interview by Sheila Miller
Kim Cooper Findling and her daughter, 14-year-old Libby Findling, seem to have pulled off a near-impossible mother-daughter feat—they’ve completed a major project together and are still on speaking terms.
The Findlings started writing a novel together four years ago, working together on the plot, developing the characters and crafting the story. Fast-forward four years and the book, The Sixth Storm, is a young-adult novel from Dancing Moon Press, which Cooper Findling purchased last year. The duo has traveled around Oregon doing readings, school visits and other publicity for the book, which The Oregonian recently named a new and notable YA title.
The young adult novel, set in a fictional Oregon Coast town called Starfish Cove, follows Skye Clancy, a girl whose family has a strange relationship with the weather, which has wrought death and destruction on them for decades. While the story is fictional, it picks through any number of real Oregon places and pieces of history. That’s not surprising, considering the Findlings are fifth- and sixth-generation Oregonians.
Where did this idea come from?
LF: She was putting me to bed one night, four years ago, and it was really stormy out. It was one of those Central Oregon thunderstorms, and I said … well, you remember it better, Mom.
KF: She said, ‘What if the weather represented people changing?’ And I was like, ‘Whoa.’ She’s always been very story-oriented and creative. She tells everyone her dreams each morning, and I knew there was a lot going on in that head. But she was 10 when she said that and I said, ‘Wow, that’s the heart of a story.’ … So it was at that moment that we started working on the book.
Was it hard to write a book together? Did you guys get along while writing it?
KF: Libby and I are a lot alike. And we finish each other’s sentences anyway, so that idea generation, coming up with the setting and the people and all that, that was really fun. She was a little frustrated with me because I did all the writing initially. I would write chapters and bring them to her and she would respond. That caused a little frustration. I was a little controlling.
LF: Well, I was a 10-year-old. But mostly the first part was super fun.
What was the best part of writing together?
KF: Fiction is more consuming. You can get lost in the story more, and I would find myself really consumed in a way that was enjoyable. Writing is usually so isolating, so it was super fun to then go from that state to hand her a chapter and be open to whatever her response was. Libby was really good with dialogue and emotions, and she really got to know our characters as we went along.
LF: I liked working with her. We both have that dark humor and we think a lot of the same stuff. I also liked creating the characters. My favorite is Skye’s best friend, Ashley. She’s so dorky, you never know what she’s going to say.
KF: It was awesome. I mean, first just not being alone in the writing, but also, I knew she had all kinds of great storytelling in there, but she really brought a lot of depth to it as well. And then we went out and pitched it in person to agents and publishers and that was really fun, to have a little pal all of a sudden. Writing and pitching is so intimidating, and with her I really felt conscious of not modeling fear.
KF: I think we’re open to writing another book. It sort of blows my mind that we pulled this off. And now I’m even busier than ever, and so is she.
LF: She has the press, and I have high school!
KF: We’d have to squeeze it in in the middle of the night. … The more we get out and talk about the book, the response has been so much fun, it’s like how could we not do this again? It’s like we always tell kids, if you want it badly enough, you’ll make it happen.