Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Raising Sleepy Stones: Interview with Middle Grade Fantasy Author P.H.T. Bennet

P.H.T. Bennet began exploring his dreams when he was a child and has never bothered to stop. He had the good luck to have two daughters, Juliette and Paola, who not only served as the inspirations for DeeDee and Kiva, the main characters of Raising Sleeping Stones, but also helped him turn their family dreamwork sessions into this book. His lucky streak grew when he married his lovely wife, Mim, who tolerates his turning on a light in the middle of the night to write down ever-crazier dreams and talking about them in the morning as long as he lets her sleep in, first. His favorite dreams involve flying, visiting the dead, and replaying nightmares until they reveal their secrets.

Pratt’s latest projects are editing Book Two of the Orora Crona Chronicles and planning a virtual summer dreaming camp with other dream authors.

For More Information

Like every kid in Solasenda, Kiva Stone has been far too busy training for one of the five town guilds to think about something as useless as dreaming. But when she and her sister DeeDee uncover a
mysterious plot to get rid of them, their only hope lies with a shadowy group of people who wield unimaginable powers drawn from their dreams. As the girls escape with them up the Varruvyen river, they start learning secret Dreaming Way techniques that have been forbidden for centuries. But how can they learn enough to stand against the enemies chasing them? The answer lies in the shattered history of Orora Crona, the lost Valley of Dreams, and whoever can piece it together first will rule for centuries to come.

For More Information

Thank you for this interview!  I’d like to know more about you as a person first.  What do you do when you’re not writing?

So many things: teach, research, chill with our amazing cat, Cleo, let my youngest daughter try to convert me to dubstep, and learn from the birds my wife lures into our backyard to be here and now.

When did you start writing?

Not until my first daughter was born. I was an outdoor sculptor for many years and that was my main creative focus. It wasn’t until Paola was born that I realized that I couldn’t do that kind of work anymore. It took me away from my daughter for too many days, so I stopped to help raise her. And that was wonderful, but also really really confusing because I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t creating something. So I started writing after everyone had gone to bed, and for many years, I was working on a screenplay about three very different fathers trying to figure out the best way to be and raise their children. But when I was finished with that, I realized I didn’t have the money to pay the crew to produce it, so I thought that first, I’d do something easier like write a novel. Ha! If I had known it would consume 12 years of my life…

As a published author, what would you say was the most pivotal point of your writing life?

It was getting a grant from Newbury Comics through the Berklee College of Music. I had a huge ambitious goal to turn kids on to their own dreams through a dreaming novel and app, but I couldn’t make that goal come true on my own. When they gave me that grant, the dream became real and I was able to hire people to make it happen. I’m really, really grateful to Newbury Comics and Berklee for that.

If you could go anywhere in the world to start writing your next book, where would that be and why?

Either the densest forests of New Zealand or Madagascar. I want a place that is so alien to me, so different from what I know. That would really help for the next book, which happens in a valley that was completely shaped by people’s craziest dreams. I think both those places would inspire some crazy ideas for the books, so if anyone knows someone on the Board of Tourism in either country…

If you had 4 hours of extra time today, what would you do?

I’d slow down and try to do less more often. I do better work and feel better when I have the time to just stop and be. My mother and I, who have spent most of our lives talking at 100 mph, recently started doing walking meditations along the Charles River and they have helped me to finally slow my monkey mind down and see what I hadn’t seen, hear what I couldn’t hear before. It is such a gift to stop doing and start being. Everything flows better after we do that.

Where would you like to set a story that you haven’t done yet?

Paris. Definitely Paris. I lived there for 5 years at three very different stages of my life and had many life-changing experiences there, so I feel I belong there, or that I’ve earned my place there more than almost anywhere else, including Boston, where I’ve been living for over 26 years. But the story wouldn’t be about me, an American in Paris. It would be about some of the incredible French people I met and became friends with there.  I’d like to bring some of them into the pages of a story and see where they take me.

Back to your present book, Raising Sleeping Stones, how did you publish it?

I self-published because I had such crazy ideas for making the app with all these new features like a complete original Story Score and a cover that would reveal more illustrations as the reader progressed that no publishers could wrap their heads around it. I’m really proud of the book and the app that my team created, but it was exhausting! We never could have done it without all our Kickstarter backers (thanks, guys!) and if I could do it all over again, I might start with a traditional publisher before moving to self-pub, as I am not the world’s greatest marketer, and unless you know how to market your book, no one will know it even exists, no matter how fantastic it is.

In writing your book, did you travel anywhere for research?

Yes. I did a lot of nature research in New Hampshire in the area around my family’s home. That was key to the sections where the Stone sisters run away from home and travel upriver in the wild for the first time in their lives. I also went to New York City many, many times to do research on ancient civilizations and art in the libraries and museums there. Though many of the dioramas and exhibits in the Museum of Natural History haven’t been dusted off for decades, they still serve as incredible windows through time and culture. When I’m there, I completely forget I’m in New York. Or in the 21st century.

Why was writing Raising Sleeping Stones so important to you?

Hm. I have to think about that. I guess because it crystallized a lot of feelings I’d had all my life about what it meant to not fit in. I was a weird kid- too gangly to be a good athlete, too interested in the ideas behind my artwork to focus enough on the technique, too excited about my own ideas to be a really good listener to others’, too interested in so many different things to be an expert in any of them… so I never seemed to find my tribe. And that’s very much the struggle that Kiva has to work through in this book. I know that so many kids feel that who they’re expected to be in school, or at home, or online isn’t really them and I wanted to show them that in their dreams, every night, lies the truest possible expression of who they are at that moment. And the beautiful thing is that just as they can use their dreams to guide them to a fuller and more authentic version of themselves, their dreams will change as they do it, constantly updating to both reflect who they’re becoming and what they might want that’s new.

Where do you get your best ideas and why do you think that is?

From my dreams and from great books.

Any final words?

I love hearing from readers what they are doing and discovering in their dreams, so if any of them want to share their dreams or experiments, email me at phtbennet@raisingstones.com or find me on Twitter at @phtbennet.

No comments:

Post a Comment