Kentucky native Alecia Whitaker recently released her second novel, “Wildflower,” which is the first of a three-book series set in Nashville.
It follows 16-year-old Bird Barrett, an aspiring songwriter, as she attempts to balance her strong family values with the ambition of becoming the next female voice of country music.
Whitaker, who lives on Long Island with her husband and two sons, has already written the second book in the series, “The Road to You,” which is due in July, and will begin writing the third and final book in the series after the holidays.
Before I knew of your book, I was wondering how a show like “Nashville” would affect the dreams of young female songwriters, and then along came “Wildflower.”
I just think “Wildflower” is “Nashville” for teens. … People like the feeling of being behind the mic with her. I think when you’re young, you dream so big and, I feel like, you don’t stop dreaming that big until after college when life gives you a firm handshake. When you’re 16, why isn’t it possible that you’re the next Taylor Swift?
Your story obviously has some similarities to the show and it’s going to draw some comparisons, but how is it different?
With “Nashville,” Rayna and Juliette are already two huge stars and (in “Wildflower”) Bird is just being discovered. She has a really strong family and that’s important to me, so we see more of Bird’s regular life before she’s famous. You get to kind of be discovered along with her. … Also, “Nashville” has a lot of sex and the bigger scenes that, I think, are more adult then young adult. Not everybody agrees with me on that, but, as far as I’m concerned a 10-year-old or a 12-year-old could read “Wildflower.”
I thought it was a nice change of scenery to see that you choose the Station Inn as an actual venue in your story instead of the Bluebird, which everyone always uses.
I’ve been to Nashville maybe three times — I love it every time I come — and I always try to go see live music. I went to the Station Inn and I just think it has an awesome feel. I wanted it to be authentic, and when I was writing this scene, I actually called the Station Inn and said, “I was just down there last month, but I don’t remember if your barstools swivel.”
You called to ask?
I just wanted it to be authentic, because I love that place and wanted to make sure, well, I would hope they would be happy with how it was portrayed.
This is still a fictional story, so how do you balance that with non-fiction settings?
With my first book, “Queen of Kentucky,” I really loved how authentic people said it was. I was just really pleased with how people can seem to appreciate the authenticity of the setting, so I wanted to do that with Nashville, which is why I came down for a couple of research trips. I wanted to go to the places where Bird goes. The story can be fiction, but if you’re going to set it in a real place and call it Nashville, then it should be authentic. I don’t want to make up a fake highway for her to drive down. I wanted to name the Pancake Pantry and have her go to Fido.