For many of us, music is the reason we are alive. This could not be more true for Weston Ryan and Anna James, both members of the Enfield Marching Band. Wesley is the infamous bad boy of their small Texas town who everyone warns Anna to stay away from. But his musical genius is just what she needs to master a tricky solo. As these two spend more and more time together, they start to see sides of each other that nobody else can see. Ashley Schumacher explores the beautiful, fragile nature of first love in her sophomore novel, Full Flight.
High school band nerds, this is the perfect story for you. Anyone who was consumed by an extracurricular activity, whether it be musical theater (guilty), or robotics club, or any other gloriously nerdy club on the planet, will relate to Anna and Wesley. Their story shifts back and forth between their points of view as they slowly fall in love, which is beautiful to watch.
Here at the Young Folks, we had the pleasure of getting to chat with Ashley Schumacher herself!
Both of the main characters in Full Flight play in their high school marching band, and it’s a huge part of the story. Did you participate in your high school marching band?
AS: I did! Like Anna, I joined band in high school. After years of all my friends trying to convince me to pick up an instrument, I finally folded and started my freshman year.
Which instrument did you play? How did it impact your overall high school experience?
AS: Alto saxophones for the win! (My instrument’s name is Al, by the way. Alfredo Saxophone. I still have him, my very impressive ten-reed case, and way too much sheet music.)
Not to sound melodramatic, but band was my high school experience. There was no longer fall or spring: There was only marching and concert seasons.
What inspired you to explore marching band in this story?
AS: Like I said, marching band was such a huge part of my life growing up, and I’ve always wondered why we don’t see more band nerds on the page. I feel like band kids—if they’re present at all in books—have most often been side characters, or—if the main character was in band—it wasn’t a major part of their life or the plot.
I also loved the challenge of writing about music. One of my favorite writing exercises a professor gave me in college was, “Listen to one of your favorite songs and write what that song makes you feel without ever referencing the song or the lyrics.” I think I took that advice to heart and used it throughout writing all of Full Flight.
Your books do such a good job immersing readers in a certain world, whether that be the world of book nerds in Amelia Unabridged or band nerds in Full Flight. Can you give us a hint which world we’ll visit next?
AS: Publishing is weird because I don’t know how much I’m allowed to Officially Say Until Things That Are Secret Become Un-Secreted. But you know what’s fun and totally unrelated to your question? Jousting. And yelling a good, hearty “Huzzah!” every once in a while. (Also plus size princesses, BUT THIS IS ALL UNRELATED.)
Was the switch from one to two POVs difficult? Do you have any advice for writing two distinct POVs that might help other writers? (Asking for a friend)
AS: So what worked for me (and might not ever work again because every project is different and the craft of writing can be elusive, which is rude) was writing full steam ahead and then going back and figuring out what made the POVs different.
I couldn’t go into it expecting them to be distinct when I didn’t even know my characters very well yet. Once I got to know their backgrounds, their families, etc., it was easier to retroactively apply what I learned to their individual voices. (Also, Weston did me a solid by cursing often while Anna almost never does.) Tell your friend I believe in them!
You always write about grief in your novels. How do you write such a clear message that gives hope while still feeling authentic?
AS: I think I’ll be poking at all the different kinds of grief with my writing stick for a while. It’s just such a vast, deeply complicated, deeply personal (but also universal) topic, and I feel like there’s still so much I want to understand about it for myself.
I am one of those stubborn optimists that believes everything bends towards hope, so I hope my characters (and readers) always find a version of resolution and peace, even if it’s not in the way they may have wanted.
You said in your bio that you love Disney movies. As a fellow Disney fan, I’m dying to know… which movie is your favorite? If that’s too hard, can you give us your top five?
AS: BLESS YOU FOR GIVING ME THE TOP 5 OPTION. I’m going to take it a step further by saying “in no particular order” and “this is today’s list and tomorrow it might change” because I am indecisive as heck.
Beauty and the Beast (always on the list)
Peter Pan (always on the list)
Like literally everyone else in the world, I am currently obsessed with Encanto.
Up (The first 15 minutes of this film are probably the real reason I’m still writing about grief in all of my novels, to be honest.)
Moana. You’re welcome.
Full Flight will be released on February 22, 2022.