Allen Mendenhall Interviews Colleen D. Scott, Author of “Everybody Needs a Bridge”

AM:  Thanks for doing this interview, Colleen.  Your first novel is Everybody Needs a Bridge, which you describe as a “work of fiction inspired by actual events.” It follows the story of Erin, a young girl in Alabama who’s growing up roughly a generation after the Civil Rights Movement. You might call it a bildungsroman involving friendship, race, and the burdens of history. Of course, Alabama is your home too. Were the actual events that inspired the narrative witnessed or experienced by you, or purely drawn from secondhand knowledge and basic immersion in the culture and region? 

Colleen D. Scott

CS: It is my pleasure Allen. Yes, the novel is intended to be a bildungsroman. The story line is a progression of events that challenge the conscience and beliefs of the main character, the majority I either experienced or witnessed firsthand. But the story line was also intended to be broader than just one person’s story and represent a generation, coming of age in the south, post-civil rights. Hopefully, by reliving the experience through the eyes of the main character, the reader will be inspired to rise to similar challenges presented in society even today.

AM:  What are some of those challenges?

CS: One challenge is the pressure of societal expectations which shape what we consider to be ideal. Our chosen courses of study, hobbies, occupations, our friends and even our mates are either in concert or in conflict with those expectations. It is my hope that the novel demonstrates the amazing value of relationships. With each word and action, in every relationship we form, we possess the power to either encourage or discourage those around us.

Another overarching challenge explored is the impact of social segregation. When we isolate ourselves we feel uncomfortable around others from different backgrounds, ethnicities, classes and races. I hope the novel highlights the importance of forming relationships with those different from ourselves. I fear that lately we are showing the signs that we might forget how important it is to recognize our similarities and cherish our differences.

AM:  You worked in the corporate world for many years before becoming an author.

CS: Yes primarily in finance. I had an opportunity to make a change, and since I have always enjoyed writing and am an avid reader, I decided to seize the opportunity. I have loved every minute of it and now my second novel is in the final stages of editing!

AM:  Everybody Needs a Bridge captures those awkward teenage years in high school and all that comes with them: the laughing, the teasing, the fitting in, and worse.  How did you transport yourself back to that stage of life to construct a first-person narrative? 

CS: Before I began writing, I shared my personal experiences with a few close friends and found that those feelings of awkwardness, loneliness and frustration of trying to fit in were unfortunately common. The discussions helped me sharpen my memories of those emotions and they haunted me until I could leave them with the characters in the scenes of the novel.

AM:  When you first sat down to write Erin’s story, did you know where you were headed?  Did you already have a plot in mind?

CS: Somewhat. I had the high level plot and overarching theme both in mind before I began writing. But instead of writing a detailed outline, I instead utilized poster boards as story boards and post it notes to represent the scenes and the characters. This visualization allowed me to add, delete and change scenes and characters as I wrote and the story line evolved.

AM:  Did you write from home?  Did you return to Alabama for inspiration or information?

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CS: I primarily write either from an arm chair on my porch or a booth at a local coffee shop. Both locations allow me to get lost in my writing and block out distractions. I do return to Alabama occasionally to visit friends and relatives. When I need inspiration, I spend time at the beach. For me there is nothing more empowering than walking on the beach as the sun rises and again as it sets.

AM:  Issues of race and racial identity are central to Everybody Needs A Bridge.

CS: Absolutely. Without understanding the dynamics of race and the impact of racism on the central characters, the reader would lose important context. But I also wanted to illustrate how through ordinary conversations and interactions we inadvertently sustain those racist attitudes. And how those small actions can be just as effective as overt and violent acts.

AM:  As Erin ages, her concerns become increasingly grave and weighty. Teenage pregnancy. Murder. She enters college. She has to come to terms with life and death. I don’t want to give too much away by saying anything more specific.  What does it mean to become an adult?  What does it mean to put away childish things? 

CS: Life events have a way of forcing us into adulthood, don’t they? For Erin the hallmark of entering adult hood is when she realizes the importance of accepting the consequences of her decisions. Thankfully, the crucial friendships she formed along the way clearly illustrated how adults must make decisions, move forward, and do so without assigning blame or hanging on to lingering regrets.

AM:  Thank you for this interview. I look forward to reading your next novel.

About Allen Mendenhall

Allen Mendenhall is publisher and editor-in-chief of Southern Literary Review. Visit his website at

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