Questions from Ambassador-International for Linda:
Q. Although this book is fiction you draw from many of your own life experiences and the people that you know (including your name – Lydia Birn, Linda Born). Did you do this intentionally or did it happen organically as you were writing
A. I was inspired by James Herriot, who used a pen name but wrote his novels in first person. I originally had intended to publish my book using the pen name “Lydia Birn,” but since The Children Are Tender is a fictionalized memoir and not an autobiography I thought the lines between fact and fiction would become blurred to the degree that the reader might feel confused.
Q. One of the main challenges that your character Lydia faces is the lack of funding for her classroom as well as the struggle to implement educational mandates required by the state. Are these issues that you see today in the field of education even though your novel is set in the 1970’s?
A. Budgeting is always an issue for schools, but the global financial crisis of 2007-08 impacted education to the degree that we are now seeing drastic funding cuts for education. States must formulate standards to assure students receive a good education despite fewer available funds to meet their needs. Beleaguered administrators and school boards are given the unenviable task of implementing requirements they had no role in creating, and have to absorb the impact of dismay from teachers. This current situation does mirror the circumstances faced by the characters in The Children Are Tender.
Q.Some of the stories in this book are simply hilarious. To what degree did these come from real life experiences?
A. There are no characterizations of real people in my book, with the exceptions of Farmer John, who is a ringer for my husband, and Bob, who is as accurate a representation of my father as I could muster. Unless you are related to me, you are safe!
Q. What do you hope that readers come away with after reading The Children Are Tender?
A. I hope The Children Are Tender becomes an “old friend” book, a volume opened time and again when the reader wants to revisit characters that have become as comforting as a grandmother’s voice or a beloved teacher’s smile.
Q. A sense of community and the setting of the novel in a rural town are very important to you. What is it about this imaginary town and its real-life inspiration that carries the novel, at times making the town appear as another character in itself?
A. When I was growing up my family moved seven times in a nine-year period. I was sixteen when we made our final move, settling in Lebo, Kansas, a community much like Karola. Unlike many of my classmates who couldn’t wait to leave our little town, I settled down gratefully into the warmth of belonging in a place where everyone knew who I was. I’ve tried to recreate that hometown comfort I love so much in my descriptions of the community of Karola.
Young Tommy disappears during a field trip, Jeffrey risks electrocution by urination, and Brenna struggles to learn how to read. It's all in a day's work for a first-year teacher in the tiny town of Karola in the 1970s. In this tale of heartwarming classroom adventures in rural Kansas, author Linda Born’s new novel, The Children Are Tender (Ambassador International; March 2013; $14.99, paperback), addresses the importance of childhood education and emotional development while also focusing on issues of tolerance, forgiveness, and love.