I'm so excited that the lovely Mrs. Cindy Bennett agreed to let me interview her. I really love it when authors take time out of their busy schedules to answer our questions
Oddly, it was inspired by a real person—sort of. The story is not her story at all. However, this is how she inspired it: She lived not far from me, and was always outside swinging (she had a swingset just like Kate's). For years we watched her, whether it was a sub-zero blizzard, or a sweltering 100°, she would be outside swinging. It was fascinating, to the point that we would all come home and report on whether she'd been out there or not as we passed.
I had been thinking about her, and thinking about writing a book about her, when my own daughter made the comment, "We should write a book about her." We decided to do it together. Of course, the first question in beginning any story is why. Why was she always outside swinging? I imagined it was to escape, but escape from what? So I wrote the first chapter and handed it off to my daughter. After a couple days, she suggested I write the next chapter, which I did. After several times of this, she finally said, "Mom, you just write it. I'm not ever going to get around to it." So it's thanks to her that I began writing it, and thanks to my other daughter who would devour the chapters and demand more on a daily basis.
Oh, and, in case you're wondering, we eventually found out who that girl is. She has a wonderful, loving family. She has a slight touch of Autism, and her dad calls the swing her "thinking place," much like Eeyore’s. Ironically, her name is Kaitlyn, which I didn't know when I wrote the book.
2. Heart on a Chain deals with issues of bullying and severe abuse, how did you approach these topics? Were any of the scenes particularly hard to write?
I approached with a sense of responsibility for the scene to not come across as comical, unbelievable, or to downplay it, on behalf of those who truly are victims of abuse, and responsibility as to the age of some of my readers, who could be upset if I were too graphic with the descriptions.
There are a couple of scenes that were particularly difficult. The scene where Kate shows up to middle school and the girls who had been her friends in grade school rebuff her. It’s a short, almost insignificant scene, but it was painful to write—because it happened to me, and it brought back all of those feelings of rejection, humiliation and depression. I almost left it out because it was so personal, but I wanted to show that having the acceptance or rejection of your peers can be so critical to how you view your self-worth—and that it really shouldn’t be. The Thanksgiving scene and the scene after Florida when her mother severely beats her were hard to write. It wasn’t easy to try to figure out how to tell it from the point of view of the person experiencing it, but I felt like we needed to see how almost clinical Kate has become about the beatings, because they are so commonplace. And when she gets the apology from one of her tormentors (I’m withholding the name to avoid spoilers) who then becomes a close friend, it was difficult to figure out how to make someone who’d been hateful become sympathetic. But in that case I wanted to show that sometimes people might be unaware of just how much damage they are causing by actions that may seem insignificant to them, but that once made aware, there is room for redemption, for making it right.
3. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Mostly that it is never okay to bully someone. You have no idea what is going on in someone’s life at home that might be the cause of them looking, acting, or dressing differently. Every person has value, and if you look a little closer, past the outward appearance, you would probably be able to see that. It might be cliché, but I think the Golden Rule (do unto others as you would have them do unto you) is…well, golden! :o) Think about how great life would be if we all treated others as we want to be treated. Utopia, anyone?
4. Henry is a character we can all love, is he based on anyone in real life?
He’s a composite of different people. He has a little bit of my husband in him, a little of both of my sons, a little of what characteristics we all imagine the perfect man to have. I’ve had people comment about him being too good to be true, but I want readers to remember we are seeing him through Kate’s eyes, and she sees him as perfect.
I did base his compassion and physical build on a commercial I once saw (yeah, I know, that’s weird). I think it was one of those “Pass it On” type commercials. A smaller kid in the hallway is bumped into purposely by someone bigger, knocking his books to the floor. A big kid across the hallway, wearing a lettermans jacket, good looking, obviously athletic and popular, sees it happen and crosses the hall. He stoops to pick up the books and hands them to the stunned kid, asking him if he’s all right. Clearly, the message really stuck with me.
5. What book(s) are you reading now?
I’m reading several at once. I’m proof-reading four books for other authors, which means currently I’m not reading anything else. I recently finished Angel: A Maximum Ride Novel (love the series!), Beastly, City of Glass, Mockingjay (I can’t believe it’s the last book!), Frankenstein: Lost Souls, and Peril. I kind of go through spurts where I read a lot, then don’t read for a while, so that I can actually work and write myself.
6. Who is your favorite writer? Why?
That’s a tough one. There are so many I love. For scares I like Dean Koontz and Stephen King (of course—is there anyone else???). For adult reads I like Diana Gabaldon , Jean Auel and Laura Kinsale (my guilty pleasure). For YA, which is my favorite genre to read, I like James Patterson and Suzanne Collins, of course, as well as Sarah Dessen, Tamora Pierce, Stephenie Meyer, Ednah Walters…I could actually make quite a long list of YA authors, but I won’t. Let’s just say there aren’t many I don’t like.
7. When did you first begin writing? Why?
I think I’ve been writing stories since middle school. I just always had a love for making them up. But they were short, incomplete, and not very good. In high school, I had an amazing English teacher who each day had us write for the first 10 minutes of class on a specific subject. It became the highlight of my day. I knew then I wanted to be a writer. Actually having the guts to take the plunge and give it a try was a whole different story.
8. What is your number one piece of advice for aspiring authors?
Go for it. Don’t let fear of rejection or failure hold you back. If you have a passion for it, and a talent, then just write. And, when you’ve finished a book: edit, edit, edit. That’s the not so fun part, but it’s so necessary. You can have a great story, but if your reader has to mire through misspellings and poor grammar, they will never finish reading it.
9. What is next? Any new projects in the works? Please share.
I am writing a new book that’s slightly outside the norm for me. It has a supernatural element to it, which is not what I normally write. It’s about a girl named Niahm (pronounced Neeve) who lives in a small town, happy with her simple life. Then Sam moves into town, and turns her whole world upside down, including what she thought she knew to be the truth about humanity. I don’t have a title for it yet (I never have until the book is finished). I was hoping to have it ready to be published in August, but it’s looking more like September, now. Also, Geek Girl, which I had previously published and which was later optioned by Cedar Fort Publishing, is schedule for re-release December 8, 2011. Watch my website and/or blog for more details on both of those.
10. Random question: If you were stranded on an island, what would be 3 inanimate things that you would take with you and why?
1. My laptop, because I was stranded without it last summer for about a week with long days of sitting in a hotel room alone, and I nearly went crazy. I’m addicted to the thing!
2. A solar power panel, to keep said laptop charged, for obvious reasons.
3. A cot, so I could sleep up off the ground away from the bugs. I am completely creepy-crawly phobic. It’s sad, really for an adult to be afraid of such tiny little creatures, but what can you do?
I want to thank you, NaKesha, for the interview and the review. You have no idea how much I appreciate you spending your valuable time for me. Please visit me at my website http://www.cindycbennett.com/ or my blog http://cindybennett.blogspot.com/
Thank you so much Mrs. Bennett for taking the time to answer my questions. I'm with you on #10, I would need a cot too and maybe a air conditioner to plug into the solar panel as well. :) And now, for the giveaway. I just love this book so much and I want to make sure someone else gets the chance to read it.
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Short and sweet!
Giveaway ends August 30th.
Winner will be announced on August 31st.
Click here to enter to win!