Friday, February 8, 2013

Blog Tour & Interview: Wildflowers (Schledia Benefield)


From the author of Plain Jane comes a new young adult novel by Schledia Benefield

Have you ever feared what may be hiding deep within you?
Darkness often skulks in the blood of unsuspecting victims, but Aster McGrath is acutely aware of the violence coursing through his veins. After all, he is the son of a murderer, and everyone in the town of Bayville, Mississippi says he will end up just like his father.
When Susan Blackman moves into town, Aster has already embraced his brutal nature, but her gentle spirit draws him in and slowly melts the icy exterior of his heart. Taming his savagery, she professes her love, but will the good within him be able to overcome the evil lurking deep inside? Or will the fiend break free of its fetters and seek blood?

1.       What gave you the inspiration to write this book?
The inspiration for Wildflowers originated as a dormant seed, you could say. Before I met my husband, I was involved in a relationship that started off wonderful, but it didn’t take long before verbal abuse began tearing down my self-esteem, which eventually led to emotional and physical abuse. After freeing myself from that situation and talking to multiple other women in the same type of situation, offering them help and advice, I buried that seed deep within my heart. Several years ago, that seed was watered and began to grow and bloom. I live in a small community in the South. We are far enough from the Coast to be in the country but close enough to be distressed by hurricanes. Driving down the country roads heading to town, I would see black-eyed Susans in full bloom and admire their beauty. One particular day, as I marveled at the scenery, I thought about the name of the flower and decided to tell a love story about a young girl named Susan referred to by the guy she loved as his black-eyed Susan. I could see her clearly, large, chocolate-brown eyes, and golden hair. I knew the story would deal with abuse and domestic violence although there is much more to it than that. But that was how it all started.
2.       Who is your favorite character in the book?
Aster McGrath. He’s actually the main character in Wildflowers. Although he has a dark side to him, he has some vulnerability as well, his love for Susan.
3.       Which came first, the title or the novel?
The title came first for me. The idea of the story was there, but the title came before anything was written. I always plan and plot everything I write. I had the title long before I typed an overview or an outline, three years in fact—which allowed multiple seasons to pass where I would gaze at the wildflowers in bloom and meditate on the idea for the story, but I was in the process of writing some other things at the time, so it stayed on the backburner until I was ready to give it my undivided attention, which is not an easy thing for someone like me. My mind strays easily.
4.       What scene in the book are you most proud of, and why?
The very last scene is the one I’m most proud of. There’s a theme throughout the book, and when I finally made it to the very end, I was able to wrap it all up leaving readers with an understanding of how the theme worked in the life of the characters. I’ve also had several pre-readers tell me that they didn’t see the last scene coming, so that’s always nice to hear.
5.       Thinking way back to the beginning, what’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a writer from then to now?
Hmmm…the most important would be to write from your heart. You know, write what you love. If a writer does that, their story will be more than a story; it will be something that lingers in the hearts of readers. A very close second to that would be to get a great editor. There is one other piece of advice I heard while at a Writer’s Conference in New York back in 2009 that I have carried into my career. I think it is pretty important. If you as a writer want to be successful, help other writers to be successful. I truly believe that. If a writer friend comes to you for a critique, then give them a critique, but if they already have editors and pre-readers and beta readers to critique for them, and their work is already published, encourage them and promote them.
6.       What do you like most about the cover of the book?
Wow, I LOVE the cover of Wildflowers. The cover artist and designers did a wonderful job. I love everything about it honestly. I think it’s very compelling. I love the way it eludes to darkness. I love the way you can see how tightly Aster is holding onto Susan, the solemn expression on his face, and the piercing look in his eyes. I love the way Susan’s countenance expresses pain, heartbreak, and fear.
7.       What new release book are you looking most forward to in 2013?
This may seem far removed from the genre Wildflowers is in, but I love fantasy stories. I’ve been reading a series called, The Gateway Chronicles by K. B. Hoyle. The fifth installment in that series, The Scroll, will be released in October. I can’t wait!
8.       What was your favorite book in 2012?
I’m not sure if it was released in 2012, but I read it in 2012, and I loved it, Nicholas Sparks’s The Lucky One. A close second to that would be The Enchanted by K. B. Hoyle, part of The Gateway Chronicles series.
9.       What’s up next for you?
Actually, I’m very excited about the project I’m about to start. I met a homeless man a little less than a year ago. He’s an avid reader, so I stopped by where he hangs out and gave him a book to read one day. That has led to several meetings and discussions on books. He’s read all of my books to date, and he’s always ready to critique them for me. He’s very intelligent. He’s a Vietnam Vet. I told my husband some months ago that I wanted to tell his story. My husband actually went to see him a little over a week ago to take him and some of his friends something to eat. He told my husband to tell me that he wanted me to tell his story, so the next thing on my list is to sit down with him and interview him so I can share his life’s story. I’m a little nervous about it because I’ve never written anything that is non-fiction before, but I’m thinking of telling the story in first person, like he is the one sharing it, but we will have to see how it all pans out.
10.   Is there anything that you would like to add?
There are some things with the ending of Wildflowers that I left to the readers’ imagination. The story ends, and while the main issues are resolved, there’s little bits and pieces that leave readers wondering, I wonder what happens now, or somebody has so got to get that person. Little things like that. That has left me with an opportunity to fill in the blanks, so to speak. Two of my pre-readers have come to me and asked me to write a sequel to let them know where things go from there, so I’ve actually been contemplating doing that. In fact, I may work on that while I’m interviewing my friend and preparing to tell his story.   
Thank you so much for having me, Beth!

Schledia Benefield is the author of Plain Jane, Pretty Boy, and her soon to be released novel, Wildflowers. She attended Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College but chose to be a stay-at-home mom for many years. She devoted eight years of her life to working with youth as a youth minister and has been invited to speak in a rehab to hurting and wounded women, giving them hope for a better future. She was the Keynote Speaker for Division 14 of the Key Club International’s divisional rally. Born and raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Schledia holds a sense of pride in her southern heritage. She presently lives in Big Point, Mississippi with her husband and four of her five children. On top of writing novels, she writes youth and children’s church curriculum, and she works as a substitute teacher at East Central Middle School. In her spare time, she reads, sews, and spends time with her family.

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Fans of Nicholas Sparks' A Walk to Remember will fall in love with the young love, tough choices, sacrifice and redemption found within the pages of WILDFLOWERS.

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