Tuesday, September 19, 2017

0 Fox Benwell, author of KALEIDOSCOPE SONG, on writing what matters to you

We've had so many amazing authors provide interviews lately that we're spreading them out to Tuesdays and Thursdays rather than overwhelming our readers with writing wisdom on Saturdays.

We are thrilled to have Fox Benwell here to share more about his latest novel, KALEIDOSCOPE SONG.

Fox, what was your inspiration for writing KALEIDOSCOPE SONG?

It’s getting much, much better (this book took FOREVER to write) but, a lack of queer fiction on my shelves was a definite influencing factor. When I started writing Kaleidoscope Song, the way I identified aligned more closely with Neo, and a lot of the community/ first time experience stuff (although, not the location, there >_>) is familiar.

Music, too. Music is everything in this book. It colours the way Neo sees the world. If you want to feel what she feels, I wholeheartedly recommend checking out some of the music mentioned in the book.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?

I think I’m most proud of the final scenes. But weirdly, I knew exactly how they’d go, right from the start. I added a little, but they’re pretty much the same as they were in the first draft.

As for hard to write…there’s some really tough grief stuff in there which I wrote while dealing with big personal loss myself. Writing probably helped, but those hurt so much to write that I’m not sure I could read them now.

What do you hope readers will take away from KALEIDOSCOPE SONG?

That friends, community, and being yourself are all possibilities. That standing up for those things is absolutely worth doing. But also that we’re not all, always, in a position where it’s safe to do so.

And I hope – as largely Western readers – that they extrapolate, because this doesn’t just apply in other places. Plenty of marginalised folks are at risk right on your doorstep every single day. Especially in today’s climate: surviving – thriving – is a political act in and of itself.

I hope that anyone suffering will find community that they can turn to. And that anyone who can, might use their voice for good.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

Honestly, no. While there might be a key to writing one particular novel, I don’t think there is a key to writing a novel in the wider sense: books, like their authors, are incredibly different. And sometimes kind of temperamental. You have to figure them out as you go. Which is comforting, in a sense, because when things aren’t working it’s not necessarily you, you just haven’t nailed this particular project yet. But it can be hella frustrating when you don’t know how to make it work.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

When I can, I like the familiarity of having my books to hand, and working at my grandad’s old desk, with the visual reminder of a wall of post-its, full of plot points and phrases and imagery that I want to use. But – out of necessity – I’ll work anywhere. I focus better when I’m comfortable; give me a big comfy chair and a supply of coffee and I’m good for hours. And music. Always music – each book has its own playlist to reflect the world I’m writing. It was a particularly big part of Kaleidoscope Song, because music is so important to the protagonist, too. You can find the full playlist and crib notes at the back of the book.

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Write your story. Not a carbon copy of your experiences, necessarily, but what matters to you. You’ll want to spend time with the story, and that’ll show; readers will be much more likely to want to join you. And besides, books take a LOT of hours to make: do you really want to work on something that you hate for all that time?

And hey, marginalised writers especially, keep at it. My shelves need you. <3

What are you working on now?

Several things. Life’s been a bit tumultuous, so I’ve been switching back and forth to fit with where my brain’s at, and now I love them all so much that I’m juggling a few. All of them centre queer, trans and disabled characters as glorious everyday heroes.


Kaleidoscope Song
by Fox Benwell
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Released 9/19/2017

South Africa is loud. Listen. Do you hear the song and dance of it? The chorus of Khayelitsha life? Every voice is different, its pitch and tone and intonation as distinct as the words we choose and how we wrap our mouths around them. But everybody has a voice, and everybody sings…

Fifteen year old Neo loves music, it punctuates her life and shapes the way she views the world. A life in radio is all she’s ever wanted.
When Umzi Radio broadcasts live in a nearby bar Neo can’t resist. She sneaks out to see them, and she falls in love, with music, and the night, but also with a girl: Tale has a voice like coffee poured into a bright steel mug, and she commands the stage.

It isn’t normal. Isn’t right. Neo knows that she’s supposed to go to school and get a real job and find a nice young boy to settle down with. It’s written everywhere – in childhood games, and playground questions, in the textbooks, in her parents’ faces. But Tale and music are underneath her skin, and try as she might, she can’t stop thinking about them.

Purchase Kaleidoscope Song at Amazon
Purchase Kaleidoscope Song at IndieBound
View Kaleidoscope Song on Goodreads


Fox Benwell is a perpetual student of the world, a writer, adventurer, and wannabe-knight, who holds degrees in international education and writing for young people, and believes in the power of both to change the world. When he’s not writing or teaching, he sings barbershop with The Great Western Chorus; music is pretty good at changing the world, too.
He is the author of the critically acclaimed The Last Leaves Falling, and Kaleidoscope Song.


Have you had a chance to read KALEIDOSCOPE SONG yet? Have you used your writing to speak up and reach out to others? Have you read something that allowed you to connect and find your community? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy reading,

Emily, Jocelyn, Anisaa, Sam, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, and Lori Ann

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