It's my great pleasure to introduce you all to Bev Patt, author of Haven (Blooming Tree Press, 2009). Haven will hit the bookstores shortly and I interviewed Bev so we'd all get to know a little more about her and her wonderful debut novel. Look at the beautiful cover for her story. Doesn't it invite you in? I've got some of her scoop straight from Bev in the answers below.
Haven is such a mysterious name – it conjures up many images in my mind. How did that come to be the title of the story, and what do you hope it conveys to the reader?
Well, Latonya, one of the main characters in the story, lives in a group home called The Haven. It's kind of a wreck of a place so there's some irony there. Rudy, the boy who's telling the story, lives with his parents and brother in more of a traditional "home" setting, though it is fraught with tension and secrets. Rudy's pal, Stark, lives alone with his father after the death of his mother. So, in a way, all 3 are looking for more security, more happiness, more of a sense of family - in other words, a Haven, where they can feel completely safe and loved. And I have to give credit to my publisher, who came up with the name. I was going with something completely different.
Give us a quick hook. What’s your story about in three lines or less?
Oo! I hate these! Ok: ATVs, holding hands, family secrets, goofball pals, runaway plans, midnight rides and what it really means to be a friend.
And please give us the story behind the story.
I was a teacher at a school for Wards of the State- kids that had been taken away from their parents because of abuse or neglect. When my husband and I tried to take in one of my old students who needed foster home, we were denied because our race didn't match the child's. Unfortunately, during the 1980's, hundreds and probably thousands of kids ended up living in large, state run group homes instead of individual foster homes for the duration of their childhood because of this restriction. The laws have since changed, thank goodness.
Tell us how you got started writing.
Like most writers, I was an avid reader from early on. Not surprisingly, then, my favorite thing to do as a teacher was to read to my students, especially since most of them had never been read to before. Ever. When I stayed home to have my kids, my passion for reading progressed very naturally into a passion for writing. I was hooked!
What are 3 things your readers might want to know about you?
1. I was not very good in English or LA. My best scores were in Math and Science.
2. I went on an African safari when I was 13.
3. My family has a licorice company and I grew up with a steady supply of Red Vines in a jar in my kitchen.
In middle school and high school, who were your favorite authors and what where your favorite books?
In middle school, I could not get enough Nancy Drew books, (tho I skipped over the parts that talked about her matching cashmere sweater sets, etc). I read a lot of my mom's old books, classics like Little Women, The Little Princess, The Yearling (sobbed through this). In High School, I started reading Barbara Kingsolver (The Bean Tress, still one of my faves), Louise Erdrich (The Beet Queen) and wacky John Irving (The World According to Garp, etc.). I think reading Irving tripped a switch in me - I realized for the first time that serious stories can have laugh-out-loud moments and really oddball, quirky characters. I try to incorporate similar humor in all of my books.
If you could give Haven to one person, or one group of people, who would you give it to and why?
One person - the boy it's dedicated to - Roland T., whom we wanted to take in and were denied. I'd love for him to read it (and I'd love to make contact with him again) so he could see that it wasn't us that denied him. He was told that WE changed our minds about taking him because he was a different race than us. Sadly, he believed it. He refused our calls so we were never able to set him straight.
One group - all of my old students, as a tribute to their strength & courage.
You have another book coming out in 2010, would you tell us a little about that?
Love to! It is called BEST FRIENDS FOREVER: A WWII SCRAPBOOK. It's the story of two best friends that get separated during the war - Dottie going to a Japanese Internment Camp and Louise staying home in Seattle, WA. History nuts will love the photos and 1940's memorabilia and fiction lovers will enjoy following the two girls' struggles with family, friendships, prejudice and love. Reluctant readers will like the scrapbook format, with photos, drawings, newspaper clippings, letters - all the writing broken up into short bites. And I'm hoping teachers and librarians will incorporate it into their history/social studies curriculums/reading lists!
What’s cooking on your writing table? Tell us about your works in progress.
I've got a new contemporary novel I'm revising - about a girl who discovers the spiritual world of her Thai roots. On another burner, I've got the beginnings of a humorous middle grade novel about a boy musician who's band has replaced him with a tone-deaf hottie, who also happens to be his best girl-pal. And when I want to work on something shorter, I go to my pile of humorous picture book manuscripts and fool with one of those.
As a new author, what is the most surprising thing about the publishing business that you’ve learned?
1. How much revising goes into a novel. Like, sometimes it ends up unrecognizable from the first draft.
2. That not all books published end up in the bookstores, only the ones the buyers buy. This shocks everyone, who just assume that when my books come out, they'll just go into their local bookstore and it will be waiting for them on the shelf.
3. How gosh darn long it all takes from the initial "Is this manuscript still available?" to having the book in your hands.
And what advice do you have for other new authors seeking publication?
1. Don't turn up your nose at any kind of publishing opportunity - I did several articles for nothing but a byline and 3 free copies. Better to have your name in print than in a drawer.
2. READ. Everything.
3. Pursue other hobbies/activities. These will give you fodder for your writing as well. And they will feed a part of your brain that needs nourishing. Writers don't write in a vacuum.
And thank you, Bev. I'm excited about seeing your book for the first time, and reading it. It sounds like a wonderful, uplifting story. I can't wait.
Thanks, Donna! This was fun:)
So there you have it, folks. Look for Bev's book out soon.