Taylor Bennett - Author Interview

This was such a fun interview with author Taylor Bennett! Read on to discover her journey as a writer, tips for fellow writers, and more.

When did you begin writing? What inspired you to start?

I began writing before I even knew how to write!!

My first memory of "writing" is of a cloudy winter day when I sat and dictated a story to my dad. I couldn't have been more than three or four, so I could barely read, let alone write! As I dictated, my dad typed the story into a Word Perfect (these were the days before Microsoft Word!) document, which we then printed out and stapled together. I drew a few pictures on the first page, then gave the story to my mom for Christmas.

Though the story was terrible (I should know--my mom still has it, and I read it not too long ago!) it was my first experience giving someone else the gift of my words. I was hooked. From that moment on, I knew writing would forever be a part of my life.

What author inspired you the most?

I was inspired by several different authors--primarily Jeanne Birdsall, author of the beloved Penderwicks series, and Heather Vogel Frederick...whom I accidentally "plagiarized" once! Her fictitious pizza delivery company, Pirate Pete's, appears in my first book, Porch Swing Girl--whoops! It snuck into my subconscious and I didn't realize I'd stolen the name until I was re-reading her books after the publication of Porch Swing Girl. Shocked and a little amused, I contacted her and apologized. She was extremely kind, and she didn't mind that I stole the name, so...I guess Pirate Pete's is a chain!!

What book inspired you the most?

So many books inspired me to begin writing the kind of books I write today! Growing up, I was a huge fan of contemporary middle-grade fiction, and I figured that I would, likewise, become a lover of contemporary YA. But, when I discovered that nearly all YA books were filled with nasty language and graphic scenes that made my skin crawl, I regretfully returned to the world of middle-grade. The books were far below my reading level, and the characters were years younger than I was, but at least the books were clean!! When I decided to start writing CLEAN contemporary YA, I was definitely influenced by the style and tone of some of my favorite (middle-grade) books. I hoped to write books that were as heartwarming as The Penderwicks, but as fun and engaging as The Mother-Daughter Book Club. Can I also admit that I was hugely inspired by the American Girl books? Those books were amazing!!

What was your first book about, and when did you write it?

My "first book", the one I wrote when I was four, was a "fan fiction sequel" (not really, but...) to a book about a puppy my mom had recently read to me. I wanted to continue the story, so I did! As far as a "real" first book goes, I was thirteen when I wrote my first novel, From the Top. (Take "novel" with a grain of salt...I think it totaled 40k words!) It was about a girl--basically a fictitious version of me who also happened to have really great hair--who went to a prestigious school for the arts and struggled to make friends. Basically the typical teenage-friendship-drama story, but it was extremely close to my heart for a very, very long time.

Share a turning point in your life as an author.

My turning point happened when, after receiving multiple rejections from agents and publishers, I realized that From the Top was by no means a real book. Not only was it too short to be considered a true novel, but it also had weak characters and a virtually-nonexistent plot. I knew I had to start completely from scratch or find a new idea if I wanted to see my work published. I took some time away from writing, until I got the idea for Porch Swing Girl. Something about the story instantly spoke to me, and I somehow knew--just KNEW--that this was the book I was supposed to write.

What projects are you working on now?

Right now, I'm working on launching my second book, Sand Castle Dreams. It's the sequel to my first book, Porch Swing Girl (when I signed my publishing contract, it was actually for three books!!) and I'm really thrilled to see it go out into the world. It's my hope and prayer that my readers will learn something about hope, healing, and bravery...but my main goal for the novel is to give readers a story that will inspire and entertain them--WITHOUT exposing them to inappropriate content!

What character (from any project) was the most fun to write, and why?

The main character in Porch Swing Girl, Olive Galloway, has been an absolute blast to write!! She has a really unique voice, and she sees the world through jaded glasses. It's so much fun to come up with quirky ways for Olive to describe the world around her.

What character (from any project) was the most relatable to you, and why?

That would definitely be Lauren Powers, the character in my first-ever novel that I mentioned earlier. Though she never made it out into the world, she was pretty much me, with a name/hair color change. She played the violin, was a tad OCD (who, me?), and a lover of all things prim and proper. Someday, I might have to resurrect her and give her a new life in a different project...hmmm...

Do you have any tips for your fellow writers?

Read! Read. Read. Read. Read some more. Don't stop reading. Ever. Honestly, reading is absolutely invaluable to a beginning writer. One can take classes, study the writing craft, get feedback and critiques, but nothing can help shape a writer's voice like reading can. Reading is what inspires me, motivates me, and helps me grow in my own talents as a writer. Read in your favorite genre, your least favorite genre...reread your favorite books, read your friend's favorite books. Read old books. New books. Read ALL THE BOOKS. You'll be amazed at how much this helps you grow.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced as an author?

The biggest challenge I've faced is definitely the fact that I can't just write what I want to READ. I don't always like books that are fast-paced, or stories that have a lot of conflict or hardship. I'd rather read about fun times--about happy characters, who do exciting things with a smile on their face. But...that's not real life. (Much as we all wish it was!) It was a bit of a struggle for me to get used to being "mean" to my characters. Thankfully, I have two amazing editors who have walked with me as I've discovered how to strike a good balance between plot/conflict and keeping my characters happy :)

Thank you for interviewing with me today! Is there anything else you'd like to share?

I'd love for you to let readers know that my second book, Sand Castle Dreams, releases on April 1st and they can pre-order it here! If they send me their pre-order receipt before April 1st, they can get exclusive pre-order goodies sent to them!

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