Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Guest post + Q&A: The Geneva Project #1 - Truth - Christina Benjamin

Welcome, Christina, to M's Bookshelf!
Delighted to have you here!

For more information about Truth (The Geneva Project #1),
check out my review-post here.

Truth one of the best books I've read this year & labeled as one of *M's Favourites*

About the author. Young adult author Christina Benjamin grew up in the small town of La Plume, PA, where at an early age her playful imagination lent itself to love the art of story telling. She began to write short stories in grade school and continued practicing her craft all the way through college where she attended the University of Central Florida to complete her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Technical Writing. 
After spending some time writing for blogs and websites, she was inspired to get back to her true love of telling stories, and dove head first into The Geneva Project, her first novel. 
Christina now lives in Central Florida with her husband, dog and cats and spends her free time writing the 2nd book of The Geneva Project series.

Find Christina on Goodreads, Twitter, Facebook and her website.

Guest Post by Christina Benjamin 
for The Geneva Project - Truth

I was inspired to write this book after I realized that three of my favorite series had ended; Harry Potter, Twilight, and The Hunger Games.  I find I always hate when series end, whether it be books, television or movies.  I grow so attached to the characters and worlds they live in, that when they end, I miss them terribly.  It’s like being told you can’t hang out with your friends anymore.  Sure you can always revisit, but it’s not the same.  There are no more new adventures to look forward to, and for me, that’s the best part; the prospect of endless possibilities. 

I find that’s one of my favorite things about being in the driver’s seat of my own series.  I took the great advice I was offered to write what I love to read, so I chose the YA genre and one day just put fingers to keys and the first 6 chapters flowed out of me, like a dam had been released, and the The Geneva Project was born.

It was addicting, creating my own new world.  It was like a private escape and I could fill it with all my own new characters and creatures, friends and foes. 

Creating Hullabee Island has been so fun. I mashed up places where I grew up, vacationed or hope to visit and somehow it all works together.  The location was set, now it was time for the characters.  Geneva, the main character just spoke to me.  Her voice just appeared in my mind and I felt compelled to give that voice freedom on the pages of my laptop.  

I wrote Geneva first. It was like she came to me and said, “I have a story to tell, just trust me.” And I did.  I haven’t looked back since.  I wrote the first book just as you see it, cover to cover.  I was just as excited to see what I was going to write for Geneva next.  TRUTH is told through her eyes, and as a reader, we get to discover it with her.  In the writing process, I felt I was discovering the twists and turns of Geneva’s self discovery voyage right along with her.  I didn’t have an outline, or really know where I wanted to go with her story.  I just knew I wanted her to be a great heroine and a role model young readers could look up to, yet still relate to. So, I kept that in mind and then just let the story unfold.      

Another fun element of developing the world of The Geneva Project, is all the freedom it allows me to create a whole new world.  I'm a very visual person and I love art, photography, nature and I've had such a great time collecting things that remind me of The Geneva Project or inspire my writing.  Check out my Pinterest board devoted to "everything TGP."  

I also had a great time developing new creatures. I’m a huge animal lover, so I really enjoyed incorporating my own unique take on the animals that inhibit Hullabee Island. My two cats, Hank and Ari and my dog, Vince gave me the perfect inspiration.  They are loyal fans and sit by my side while I write, so I felt they’d earned their spot in the pages of TRUTH.  I used there names as anagrams for the evil tarcats, Khan and Ria and the beloved marmouse, Niv. 

My sweet dog Vince, is a rescue we adopted 6 years ago and he owns a huge chunk of my heart and I feel that is definitely evident in my writing of the character Niv, which he inspired.  It was fun to use some of his quirky personality traits in my description of Niv and what a marmouse looks like.  I still laugh when I read about Niv, because it’s hard not to picture Vince.  I also love how Niv seems to be a character favorite of my young readers.  A class of 4th and 5th graders love him so much that I decided to make them their very own marmouse to hold while the teacher reads TRUTH aloud to them.  After a trip to the local craft store and a lot of hot glue, I had a pretty great marmouse plush toy to send them.  The class loves it so much, that holding him during story time is the new reward they all strive for.

Things like that remind me how empowering writing, reading and great story telling truly is.  As much as I enjoy writing an addicting story, I love inspiring young minds the most.  A love of reading is such a fundamentally rewarding habit to develop in young people.  It is a tool that will help them throughout their entire lives; expanding their imagination through literacy, and education.  Words are so powerful, they can give you a voice, they can create anything you can dream up and with they right imagination, they can take you anywhere you want to go. 

Hearing these children light up, while they recount their favorite parts of TRUTH and beg for the next book makes my heart so happy.  I hope The Geneva Project series takes off so that I can continue writing and devote more time inspiring young adult readers and promoting literacy.

Book Trailer

Q&A with Christina!

Do you write under a pen name? 
No, all my published work is under my name, Christina M. Benjamin. 

Have you always known you wanted to be a writer?
Sort of.  I always knew I enjoyed writing.  It’s one of the only constants that I’ve enjoyed over my whole life.  I always loved reading, writing short stories, poetry, even long essays and reports in college.  I was the girl who would crank out a 20 page paper I’d been procrastinating over in an hour when I found out there was a party or some fun event I didn’t want to miss.  I guess filling pages with words has always just come easily to me.  As a child I was a “talker” so I guess that translated into the gift of gab, which has made me long winded (as you can see from this response.  Ha-ha)  Anyway, I guess I didn’t always know I wanted to be an author of YA fiction, but I’ve tried other things here and there and nothing seems to fit as well as writing for me.  It’s my “happy place.”

 What are the best and the worst things about being a writer?
That answer is one in the same for me.  It’s that my head is always filled with thoughts!  It’s wonderful to have an unlimited pool of ideas running round your head, but it’s also horrible, when you’re trying to sleep or concentrate on anything else.  I’m also my harshest critic.  The first book was really never intended to be published.  I just did it for myself really.  Once my husband read it, he said “we have to publish.” I was nervous about having it out there to be judged, but finally took a leap of faith.  I’m very glad I did. Truth has been welcomed with such a positive response.  It’s more than I could have ever hoped for.  Yet that puts extra pressure on me to make book 2, Secrets, live up to the standards set by Truth.  I hope that I do the characters and fans justice.   

Where did your inspiration for The Geneva Project come from?
I try to surround myself with the things that bring me happiness in life and I know that seeps through to my writing.  I’m influenced by nature, music, art, film, literature and have incorporated things I love from each into The Geneva Project.  I have the strongest connection with music.  To me, music is like the voice of the soul.  It can make you feel emotion so strongly with a simple beat or melody.  The relationship between Geneva and Nova or Geneva and Remi is complicated, but often I’ll be listening to a song on the radio and think, “that’s exactly it! This gut wrenching love song totally captures their relationship!”  Sometimes it’s more about the feeling than the words and that’s what I think is so special about music.       

...and the characters?
I spoke a little about this in the guest post I did.  I was particularly inspired by my pets.  My two black and white cats inspired the menacing Tarcats in The Geneva Project.  Khan and Ria are anagrams of their real names, Hank and Ari.  My dog Vince, inspired the beloved Marmouse, Niv.  The human characters are just fictional characters that I’ve lovingly developed.  I try to make them dimensional, pulling some personality traits from my life experience, but none are based on any one specific person.

Is personal experience important for your fictional writing?
Definitely. I think no matter what voice you’re writing, your person experience influences how you write.  Sure, fictional writing can come from your imagination, but I think when you create a character that readers truly connect and relate to, it’s because you’ve let some real life experiences shape them.  As a writer it makes you vulnerable and there’s a great honesty in that quality.

If you could achieve one thing in your writing career, what would it be?
Oh wow!  Only one thing….? I’d really love for everyone who wants to read, to have the opportunity to do so.  There are so many impoverished areas in the world, where children are starved for reading materials.  To have the resources to visit these areas and give them what they need to further their literacy, imagination, creativity and education, would be a dream come true. 

If I could have one more writing wish granted by the book genie, it would be to see my books made into movies!  I’m a movie junkie.  Seeing works of literature come to life through the art of film is one of the most fascinating things to me.  It’s so rewarding to see a book you’ve enjoyed reading on the big screen.  I love seeing who is cast as the characters and if they look at all like I imagined they would.  I have to say, my all time favorite book series, adapted to film, has to be Harry Potter.  I’m a huge fan of the books and of JK Rowling and it’s very evident that she had a big hand in guiding the directors to ensure the films fit the books.  I know fans appreciate that and I’m sure as a writer, it is pretty amazing to watch your imagination to come to life!

Can you tell us anything more about future projects, or what's to come in The Geneva Project series?
Certainly.  Right now I’m editing the second book, The Geneva Project – Secrets.  As the title eludes, Geneva and her friends will be faced with unraveling the Book of Secrets as well as some secrets of their own.  Some new characters are introduced and new powers.  I’ve also started the third book, because I just couldn’t pull myself away from writing.  (when you see how book 2 ends you’ll understand)  Right now I have a total of four books planned for the series, but who knows how far it could go!

Thank you so much for stopping by, Christina, and for answering my questions! Such a pleasure to work with you.
I would LOVE it if The Geneva Project became a movie series! I'd definitely go and watch. 
Best of luck with writing and editing - I'm waiting rather impatiently on book #2... and #3, and... 


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