Tuesday, August 28, 2012

It's hard to be me...

Strong opinions run in the Thayne family. If you ask me my opinion on almost any subject I will probably have one. Growing up in Orem with four older and often menacing brothers, a strong-willed father, and an ever-even mother I learned early on to stick up for myself.  I learned to argue and defend and fight. Dinner-time at our house was loud. Words like shut-up, idiot, stupid, and worse were passed around with the salt and pepper shakers. Mom withstood all this with good humor. Dad just spoke louder and told us to be quiet.

At school I argued with the teachers. I talked out of turn. In 5th grade a teacher bribed me with a pop at the end of the day if I could stop talking. I put a piece of tape over my mouth to remind me and at the end of the day he took me in the faculty room and bought me a pop. That was one of the proudest moments of my life. In 6th grade I got sent out in the hall for talking. I had to sit amongst the coats until someone came for me. In 7th grade I argued with a history teacher when he said the Ku-Klux-Klan did some good things. In 8th grade I got sent to the office for being obstinate. In tenth grade I got sent to the office for wearing jeans. Yes, if you are younger than me you will find this hard to believe. In 11th grade I loved all my teachers and got along well. In 12th grade I took three hours of art each day, fell in love with pottery, but got in trouble for lying to the teacher and staying until midnight to throw pots after he'd gone home.

I'd like to say that I've improved a lot. And I have, I don't argue much with authority figures, but I feel like it. I keep quiet when I'd like to speak up. People have told me they admire my honesty. An ex-bishop said, he's never known anyone so brutally honest. If only he knew how much I keep to myself. My dad was sick with terminal cancer when he met my then future husband. And he said to Mick, "Just remember one thing and you'll get along fine. Carole is always right."  If only everyone else knew that . . .

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Author Braden Bell and his newest Book.

One of my favorite author's was Roald Dahl. I love books for younger readers that challenge and really stretch the imagination. I was drawn into Braden Bell's latest book, The Kindling, because it begins in a school setting, involves magic, strange events, intrigue, and dangerous situations. The beginning reminded me a bit of one of my favorite stories "Matilda" by Roald Dahl and a mixture of Madeline L'Engle's books. In "The Kindling" Conner Dell is confused by some special powers he seems to have and strange behaviors from the school teachers. It seems like just thinking thoughts can make things happen, like things exploding and gym shorts starting on fire. He and his friends don't know which teachers and adults to trust and even the creepy pizza delivery guy seems to keep popping up in odd places.

This is a fun book, with adventure, imagination, and touching scenes. It has some truly frightening life and death situations and keeps things moving until the end.

One of the real perks to being a writer is all the people including authors I've gotten to know. I've known Braden through LDStorymakers (an online group) for a few years now. I got a chance to interview him about his writing and his books. You can read more about him here.  And you can find out how to order a copy.  I have found Braden to be a skilled and accomplished writer. It was fun to hear more about his writing and personal life. Even though I have never met Braden, I consider him a friend. He's the kind of man who I would have wanted as a teacher growing up. It was fun to hear how similar his writing method is to my own. Hear what he has to say! I bet you might get an idea for something you want to write.

How many books have you written/published?

This is my second published book. I have a few other manuscripts I've written. 

Tell us how your teaching profession has influenced your writing?
In addition to influencing when I write (summers, etc), teaching has influenced what I write. This book, for example, is set in a small private school, which in a striking coincidence, is the same kind of school where I teach. Also, the fact that I am around middle school students all day has led me to want to write things for them that might entertain them. But also, as I watch the challenges they face, it's made me want to write things that I hope might help them get through the rocky seas of adolescence a bit easier (if that's possible). 

Obviously your students influence your writing. Are there times while you're teaching that inspiration strikes--and if so what do you do about it?

Often during a class or rehearsal, I might hear someone say something--a new idiom or expression or something that I want to remember to write down and use later. If I am able to, I'll make a quick note and email it to myself so I can write it down later. If there's not time to email myself, I try to get it planted firmly in my brain--something that seems to harder and harder to do the last year or two. 

But my students also inspire me in other ways. I haven't lifted real-life situations and put them in my book. However, I see them sometimes show great kindness, generosity, or bravery, and that inspires me to try to capture those glimpses.  I don't think most people realize what remarkable creatures middle school kids are. There's a lot of goofiness, a lot of quirks. But underneath it all, you have some really amazing human beings. My book is fantasy in terms of all the magic. But the kindness, loyalty, and bravery that the protagonists demonstrate is very real, very possible. 

When and how did you start writing?
I've been writing for most of the time I remember. At least since I was in 3rd grade. Probably before. I remember setting up an office in a quiet corner of our basement every summer, determined to have a finished book to publish by the end of the summer. It took a few decades for that to happen. 

Who are some of the authors who influence your writing style?

Dickens is very wordy, but I love his characters. They seem so real to me, and he's one of the few authors that makes me laugh out loud. Of course, the power of Shakespeare's language is something I admire. As a kid, I loved reading C. S. Lewis and  Lloyd Alexander. When I got older, I loved the imagery and thematic wizardry of Madeline L 'Engle.  I love the playful sense of fun in the early Harry Potter books. As soon as I hit "send" I'm going to think of 50 other people that I should have included. 


You are a busy man, what do you do to unwind?
No matter what's going on, or how late it is, I have to read something I enjoy before I go to sleep. Sometimes it's less than a page, but I do this every night. My wife and I also like to watch DVDs--usually BBC versions of books we like. 

If you had to choose only one book to take with you on a deserted isle (apart from religious) what book would it be?
That is a really good question. Probably the complete Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  

What sparked "The Kindling" into fruition?

I had it in my mind that I wanted to write a book about a secret order of wizards living in contemporary society but I didn't have a lot of ideas beyond that. Then one night, my family was driving home from some church activities. It was spring which in  TN means enormous storms. A major thunderstorm was raging outside. When my kids got home, my son told me about a weird guy they had drove past. In a huge storm, he was wearing  a black cape, walking across people's front yards. That image really stuck in my mind and as I started asking myself questions--who might that be? Why would he be out? Ideas kind of crackled and the story began to take shape. I stayed up really late that night, typing frantically in bed, trying to get it all out on paper. I think I wrote two fight scenes that night--essentially the beginning and end of the book.  

What advice would you give to young aspiring writers?
Keep writing! As much as you can. Good or bad, just write. Stories, a journal, a blog. Also, pay attention in school. I didn't listen in my English classes. So now I'm trying to go back and learn how to use commas and semi-colons properly. I really wish I had paid more attention. 

Are you a plot driven writer or a character driven writer?
Very much character driven. I suspect that is partly because I'm very right-brained in general, but also because my background is theatre, where character is everything. I've tried writing with outlines and it doesn't work very well for me. My characters are so real to me and once I get started, they seem to push the story in different directions than I had anticipated. I'm fighting with them right now, actually, as I work on the sequel to the Kindling. They don't seem to like my outline very much. 

Tell us something about your process of writing?

I usually have an image that pops in mind. A character in a situation that catches my interest. I start asking questions--what's going on, who is this person--and so on. I then start writing. I almost always write the first scene and then the last scene. Then, I fill in the middle parts. Which takes me a long time because I am really uptight about revisions and polishing. 

I'm also intensely collaborative--probably because of my theatre background. So I have a few people that I have read a chapter as soon as possible--my daughter, a critique partner, a former student. I need to get a sense that I'm on the right track. In theatre, you get a pretty immediate response when you do something, either in rehearsal or a performance. Author's may wait a year or more until they get feedback from an editor or readers. That doesn't work for me! Plus, it's helpful to find out I'm over-using a word or indulging in a bad habit  right from the beginning. Easier to prevent it than it is to go back and weed it out at the tend.  

What is the last movie you've seen in a theater--and what is the last movie you saw in a theater that you couldn't stop thinking about?

I rarely go see movies. If I watch them at all, it's usually on dvd. I think the last one I saw in a theatre was the last of the Harry Potter movies. And that was a year ago, I believe.  The last one I saw that made me think was...gosh, I'm not sure!

What is the last fiction book you read--other than your own?
I just finished The Old Curiosity Shoppe by Charles Dickens.  

What is your primary motivation for writing?
I just have to do it. I get pictures and people in my mind--still pictures or movies. I have to put them on paper and get them out.  

Finally, what is your ideal date night?

My wife and I both love a quiet night at home watching old movies on dvd (probably something with British accents) with Mexican food.