Today we are featuring OneFourKidLit author Lisa Colozza Cocca, whose YA debut PROVIDENCE came out on March 18!
“I first met Baby Girl in a freight car.
I was carrying a bag.
She was sleeping in one.”
When Becky runs away from home she sees it as a temporary solution to a problem. Finding an abandoned newborn is nowhere on her radar. Yet only hours after leaving home, she finds herself in a new town making decisions that will affect both Baby Girl and herself. As she forges bonds with the people in town and the infant she has rescued, Becky becomes more tangled in the web of lies she has hidden behind. Who can she trust with the truth?
Sharon Roat: Congratulations on your debut, Lisa! Can you tell us what sparked the idea for your novel?
Lisa Colozza Cocca: Thank you. Quite some time ago, I saw a news story about a girl who found an abandoned newborn on the roof of the apartment building in which the girl lived. She immediately told her mother, who called the authorities. Later, a news reporter interviewed the girl and told her she was a hero for saving the baby’s life. This little girl was having none of that. As far as she was concerned, she had found the baby, the baby needed a family to love her, she and her mom were a family with plenty of love to spare, so who were these people taking the baby away? It seemed totally unjust to her.
When I decided to write the book, I knew the protagonist couldn’t be a ten year old girl. She needed to be old enough to keep the baby safe and thriving and there needed to be no adult intervention keeping her from caring for the child. Hence, my main character, Becky, became a sixteen year old runaway.
SR: PROVIDENCE takes place in a small Georgia town, far from your stomping grounds of upstate New York and New Jersey! What inspired you set your novel in the south and what kind of research did you do to capture the feel of the place?
LCC: One of my favorite things to do in life is explore and what better way to do that than a road trip? I’ve been on many and love to cruise through small towns along the way. So often, these towns make me feel like I’ve traveled back in time. Watson’s Grove is really a compilation of all of those towns – the ones’ whose main streets have seen a revival and those who are still suffering from neglect. As for why it is set in the south, I hope my answer doesn’t make me sound strange. I knew I wanted it somewhere freight trains still stop with some regularity. Beyond that, I had Becky’s voice in my head and that voice told me this was the South. Things like adoption laws and GED policies can easily be researched.
SR: I love your title, PROVIDENCE, which is simple yet represents a complex concept. How did you choose the title and how does it reflect the theme of your novel?
LCC: Thank you. For a while I had thought about Serendipity for the title. Although outcomes are dependent on how each character reacts to the various situations in the book, the opportunities seem to simply fall into place. The more I thought about it though, Rosie, one of the other main characters in the book, is very religious. She would have never thought the intersection of the characters’ lives was pure chance. She saw God’s hand in it and acted accordingly. So I guess in a way, Rosie chose the title when she told Becky their relationship was providence.
SR: While PROVIDENCE is your debut novel, you’ve written quite extensively for young readers as an author of school and library materials. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as a writer and where you hope that path will take you in the years ahead?
LCC: A little more than a decade ago, I went to a writer’s conference. We were seated in a large room waiting for the keynote speaker. The woman sitting next to me started chatting about her work. She was the director of the art department at a publishing house. They specialized in educational materials and she told me a bit about the products they were working on. I’m not an illustrator, but I was familiar with the reading program she was discussing. She offered me her card and the name of a colleague who was looking for another writer for the program. I followed through and was soon writing for this program. (Serendipity? Providence? Hmmm…) This led to many other jobs and after about two years, writing and editing became my full time job as a freelancer. Originally, I thought this move would give me more time for my own writing. Wow, was I wrong. After writing and editing for eight to twelve hours a day, it was tough to sit back down at a computer and write some more. Eventually, I worked it out and although I’m not perfect at it, I am better at keeping a balance between the two worlds. As to the future, I would love it if someday I could cut back on my day job and devote more time to my personal writing. I don’t think I want to give up the educational work entirely though. For one thing, it pays the bills and I like things like electricity, heat, and health insurance. For the other, I really love my job. I work on so many different kinds of projects. They feed my self-discipline, my creativity, and make me think. I’ve met some wonderful people through it.
SR: What are you working on now?
LCC: I’m polishing another novel. It is a bit younger YA, I think than PROVIDENCE. It is set in the early sixties and has quite a bit more humor in it.
SR: And lastly, as this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.
LCC: I am intensely afraid of heights and speed. This makes me no fun at an amusement park. One thing I’m not afraid of anymore is failing. I’ve lived long enough to know I can bounce back from a failure. It might mean I have to adapt in some way, but it won’t be the end of me. I think once you realize something doesn’t have complete control over you, you’re no longer afraid of it. Now, if I could only apply that philosophy to heights and speed!
Lisa, thank you so much for the interview, and huge congrats on your debut!
ABOUT LISA COLOZZA COCCA:
Lisa grew up in upstate New York between Albany and Saratoga, and lives in New Jersey today. She has always worked around books as a teacher and school librarian. She’s also authored tons of school and library materials. PROVIDENCE is Lisa’s first published novel. Visit her on Facebook and Twitter!
|Sharon Roat is the author of IVY’S TOWER (HarperTeen), a contemporary young adult novel coming in summer 2015. She lives in Delaware and can be found online at YA Q&A and on Twitter @sharonwrote.|