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Interview with Beth Fehlbaum

What did you hope to accomplish through writing Courage in Patience and Hope in Patience? What do you feel that you have accomplished?
I initially wrote Courage in Patience as a way of pulling myself out of my own grief, disbelief, and rage that I had been the victim of childhood sexual abuse and people who were responsible for keeping me safe neglected to do so. I also wrote it just to see if I could do it. It wasn’t until I had completed the book that I realized it was something that had the potential to help others who were hurting, too. With Hope in Patience, I wanted to tell more of Ashley’s story and show that although recovery from childhood sexual abuse is one of the most difficult things a person can do, it is not only possible to recover one’s life, but it is also possible to thrive and be stronger than ever before. I feel that I accomplished both those goals with these books. Life does not stop during recovery—if anything, life becomes more colorful and great discoveries about oneself are made. Imagine if you had lived all your life with a shadow over it that caused your perceptions about yourself and others to be distorted; then, through excruciatingly hard work and determination, you began to see people and things as they are. It’s the equivalent, I think, of going from living in darkness to discovering sunlight. Sometimes the light hurts your eyes, but overall, that sunlight is necessary for all of life to be what it is.

Your novels Courage in Patience and Hope in Patience were partially inspired by events in your own life. What was the process of integrating your life with your writing like?
It’s said that all authors’ debut novels are autobiographical in nature. That said, Courage in Patience is not an autobiography; nor is Hope in Patience. I did draw on many of my own experiences to write both books. Ashley has Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, and so do I—and I pulled from what it is like for me to have PTSD to write what it’s like for her. At the same time, Ashley has a strong tendency to harm herself through cutting or scratching herself—and I have never had that to the extent she does. I write what I know; for example, I use my experience as a teacher to create the Patience High School environment and many of the characters, but I also use my experience as a mom to three now-grown daughters. The character of David is VERY loosely based on my husband in terms of the physical characteristics and his occupation as a heavy equipment mechanic. Ashley’s dog, Emma, is based on my dog, Emma, who shared many of the fictional Emma’s tendencies of having a timid personality.

Writing about sexual abuse is no small feat to begin with. Why did you also choose to incorporate other issues that teens commonly face?
One of the most valuable lessons I learned as I was going through recovery was that other people have problems, too. One of my therapist’s catch phrases is, “Life’s messy.” It was very healing for me to realize that while being sexually abused and suffering from neglect is a very traumatic thing and a real tragedy, I did not have a corner on the tragedy market. In addition to that, it is very important to me that readers see themselves in my books and identify with the characters.

Why did you choose to make this a “survival story” rather than an “abuse story?”
It’s crucial that people who were abused come to see themselves as survivors rather than victims. In addition, the story IS about overcoming rather than staying complacent and under somebody’s heel.

Which of your characters can you relate to most and why?
Great question! I am an amalgam of Ashley and Bev—but I have a deep understanding of all the characters and why they are the way they are, or I would not be able to write them in a way that makes them come alive for readers.

What was the most difficult part about writing Hope in Patience?
The scene in Cheryl’s hospital room just about ripped my heart out. I was writing it at a time when I was struggling with the notion of acceptance. And that’s all I’m going to say about that. :)

What is the most interesting thing you learned while writing Hope in Patience?
I did a lot of research into the judicial process and vetted the courtroom scene with my brother, a police sergeant and long-time detective with a lot of experience in child abuse cases. He helped me with the concept of the Victim Impact Statement—which is just wild to me. The idea that a defendant can call character witnesses prior to sentencing, but the victim cannot present a statement detailing how the defendant’s actions harmed her until after sentencing has been pronounced—that just seems upside down to me. The good thing is, the defendant has to stay and listen to the Victim Impact Statement, should the victim and /or her family decide to make one.

What is the most rewarding part of being a young adult author?
Hearing from people who were impacted by reading my books, and knowing that what they read made a difference in either how they feel about themselves or how they have a deeper understanding of someone they love now. And, I like it when they appreciate the humor in my books, because I work hard at that, too.

If there was one thing you could change about Hope in Patience, what would it be?
The only thing I would change about any of my journey as an author so far is, if I could do it over again, I would have WestSide Books, my publisher for Hope in Patience, as the publisher of Courage in Patience. Other than that, I can’t think of anything I would change about Hope in Patience.

What are you working on next?
I am currently at work on the third and probably final book in the Patience series—tentatively titled Truth in Patience. I am a teacher from late August to the end of May, and I try to write full-time during the summer. I expect to have Truth in Patience finished and submitted to my publisher sometime next summer.

And a final note from Beth…
Thanks so much for the interview! I really appreciate your great questions and willingness to host me on my blog tour! I invite readers to visit my website, http://www.bethfehlbaumya.com, to read Chapter 1, and e-mail me by October 25 to let me know what they thought of it. I will draw one winner from those who e-mail me, and that person will win a signed copy of Hope in Patience. Everyone who e-mails me with a comment about Chapter 1 of Hope in Patience will receive a signed bookmark!

Hope in Patience is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble, as well as in Barnes & Noble stores. Courage in Patience is still available through Marketplace sellers on Amazon.

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