Interview - Kristin Clark Venuti, author of Leaving the Bellweathers

Current Theme Song (aka what's playing on my ipod right now): Shine by Ulrich Schnauss.

Today is a special treat because not only do we get to hear from the wonderful Kristin Clark Venuti (psst, come closer), she is also a fantastic interviewer. If you want more information and insight into the family of the Bellweathers, there is no better place to look than this author's own mouth.

Welcome, Kristin Clark Venuti!

I know this question is asked a lot, but this is the first time I've asked it because, well, I really need to know. This family is so eccentric. What inspired this story?

The family is indeed eccentric. My influences for this book were 1) Books by Roald Dahl 2) The New Yorker cartoons of Charles Addams and 3) as scary as this is, My Own Family. (along with a hearty helping of Attention Deficit Disorder. Really.)
The character of Spider came to me first because my oldest child shares Spider's viewpoint that vicious animals are really just misunderstood. We live in the Santa Cruz Mountains where rattlesnake sightings are not uncommon. My fear was always that this child of mine would attempt to domesticate one. He never did - but still, I was Very Relieved when his childhood passed without an experiment of that nature. Ninda is based on my niece. We are a very tight family and often travel together en masse and so I have spent countless hours in the company of someone who really does wish to right the wrongs of the world. She has a finely developed sense of right and wrong - as it applies to other people. As a child this sense almost never extended to herself or her actions, if that makes sense. The triplets are based on my two youngest and my nephew. As I said, we traveled together a lot when they were younger and man, were they LOUD. Unless they were Up To No Good. Then they were frighteningly quiet. And destructive. They didn't mean to be bad, but let's just say I learned the hard way not to leave the three of them, a VCR and a tube of toothpaste alone in a room if I wanted to get back the deposit I'd paid on the vacation home. I identify most with Benway. Not that I'd ever actually want to leave my family, but Cleaning up Other People's Messes is a wearisome thing indeed.

I think this answers part of question 2. The reason the kid's names are so odd is that those are nicknames they all chose for themselves on a family trip to Italy. (No coincidence that the book I'm working on now (the third) has the Bellweathers traveling to Italy.)

Who is your favorite character of the lot, and why?

I can't really cop to a favorite character - I love them all (except for Thaddeus Bohack and Wodehouse Smithers of course - although Wodehouse cracks me up, mostly cause he's such a bane to Benway). I have to say that I probably enjoy writing the triplets the most - I laugh out loud sometimes when I'm working on their scenes. This can be a little mortifying since I usually write in a coffee shop called The Blue Rock Shoot. The regulars have gotten used to it - but people that just happen in to the place must look at me and wonder if I escaped my keepers.

Will there be more books of this oddly engaging family? And will Benway join in their adventures?

SPOILER ALERT Yes - there are more adventures in store for this family - and of COURSE Benway stays. The Butler Gets a Break; A Bellweather Tale is even now getting set in galleys. It comes out next fall - and I'm at work on new, new one.

Pretty early on I decided that the characters would remain themselves and that there wouldn't be a lot of growth and development. Oh, maybe once in a while they'll experience a revelation that there's a different, less chaotic way to behave but it will never last too long, I think. The Bellweathers are just meant to be lighthearted fun. Before I met them, I wrote depressing short fiction for adults. After my godson was killed by a drunk driver I decided that there was enough sad stuff in the world. That said, I am also at work on a YA that deals with YAish kinds of things.

Through the process was there anything you ever had to cut out, editors or otherwise?

My editor is really wonderful. She's one to make suggestions, not demands. Still, I've definitely had to cut out things. Good things, bad things, things that I thought were fabulous but just didn't work. That's part of what revision is about. Of course I sometimes had to get rid of things that tickled me in order to have a stronger book. Remembering that as a goal makes certain decisions less painful.

And what is a favorite unknown book of yours that few know about?

I'm going to have to think about the last question. I read a lot - but I'm not sure if there's anything I've read recently that others might not have discovered on their own. Right now I'm crazy in love with 43 Old Cemetery Road by the Klise sisters, but it was a Junior Library Guild selection for 2009 so it's not exactly obscure.

Thanks so much for coming, Kristin!


Charlotte said...

Thanks for the interview! I'm glad to hear the sequel is coming out next fall--I enjoyed the first book, and I'll look for the next.

(and I liked 43 Old Cemetery Road too!)

Heather Zundel said...

Charlotte - I didn't see this comment! The first book was a lot of fun, wasn't it? I'm looking forward to the next one too. :)