Sunday, October 24, 2010

ReaderGirls welcomes author Beth Fehlbaum

Q & A with Beth Fehlbaum, author of Courage in Patience and 
Hope In Patience

There are certainly no vampires in this young adult novel. Why did you go such a different route to reach teen readers and what are your Patience series about? 

Well, to be honest with you, I do not read any fantasy/vampire/graphic novels. The last fantasy I read was the first Harry Potter! My books are realistic fiction — rooted in truth. My publisher, WestSide Books, publishes exclusively Young Adult realistic fiction. The Patience Books, Courage in Patience and Hope in Patience, are the story of fifteen-year-old Ashley Nicole Asher, who is sexually, emotionally, and physically abused by her stepfather, from the age of nine.

Courage in Patience begins Ashley's story. When she at last tells a trusted teacher what has been happening to her, Child Protective Services steps in, and Ashley is removed from her mother's home. She is then reunited with her biological father, who has not been a part of Ashley's life since infancy. Through the summer school English class taught by her stepmother, Ashley learns to face her greatest fears and, along with other teens, discovers just how strong she is. Ashley's story continues with Hope in Patience, as Ashley continues her rocky road to recovery, wonders what it would be like to have a boyfriend, and faces the ultimate betrayal. Ashley's story is about courage and the power of hope to overcome fear.

Your novels Courage in Patience and Hope in Patience were partially inspired by events in your own life. Tell us about that. 

It's said that all authors' debut novels are autobiographical in nature. That said, Courage in Patience is not an autobiography; nor is Hope in Patience. I did draw on many of my own experiences to write both books. Ashley has Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and so do I – and I pulled from what it is like for me to have PTSD to write what it's like for her.

At the same time, Ashley has a strong tendency to harm herself through cutting or scratching herself, and I have never had that to the extent she does. I write what I know; for example, I use my experience as a teacher to create the Patience High School environment and many of the characters, but I also use my experience as a mom to three now-grown daughters. The character of David is VERY loosely based on my husband in terms of the physical characteristics and his occupation as a heavy equipment mechanic. Ashley's dog, Emma, is based on my dog, Emma, who shared the fictional Emma's tendency of having a timid personality.

What did you hope to accomplish through writing the Patience books?

I initially wrote Courage in Patience (September 1, 2008) as a way of pulling myself out of my own grief, disbelief, and rage that I had been the victim of childhood sexual abuse and people who were responsible for keeping me safe neglected to do so. I also wrote it just to see if I could do it. It wasn't until I had completed the book that I realized it was something that had the potential to help others who were hurting, too.

With Hope in Patience, I wanted to tell more of Ashley's story and show that although recovery from childhood sexual abuse is one of the most difficult things a person can do, it is not only possible to recover one's life, but it is also possible to thrive and be stronger than ever before. Life does not stop during recovery; if anything, life becomes more colorful and great discoveries about oneself are made.

Is there a message for adults in your books? 

That’s funny you ask that because I think the number of my adult readers is about the same as my YA readers! A lot of adults who are also survivors of childhood abuse relate very strongly to the Patience books. I hope that adults will see a message of tolerance for differences and an awareness that even though we often want to see the teen years as the “best years of kids’ lives”, teens are struggling with some very big stuff and adults need to respect that and listen when kids talk. Take them seriously.

Why did you choose to make Hope in Patience a “survival story” rather than an “abuse story”? 

It's crucial that people who were abused come to see themselves as survivors rather than victims. In addition, the story IS about overcoming rather than staying complacent and under somebody's heel.

You did extensive research into the judicial process for Hope in Patience. What did you learn?

I vetted the courtroom scene with my brother, a police sergeant and long-time detective with a lot of experience in child abuse cases. He helped me with the concept of the Victim Impact Statement, which is just wild to me. The idea that a defendant can call character witnesses prior to sentencing, but the victim cannot present a statement detailing how the defendant's actions harmed her until after sentencing has been pronounced. That just seems upside down to me. The good thing is, the defendant has to stay and listen to the Victim Impact Statement, should the victim and/or her family decide to make one.

What is the favorite part of being a young adult author? 

Hearing from people who were impacted by reading my books, and knowing that what they read made a difference in either how they feel about themselves or how they have a deeper understanding of someone they love now. And, I like it when they appreciate the humor in my books, because I work hard at that, too.

Can you give us a sneak peek to what’s next in your writing career? 

I am currently at work on the third and probably final book in the Patience series, tentatively titled Truth in Patience. I am a teacher from late August to the end of May, and I try to write full-time during the summer. I expect to have Truth in Patience finished and submitted to my publisher sometime next summer.

Thank you Beth Fehlbaum for stopping by and spending time with us today. Courage in Patience and Hope in Patience (release date: October 27, 2010) can be ordered from Amazon and other book sellers. To read more about Beth Fehlbaum, check out her website.

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