Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Interview with Braden Bell--Middle School Magician

I enjoyed learning more about Braden Bell, author of Middle School Magic: The Kindling. I hope you will too.

His book has the fabulous premise that middle school students with magical powers "kindle" as their powers show themselves. And some of their teachers have super powers too. Cool! Braden teaches middle school himself which proves he's a brave man.

The story revolves around three "kindling" students, Conner, Melanie and Lexa. It's action packed and sets up a distinct and fascinating magical world. Thanks to Braden for taking the time to answer my questions.

Susan: Since you're a middle school teacher yourself, you have an amazing window into that environment. How hard was it to keep "real" people you work with or the memory of your teachers from middle school out of your manuscript? Are those teachers in The Kindling an amalgam of other teachers you've known or did they come from somewhere else?

Braden: That's an excellent question, one I'm glad to be asked. The reality is that the teachers and students very quickly took on a life of their own. I know that may sound strange to people who have not written a book, but it's really quite true. Many writers feel that their characters tell them what to do rather than vice versa, and that was the case. I had a few people in mind when I started, from whom I borrowed some vocal inflections or a personality trait, but the characters very quickly evolved into their own people. Now, when I imagine them or am writing their dialogue they don't resemble anyone I know. 

Susan: I loved  that the French teacher was important to the story and also very nice since I was one myself. Any reason why you picked French?
Braden: If you were to take a poll at my school among parents and students of the person who is most beloved and influential, it would be our French teacher. She's taught for many years and has a special gift. She's one of the people I most admire professionally and I wanted to pay tribute to that. But there's a more practical reason. In an early draft, all the teachers were Mrs. and Mr. It looked repetitious and a little boring. I felt like I needed to break it up. So, I gave the choir teacher a doctorate so he could be Dr. instead of Mr. And I figured if I used a French teacher I could use Madame instead of Mrs. Finally, the character just taught French. I knew that from the beginning.  
Susan: I can see that two of your characters are setting up for some romance. Did you have that idea from the beginning or did it develop as you created the book? And did putting that attraction Conner feels for Melanie in make it harder or easier to write the book?

Braden: That was there from the beginning. one of the funniest things about teaching middle school is watching these kids start to muddle their way through romantic relationships and feelings. It's confusing, exciting, and frightening for them--and the parents, but it is a very real part of the experience. I felt like it had to be there in order to be authentic. It was also fun to write and it helped bring dimension to the characters. In early drafts I think there was less. But as I had students read it and give me feedback, the girls all wanted a little more so I put in a little more. 
Susan: There are some strong moral and even spiritual values coming out in your book. J. K. Rowling aimed directly at prejudice in her Harry Potter series and also focused on the importance of love and family. Is there something very important to you that you'd like readers to take away from this book?

Braden: Interesting question. I don't think I had anything specific in mind--it was just a story I wanted to write because it came to my mind. I am sure that there are things that influenced me at a level beyond what I was consciously aware of, but my intent was to write a fun story about teachers and students. 
Susan: You've obviously set us up for a sequel. Can you tell us how many more we can look forward to or would that be telling?
Braden: I have a rough outline for about 4 books, and I know where I want it to go. Whether they happen is ultimately a function of whether the publisher feels this one does well enough. Pending sufficient sales, the sequel is slated to be released a year from now and I'm feverishly working on it. It picks up just a week or two after the Kindling. The kids are starting to understand the implications of their new powers, trying to learn how to use them, and Conner and Melanie are trying to figure out their relationship. Conner specifically has to work through some things that happened in Book 1. I'm quite excited about it--and I hope it becomes a reality.

Find out more about Braden at his blog here.


  1. Thank you, Susan! That was fun to read.

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  3. I loved this book. Thanks for posting this interview!