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Interview with Laura Benedict

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Laura Benedict

Laura Benedict
Laura Benedict

Tell us about the genesis of your book ISABELLA MOON. Isabella Moon

I had been intrigued for many years with the media's coverage of missing-child cases, beginning with the Polly Klass case in the early nineties. When Polly Klass was murdered, my daughter was quite young and it made a huge impression on me. At first I thought the novel was going to be about how a small town might be exposed and even warped by the media circus surrounding the case of a missing girl. But when I started to write about Kate and Isabella, I began to see that the book was going to be very different. The story became much more intimate and concentrated on a few central characters; with the exception of a rather bothersome newspaper reporter, the media played almost no role at all. And as soon as I named Isabella, I knew there could be no other title for the book.

How did the story develop?

The opening scene is very much the way I began it on a scrap of paper as I traveled on an airplane from NYC to Roanoke, VA, where I was living at the time. Bill (the sheriff) and Kate were set, and I had a very strong sense of Isabella's ghost. Once I have a character in my head, the character tells me their story. And if I try to make them do something that they don't want to do, the story just doesn't work. But somehow I knew who would die and who would survive during the course of the book--I just didn't know how they would end up that way. There were a couple times that I just said, "What's the most exciting thing that could happen here to move the story along?" Then the characters would take over. I love to be surprised when I write, so I never did an outline for Isabella Moon. If I outline then I know the ending and the rest is just filling in the blanks. I prefer to be just as surprised as my readers.

The small Kentucky town you write about has more than its share of not-so-nice people. Is that your view of the world, or were you just enjoying writing a good ole Southern Gothic story?

That's a tough question! Personally, I'm very trusting and I always want to believe the best about people. But at the same time I'm a realist. People everywhere suffer from the same vices, the same desires and the same weaknesses. I'm drawn to horrific news stories and the Internet just feeds my habit.  I confess that I do have an extremely dark imagination that's active whether I'm awake or not. Sometimes I forget that, statistically, the country we live in is a pretty safe place. When I married my husband, Pinckney, we went to live near Lewisburg, WV, which had a population of about 5,000 people at that time. Now, Lewisburg had its share of minor crime, but it was nothing like what happens in Carystown!

Would you say there are any themes of redemption in the book?

I don't have the confidence to try to write themes into my work. That said, my personal faith leads me to believe that any human being--no matter how heinous their crimes--is capable of being redeemed, so I tend to think of my characters as redeemable as well.

Who are your favorite characters?

Oh, that's such a dastardly question--like making me choose between my own children! But if you won't tell them I said so.....I love my bad girl, Janet. If I ever write a sequel to Isabella Moon, she'll figure prominently in it. I also loved, loved, loved writing about Lillian Caley. She just seems so wise and loving to me. Also Frieda Birkenshaw. Now that I look at this list, though, I'm not surprised. All three of my favorite characters are very strong, decisive women.

What are you working on now?

 My next novel, CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS, comes out in early January 2009. Pinckney and I are also in the middle of selecting stories for the 2009 edition of SURREAL SOUTH, an anthology of short fiction that comes out in October 2009. But my biggest project is my third novel, which is still a bit of a secret. There's a strong possibility that it will have something to do with a very troubled house!

What were your favorite moments promoting ISABELLA MOON?

There were so many wonderful moments. I felt very blessed to have the opportunity to have a published book to promote! My most memorable moment occurred in my hotel room in Anchorage, Alaska during Bouchercon 2007 (the mystery convention). I answered my cellphone to hear my husband say, "First, you need to know that everything's okay." That's not what a mother wants to hear when she's thousands of miles away from her children! Our oldest daughter had been bitten on the finger by an immature copperhead snake that she'd picked up on a dare. The injury ended up not being life-threatening, but she almost lost her finger. After making me promise not to come home, my thoughtful husband posted photos of it on the Internet for me to see! Also, later in the tour, I read at a big bookstore in Cincinnati to a crowd that was liberally sprinkled with relatives and friends of my parents. It was fun, though I kind of wondered if my dad wasn't writing checks to everyone who came by!

How was working on your second novel different than working on your first?

The second went much faster. Isabella Moon was actually my third novel, but the first one I had published. So I had much more confidence and the storytelling elements and structure came to me more easily as I wrote CALLING MR. LONELY HEARTS. Working toward a deadline has also been  good for me; I'm a very slow writer and need that extra push. Getting number three under way is proving to be very interesting. It's a challenge to try to balance writing and promotion time.

Do you have any links you'd like to share? (trailers, blogs, websites, etc?)

Yes--thanks for asking! I love to be in touch with readers, so I try to make it as easy for them to reach me as possible. My website is www.laurabenedict.com, and I hang out regularly at my blog, Notes From the Handbasket (www.laurabenedict.blogspot.com) My email address is laura@laurabenedict.com. I love to talk to book clubs in person, by phone or even by live video feed on Skype!

Thanks so much for being such a gracious host, Sharon. Great questions!

Thank-you, Laura, for sharing a bit of yourself with us!

Sharon Linnéa 
Jaime's World 


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