Today I'm so excited to welcome Beth Fehlbaum to my blog. Beth was kind enough to answers my questions about her book HOPE IN PATIENCE, that is being released tomorrow, October 27, 2010. Congratulations Beth! Before we dive into the questions, here's a bit about HOPE IN PATIENCE.
Fifteen-year-old Ashley Asher has spent half of her life living in fear. Her stepfather has been sexually abusing her for years, but her mother doesn't believe her. After his latest assault lands her in the emergency room, Child Protective Services finally removes Ashley from her home, and sends her to live with the father she barely remembers and his new family.
Her new life in Patience, Texas, is much better. She's in therapy to deal with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and is trying to make her way in a new high school. She's getting used to living with her father, stepmother, and stepbrother, and she's made new friends in the summer course taught by her stepmother, Bev. She even joins the track team at the urging of her new African American friend, Z. Z.
But Ashley is so traumatized by her past that she sometimes scratches herself until she bleeds and sleeps in her armoire, even though she knows she's safe now. Worse, when her stepfather is finally put on trial for hurting her, she learns that truth and justice don't always go together. Will Ashley adjust to a better life? Will she trust enough to date Josh, the cute guy on her track team who likes her? YA readers will be caught up in the heart-pounding story of a damaged girl trying to heal herself and get on with the rest of her life.
You can find more info about Beth and her wonderful books at http://www.bethfehlbaumya.com/
Okay, now for those questions. My comments will be in purple and Beth's responses will be in the usual white.
This book deals with some heavy topics. Do you think it’s important for kids to be able to read about these problems?
Absolutely! I make a point of showing that nobody’s life is perfect. As a good friend of mine says, “Life is messy.” It’s important that all kids be able to find themselves in literature. For people who are not enduring some of the problems in my books like abuse, homophobia, racism, or religious fanaticism, reading about other people’s experiences with those things is a way of inspiring compassion for what the person next to you in class may be going through. ~I couldn't agree with you more Beth. Very important points you made.
Did writing these books help you in your own healing process?
Yes. I wrote my first book, COURAGE IN PATIENCE, as a way of working through the pain I was processing in therapy for my own recovery from childhood sexual abuse. I could not wrap my mind around the fact that my mother chose her husband, my abuser, over me, and that she saw what I was going through as “all my problem”. It was my therapist’s suggestion that I try writing a novel, and it didn’t come easy. It took me about 4 months of stopping and starting because I kept ending up in the same place of rage, grief, and disbelief—of trying to understand and asking, “Why, why, why?” The thing is, there is no answer to that question—none that’s acceptable, anyway, because there is no excuse for a child to be sexually abused—ever.
It was through writing COURAGE IN PATIENCE through the eyes of someone else—15 year old Ashley Nicole Asher—that I was able to come to know for myself what my therapist had been telling me: what happened to me was not a reflection of my worth as a person. I wrote HOPE IN PATIENCE when I was struggling with the notion of acceptance of the way things are. It took me a long time to get to that point. ~It is a process and I'm so glad that the outlet of writing helped in your healing journey.
I think our parents (like it or not) tend to be the people we allow deepest into our hearts and our psyche. Do you feel the betrayal by Ashley’s mother is as abusive as what she suffered at the hands of Charlie? How do you feel about the damage caused by her mother?
When a child makes an outcry of abuse to a parent and the child is not believed , or is believed but nothing is done to remove the perpetrator from the situation, a feeling of worthlessness sets in and just stays. Children tend to be angrier at the parent who did not protect them than the abuser. I’d say it’s a tie in terms of damage done to Ashley. Cheryl seeing Ashley as competition for her husband and Charlie treating Ashley as an object rather than a person did extensive damage to her emotionally and physically. ~It was heartbreaking but makes the fact that Ashley goes on to heal and thrive all the more powerful, I think.
What did you find most difficult about writing the Patience books?
Writing the rape scene in COURAGE IN PATIENCE was very, very difficult. At first, it made me physically ill to write it. The scene in Cheryl’s hospital room in HOPE IN PATIENCE was wrenching to write—but when I finished writing it, I knew that I had come a very long way in terms of acceptance of the situation in my own life, and I knew that Ashley would eventually realize what I had come to know. ~I can imagine that was a very emotionally exhausting and difficult scene to write.
Any new projects you’re currently working on?
I’m a teacher during the school year so I mainly write my novels during the summer. This past summer, I began writing the third book in the PATIENCE series, TRUTH IN PATIENCE. I expect this to be the last book in the PATIENCE series, although it’s possible I may write another, depending if I think I’m through telling Ashley’s story. I do intend to continue writing, though. I’m interested in writing a YA realistic fiction novel with a teen with a compulsive overeating disorder. At some point I may write a memoir of sorts of my own recovery from childhood sexual abuse. ~How exciting! We'll be sure and watch for TRUTH IN PATIENCE.
What message do you hope teens, and others take away from Hope In Patience?
I want those who may be in abusive situations to know that they are not alone, and that there is hope for recovery. I also want to encourage all teens to know that regardless of what they are struggling with, they have the power within themselves to face what frightens them most and overcome it. ~Wonderful words, and yes, I would hope they reach out to somone for help.
Okay now for a few lighter questions:
What is your writing schedule?
Do you write everyday or several times per week, etc.? During the summer I try to keep a regular schedule of writing from 9 a.m. to at least 5 p.m. During the school year, I do a lot of mental prewriting and when an idea comes to me for the story I’m weaving in my head, I write it on a sticky note and put it on my desk. ~Gotta' love those post-its.
What’s your favorite thing to munch on while writing?
I don’t eat while I’m writing, but I usually chew sugarless gum and drink Crystal Light. I used to be heavily addicted to Diet Coke but I gave it up. I haven’t written an entire novel without my Diet Coke muse, so I guess we’ll find out this summer if that was the secret to my writing! ~Okay, you're definitely one strong lady. I have a Diet Dr. Pepper habit that I just can't seem to kick.
What book has really shaped you and influenced your most in life?
The very first YA realistic fiction I read that made me realize I could tell the stories inside my head was STAYING FAT FOR SARAH BYRNES, by Chris Crutcher. His work has influenced me tremendously. ~Oh a wonderful new book recommendation! Thanks for that, I'll be sure to read it.
What one piece of advice would you give new writers?
Just write. Don’t get all hung up on finding an agentselling your work until you’ve written the best manuscript you can. Write for the joy of writing; for me, writing is a way of processing what’s inside my head… allowing it to trickle down my arm and come out my fingertips. I don’t know what I’d do without it! You have to really love it for the way it makes you feel, above all else. ~Amen to that! And great words of wisdom.
I want to thank Beth for taking the time to answer my questions. Please be sure and check out her Patience books. Also, please leave a comment for her here and swing by her website sometime.