Sunday, June 27, 2010

INTERVIEW: Linda Benson - Middle Grade YA Author of "Finding Chance" & "The Horse Jar"



Welcome to “Up Close and Personal.” For every interview I will be introducing a literary personality discussing their views and insights, as well as upcoming literary events around the world.

Today’s interview is with Linda Benson. She grew up in Northern California on a prune ranch. Ms. Benson spend a lot of time running barefoot in the orchards, picking prunes in the summer for 25 cents a box, playing with her animals, riding her bike, and enjoying being a kid.

She always wanted to write children's books ever since second grade, but she didn't get around to it until later in life. Ms. Benson is the author of two middle grade novels: “Finding Chance” & “The Horse Jar”

Finding Chance is about the story of a lonely twelve-year-old Alice and a lonely dog named Chance. Her debut novel “The Horse Jar” is about Annie Mitchell. Annie loves horses and dreams to have a horse of her own.

E.I. Would you share some early self-reflection to give us a sense of who you were as a teenager? What were you like? Give your readers three “Good to Know” facts about your first job experience, the inspiration for your writing career, any fun details or anecdotes that would enliven your page. Also tell us about Linda Benson today -- the woman behind the two middle grade YA author of “The Horse Jar” & “Finding Chance.”

Linda Benson: As a teenager, I rode my horse a lot, played the piano and guitar and fancied myself growing up to be a singer/songwriter. One of my first jobs was working at a zoo, and I’ve also started a native plant nursery, a plant rental business, and a horse brokerage, and have been a substitute teacher and elementary school librarian, among other things. Nature and animals always seem to find their way into my books because they are such a large part of who I am. Today, I still have horses, donkeys, dogs and cats, and I love to read and write.

E.I. What is it about the art form of writing middle grade YA novels entirely that enchants you, and gives you the enduring passion to continue in such a demanding profession?

Linda Benson: The reason I write for young people is that I so distinctly remember those “in-between” years - having my own distinct thoughts and ideas but having such a hard time making myself “heard.” Those formative years, when you are developing the sense of who you are in this big world, are a great source of conflict, interesting story lines, and I hope satisfying or a least hopeful resolutions.

E.I. Please tell your young readers about your novel “Finding Chance.” What was it that sparked your imagination? What were your favorite aspects about this book?

Linda Benson: I started Finding Chance after a move to a new area (and I have moved many times in my adult life) in which I felt like a new girl, all over again. So Alice’s feelings at the beginning of the novel – knowing no one, feeling like an outsider – were very easy for me to identify with and write. The setting of that story was sparked from magical times in my childhood, walking the creeks and back roads of the Santa Cruzmountains of California. Although Fox Creek is a fictional town, it is not too far removed from small towns sprinkled throughout the coastal mountains of California.

E.I. How do you weave so much fun of information while writing and creating the character of twelve-years-old ‘Alice’ and yet you keep them so fast-paced? Did you work them out in advance, or did they evolve as you wrote the story?

Linda Benson: The characters in Finding Chance just kind of showed up during the course of writing the novel. For instance, without giving too much away, of course there would be a librarian at the library, but that particular character and plotline just developed on its own as Alice’s story unfolded. And Heron – yeah, she’s a great character, isn’t she? I think all the people we ever meet in life are all there in our minds as inspiration to draw from, and we kind of mix and match unconsciously as they show up in new and interesting combinations on the page. That is such a fun part of the creative process.

E.I. You've created a cast of so remarkably captivating and really fun characters: Alice, Chance, Heron, the Librarian and Alice mother that your readers definitely clamor for more; how did you decide what level of details your readers will accept? How does your creative process work?

Linda Benson: The Horse Jar was actually the first novel that I completed, although it is the second one published. I have written about the long road to publication of The Horse Jar here: http://lindabenson.blogspot.com/2009/09/horse-jar.html It was a storyline that came to me pretty much in its entirety, although the ending was tweaked a bit in final drafts. The Horse Jar was the one I wrote following the advice writers hear so often: “write what you know.” Well, I certainly knew about growing up as a young girl living and breathing horses. And I knew about buying and selling horses, because I’ve done that also. Many of the characters and situations in that novel were easy to write because they were so close to home.

E.I. And finally what’s next with Linda Benson? Can you give your fans a sneak peek about your upcoming book?

Linda Benson: I have two new manuscripts that I am excited about - one is a horse story set in the future, and the other is a contemporary story about a boy and girl whose paths cross because of a lost dog. Hopefully you will be hearing more about them soon.

E.I. Ms. Benson, Thank you for contributing to my blog. It has been a pleasure for me to get to know your work a little better. Would you like to end your interview with a writing tip or advice for young aspiring writers all over the world?

Linda Benson: Advice for aspiring writers. Read, read, and read some more. Join a critique group, and keep seeking to perfect your craft. There is a lot of information out there about how to become published. Find it and study it. But most importantly - believe in yourself, and don’t give up on your dreams.

Photo of Linda Benson courtesy of her daughter
To learn more about Linda Benson, please visit her website
To purchase her books, please visit AMAZON
Linda Benson's BLOG
Linda Benson on Twitter

1 comment:

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Interesting post!
Enjoyed reading it.
Your horse is really good.