Author Interview: Barbara Dzikowski
Stephanie: I would like to introduce Barbara Dzikowski. Winner of the BRAG Medallion. Searching for Lincoln’s Ghost is Barbara J. Dzikowski’s debut novel. She earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy and a graduate degree in counseling from Indiana University. These areas of study fueled her desire to create fiction that closely examines the human heart and its complex search for love and meaning. Fascinated by the passion, idealism, and lost hope of the 1960s, she is putting the finishing touches on her second novel, Losing Is Still Ours, about two families struggling with the changes and uncertainties of that decade, with a particular focus on the cataclysmic year of 1968. She is also hard at work on her third novel, which depicts a family’s personal struggle while caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
I have been so intrigued about your story, “Searching for Lincoln’s Ghost.” Please tell me a little about it.
Barbara: Searching for Lincoln’s Ghost is a story about coming of age during the tumultuous 1960s. Although it begins as a “look back” from an adult’s perspective, at its heart, it’s a story about Andi Powell, a young, lonely, eleven-year-old girl, who’s dealing with great fear and change. To begin with, she’s lost both her parents in a car accident, and she’s being raised by a grieving grandmother obsessed with her own daughter’s death. Andi harbors many fears and anxieties about death, dying, and what’s happened to her parents.
Over the 100-year history of her school, two sixth graders have purportedly seen Lincoln’s ghost in the school auditorium. When Andi prays on her dead mother’s rosary to be the next sixth grader to encounter Lincoln’s ghost as “living” proof of an afterlife, a complex chain of events is set into motion, including the sudden appearance of a new boy at school, John Malone, who becomes her first love and who’s harboring a horrific secret—and mysterious moaning coming from the dark stage after school. While Andi desperately seeks answers to life’s most difficult questions, an unlikely new friend emerges—a mystical bait shop owner named Ezra, who seems to have all the answers she’s looking for.
Stephanie: You have come up with a fantastic title and it truly stands out. How does it tie into the story?
Barbara: Abraham Lincoln is that iconic hero that everyone can relate to—a symbol of honesty and truth—and studying the life of Abraham Lincoln is a part of most American childhoods. I know it certainly was a big part of mine. And so are good old fashioned ghost stories!
As I was first beginning to envision the outline for this book, I came across some very intriguing stories about Lincoln’s ghost. I was so captivated by them that I wanted to weave them into the story. The Lincoln image seemed like a great hook for a tale about coming of age during a very turbulent time in our nation’s history. In Andi’s case, her search for Lincoln’s ghost becomes her personal search for truth and meaning.
Stephanie: I really like the premise of your story and how clever you tied in your title. Who designed your book cover?
Barbara: I’m so glad you asked that—I think having the freedom to choose your own cover image is one of the greatest things about being an indie author! It’s like putting icing on your cake—part of the complete package. It’s so integral to the overall message you’re trying to convey and the type of readers you’re hoping to attract. I know a lot of my friends choose what books they’re going to read simply based on the cover design. I poured through dozens and dozens of stock images and nothing seemed quite right, until I finally discovered this particular image, which I found very compelling. I immediately knew it was the right one!
Searching for Lincoln’s ghost
Stephanie: I believe the cover and title is so important in a reader choosing a book to read. First impressions are reality when selecting a read.
What genre does your story fall under?
Barbara: That’s a great question, because I’m still not quite sure! Mainly, I describe it as a coming-of-age novel for young adults. I think that examining hard social issues and human nature through the painfully honest, innocent and impressionable lens of childhood can be powerful, and that’s exactly what many YA novels are able to accomplish. However, most of my readers have been adults who classify it more as historical fiction.
Stephanie: It does seem to have a historical feel to it.
Is there a character you connect to? And were there any challenges writing this story?
Barbara: Absolutely I relate most directly to Andi, but I think that there are pieces of every writer in every character that they create. The greatest challenge of writing this story was to tie all the disparate themes together in a logical, cohesive whole. I wanted to use the issue of segregation back in the 1960s to connect with current social issues that we’re experiencing today.
Stephanie: Could you please tell me a little about Andi Powell’s grandmother and why she is so obsessed with death? And how that might affect Andi?
Barbara: Andi’s grandmother lost her daughter very suddenly, in an automobile accident. To lose a child has to be the most excruciating pain imaginable. And sudden death is very difficult to process. The cruel combination left Andi’s grandmother stuck in her own grief.
I think that when we lose someone we deeply love for the first time, we really start pondering whether or not there is a life beyond this one. That’s exactly the impact that her grandmother’s prolonged grief had on Andi Powell.
Stephanie: That is really profound.
Why did you chose the 1960′s as your time period?
Barbara: The 1960s fascinate me to no end! To me, it was a unique time in our nation’s history, when all the best and brightest dreams of youth—love over hate, peace over war—were all being birthed into a changing reality. It was a time of wild idealism, but also of great change, unrest, and turmoil. And great fear.
I felt that this era was a perfect setting to tell Andi’s story. A lot of bad things happen because of fear. Hatred arises from fear. And I wanted to use that period of life to explore the motivations of why people hurt other people, how we first learn fear and prejudice. The underlying message of this book is the power of the individual to make choices: how are WE going to respond to people or situations we fear or don’t understand?
The 1960s was a time when society was still very much segregated, but things were rapidly changing. Andi’s school is still experiencing segregation, with the white kids living in their neighborhood on one side of the school, and the black kids living on the other. Andi’s search for Lincoln’s ghost gives her the daring to cross over to the “forbidden side” of her neighborhood.
Stephanie: What are some of the historical aspects to your story?
I really wanted to capture what it felt like to grow up in the 1960s – the sights, smells, sounds of that era. The candy we ate. The paddlings that happened at school. The way teachers looked, dressed and acted back then, and the students. It was definitely a different era than the way children are raised today.
Stephanie: How long did it take to write, Searching for Lincoln’s Ghost?
Barbara: I researched, outlined and “incubated” for about six months before I actually started writing. That’s pretty typical of my style—but I think that the “gestation” period is really a critical stage of the writing process. At least it is for me. The actual writing took around six months, with about a year’s worth of revisions after that.
Stephanie: What is your next book project?
Barbara: Actually, I’ve got two novels in the offing. Losing Is Still Ours is an historical novel that examines the nature of love through the story of two families struggling with the changes and uncertainties of the 1960s, with a particular focus on the cataclysmic year of 1968. The second novel, which is at the editors as we speak, is a sequel to that book, depicting a family’s transformative journey while caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
Stephanie: How did you discover indieBRAG?
Barbara: I first discovered indieBRAG through Goodreads, and what an awesome and phenomenal discovery it was! And very forward thinking too, I might add. The indie author is here to stay, but it’s definitely not an easy road, particularly for fiction. IndieBRAG encourages and supports independent authors to strive for quality. I deeply appreciate their mission and positive support.
Author’s link: www.barbarajdzikowski.com
Stephanie: Barbara, thank you for chatting with me today!
A message from BRAG:
We are delighted that Stephanie has chosen to interview Barbara Dzikowski , who is the author of, Searching for Lincoln’s Ghost, one of our medallion honoree’s at www.bragmedallion.com . To be awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion TM, a book must receive unanimous approval by a group of our readers. It is a daunting hurdle and it serves to reaffirm that a book such as, Searching for Lincoln’s Ghost merits the investment of a reader’s time and money.