Author Guest Post

Q&A with Sharon Draper

February 8, 2016
The Riveted Team
Believe In Your Shelf

Why did you write Tears of a Tiger?

I’d been teaching for many years, working with teenagers in middle school and high school. I knew I could write a book that they would love from the very first page. I knew what they didn’t like (long, boring books) so I wrote just the opposite. The chapters are short, the action is intense, and the problems are real.

Why aren’t the books in the Hazelwood trilogy written in order?

I wrote Andy’s story first. That was Tears of a Tiger. I had no idea what an impact it would have. It won numerous awards and seemed to strike a chord with students and teachers all over. When I was asked to do a second book, I decided to take a minor character from the first book and develop him as the major character of the next book. That ended up being Gerald in Forged by Fire. Forged by Fire seems to come before Tears of a Tiger because it begins when Gerald is just three years old. He grows up to go to Hazelwood High School with Andy and Rob and the others. So those two books meet in the middle as companion books. I WROTE Tears of a Tiger first, but Forged by Fire HAPPENS first. The third book in the Hazelwood trilogy, Darkness Before Dawn, was written to answer all the questions I received about what happened to the characters in the first two books. Each book can stand alone and be read without the others, however. If I had known I was going to write three books when I started, I would have written them in order.

What are your immediate thoughts about this book and the message you tried to evoke?

I don’t think I had a grand plan in mind when I wrote it. I just wanted to write a good book. I certainly had no agenda designed to send a message to young people. When students ask me today “What do you think we should learn from this book?” I tell them “Whatever you got out of it!” A good book ought to bring out lots of different responses from those that read it—none of them pre-planned, and all of them very personal. Whatever they take away from the reading of the book is valuable.

Are any of the characters in Tears of a Tiger based on real people?

No, I made them up. But the ideas are based on real emotions and real understanding of grief. I think that’s why young people identify with the story.

Why does Tears of a Tiger end the way it does?

Tragedy is more powerful than comedy. It gets to the core of who we are and what we believe, and it makes us think long after a book is finished.

PLEASE tell me what happened to the characters in the trilogy after the end of the last book.

I probably would have to write another book to answer your questions. I don’t ever know what will happen to a character until the story takes me to that place. I like the idea that the answers are not given, but imagined. You can create the answers yourself. Whatever you think probably happened, probably did, but even I’m not really sure. It’s like the end of a movie. You see them heading down the road at the end, and you can probably guess what happens in the future, but the movie is over, so you have to imagine what you think will be. I know this might be a frustrating answer, but I really can’t know unless I finish the story in another book. Perhaps one day I will. In the meantime, feel free to imagine anything you like.