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Interview with Daphne Benedis-Grab

The premise for your new novel, The Girl in the Wall, is pretty different from that of your first novel, Alive and Well in Prague, New York—but both are still contemporary. How was writing The Girl in the Wall similar to and different from writing your first book?
Yes, they are really different! Alive and Well was based on my experience of having a terminally ill parent, like Matisse does in the book. My actual experience was different but I drew on the feelings of pain, fear, anger and loss that I had lived through. It was a very personal book to write.

The Girl, on the other hand, was not taking from anything in my own life—I have never been in any kind of life threatening or hostage situation (and I hope I never am! I would be one of the wimpy ones cowering off in a corner.). It was more of an adventure to write, the fun of imagining this crazy situation and what might happen in it. But of course I did still drew on authentic emotion, pulling from past experiences and emotions to inform how I thought Sera and Ariel might be feeling at different times, so in that way they were similar.

Where did your ideas for this novel come from?
I have one of those minds that never shuts off and when there isn’t anything pressing right in front of me that needs my attention, my mind wanders into what-ifs and mini stories. I come up with a lot of them but few are actually good book ideas. With The Girl I just started thinking about what might happen if a party got taken hostage and all these dressed up teens had to find a way to outsmart their captors. And also find time for some romance- that always figures into my what-ifs and mini stories.

What sort of research did you have to do for this novel?
Really random stuff, like what the air smells like after a bullet is fired and also the process for transferring over a company and liquidating its funds—don’t worry, there isn’t much of that in the story! I just needed to know it to be sure what I was writing was based in reality.

What was the most difficult scene for you to write, and why?
I don’t want to say too much about it because it happens towards the end but the death of a character I loved was a very hard scene to write. I didn’t want anyone to get hurt but when the set up is a hostage situation with guns and billions of dollars at stake, you kind of have to go there or it’s not true to the premise and promise of the story.

What is the most interesting thing you learned while writing The Girl in the Wall? (This can be about yourself, about writing, or anything at all).
Good question! I think my big takeaway was how much I like writing thrillers. I’ve always loved reading them—when I was young I was addicted to Lois Duncan’s books and I still reread them periodically (if pressed I would say my favorite is They Never Came Home). But I didn’t think I could actually write one and in fact, when I first started it and mentioned it to my agent, I was shocked when she called it a thriller. I hadn’t been thinking of it in those terms—but once she said it I saw she was right and I was pretty pleased to be working on a genre I like so much!

What is the most rewarding part about being a young adult author?
There are so many things I love about it! Hearing from readers is pretty close to the top of the list. Revisiting and reimagining my own teen emotions and experiences is up there as well—I had some good times and very good friends in high school, but there is plenty I would redo if I could!

If there was one thing you could change about The Girl in the Wall, what would it be?
Honestly I could open the book to any page and find a phrase or a word I’d like to change—the writing process is never done for me, it’s just that I hit the deadline and the book has to go. I work with an amazing editor who made the story much tighter and stronger, but even so there are always little things I wish I could tweak just because it never seems perfect.

What are you working on next?
Another thriller! I’m just at the beginning which is my favorite part because it feels filled with possibility.

1 munch(es) :

Tammy said...

Great interview! An interesting look into the author's mind and the writing process for her. I'm reading this book right now and very much enjoying it.

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