Friday, October 29, 2010

I was so excited to be given the opportunity to interview Beth Fehlbaum, the other of a great series - Courage in Patience and Hope in Patience, with a third to follow. My review for Hope in Patience will be coming tomorrow. Now for the interview . . .


1. What do you find yourself rambling about?

I’m passionate about social justice and advocating for abused women and children. I want to use my skills as a writer to benefit organizations that provide services for them. As a teacher of English Language Learners, I push my students and myself very hard. I want each of my students to believe in themselves as much as I do. As an author of Young Adult realistic fiction that deals with sexual abuse, I want to shout from the rooftops the message that it is possible to overcome that which frightens you most. All of us are much stronger than I think we realize.

2. When you started this series, did you know where these characters would end up?

No, because when I wrote the first book, COURAGE IN PATIENCE, I did not know where I would end up. My goal at that point was to be able to get Ashley to see that her mom’s
refusal to believe and act on Ashley’s outcry of abuse is not a reflection of Ashley’s value as a person. My hope for Ashley is that at some point, she will realize her own amazing strength. She will be able to look back over her journey and say, “Wow! I made it! There were times I thought I couldn’t survive the pain of recovery, but I did, and the view from here is spectacular!”


3. What inspired you to use such personal experiences as a backdrop for a series? What was the spark that started it all?

I went into recovery for childhood sexual abuse in November of 2004, at the age of 38. Like Ashley, I was abused by a family member from a very young age into my teens. Throughout the process of digging through the layers of pain, anger, and grief that people who were supposed to love and protect me had chosen not to do that, I was writing poems and short stories, and sharing them with my therapist. About two years in, he suggested that I try writing a novel. It wasn’t a conscious decision, like, “Hey, today I’m going to start writing a book.” It was more like an extension of what I was trying to do inside myself—which was pull myself out of the dark hole of disbelief and pain I had been slowly clawing my way out of but kept sliding back into. I started writing and after four months I realized I kept falling into my story. Frankly, I was tired of the scenery. One day I decided to try imagining what it would be like for someone else—and that’s when Ashley Nicole Asher and the tiny fictional town of Patience became real for me, and I began telling her story instead of mine.


4. I read in a Q&A that you had some events in your past that have helped shape these novels. Do you believe that your writing helped your healing process? What would you
suggest as other avenues to heal for those who may have suffered pain in their younger years?

Writing COURAGE IN PATIENCE helped me immensely. Just like Ashley at the end of COURAGE IN PATIENCE, I began to be able to see light around the edges of the closet door—the closet I had been hiding in, in my mind. I didn’t have an “ending” in mind—I just knew that I was going to survive the hell that recovery from sexual abuse is. HOPE IN PATIENCE deals a lot with acceptance of reality--because that’s what I was dealing with in my own recovery at the time. I fought it vehemently and cried a lot when writing HOPE IN PATIENCE. Now, I’ve started TRUTH IN PATIENCE, and it’s going to continue Ashley’s journey. I plan for it to be the final book in the Patience series.

With respect to other avenues for healing, I found music to be very powerful. My therapist made CDs for me at various stages of my recovery journey, and it helped me immensely. I made mix CDs, too, as a way of expressing where I “was” at the time. I listen to them now sometimes and it’s very gratifying to see where I was and how far I’ve come. Also, I highly recommend working with a skilled therapist. Recovery from sexual abuse is just too scary a process to undertake on your own. Like Ashley Asher, the protagonist of the Patience series, I have Post-traumatic stress disorder. Learning to cope with and manage flashbacks of abuse is something I could not have done on my own, and I am grateful to have had the support and guidance of an experienced psychologist.


5. After the series is complete, what do you see for your literary future? Would you tackle a completely different genre?

I have a few other storylines working in my mind, from expanding some of the other Patience characters—sort of like a spin-off, to creating an entirely new story that deals with eating disorders. I have also been encouraged to write a non-fiction book about my personal recovery and what it was like to evolve from a very damaged person to the person I am today in the span of a little less than six years. I strongly believe in “just writing”—seeing what comes out of my mind, runs down my arm, and escapes through my fingertips. So, we’ll see…


Thank you Beth for your time and I look forward to reading the third in the Patience series.

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