Fresh Voices: Tara Wilson Redd
What inspired Miho’s character and her story?
My whole life, I’ve been really active—I loved Zumba, spin classes, jogging, you name it. But I wasn’t an “athlete.” I was just “staying active.” When I decided to run my first marathon, I discovered that the difference between jogging and running isn’t a matter of fitness, it’s a matter of identity. Learning to see myself as a runner and an athlete was my own coming-of-age story in my 30s. And Miho, of course, is the daughter of that realization and (if we’re being honest) a fortuitously timed rewatch of Legally Blonde.
What was the most difficult part about writing Fierce as the Wind? What part was the easiest?
Training for an Ironman is incredibly boring for spectators. I find the long workouts centering—I solve all my writing problems in the pool!—but six hours straight on a bike does not dramatic tension make. Trying to keep training interesting to read about was really hard!
The easiest part, unfortunately, was writing Miho’s experience of racism. It’s still pretty easy for me to pull up the exact feeling of being told I didn’t earn my spot in college because I’m a person of color, or the feeling that everyone around me is staring because I’m the only non-white person in a room. This book was a nice way to turn some of my lingering bitterness into something positive. Make good art, as the saying goes.
What character do you identify with the most and why?
I gave small pieces of my own insecurities to all the kids in this book, including the “villains.” I see a lot of my teen self in all these characters. But, as an adult, I definitely identify most with Tua. I’m a student supervisor at a university library, and the challenge of working with new adults has been one of the most satisfying parts of my library career. Friendship and family are at the heart of many books, but mentorship is something that is particularly important to me.
If you could put any character from another book into this story, who would it be and why?
I would put Bicycle from The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle into this story. Bicycle is a quiet but very determined girl who rides her bike across the country in search of friendship. I think Miho’s next chapter should involve branching out with some new bike friends who are different from her, but just as passionate as she is!
What do you want teens today to take away from this story?
I hope that teens leave this book more conscious of the labels that they apply to themselves, and the way those labels can both empower them and limit what they think is possible. Miho is an artist and an athlete from the very start—she just doesn’t know she’s allowed to call herself one. Identity can be a powerful community-building tool, but it can also be a prison.
What are you currently reading?
I am currently reading We Ride Upon Sticks. Naturally, I have a soft spot for books about teen girls in sports, and this one is beyond delicious. Every sentence is just perfectly rich.