Interview with Award-Winning Author Bethany Hegedus

Get to know Bethany…

Bethany Hegedus’s second novel Truth with a Capital T debuted at the 2010 Texas Book Festival. Forthcoming, with Atheneum/Simon & Schuster is the picture book Grandfather Gandhi, co-authored with Arun Gandhi, grandson of the Mahatma. Bethany’s first novel Between Us Baxters was named a Bank Street Books, Best Books of 2010 (starred) and a Top 40 Fiction Books for Young Adults by the Pennsylvania School Librarians Association. Bethany continues to serve as co-editor of the Young Adult & Children’s page for the VCFA literary journal Hunger Mountain and will be part of the YA Diversity in Fiction Tour when it makes it’s Austin stop. A longtime resident of NYC, she now writes from her home in Austin. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

I am working on a new middle grade—this one is set in a fictional town in Texas (where I now live) instead of Georgia (where I grew up.) The main character, Fancy Melody Monroe, has talked her daddy into moving, trailer and all (he stays strapped into a Lazy Boy recliner as the semi hauls their single-wide from Georgia to Texas, as he has what Fancy calls, “epidermi-no-sunitis,”a condition which causes him to never leave the trailer) to her mama’s hometown of Creation Creek, Texas. Once there, Fancy digs in the dirt—and in the past—looking for clues to where her Mama may have run off to. It’s current working title is, Flights of Fancy and I am loving getting to know Fancy and her hurts and her longings.

What advice would you give young writers?

Never take no for an answer. Keep studying. Keep trying and most of all believe in yourself. Writing takes talent, time and patience.

Who is your favorite author?

I have so many favorite authors, I can’t name just one. But, my favorite childhood author was Beverly Cleary. I thought I was Ramona the Pest and when my second grade teacher, Mrs. Sullivan, read from the book each week, I was the first one sitting cross-legged on the floor waiting to see where the story would take me. I adore Ramona and one day hope to have a 7 year old character call on me and not let go, the way Ramona must have with Ms. Cleary.

When are you the most productive?

Once upon of time, I would have said the morning. I love writing in the early a.m. with a cup of coffee, still in bed using my laptop desk. But my schedule has changed. Between working at the Writers’ League of Texas, co-editing Hunger Mountain, and writing my own blog, I find I get the most work done, fiction wise, whenever I can. It may be fifteen minutes over lunch, two hours after dinner, or before the sun is up, but if I had my druthers it would be between 6:30-8:30 a.m. Not too early in the day but before I head out do anything else.

Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?

My characters are fictional with little bits of real people and real situations sprinkled in. I’ve heard my sister say about reading my work that it is fun to see what bits of myself and my life end up in print for her and others who know me well to decode. In Between Us Baxters, there is a minor character named Stoney, and when I was a teacher I taught a student named Stoney. He was a Sheriff’s son and his name sounded so Southern to me. There is also a reference to washcloths that my best friend from VCFA picked up on.

In Truth with a Capital T, it is a place and not a name from my past that worked its way in. The Kiss-Me-Quick Bridge, which plays an important role in Maebelle discovering clues about her ancestry is a real bridge that I encountered as a child. It is outside Hallyville, Alabama where my grandfather and grandmother lived. You went open and over in a second flat and it was dubbed the “Kiss-Me-Quick” bridge either by the town, or maybe even just my mother, but there it is in Tweedle, Georgia where Maebelle and Isaac find themselves for the summer.

And, I recently admitted to my writing mentor Tim Wynne-Jones that I think of the gramps character in Truth with a Capital T in my mind, as being slightly based on him. Tim is a talent of all trades, singer, songwriter, previous architect, teacher, speaker, and wonderfully gifted storyteller. He witnessed and helped bring about an important part of my growth as a writer, and much as Gramps does with Maebelle, he pushes her to face her fears, as Tim did with me. And, when the MG novel began as a picture book Tim gave me a ton of song lyric timing help, which was still integral to the book as it morphed into a novel.

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

No book is ever easy to write and I am not sure I would want one to be. I like to stretch and grow, but the one that has been the hardest to get right is a non-fiction picture book, titled Grandfather Gandhi that I co-wrote with Arun Gandhi, the “Mahatma’s” grandson. The picture book form requires skill, preciseness, and the non-fiction aspect made these feats even harder. I worked for years and years and am happy it will be forthcoming with Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.

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