Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Interview with Linda Benson and Giveaway

Yesterday I reviewed Six Degrees of Lost and today I have the author, Linda Benson, on for an interview and a giveaway!  So let's welcome Linda for this fabulous interview!  (Seriously, I love the answers for this one!)

What 10 words best describe Six Degrees of Lost?
How many degrees does it take to find your way home?

Whoops, that’s eleven ;-) 

Okay - 
Thoughtful, funny, first crush, trouble, choices, journey, animals, poignant, coming-of age. (Is that nine or ten?)

Start over: Rain, run, raft, dogs, barn, hay, Greyhound, signs, strays, lost.

In Six Degrees animals are a very important part of the story, from information about how important it is to care for your animal and reminders that puppies grow up, etc, it's very there. Can you tell us a bit about why that's such a strong part of the book and if that's something you deal with in your real life?
Ha! Well, yes. I cannot open a door without being bombarded with a dog leaning on me to be petted, or a cat rubbing on my leg. Walk a little further and you’ll find a barn, and hay, and some kind of equine giving you slobbery kisses. Animals have played a huge part in my life, and they do seem to jump into every book that I write.

But I love animals as a literary mechanism, also. Just like in real life, you can show so much about a person’s character by how they treat animals; how they respond to animals.

Were any of the characters based on real people, or any of the story itself taken from real life experiences?
As a writer, most all of our stories are formed from an amalgam of the people we’ve known in life. Our memories inform our writing - that’s just a given. But in this story, some of the secondary characters and events were influenced by the small rural community in which I live.
I have a close circle of animal-loving friends who call each other whenever we spot a strange animal in the road, or loose livestock, or an unknown cat. Sometimes we’re able to find where it lives, and even take it back home. This inspired one of the subplots of Six Degrees of Lost.

What were your favorite and least favorite scenes to write?

Oh gosh, I have a lot of favorite scenes in this book. I loved writing the dialogue between Olive and David when she tells him how she, and her brother Pendleton, were named. Olive always spoke her own mind in this book, and I just had to type fast enough to keep up.
I can’t remember any least favorite scene, but there was one part in the middle that gave me a bit of trouble. Because this story is written in alternating point-of-views, with Olive and David both narrating portions of the story, there were a few tricky parts in the middle, deciding who would tell which part. One particular scene, where David first sees Olive riding a horse, gave me fits for awhile. First I had it in Olive’s POV, but then David arrived on the scene, so I ended up deleting Olive’s scene and writing the whole thing in David’s POV. I worked pretty hard to make that part come out the way I wanted, but was finally happy with the result.

Six Degrees is an in-between book. It seems like it could be middle grade, but yet the characters are growing into the age of being young adult. What made you decide to write about this age group?

I didn’t consciously decide to write about this age group. Olive and David were two characters in my head who wanted their stories told, and I wrote them down. But I do seem drawn to this age group – characters who know their own minds but feel trapped by circumstances and age and having no choices – characters on the edge of growing up, who are learning about life but who sometimes make bad choices– these characters speak to me, and I find myself writing about them.

I’ve been told by both agents and editors that a book needs to fall cleanly into the categories of either middle grade or young adult in order to sell. Why? Because you need to put them one place or the other in bookstores. Or in libraries.
But I chafe at these restrictions. What do you do with books for in-between readers? Don’t they deserve to find good reading material, too?

Do young teens have to immediately jump into the young adult world, which seems filled to the brim with darker tales of violence and sex? Some may be ready for this, but what about those younger, naïve teens – the ones who still play with puppies and don’t know if boys like them or not – the ones who are still trying to sort out their friends, and how girls think, and smoking, and which way their life is headed? Don’t they read also? Shouldn’t they have books (especially realistic fiction) for their age group?

As one who reads widely from ALL the shelves in the library – Middle Grade, Young Adult, Adult – I can tell you that I’ve seen blatant cases of inaccurate labeling and shelving of books for different ages of readers, and I really hate labeling in the first place. And it’s all about the story anyway. A particular story can speak to you at any age.
I’ve actually started describing Six Degrees of Lost - for lack of a better term – as a young, Young Adult book. Leaning toward the young side of young adult. I don’t particularly like the label “tween” fiction, do you? It sounds so, so in-between. Can we think of something better?
But the publishing world is changing on all fronts, isn’t it? Six Degrees of Lost is not (at the moment) shelved in the young adult or junior section of a bookstore. Although I’ll have some promotional print copies available soon, it’s currently available online as an ebook, which means that anyone, teacher, parent, student, librarian, teenager, middle grader, any-age animal lover, can now find and read this story – and isn’t that rather refreshing?
I think your answer is completely brilliant and perfect.  Finding a book for this age range specifically is hard.  You're right, which do they go to?  The middle grade or the young adult?  And they are so often found in the wrong sections anyway.  I guess it's not an issue now, but hopefully one of these days we'll be able to find it in both sections.

If you could travel anywhere in the world and in any time period, when and where would you travel?
I’d love to go back in time to the early West, when there was so much unsettled land and people used horses for transportation. Of course, this is assuming (unrealistically) that I could have a shower whenever I wanted. *wink*
Oh yes, missing those showers would be hard!  But I agree that it would be a fascinating time and place to visit!

Can you tell us a bit about your other books and what we can expect to see from you next?
My first two novels, Finding Chance and The Horse Jar, were solidly middle grade, and were published by Mondo, an educational publisher. They are still in print, and in fact The Horse Jar was translated into Spanish – La Alcancia de Los Suenos. In November of 2011, The Girl Who Remembered Horses was released by Musa Publishing. A post-apocalyptic horse story, this novel features Sahara, a young teen protagonist who dreams of horses, and seeks to bring the memory of the horse-human bond back to humans. Six Degrees of Lost, my fourth novel, came out in June 2012, also from Musa Publishing. And another novel, called Walking the Dog (yes, it has animals in it ;-)) is due for release in September 2012. I’m hard at work on a sequel to The Girl Who Remembered Horses, and also a YA novel in verse, which takes place in the 1970s. I love to push myself as a writer, to try different genres and to tell a story. I’ve never been a person to fit in a mold, and perhaps my novels don’t either.
All your books sound great, but the YA novel in verse that takes place in the 70's definitely has me intrigued!  I can't wait to hear more about that one!

One ebook of Six Degrees of Lost in the format of your choice.
Open International
Must be 13 or older to enter.
Ends July 30th, 2012
Fill out the rafflecopter to enter.

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