It's My Life PBS Kids Go!
Meet tween author Bethany Huang

By It's My Life on November 11, 2011 11:29 AM | No TrackBacks

One of our favorite You Said It pages on IML is My Writing, where tweens can share their original poems, stories, songs, and even excerpts from novels they're working on. Sometimes it's scary to take something that came from deep in your imagination and put it out there for others to read, but it can really be a confidence booster too. Seeing something in print, even if it's just on a website somewhere, delivers a great feeling of accomplishment!

Just ask 12-year-old Bethany Huang. At the age of 10, she wrote her first novel, titled "The Eiffel Tower's Daughter," and published it for the world to enjoy. We talked to Bethany about her journey from getting the spark of an idea to becoming a bona fide author!

IML: How would you describe "The Eiffel Tower's Daughter" to other tween readers? What popular books would you compare it to?


EiffelTowersDaughterCover.jpgBethany: "The Eiffel Tower's Daughter" is an adventure book full of suspense for readers from ages 9-12 and teen. Swanilde, the protagonist of the story, is a brave, heroic, empathetic and compassionate person. On her mother's wedding day she finds out that her new stepfather, Andreyev, is spying on her family, so she runs away from her mother to seek help from her father.  She accidentally runs into her long-lost brother Val along the way, and also meets Atemu, a chivalrous Egyptian boy. It's about her journey to reunite her family. Among the books I've read, I tried to find a popular book similar to my book but I can't find one. I like to think of it as a mix-up of all of my favorites, such as "The Daughter of Venice" by Donna Jo Napoli and "Light of the Moon" by Luanne Rice.

IML: How did you first get the idea for the book, and how did you figure out the rest of the story?

Bethany: In the summer of 2009, my mom got me this book called "The Most Fascinating Places on Earth" by Donna E. Hicks. I looked through it briefly, until one caught my eye: The Eiffel Tower. After a second of thought, I bolted up from my seat, grabbed a pen and an index card, and came up with something like this: Swanilde runs across the country to her father because her stepfather is a spy. That is how I started my book. Taking trips to places like Washington, D.C., Boston, and the Newport Mansions had given me great inspiration. I came up with most of the plot during after school activities at my town's youth center. Some other fragments of my plot were developed before I went to sleep. I would just lie still in my bed, thinking what I should write for my story next. Then all of a sudden, I would jump out of my bed and jot down every single idea that I had. The name Swanilde was inspired from the ballet "Coppeila" because it sounded French.
 
IML: What's your writing process like? Do you write a first draft all the way through, and then go back and edit? Or do you edit as you go along?

Bethany: It was hard work, but it was also really fun. All the settings inside my book are places I'd like to visit someday, and writing about it was like I got a chance to visit them.  I happen to edit it as I go along, but once I finish writing the first draft, I go back and re-edit it several times. Sometimes, I just write with a flow, or I take down a note and then write about it later.  At the beginning, I set a goal of 30 pages. Once I got there, I set my mind to 60 pages, and by the time I finished, I had about a hundred pages!

The most challenging part about writing this book was probably when I tried to force myself to write when I had writer's block.  I'd get frustrated, but before I knew it, another idea would pop into my head. The most rewarding part about publishing my book is that I can finally show other young people in this world that as long as they work hard for what they want to do and put their hearts into it, they will succeed in whatever they do and will be able to reach their goals.

IML: Did you have to do any research about the locations in which Swanilde's story takes place?

Bethany: Yes, in fact, I had to do a lot of research on subjects such as geographical locations, climate, religious beliefs, culture and history.  For example, I researched online to pick Egyptian name for characters in my book.  While researching, I've learned so many amazing facts about regions such as France, Greece and Egypt.

IML: Many authors write main characters who are an extension of themselves. How are you like Swanilde, and how are you different?

bethany_huang.pngBethany: Swanilde's character is very similar to my own -- I've always loved to think of her as myself. All the countries that I make her to travel to are the countries that I want to go to.  Ideally, I like to see myself as courageous, trustworthy and determined..exactly the way Swanilde is. The only thing that makes us different is that her childhood is traumatizing -- definitely nothing like mine!  

IML: As you were writing, did you get input from parents, teachers, or friends? What kind of feedback did they give you and how did it help?

Bethany: I've had a lot of input from my parents, and a teacher. My awesome fourth grade teacher Mr. Hill helped me with constructive criticism, feedback and editing, and was such an attentive and super cool teacher. My parents were extremely supportive throughout everything, especially through the editing and publishing process. And of course, I'm so grateful for my grandparents, who called almost every single week to tell me how proud they were. The feedback given was very positive with only several suggestions to change some of my plot. All of the feedback I was given helped me to improve my writing, and I thank them all for being so encouraging through the process.

IML: Do you keep a journal? If so, what kinds of things do you write in it? How does it help you as a writer and just with life in general?

Bethany: Yes, I keep a journal. Inside of my "Algebra notebook." I write about my daily life and ideas that I'd like to write about someday, and my secrets...Keeping a journal helps me as a writer because it helps me to organize my thoughts and realize how much I've accomplished that day.

IML: What are your own favorite books, and why?

Bethany: I have one favorite book for each genre. The "Harry Potter" series is my favorite fantasy series, while "Once Upon a Time is Timeless" is my favorite fairytale retelling series. I also love "Found" by Margaret Peterson Haddix -- it's my favorite science-fiction book. Also, "To Kill a Mockingbird" is my favorite all time classic. There's so many more books that I love-I could fill a whole page (or more) with them.  All of the books I've listed above I love for their uniqueness, creativity and twist of adventure.

IML: What's your advice for other tweens who would like to write and possibly get published too?

Bethany: Just don't give up. As long as they put their heart to a goal and work hard towards it, they can accomplish whatever they wish. Good luck to all aspiring young adults in whatever they pursue!

IML: That's great advice! Good luck!

Bethany:
Thank you!

You can learn more about Bethany Huang and how to get a copy of her book at www.BethanyHuang.com.






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