, that’s referred to as the spectrum. There are many highly functioning people in society with autism who hold important jobs and do impressive work.
On the opposite end, there are people who can’t communicate or struggle with behavioral issues and will always require assistance. Generally, autistic people have trouble with things typically developing people take for granted. These things occur mostly in the social skills area: things like touching, eye contact, staying on topic, noise.
If you are around someone on the high end of the spectrum, understand that they aren’t being rude to you if they don’t shake your hand or hug you. They might simply walk away when they lose interest in a conversation. There’s no reason to get upset or call them out for it. If you are dealing with someone with more obvious handicaps, then be patient and helpful, especially to the caregivers.
Do you find you become emotional as you write about difficult topics? What was the hardest segment of this book to write for you?
There’s a scene early in the book when Heidi has been harassed by the kids at school all day long. Her heart is hurting and she just wants to get home and be alone.
On the way home, she sees her brother and rushes past him to beat him to the house. She locks him out of the house, knowing full-well that he can’t work the lock. Then she waits and listens to him fuss with it for several minutes before helping him. She is so mean to him at this point in the book, but she is also hurting so much.
I remember doing this to my brother once, and I remember how awful I felt afterward. It was hard to make Heidi so mean, but I think it was important to show how she changes over the course of the novel from this point to the more enlightened person she is at the end.
Who will benefit most from reading No One Needed to Know?
I think any children between the ages of 8 and 13 will be able to relate to being bullied. It is a common feeling, and seeing how Heidi struggles with it and overcomes it with confidence and grace might be helpful.
Also, there is a lot in the book about special needs children. I tried not to get too “teachy” but people can learn a lot about a variety of special needs and the attention and help they require. I’m hoping that readers will be more open-minded, tolerant and kind by the time they have reached the end of this book and become willing to put that new way of thinking into action.
The Young Adult Novels (from Fire and Ice Young Adult Books)
Cry of the Sea by D.G. Driver, tells the story of the teen daughter of environmental activists. When Juniper Sawfeather goes to help her father report damage at a recent oil spill, she discovers real mermaids washed up on the beach. In her efforts to save them, she soon finds herself in the middle of a struggle between her parents, the media, a marine biologist and his handsome young intern, the kids at school, and the oil company over the fate of the mermaids. This exciting YA adventure won Second Place in the YA category of the 2015 Green Book Festival for environmental themed books and 2nd place in the environmental theme of the 2016 Purple Dragonfly Children’s Book Awards.
I have been actively involved in water quality issues in Wisconsin for the past 15 years. Teaching kids to respect and protect the environment through storytelling presents a perfect learning opportunity. What will kids be thinking when they finish this book about protecting their local environment?
If anything, I’m hoping they will be more cognizant that water pollution affects the animals that live in the ocean/lakes/rivers near them.
This book deals with an oil spill, which is not something a child can control. However, they should feel sympathy for the sea animals and mermaids after they see the devastation caused by the pollution. Perhaps they will be more aware when visiting the beach or camping and throw away their trash and recycle their plastic. I’ve had one reader write to me that she is planning to be a marine biologist now after reading this book.
(We were down on the coast when the Deep Water Horizon tragedy happened, D.G. My brother and his crew of scientists were delighted when Jimmy Buffett donated a boat to allow them to save the wildlife up in the bayous after the spill. This is something I care deeply about.)
Whisper of the Woods is the sequel to Cry of the Sea. Juniper Sawfeather seems to have a talent for finding mythological creatures. Or maybe the creatures are finding her. In this story, she is trapped by one 170 feet up in an ancient tree. Tell us about the magical spirit who lives in the Old Growth trees.
Juniper Sawfeather is half American Indian. This 1,000+ year old, 200+ feet tall Red Cedar tree resides on the reservation land of her father’s nation. Her uncle, who is the Tribal Council Chief Executive, has made a deal with a timber company to fell this tree and all the ones around it to make some money for the reservation.
But really, he just wants this one tree gone because he is certain that somehow it caused the disappearance of his sister back in the 1980s. He thinks it holds a malevolent spirit inside it based on an ancient legend.
Her grandfather also believes there is a spirit in the tree, but he thinks it is based on a different myth. This myth also explains the existence of the mermaids Juniper discovered in book one and the creature she will find in book three, Echo of the Cliffs (coming out in May).
Passing Notes won Silver Place in the RBRT Book Awards for best Fantasy Book. What advice would you give to other authors who haven’t entered their books in any contests yet?
I didn’t enter a contest for this award. Rosie Amber has a great book review site with a team of reviewers. Books are approved by Rosie, and she posts them as available to reviewers. Several of her team chose to read my sweet romantic novella Passing Notes for that site. At the end of the year, the reviewers vote for their favorite books of the year in each category. Once the finalists are named, they open up the voting to the public. Thankfully, a number of my friends and readers voted for my book.
I have entered Cry of the Sea in several contests, and it has done pretty well. For me, I targeted my submissions to the green/environmental category (if available) where there would be less competition than the general Young Adult category. I think in book award contests where you pay to enter, it’s good to clarify the niche of your book if at all possible.
Short Stories in Anthologies
A Tall Ship, A Star, and Plunder is a collection of 24 tales of bravado, daring, and dastardly deeds committed by legendary pirates. Can you tell us about D.G. Driver’s tale in this swashbuckling collection?
There are 25 stories and poems about pirates in this book. Some are science fiction stories and some are fantasy.
My story “The Jamaican Dragon” features more traditional pirates and a marvelous, greedy dragon. My main character is Captain Ringlet Red, a feisty pirate queen who convinces this dragon to follow her to Jamaica and help her defeat all the other pirates in the area.
I originally created Captain Ringlet Red for a children’s play I wrote back in the 90s called “A Pirate Tale”, and I liked her character so much, I decided to write a story just for her. This isn’t a children’s book, however. It’s pretty clean, just not targeted to kids.
Fantastic Creatures: Here be dragons … and selkies and griffins and maybe even a mermaid or two. This book is an anthology of stories for the fantasy lover who can’t get enough of the mythical beasts we have all grown to know and love. Tell us about your contribution to the book.
I’m part of this great group on Facebook of Clean Fantasy Book Authors, where we are all writers of fantasy books devoid of swearing and explicit sex. We decided to create an anthology of books featuring mythical creatures as a showcase for our work. While this book is fine for younger readers, it isn’t a children’s book.
I chose to submit a story I already had featuring werewolves. Mine is kind of different from the rest of the stories because most of them are ‘high fantasy’ where the characters live in a fantastical/medieval world with swords, wizards, and the like. I prefer to write contemporary fantasy or urban fantasy, so my story “Mother’s Night Out” takes place in the current day. It’s about a girl working at a daycare and is offered a special overnight shift to take care of the babies of some rather unusual mothers. It probably qualifies as the most “horrific” story of the book.
Second Chance For Love: Who says love doesn’t come around again? This book contains seven stories of single parents finding love for the second time. What inspired you to participate in this anthology with the other authors?
This book is published by the romance imprint of the publisher behind my Juniper Sawfeather novels. They put out a request for stories to their existing author bank.
I had started but never finished a story about a traffic cop who falls for the woman he tickets for speeding. This story call-out gave me the impetus to finish it.
I really love this story, actually, and it still prominently features a teen girl. I’ve even begun to think about writing a book from her point of view at some point. Plus, I am in my second marriage, so I was proud to be part of a book celebrating that divorce isn’t the end of love.
People haven’t really discovered this book, which is too bad. It has a very “happy ending” feel to it, and sometimes feel-good stories are just what person needs.
I love that so many of your writings provide inspiration for today’s youth. Do you have anything in the works that will continue the strong lessons you’ve already shared?
I’m working on several things right now. As mentioned above, my 3rd Juniper Sawfeather book comes out in May, and the environmental issue in that installment is construction run-off pollution and how it is affecting killer whales. It’s is the most action-packed book of the series and will conclude the trilogy.
Also, I’m currently writing two new related stories to go with Passing Notes and turn that novella into a full-length book. Those stories are about family, honesty, chivalry, and the meaning of true love. Down the road, I have a YA novel in mind about high school choir singers who help a girl and her mom rise up out of Depression and revising an old short story of mine into a children’s novel about a girl who helps her next-door neighbor with Cerebral Palsy build a treehouse.
If you could spend a week in one fantasy destination, what would it be?
Hogwarts. I’m not sure a week would be enough, but I would really love to be a student there, even for just a few days.
I want to thank D.G. Driver for taking the time to share her writing adventures with us today. You will look at the world with a kinder eye after you read her beautiful stories!
You can connect with D.G. Driver Here: