Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Meet MG/Tween Author Ben Woodard

Carpinello's Writing Pages welcomes MG/Tween author Ben Woodard and his adventure book A Stairway to Danger.

First, a bit about Ben:

Ben grew up practically living in the local library. Reading was his escape, and the library was his portal. He loved boys' adventure stories, and he’s been amazed at the reports that say boys don't read. So he decided to write the kind of stories he remembered. Tales of lost gold and river caves, and fun. And stories of friendship that endure through adversity and danger. Adventures that inspire and educate and, most of all, entertain.

Why did you pick to write books for MG/Tween readers?

I love all children's genres, but I felt that early teens, 12 to 15, and especially boys, didn't have a lot of realistic, adventure books to read. Those are the ones I grew up on, from the classics like Tom Sawyer, to the Hardy Boys and the Rick Brant Series– my favorite. Some of them were racist and sexist, which mine aren't, but I liked the adventure and camaraderie of boys in realistic fiction. And  that's what I've tried to write.

What types of books do you like to read?

My tastes haven't changed much. I still like kids' books and that's what I most often read. When I first started writing I tried to read all of the Newbery and Printz award winners for the last 10 years and many of the honor books.  Those stories moved me as much as any books I’ve read.

When you are not writing, what do you like to do?

I like to read, to hike in the woods, to play with the grandkids, and snuggle with my wife on the couch. Oh, and not necessarily in that order.

Tell us about A Stairway To Danger and how the story came to be.

A Stairway To Danger is the first of three in the Shaketown Adventure Series set in small-town Kentucky in 1923. The idea for the book came from stories my dad told me about growing up in a rural village in Kentucky in the twenties. The stories fascinated me because he got to do things he would have never allowed me to do. I also had a nagging desire to write for reluctant readers, especially boys. So I wrote a NaNoWriMo book several years ago imagining my dad and his cousin in this town. It was terrible, but the idea stuck and two years ago I started writing the story again, but from a different prospective. I made the boys a bit larger than life and gave one a horrific past.

Here's a peek at A Stairway to Danger:

A rusty barge, a dead body, and a perplexing mystery entangle two Kentucky cousins in a life or death struggle against a shadowy gang.

It’s the summer of 1923 and two cousins hunting for hidden gold stumble on a decayed body. Was the death an accident? Fourteen-year-old Tom Wallace is convinced it was murder and drags his older cousin, Will, into a harrowing struggle against a shadowy group. Not even repeated attempts on their lives can stop the boys from relentlessly pursuing the mystery. But when their curiosity leads them to investigate a derelict barge, what they find is bigger and more dangerous than anything they could have imagined.

Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.

I have. I mentioned the Shakertown Adventure Series above and the second book, Steps Into Darkness is finished and available. I also wrote two short stories, The Hunt and The Trestle, about the two cousins, and The Trestle is free.

Also published is The Boy Who Flew With Eagles, a short, middle grade story with illustrations. Again, written primarily for reluctant readers. While the book hasn't sold a huge number of copies, it's gotten wonderful reviews and is being used as a teaching aid for adults learning English in Germany and Bulgaria.

Here's a brief peek at this book:

By the light of leaping flames an old man weaves a story. A tale of a time of great hunger when every living thing might die. Only one boy can save his people and all creatures from starvation. But he must risk everything in the effort.

What's next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

Always. I'm constantly thinking about new stories, and I have several in the works. The final book in the Shakertown Adventure Series is my next novel. It will be titled The Staircase Of Fire. All of the books in the series have something about steps in the title, and this book will make the reason known.
I have another novelette about the same size as The Boy Who Flew With Eagles that is in the final edits. It will be another unusual book in that a local photographer will be supplying pictures of trees for the story which is about a young boy's adventure in an ancient forest in Ireland. Another project is a middle grade paranormal trilogy that one agent has shown some interest in acquiring. Writing is my new career and I’m loving it.

What advice do you have for other authors?

Write. That’s it. That’s the number one activity all of us must do. No excuses, no doubts, and no quitting. Because to get better, there is only one way, and that is to keep putting words on paper until we’re good at it. For some of us this might take years, but we really have no choice.

Most writers’ lives are a mess. Going in a dozen directions, overwhelmed by family and work, and trying to snatch a few minutes to write. This doesn’t work. You have to claim writing time. Make it a priority even if it’s only fifteen minutes a day. And find a method that works for you. I get away during the day to a coffee shop that doesn’t mind me lingering. Maybe once a month, I’ll go to a nearby state park, get a cheap room, and stay for a couple of nights. Whatever works.

Anything else you want readers to know?

I believe that reading is the basis for all success. People who read are more interested and curious about the world, and have a range of knowledge far beyond a non-reader. The most important skill a child can learn is the love of reading. Encourage your children to read. Get them to turn off the electronic games for a while and enter a world of imagination. And please have them try one of mine.

Where can readers find you and your books?

Amazon Author's Page

A Stairway to Danger
    All other countries http://smarturl.it/stairway

The Boy Who Flew With Eagles


  1. Sounds like a quite interesting book.
    I am now following you.
    ~Naila Moon

  2. Thank you, Cheryl. What a wonderful interview and I really appreciate it.

    1. Thanks for sharing your books and your thoughts on writing!

  3. Great interview with Ben. I am a sucker for any kind of middle grade mystery. This sounds fabulous. Thanks so much for joining us on the Kid Lit Blog Hop

  4. Sounds like a good read - for grown ups too! I used to love reading mystery books as a teenager - then the old fashioned Nancy Drew series did it for me! Lovely interview!

  5. Hi Julie,
    The book is the first in a series and the second is also available. Interestingly enough, I have a number of adults who are waiting on the third book. And I have a short story in the series that is free. It's The Trestle and is available on Amazon and others. You could give it a try to see if you like the style. Thanks for commenting.

  6. Great interview. I write for YA also and am always looking for new authors to read who write similar books.

  7. When I saw the author's name, I asked myself, "Where have I heard that author's name before?" I have to apologize to the author, because he had sent me a review copy a long time ago at a time when I was very overwhelmed with requests. I have just posted a review of The Boy Who Flew With Eagles on Amazon and Goodreads, because I really enjoyed the story. I'm so sorry Ben. Thanks for giving me the kick in the pants I needed Cheryl! ;-)

  8. Great interview, Ben. I love the advice you gave to those who want to write. Your books are fun to read, and I'm glad you're continuing to provide us with more literature.