Tuesday, December 16, 2014

2nd Annual Diversity Month Day 17: Author Interview w/ Sarah Benwell +Kindle Fire 6" and Book Giveaway!

Today we have a very special guest in our Diversity Month series and we're so happy to have gotten to know a little better through social media. Her name is Sarah Benwell and she's queer & proud, extremely dedicated to diversity in books and if it couldn't get any better, she's English.(Love English authors!)
 If you don't know much about her now, trust me in a few months YOU WILL! 

  We hope you will keep an eye out for what she has in store. She's already managed to make fans out of us!
1.So We know you're a writer so we assume you're good with word counts, what can you tell us about yourself in 20 words or less?


I believe in words, want to make you think and feel, want to better the world, love books, will travel.

2.When did you realize that you wanted to be a writer?

When I was 4, I saw Michael Rosen reading WE’RE GOING ON A BEAR HUNT, and I realized people could do that.

And when I was 9, our class teacher retired with ill health, and she left us parting gifts. I remember the boys got one thing and the girls another, except me. I got a hardback notebook, 120 A4 pages held safe in pink-marble. The message: your words are worth something, keep writing.

16, and I was writing epic fantasy at 3am instead of studying for exams.

And at 23, as I started an unrelated degree, I sat in a buzzing audience watching Julia Green talk about writing for young people, and I remembered everything that came before.

I have always known. It just took me a while to listen.

3.You identify with being queer but keep it pretty open and indefinite. How does how you identify yourself contribute to your journey as a writer?

In one sense, I don’t think it does. It’s like saying ‘how does your perfect first date affect the job you choose?’ Or, ‘How does your penchant for grey eyes affect you as a person?’ It’s tying unrelated things together. My sexuality has nothing to do with my strengths and skills.

On the other hand, it is a part of who I am. And writing has a habit of reflecting the person behind it. Not fitting into people’s idea of ‘normal’ has, I guess, given me much greater empathy for others. Often on the fringes, I spent a lot of time observing, and I think that shows. I hope both these things come through in LAST LEAVES.

I keep it my self-ID open and indefinite because honestly, attraction is – for me – so malleable. I’m mostly attracted to women, but once there was a guy, and I don’t know what’s next. I’m attracted to brains, and outlooks, singing voices and beautiful turns of phrase, and none of that is tied to a person’s sex or gender. I don’t want to limit myself with labels. I want to be open. And I want to be open in my writing, too; to let my characters and their stories be and grow and change the way they need to. Because if I try to force labels and expectations, I might miss something wonderful.

Finally, I guess my sexuality is also why I feel so strongly about the book I’m working on right now: an LGBTQ love story of a sort, set in South Africa. Because I’ve been there, in environments which seem supportive on the surface but are not, and with people who just don’t understand or do not want to. My experiences are far less extreme, but I’m writing this because I’m one of the lucky ones. Because I can: I have a voice. Because it matters.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20743633-the-last-leaves-falling4.In your upcoming release, The Last Leaves Falling, you manage to feature a protagonist of color with a disability. Intersectionality is something we talk about a lot, was it a challenge getting a work such as this published?

I didn’t really manage to feature Sora, at least, not as I wrote. It wasn’t a conscious process – he appeared in my head fully formed, as a Japanese teenager with ALS. Changing him into anything else would not only have changed his story, but it would have been like telling a friend, ‘I like you, but I can’t accept your gayness. Here’s a nice boy, dinner is on me.’

I thought publication would be difficult. I really did. I had a lot of people telling me to lower expectations, telling me that this book would never sell. But it turns out the hardest part was letting go of that fear. It turns out that there are people out there who see stories and good writing and characters as people; who don’t see minority portrayals as a difficulty to work around. Or, perhaps better, people who are aware of the perceived hurdles we have to jump, but who are willing to take that on. (Excuse me while I take a moment to hug my agent and editors.)

No, it won’t always be easy. Yes, there are people who don’t see the point in diversifying stories, who are threatened by it or scared or who just want predictable sales. But it’s not everyone. And I truly believe that when a story’s ready, when it’s good enough, it will find a home. I have to believe that. And so far, it’s held true.

5.I have to admit, while every straight girl is in love with boys falling in love, I'm the complete opposite(not that I don't love a boys who like boys story) I love a great story where two girls fall in love. Do you have any favorite books or any other representations in media that highlight f/f couples?

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/13069935-ask-the-passengers?ac=1https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20579291-lies-we-tell-ourselvesHonestly, there isn’t much. I sort of gave up seeking them out after a while, because I spent a long time so, so disappointed that all I found were carbon copies of the same sweet, gentle exploration and self discovery, the school corridors or summer camp, the curiosity, the never actually saying who you are, or saying, but with no real consequence. Which is fine. Those stories are important. But they don’t belong to everyone, and I want more. So instead, I’d find minor characters and give them queer desires and back stories. My head-canon worlds are full of f/f gloriousness.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16081758-otherbound?ac=1https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/11595276-the-miseducation-of-cameron-post?from_search=trueAnd then recently I decided that I don’t want to be starved of those tales any more, and dived back in. I’ve loved AS King’s ASK THE PASSENGERS, Robin Talley’s LIES WE TELL OURSELVES, and Emily Danforth’s THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST. And because my absolutely favourite thing is intersectional diversity with stories that are more than that, Corinne Duyvis’ OTHERBOUND (with queer ladies, POC and disability. Le swoon).

As far as other media goes, it’s ridiculously old school and predictable but I still have so much love for Willow/ Tara of BUFFY, And I’m enjoying LOST GIRL so far (yes, I’m late discovering it) for its brazen, glorious bi sexiness.

6.What do you wish you saw more of in the YA world depicting the queer identity?

I still want more f/f. I struggled with the last question, and that isn’t right. I want f/f that’s varied and interesting, not the same voice singing the same song over and over.

And I want fluidity. I’d love to see bi characters, and queer, unspecifying characters. Experiments and finding something other than the easy answers.

I’d like stories that separate romantic leanings and sexual ones: they do not always match. And some of us don’t often/ever feel either – where are the Aces?

I want QUILTBAG characters who can be who they are, but whose sexuality isn’t their whole story.

I want intersectional characters. I’ve had conversations where the Deaf, lesbian, POC percussionist in my head is deemed unrelatable, unrealistic, a step too far. But I can walk into a bookstore and find zombies and fae folk and wizardry because that’s fine.

7. On a personal level, what are you dying to see in books, that you haven't seen already?

Pretty much all of the above, please. Fill my shelves? I haven’t ever found myself yet. I can’t write it, I’m too close, but I really, really want a book to call my own.

Finally, where can readers go to find out more about your past and current works and uncover everything there is to know about Sarah Benwell, the writer?

Hahaha. Um. In my stories, hopefully? THE LAST LEAVES FALLING is out January/ May (in the UK/US respectively).

I’m on Twitter as @SWritesBooks (which is where you’ll find me bouncing about news, events and guest-posts, among other things). And I just joined the fabulous Author Allsorts (@AuthorAllsorts) where I’ll be posting semi-regularly.

*Photo by Jess Howley-Wells*

About Sarah Benwell:
Sarah Benwell lives in the picturesque city of Bath. Which is nice, but she’d much rather be off exploring deserts and jungles elsewhere. Having seen a good chunk of the world, Sarah is a keen advocate for diversity in life and on bookshelves, and she loves nothing more than acquainting herself with both.

Sarah is one of the many authors we're featuring this month that has been thoughtful enough to add to our giveaway with and ARC to her upcoming release, The Last Leaves Falling. Be sure to enter to get a chance to get to know her through her writing!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Post a Comment

Thanks for leaving awesome comments!We appreciate and reply to everyone!