We talk Fires, Equality, Cheryl Strayed for Dinner… and Chocolate Vegan Cake.
Welcome to the blog, Linda! This has to be the most inspiring and empowering interview I have published with an author to date, so I am really pleased to be able to share your story with other readers today. Thanks for stopping by to tell us about your book and how it came to be.
What inspired you to write your book, ‘Summers of Fire: A Memoir’?
Multiple losses…within 5 years time, I ended my 23 year marriage, lost my job, and lost my mom. Because my years as a firefighter were some of the best times of my life, I returned to them—not necessarily to write a book, but to write down some of the events. However, after doing so, friends encouraged me to write more. And I did. Four hundred pages!
You must have encountered many challenges as one of the first females on a Forest Service Fire Crew in the U.S. Can you tell us about that?
When I accepted this summer job, I didn’t realize the hardest part would not be fighting fires. My first summer, I thought I handled the snide and rude sexist comments quite well. I heard things like: “women belong barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen.” I laughed them off, and continued to focus on my job and do the very best I could—which meant working twice as hard as the guys just to prove I could handle the work. But later in the summer I discovered that most of the guys whom I thought were my friends and comrades, didn’t think I belonged there. One said, “You should quit. You’re just here to fill the agency’s woman quota.”
That hurt, but it didn’t stop me from reapplying for the next summer.
My third summer a man denied me a job for which I was fully qualified. I filed a formal Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint, but nothing happened because the man claimed he’d never done such a thing.
Even that didn’t stop me from pursuing the job I loved for four more years.
How have those challenges gone on to help you in other areas of your life?
It’s been interesting to discover that I don’t give myself much credit for taking on such hard and challenging work, or for rebuilding my life more than once. It’s my friends who remind me that I’m still that tough, strong-willed twenty-year-old inside. When I think about it, I guess they are right!
Chocolate…but it has to be vegan.
What’s the loveliest thing a reader has said about your writing?
Hands down, this comment: “I hate to admit it, but you made me get teary at the end, both because of the challenges you faced and overcame, but I also had that feeling you get when you become familiar with a book character and then you reach the end of the book and you realize you won’t be following that “friend” anymore.”
And the not-so-loveliest?
On one of my early drafts, “You need to make this more than a travelogue.” (I’d already done so, but that comment still stung.)
If you could choose three authors to invite over for a dinner party (and these have to be authors you haven’t yet met!), who would that trio comprise of?
Definitely Cheryl Strayed, who wrote, “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.” She was my inspiration.
I’d also like to meet Laura Munson, author of “This Is Not the Story You Think It Is.” I admire how she bared her soul. She taught me to be strong and to do the same in my memoir.
And Philip Connors, author of Field Notes from a Wilderness Lookout. I think we’d have much to talk about…from nature to wildfire.
We’d love to know what you are working on next… can you spill a few beans?
The prequel to Summers of Fire is with beta readers. It’s a coming-of-age story about love and finding my calling.
Bio: Linda M. Strader
Originally from Syracuse, New York, Ms. Strader moved to Prescott, Arizona with her family in 1972. In 1976, she became one of the first women on a Forest Service fire crew in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson.
Her publishing history includes many web articles on her expertise of landscaping with desert plants. A local newspaper, the Green Valley News, printed an article about her firefighting adventures, which led the magazine, Wildfire Today, to publish an excerpt. The article generated interest in her speaking on this topic to several clubs, including the American Association of University Women. Summers of Fire is her first book, scheduled for publication on May 1st, 2018. She is currently working on a prequel.
In addition to writing, Ms. Strader is a landscape architect, certified arborist, and watercolor artist. She currently lives in the same area where her Forest Service career began.
Blog address: https://summersoffirebook.blogspot.com/
Linda Strader is one of the first women hired on a fire crew with the U.S. Forest Service. A naïve twenty-year-old in the mid 1970s, she discovers fighting wildfires is challenging—but in a man’s world, they became only one of the challenges she would face. Battling fire is exhilarating, yet exhausting; the discrimination real and sometimes in her face. Told with snappy dialog, Summers of Fire is an adventure story that honestly recounts the seven years she ventures into the heart of fires that scorch the land, vibrant friendships that fire the soul, and deep love that ends in devastating heartbreak.
Linda’s book will not be out until May 1, 2018, but here is the link to her publisher’s website. Linda hopes pre-ordering will be available soon. Below is the link to her blog, where most certainly she will have updates as they become available.