An inspiring conversation with writer Deborah Lytton
After her debut novel in 2009 Jane in Bloom, writer Deborah Lytton has published her next great work of powerful fiction for young adults: Silence. But how did this talented writer create this new piece of fiction that is intended to instill hope upon its readers? Who would want to speak to teenagers so powerfully about how obstacles they come across in life are to be met and conquered? Who is Deborah Lytton?
Deborah Lytton has lived her entire life in the liberal arts which is, in itself, a very exciting lifestyle to begin with. The start to her life in the arts began at the young age of six when she became a child actor. She said she wasn’t famous, but that she worked on many television shows. “I think that working as a child helped me to learn how to be a professional at a really young age and be responsible,” Lytton said. She had to remember deadlines and lines and hit her mark every time on stage and, on top of her acting career, she attended a regular public school and was responsible for doing well on her schoolwork. After she stopped acting at the age of 18, she attended college and was happy to take time away from acting and then continued her educational career by going to law school. During this time, she started writing screenplays and singing, but then she realized that something was missing. “Then I realized that there was more that I wanted to say,” Lytton said. “So I started writing novels.” She is now a practicing attorney alongside her writing career and receives encouragement from her two beautiful daughters.
Skipping ahead a few years, Lytton wrote her debut novel Jane in Bloom. Skip ahead a few more years and it is the present day with Silence being released in less than one week on March 3rd. What was her inspiration to write this story? “I wanted to write a story about a girl who loses all the things she thinks are important to her, then build her back up [and] have her find her way through that,” Lytton said. “And I wanted her to have a relationship with somebody that would be the only person in the world that could communicate with her at the time. And out of that brokenness would come strength.”
Of course, as all writers are well aware of, novels cannot be written overnight. It usually is an extremely long, yet extremely rewarding process to write something for the world to see. It took a long time for Silence to be fully unleashed from Lytton’s mind. She admitted there were parts that were easy such as Hayden’s character which, she said, seemed to just leap off the page and the romance between Stella and Hayden seemed to flow quite smoothly. However, trying to find Stella’s voice and discovering the best way to tell the story to the readers was the real challenge. Lytton said it was challenging to find Stella’s voice because “she had some growth that I needed her to have and I wanted her to be accessible, but I still needed her to come a long way and it was hard to do that and still make her likable.” Lytton even said that the first versions of Stella were not so likeable. And yet, even with the challenges facing her as well as her characters, Lytton did not give up on her story. “I said to my agent, ‘I need to write this story. I have to write this story and I’m gonna find a way to tell it. I will find a way to make it work.’” And, once she found her inspiration for Stella, it took Lytton one more year to complete her story.
Even just after a short conversation with her, one can tell Lytton feels very passionately about the messages she conveys in Silence. It is a romance novel for teens, but nothing parents need to be cautious about. “It’s really important for me to write books that I feel comfortable giving to my daughters,” Lytton said. “[Books] that I feel that other parents can give to their daughters or sons without worrying about the material in them or the language in them or that they have to read it over their [child’s] shoulder or if they have any questions about things they don’t want to discuss [or are not ready to discuss] yet.” The romance within Silence is a sweet teen relationship between a broken teenage girl and an equally broken teenage boy who find each other and realize they are each other’s glue. Writing this romance was one of Lytton’s favorite parts, especially the last sequence of the book.
What is so refreshing about Lytton’s writing is that she puts her heart and soul into it. “I decided not to hold back and I wanted to be true to myself,” Lytton said. She made Hayden and Stella exactly how she wanted them to be. She made both of them go to church to show that they had faith during their dark times. She had Stella use her phone to communicate with others, but rarely had her or Hayden on any other form of technology. The lack of technology in the story is a great message to convey to the younger generation, for there is a whole other world beyond what the small screen of a smartphone can show someone. Lytton used her own life as an inspiration to write Stella, having her in the drama department and loving to sing, and she had Hayden love poetry. Having teen characters immersing themselves in the arts is wonderful, especially nowadays when many school systems are pushing children more towards math and science. “I think that [the arts are] a wonderful creative outlet no matter where your talents lie,” Lytton said. “I think it’s all an outlet.”
The most important message, however, that Lytton wishes to convey in Silence is the message of hope. When Stella believes she will no longer be able to sing, she feels as if she is losing her identity and her depression leads her down a dark path. Hayden leads her back into the light with hope. “That is the biggest message that I hope [the readers] take away from this,” Lytton said. “That there is always hope and that, if you just keep trying and you believe in yourself, that there is hope.”
Even with one book already published, Lytton is very excited to see the day Silence is released on the shelves in bookstores. “Being published at all for a writer is so exciting because you write all by yourself and you’re not sure if anyone is ever going to read what you’ve written,” Lytton said. “So having an editor be interested in actually putting the book out is a very rewarding experience. I think the most exciting rewarding part of it is just knowing that your story will be out there for teens to read.” She hopes that her story will be able to inspire someone out there and she said that even if she is only able to touch one life, it is a huge honor just to be able to do that. She greatly appreciates working with her publishing company Shadow Mountain, for they have been very supportive and like a family to her. “It’s nice to know I’m not alone because I have a whole team behind me,” Lytton said.
Of course, for any writer, the next most exciting thing after knowing one is going to be published is receiving the finished product. Lytton said she took a picture of the box when she received her print book and it was just so beautiful that she could not stop staring at it. She said just holding it in her hands and seeing the words she had read over so many times was just a wonderful experience. And yet, this does not mark the end of Lytton’s writing career. Her next work will be about teens and cyberbullying. “I think that it’s important for me as a writer to stay true to what I do best and I think that what I do best is write emotional stories,” Lytton said. “The strengths that I have are in writing emotional pieces and in contemporary fiction and so, when I get away from that, it’s not as powerful as this book is.”
Deborah Lytton is a wonderful woman with many inspirational messages to tell anyone and everyone who is willing to listen. The future of writing is looking quite extraordinary for this blossoming writer.
Originally published at www.examiner.com on February 27, 2015.