Occasionally, I get questions from readers about various things. I generally reply to the reader privately. But, after being asked some of these questions several times, I start to assume that maybe other readers might have some interest, so, from time to time, I post these here for everyone to see. I think maybe I'll start a feature called "Reader Questions" and answer these. If you have a question, send it on in!
So, here was the question: "Do you based off the slice-of-life moments in your story from moments in your own life? Like with Lexa’s tantrum with her audition to Dr. Timberi?"
I actually get variations of this question quite a bit. Since I'm a teacher in a small private school, and since the books take place in a small private school, it's a good question.
The answer is: No. Yes. Well sort of.
Let me give a general answer, and then I'll answer the question about Lexa's confrontation with Dr. Timberi at the end of Penumbras.
In general, I don't just transfer things from real life to my books. Sometimes, I am inspired by a real incident, or a term. For example, a few years ago, it was a big deal at my school for kids to "taser" each other as described in The Kindling. Or, as another example, Conner's vocal patterns were suggested by a student I had, as was Lexa's hoarse squeal. The scenes at Dauphin Island in Penumbras were inspired by a class trip I chaperoned (minus the fights, bad guys, students being dragged under the waves by monsters, etc.). But for the most part, things that show up in the books are totally products of my imagination.
Now, as far as that specific scene between Lexa and Dr. Timberi, that's an interesting question. Yes, it was based on a real incident. The details were different. But it involved a student of whom I was very fond being very angry with me. I felt the student was being unfair and ungrateful by being upset. The student thought I was being unfair and unkind for what the student perceived as a big slight or injustice.
I won't go into the details, but it was a very emotional situation. One of the saddest days of my teaching career, actually, and still makes me sad when I remember it because it fundamentally changed years of warmth and a relationship with an entire family.
At that point, I was working on Penumbras. I had an early draft, but it didn't include the fight with Lexa and Dr. Timberi, nor did it have anything about Lexa getting so obsessed with auditions, etc. In fact, I had been trying to find some kind of conflict for Lexa, something for her to struggle with. Conner was fighting his memories, Melanie her frustration about not being able to do everything, and later, her fears about Conner. But I felt like Lexa needed more. I had a tiny bit about The Sound of Music in the book, but it was just a small detail.
As I drove home from this real-life confrontation, I was pretty down, to be honest. Teachers have feelings and mine were pretty hurt. It went over and over in my head. And, as it did,
I started to wonder about using it together. Stephen King talks about when to previously unrelated ideas click in your mind to become a book idea. And that's what happened.
Could I use the essence of what had just happened?
Lexa had always been close to Dr. Timberi, and was sort of his favorite, so what if they had a big fight? I knew how the story was going to end at that point, and so this seemed like a good way to increase the tension. It would also provide Lexa with a strong objective for Book 3, which I was planning.
So, I went home and wrote the scene with their fight. It was sort of cathartic to write it out. Again, the details were different, but the emotions on both sides were real. I tried to write Lexa's viewpoint out as honestly as I could, even though I was in Dr. Timberi's position.
Honestly, because it was so raw, the first draft was longer and angrier than it appeared. I revised it until it was a little shorter and softer--Lexa was much harsher in the original. I shaped it until it fit the story in the way I needed it to.
Then, I went back and added the bits in earlier chapters about how excited she was to audition, all of that stuff, sprinkling little bits of conversation in the scene at Dauphin Island, etc.
In the end, I felt like the scene really worked well for the book, and it positions everyone beautifully for Book 3, which I have always thought of as Lexa's redemption.
To be honest, every time I worked on this scene, editing or proofreading, I got a little emotional. All of the emotions of that day come rushing back. I don't know if that comes through to readers or not, but it still packs quite a wallop to me.
As a side note: this works the other way too. There are very positive moments that make their way into the book. The ending of the book literally changed when some other students showed great kindness to me. The original ending was going to be a bit harsher, honestly, because I suppose that's how I felt at the time, and it seemed more dramatic.
Then, as I said, some students did something that really touched me. So I re-wrote the last chapter about the funeral to create a more conciliatory, hopeful feeling. And Book 3 is quite sweet. There is scene I don't want to say too much about, but everyone who has read it says it is their favorite scene. It shows Lexa being absolutely amazing. I get emotional when I read that as well, but in a different way. I hope you all like it!
My marketing guy found a leftover Advanced Reader Copy of Penumbras. And I found an iTunes gift card. Which means we have a prize package. So, we need a contest.
At the same time, I'm starting to think about the book trailer for Book 3 (Luminescence) so casting is on my mind.
So, with those two things percolating in my brain, here's the contest. To enter, just leave a comment suggesting which actor you would love to see playing which characters if The Kindling series were to be made into a movie.
You get one entry for reach actor/character pair you name. Please leave a separate comment for each one. You may comment on this blog or on Facebook. Contest ends on September 18th at midnight. Winner gets the ARC and a $10 iTunes gift card. I reserve the right to toss out silly, annoying, or frivolous entries (solely defined by me). Facebook and Twitter, and any other company, are not involved in this giveaway.
May the Force be with you.
Yesterday ended up being crazy so I didn't get to talk about the stop on the blog tour. Lara, from Overstuffed was kind enough to take a chance a year ago and review The Kindling. Fantasy wasn't really a genre she loved. But she did anyway. And now, here we are a year later and in her review of Penumbras, she gave me possibly the best compliment I've ever received: " I highly recommend this series--both for you and your children! It's absolutely delightful. And, of course, I am waiting with great anticipation for the next intallment. I'd even be willing to stand in line at a bookstore dressed up as Dr. Timberi if it meant I could read it faster."
Lara's a perceptive critic--go see the rest of what she has to say here.
Also, today there are two features. First is an interview with author and Irish Dancer Extraordinaire, Christy Dorrity. You can go visit Christy's website here.
Finally, Heather at Nightly Reading also did a feature. You can visit her here.
Today there is not one, not two, but three reviews on blogs! How cool is that?
First up is the multi-published, multi-tasking Rebecca Talley! She was kind enough to say:
"Penumbras is an engaging read for everyone. It targets middle-school readers, but I found myself cheering for the characters. It also has some tender scenes that made me teary, especially at the end. There's plenty of action and some intense scenes as well, but I loved the relationships between the characters and their growth." Read the whole review here.
Next of all is Shauna, who was wonderfully enthusiastic! She said, "Oh I really, really, really like this series! And so will you! Fun, magic, mystery, danger, darkness, goodness, light, friendship, action and adventure...it's all in there! And OH. SO. GOOD! I couldn't put it down!
Just as good as the first book!"
Read the whole review here.
And, finally, is Cathy who wrote a thoughtful review and also posted an interview. If you are wondering where in the world the title came from, you can find out there. Cathy said, "I LOVE this series. It's the perfect series for kids in the Middle grades, there's action, adventure, and even a touch of love. The characters in these boks are so well-written they feel as though they could be your best friends. I love the way that they are individuals and that they face natural consequences for the way that they act and treat others." Read the whole review here.
Thank you to Cathy, Shauna, and Rebecca for letting me stop by!
I had a lovely interview and review today with Melanie over at Mel's Shelves! She asked some great questions and you can find out about how much of these books are based on my real-life job as a middle school teacher, among other things. Melanie wrote a great review and said:
"I enjoyed The Kindling but I absolutely loved Penumbras!! We've met the main characters and have seen them interact with each other and now they're getting the training they need. Conner and Melanie like each other and Lexa and Melanie are best friends so they each have a lot of emotions to work through. It's not smooth sailing for any of them and we certainly see some flaws. I liked that, though, because it's very realistic." Read the whole thing here.
Yesterday was kind of crazy with theatre camp and also rehearsals for the fall musical--so I didn't get to talk much about the blog tour. So, with a review yesterday, and a review, and an interview today, there is lots to talk about!
Yesterday's review was one I enjoyed because Rebecca picked up on some of the non-magical themes in the book: "[Penumbras] shows some of the issues teens face, even without having magical abilities, and the process of dealing with disappointment, turning like into love, and feeling left out." Read Rebecca's full review here. The cool thing is that Rebecca just got a contract on a book--so she'll be having her own debut novel soon
Today's review comes from Paula at Community Bookstop. Paula was kind enough to review both Penumbras as well as The Kindling and to name both as "Favorite Reads of 2013." Paula said, "What an incredible story with so much going on and the ending was incredible such a major twist to the whole story! I really can't wait to see what book three will have."
See Paula's full review here.
Finally, the Cover Contessa, was kind enough to interview me and she's sponsoring an e-book giveaway of Penumbras! She asked some great questions that made me think. I hope you like reading them too! And, don't forget the special e-book giveaway at her blog. See the interview here.
And, of course, there is the $50 Giveaway. You can join here.
One of my favorite things to do is hear responses to my books from the group for whom they are written. I also really enjoy hearing their questions. They are always thoughtful and often, thought-provoking. One of the reasons I enjoy teaching middle school, I suppose.
Today, I was fortunate enough to be interviewed by M.J., a 12-year-old reader who also wrote a review. She said, in part, "Penumbras, the sequel to The Kindling, is an adventure packed and a touch of romance novel about the strange lives of Connor, Lexa, and Melanie. In my opinion, this was a no putting down book."
Most of all, I really liked M.J.'s questions. They were astute and quite observant--especially about some character development that occurred. Read the whole review and interview here.
It's finally here! Penumbras is being released and all of us here at bradenbell.com and Mockingbird Cottage are so excited! Deliriously excited, in fact. In order to celebrate the release, we are having a month-long blog tour and a $50 Amazon or Visa card giveaway (winner gets to choose).
There are lots of easy ways to get entries--and it starts on July 9th. Note: I'm happy to include international participants. The only condition is this: if someone from outside of the continental U.S. wins, then I will email them the code to an Amazon gift card.
I hope you'll join the fun! There are lots and lots of ways to join the giveaway--and there are some really cool bloggers who are participating. Click on the banner to see all the stops.
Of course--there is also another giveaway going since we're still doing the sale on The Kindling and a $25 Amazon gift card giveaway. You can get involved in that here.
First of all, have you joined the $25 Amazon Giftcard Giveaway yet? So easy!
I got some really great reviews today for Penumbras and wanted to pass them along. I'll be passing some other reviews along as well, over the next few days.
I love good reviews of all kinds. However, there is something special about getting a positive review from a teen--the age group at which the book is aimed.
So, I want to feature this review from Emma. She was kind enough to say, "Awesome. A very good read. I REALLY am excited for the next one." I love it when I get all caps.
I also got a review that, I will admit, made me a bit teary. This is from historical author, L.C. Lewis, a writer I greatly admire. You can read the whole thing here. She was kind enough to write some very generous words:
"Warm up your credit cards, or start counting out the Benjamins, because you're going to want to buy both of Braden Bell's magical books. "The Kindling," his first YA masterpiece, is matched and perhaps surpassed by its sequel, "Penumbras." These are more than great reads folks.
"Middle School Magic: Penumbras," the velocious, magical sequel to Braden Bell’s highly successful, "The Kindling," enchants readers while matching that middle-grade gem spell-for-spell, situation-for-situation, and theme-for-theme.
The struggle to hold darkness at bay has matured Conner Dell, sister Lexa, and his secret love, Melanie, and "Penumbra's" tone reflects the consequences facing off against the forces of evil has had on these Tween-aged magis. Their previous battles have made the trio stronger and more skillful magi, but Connor in particular learns that sparring with dark forces has consequences that can tarnish even the purest of hearts, pulling even the best of friends apart.
Bell, a Ph.D author/educator knows his audience and their world, and once again, he delivers a stellar read that hits all the right buttons. Bell’s books have depth. On the surface, they are fun, smart, action-packed reads written with a masterful pen that merges crisp middle-school dialogue with sizzling action that pops.
Bell doesn’t dummy-down to his readers. These books contain smart vocabulary, and better yet, each page and subplot invites readers to dig deeper, to think, and to explore critical values such as loyalty, faith, honesty, trust, and love.
Adults will enjoy these books as much as their youth, but more importantly, though their youth may not be off chasing Darkhands, Bell’s honest characterizations of these young heroes remind parents that their own middle grade youth are daily engaged in battles of their own.
"Penumbras" definitely entertains, and makes a great chapter-a-night family read, but it offers much more to savvy families. Before it’s public release, reviewers already nominated Penumbras for a coveted Whitney Award. I highly recommend it as a pick read of 2013."
I've been working on this trailer for a while, with the help of some very talented students. I'm quite pleased with how it turned out. So, I think I will have a little contest to celebrate. The prize will be either a $10 iTunes gift card or having your name in Book 3. If you like this post on Facebook you get 1 entry. Share for two. You can also Tweet/re-tweet for two. You can do this daily if you like. The drawing will occur on Saturday June 29th. Make sure to leave me a comment to let me know what you did so I can give you credit.
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