Long Island-based author Christie Leigh Babirad will discuss her latest book, As the Winds Change, during a special Author Event at Westhampton Free Library (7 Library Avenue, Westhampton Beach, 631-288-3335, westhamptonlibrary.net) on Saturday, February 1 at 2:30 p.m.
We had the pleasure of chatting with Babirad about the novel, its sequel, Where You Are, the Hamptons’ influence on her writing, and more.
While As the Winds Change is a work of fiction, you were inspired by the people closest to your heart. Could you discuss the book’s concept?
CLB: It’s about a friendship that kind of fell away in high school. It’s fiction, but I think it addresses the idea of people dropping out of nowhere and there’s no conclusion to the relationship. It’s the story of Johnny and April. They were friends growing up, then in high school, he got mixed up with drugs, in the senior year of high school, and they became estranged because she tried to talk him out of it, and he didn’t want to hear it. They were still friends, but he just all of a sudden just stopped communicating with her and the friendship fell away. She just never was able to let that go and she moved on with her life, obviously, but he stayed with her because he was this integral piece from her childhood and growing up, and he was there for her. So, she was never able to let it go, and then she finds out about his passing.
She has mixed feelings about that, about whether to go to the funeral or not, whether she should be there. She goes to the funeral and then a couple of days later, she’s on her way to work and he shows up as a spirit in her car, on the way to work. She works in the Hamptons, at a preschool. It kind of follows the whole idea of if you had one more chance to talk with someone, after they passed away or the friendship, in this case, it fell away. If you had one more chance, what would you say? What would you do?
It’s also about relationships in general. There is that friendship at the center of it. It’s a deep friendship, it’s very much like soulmates. Then also in the story is the relationship with her father, it’s a complicated one. She still lives at home. There’s also the relationship she has with herself because she’s lost in her life. She’s 29-years-old, and she likes working with children, but where she’s working doesn’t completely fit her. I think it can really relate to anybody in their 20s and even 30s about finding your path in life.
The sequel, Where You Are, is going to be coming out probably around the summer of this year. Johnny comes back. It’s fiction and what I like about fiction is that you can incorporate things like a ghost and the supernatural and dreams. I believe in signs and that you get them from loved ones who have passed on. But, as far as physically showing up in your car, it’s kind of cool to be able to do that and bring comfort in that way.
Now, each chapter starts with a different quote. Could you speak about why you chose the particular quotes that you did and why you decided to start each chapter with a quote?
CLB: I started each one with a quote because the books I read growing up, I liked this author Patti Callahan Henry, and she did that with one of her books. I feel like it really gives a nice introduction to the subject matter of each chapter by introducing a quote by somebody that you admire, the wisdom that’s basically to be gained from each chapter.
Ice skating plays a huge part in April’s life. Is that something that you share with her?
CLB: No, but it was a big dream of mine. Ice skating was something that I always wished that I had pursued. I had one of my birthday parties at an ice skating rink and I just thought it’s such a beautiful and challenging sport. It is personal because that’s something that I wanted to incorporate. I take elements, when I’m writing in general, that are personal. So, it’s either something that happened, such as a story that I’ve heard from a friend, or something that they’re dealing with, or an issue that I’m personally trying to work through. Like a big one with me is people dropping off without any kind of conclusion, there’s no fight, there’s no argument, but they just dropped out of nowhere.
Why did you decide to set the book on Long Island and the Hamptons?
CLB: That’s where I’m from. And that commute… Right now I live in North Babylon. But, all throughout my childhood, I would constantly be going out east. I had relatives that lived in Remsenburg. I would constantly be going back and forth from one place to the other and I just felt like that drive alone is such a contrast between this part of Long Island and the East End. There’s trees and land and things open up. That’s always been very, very important to me because that’s where I would like to eventually live. Especially visiting these relatives that I had on the East End and Remsenburg, that had been a big, big role in my life because you’d see horses and you’d see bunnies and things like that and that’s where my poetry comes from. That’s where a lot of my writing comes from is being around animals and open, blank space and just room to breathe without all the traffic and congestion.
Is there anything you hope readers take away from your book?
CLB: I hope the reader takes away from my book that you’re never alone in your feelings. I think that my goal with this book was to be vulnerable and to express the main character, April, all of her emotions. I think that no matter what, somebody reading this book, they’ll see themselves in it, whether they’re in their 20s, the age of the character, or younger or older. I never want people to feel isolated because that’s where a lot of problems are in this world. I want anybody to read this and to realize that they’re not alone and that their feelings have a real place.
Besides the appearance this weekend, do you have anything else scheduled?
CLB: Not yet, but I do plan on coming back, especially when the sequel is released. I would like to come back to East Hampton Library. I actually went to a number of libraries last year, Hampton Library in Bridgehampton. Pretty much all my signings, all my talks, they’ve all been on the East End, with the exception of my hometown library. So, I definitely feel a very strong connection to the East End.
The other thing that I want to mention too is that my next story, I’m actually going to be setting it in the Hamptons. It’s going to be an element where it’s kind of incorporated from my childhood experiences out there.
For more information, visit authorchristieleighbabirad.blogspot.com.