Thursday, March 24, 2011

Interview with Author Ben Winters

Recently we had the chance to interview Ben Winters about his middle grade book The Secret Life of Ms Finkleman. You can read my 5 star review of his book here.

I totally felt like I was back in middle school while I read The Secret Life of Ms Fkinkleman. What inspired your book?
Well, thank you! There were two main sources of inspiration for The Secret Life of Ms. Finkleman. The first was my middle-school and high-school days, when I played in a number of bands. It was a really important time in my life, and one I think back on often, and I've always wanted to write about the incredible feeling of being a kid in a band, the power of writing songs and performing. The other source of inspiration was my time as a creative-writing teacher in some schools in Manhattan -- I was always intrigued by how fascinated kids are with the private, non-teacher lives of their teachers. Whenever a teacher mentions their own children, or their spouse, or their past, you ca see the kids perk up and kind of go, "Wait...Mr. So-and-So is an actual human being? With a life outside this school?" So I thought it would be cool to find out what happens when a student decides to dig up some dirt of one of the more enigmatic teachers.

Which of your characters would you have been friends with in middle school and why?
Ha! Most likely, I would have been friends with Tenny, because I, too, was really, really into rock music, and I definitely sat around in classes thinking up band names. But my friends and I were probably a bit more tuned in to the whole schoolwork thing than Tenny is.

I really loved the pairing of Bethseda and Tenny. What inspired their characters?
Tenny definitely owes something to certain of my pals, and even myself, in those years. Bethesda, too, has something of me in her -- the eagerness to know everything, the whole issue of "wanting to do well in school" vs. "not wanting to be perceived as a know-it-all." In forcing these two very different kids into a team-up situation, I'm hoping to suggest to my readers, as gently as possible, that it's OK to be friends with people who seem totally different than you.

What was your favorite subject in middle school? Why?
English. I just love books and writing. Always have. I'm not one of those people who always excelled science and then randomly started writing later on. I have always loved to write, and have never understood science at all. (Sorry, Mr. Lynch.)

What was one of your favorite middle grade books you'd recommend to our followers?
I would recommend Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth to middle-grade readers, their older brothers and sisters, and their parents, too. I can't think of another book I have loved as thoroughly, or for as long.

Thank you so much for joining us today Ben.

To find out more about Ben's books, please visit his site here.
To find out where you can purchase his book, please visit Harper Collins site here.
You can follow Ben on Twitter here.

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I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~ Anna Quindlen

Good children's literature appeals not only to
the child in the adult, but to the adult in the child.
~ Anonymous ~