In Heather Christie’s new novel, “The Lying Season,” seventeen year old Piper Rose becomes unwittingly involved in a criminal cover-up with her brothers and their friends. Will she keep their secret despite the physical and psychological damage it’s doing to her or come clean and potentially ruin their chances at promising athletic careers? The Kirkus Review calls the book, “A thought-provoking examination of how character can be tested.“
Trigger warning for readers and parents: Piper has undiagnosed OCD and also inflicts self-harm
Parental guidance: references to guns, alcohol and drug use, and plenty of mature language
Can one night change everything? Can one single event cause heartache and hardship for three families? Can one wrong move ruin the future?
In the fictional town of Millington Valley, Pennsylvania, everyone knows everyone else’s business. The local high school’s soccer team commands the attention of college scouts and the stars of the team are looking forward to scholarships and the opportunity to play at a collegiate level. Under the guidance of their brusque yet compassionate coach, the young men thrive and bond, forming a tight-knit squad that does everything together – and protects each other at all costs.
Piper is the sister of two players, Cooper and Noah, and friend to two others, brothers Jacob and Ethan. Younger brother Jacob has a crush on her while Piper has her eyes on Ethan, the college bound soccer star whom all the other players look up to. An aspiring professional dancer, Piper is also struggling with OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) that causes her to wash her hands frequently, use hand sanitizer, and suffer from episodes of anxiety.
Note: it does not appear Piper has been formally diagnosed with the disorder and therefore is not under medication or treatment for it. Whether she suffered from the problem prior to becoming a dancer or not isn’t made clear. Her stress as a ballet dancer – another competitive arena – seems to manifest itself in this anxiety disorder, especially as her audition for the Tisch School in New York looms.
However, on the night that changes everything, there is nothing but good times and a bright future on the teenagers’ minds. They head out through the woods to a quiet area where no one can disturb them drinking and smoking. They bring rifles, too, so they can go hunting, a popular pastime with the boys. Piper finagles some time alone with Ethan, while her brothers hang out with Ethan’s brother Jacob. As they walk back to the group, a rifle cracks.
Someone has been shot! Ned Walker, a local drifter, has been killed…or has he? And who among the teens did it? The remaining soccer players refuse to say who pulled the trigger – and all agree to cover up the crime, leaving poor Ned’s body in the woods to be discovered by the police.
From here on, the problems and pressures on Piper mount. She alone seems to bear the burden of responsibility and everything suffers: her ballet classes, her audition, and her body. She turns to self-harm to cope with the overwhelming guilt she carries. The entries in her journal show the reader just how her mind twists and turns to make sense of this tragedy and her place in it.
Up until the final pages of this book, the reader is kept guessing as to what really happened in the woods, what will happen for the teens involved and exactly who is morally just. Heather Christie does a terrific job showing how difficult such decisions are to make: knowing a crime took place, do you go to the police and risk damage to your own future? The answer is not as easy as yes or no and through Piper’s journal, we understand the very many shades of gray to the question. Would we the readers make the decision Noah and Cooper do? Or the one Piper does? Or the one Jacob does?
This fast-paced page-turner of a thriller will keep you guessing – and rooting for the characters – until the final pages of the book.
Welcome, Heather! Thank you so much for agreeing to an interview!
Dance Advantage: Your main character, Piper, is an aspiring ballerina. What was your inspiration for her being a dancer? Why did you make her a ballerina specifically?
Heather Christie: I took a number of dance classes as a young person, but I ended up going the acting route. As a kid, I was on a work/study program that allowed me to spend half my day in my rural Pennsylvania town and the second half in New York City to attend auditions, go-sees, and to do bookings. On the bus ride into New York, I met another girl who was also commuting to and from the city to study with the American Ballet Theater. Fast forward a couple decades and my daughter became a dancer. I was fascinated by her studio culture, the dynamics of her friendships, and the intense demands the dancers placed on themselves. My main character was inspired by my own experience in show business, the girl on the bus (I’ve always wondered what became of her), and my daughter.
DA: Did you do any dance research for Piper? Classes or performances? Any research into the Tisch dance program?
HC: My research was ongoing and mostly gained by observing my daughter’s dance experience. I’ve watched many dance classes and performances both as a proud mother, but also as a fan of the sport, traveling to New York to attend professional productions by world class companies. My daughter had a harsh audition at a prestigious studio that inspired the Tisch scene in The Lying Season.
DA: Although this book’s main characters are teens, the story is accessible to a broad range of readers. Who is your ideal reader for the book? Who is your reluctant reader that you’d like to persuade?
HC: My ideal reader is a young adult woman, and perhaps, her mother. However, I’d be thrilled to persuade more young adult men to read the story as I think the brothers in the story and their quest to win a soccer state championship would appeal to them.
DA: If this book were a movie, who would play the roles?
HC: That’s tough! I am not a TV watcher and because of COVID I haven’t been to a movie in almost two years.
DA: What books/movies/art inspire you as a writer?
HC: I love to read and enjoy a wide range of genres from straight-up contemporary fiction to horror and science fiction. Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker and Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel are two of my recent favorites. And I absolutely loved Glennon Doyle’s Untamed. TV is really not my thing, but I recently started watching Ted Lasso about the American football coach who ends up in London coaching an elite soccer team. It’s super funny.
DA: Anything you’d like readers to know about you or the book?
HC: The soccer season in the book was inspired by my brothers’ soccer team and their coach who died in my older brother’s final season.
DA: Do you have a sequel planned? If not sequels, any other books with these characters?
HC:The Lying Season is book two in the Millington Valley series. What The Valley Knows was the first one. The characters are different in each book, but the town stays the same. I have been brainstorming new plot lines for book three.
DA: What’s next for you?
HC: I recently moved to New York City to run my brother’s soccer company, SocRoc–Soccer Classes For Kids. We have over 200 classes a week throughout the city. I hope to see the Nutcracker at Lincoln Center this winter, and to find my writing tribe in this literary hubbub.
Heather Christie is the National Indie Excellence Award-winning author of the novel, What The Valley Knows. Her essays have appeared in Salon, Next Tribe, Writer’s Digest, Baltimore Style, Scary Mommy, and Elephant Journal. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Pine Manor College.
Purchase the book at her website www.HeatherChristieBooks.com
Leigh Purtill is a ballet instructor and choreographer in Los Angeles where she lives with her husband and charming poodle. She received her master’s degree in Film Production from Boston University and her bachelor’s in Anthropology and Dance from Mount Holyoke College. She is the author of four young adult novels from Penguin and HarperCollins. She is the artistic director of the Leigh Purtill Ballet Company, a nonprofit amateur ballet company for adults and she teaches ballet and jazz to adults both in person and online, Leigh Purtill Ballet. Read Leigh’s posts.