Monday, December 17, 2012

An Interview with Bethany Hegedus

Q: What do you hear from your readers?

A: This is one of my favorite fan letters from one young reader in California.

Dear Bethany Hegedus,

Hello! My name is Audrey. I really wanted to write you a letter because I just read your book Truth with a Capital T. I thought it was amazing!!! I really truly wish that you will write more about Mabelle and Isaac. I like the way you write realistic fiction. I also liked how in the book you made it talk about African Americans and making sure they are important. I also want you to include Ruth, Taylor, and Jimmy (and squeezed in & Granny & Gramps) in another book. Maybe you could call it. I really want you to write about them again. Please read this 5 times and think about it. 



Isn't that about the best thing ever? Audrey spelled my very difficult last name right, told me what she liked about the book, and when she was going to suggest to me a new title for this new book that she'd like me to think about 5 times--she stopped herself. (Wouldn't you love to know what she wanted to call it? I do. I asked her in my letter back.)

Maybe there is more to come from Maebelle, Isaac, Ruth and those Hillibrand boys--plus Granny & Gramps. Though what is in the locked wing is revealed by book's end I bet you those 5 kids could rustle up some more antics to get involved in. Hmmm...

When I wrote Audrey back I assured her I would think it over 5 times. I also let her know that those characters and their futures were now in her hands and heart, that she could decide what happened to them next. That’s what good books do. They make the characters so real that they become a part of the fabric of who we are. Audrey can now decide what happens to Maebelle and Isaac in her imagination, the same way I could, when I was creating them.

Q: Why do you write for Young Adults and Children?

A: It’s funny, I moved to New York City as a twenty-something to become an actor and instead became a children’s author. The first writing class I took, though I had been writing my entire life (journals, poetry, bad poetry) out came this teen voice. I wrote some more and out came this thirteen-year-old growing up during the 1950s and dealing with the struggles of the Civil Rights era. I wrote some more and out came a spunky twelve-year-old who was spending the summer in her grandparent’s newly inherited antebellum mansion with her adopted cousin from Chicago. Were these kids’ voices in me all along? Were they mine or shades of me? I wasn’t born until long after the civil rights era, but I studied it for many years, and lived a very different life but saw prejudice and racial ick first hand when I moved from Illinois to Georgia when I was the same age as Polly in Between Us Baxters. I never lived in an antebellum home, but like Isaac, Maebelle’s cousin from Chicago the second I saw those pillars on a big stately Georgia porch I knew those houses had once been home to plantations and plantations meant one thing and one thing only: slavery.

My next book coming out is a picture book but it really is for all ages, and I don’t say that lightly. Grandfather Gandhi , which I co-wrote with Arun Gandhi, grandson of Mohandas K. “Mahatma” Gandhi, has a short text. It will have 32 color page gorgeous illustrations by illustrator Evan Turk. But its themes are broad, difficult and speak to us all. How do we release anger? Is lashing out after injury ever justified? How do we live up to the ideals of someone we admire—especially if that someone is a family member? How do we find peace and stillness? And the question I think the book calls for all to answer is: Will we choose to live our lives as light?

Q: In high school, where did you fall? (Prom Queen/King, Gamer Geek, Brainy/Book Nerd, Jock, Shy/Quiet Scholar, Skate Rat, Stoner, Class Clown, etc.)

Ha. In high school I was a drama geek, although I hear the proper term now is “theatre kid.” And yep, that is theatre spelled the “re” way-the British spelling and not the “er” Americana way. We theatre folks would never spell it any other way. Just as we would never say the name of the Scottish play inside the walls of any space where a play could be performed. It’s more than bad luck. It’s sacrilege.

Q: Do you have a pet (pets)?  Tell us about it (them) and how they help/hinder your writing.

I am a newish mom to a thirteen-year-old Chihuahua. He was my husband’s dog before we married and now he is 100% all mine. Well, that’s not true. I share Toby with all the writers who come to The Writing Barn for classes, retreats, and parties. He’s kind of the Barn mascot. He follows me from the house, to the barn, to the cabin and back as we make our daily rounds of writing, welcoming people, checking them in, and making sure everything is set for an enjoyable stay. He chases the butterflies and growls at the deer (for a vegetarian dog he sure is fierce) but when I sit down to write cross-legged in my usual arm chair, he curls up next to me and burrows his little nose next to my leg and takes a nap. Toby is so beloved a fierce and protective little Chihuahua with a big spirit has ended up in a draft of a dark circus YA fantasy I am writing.

Thank you so much for your time, Bethany! We look forward to seeing you at the festival.

For more about Bethany Hegedus, visit her website

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