Thursday, March 21, 2024

Q&A with Daphne Benedis-Grab



Daphne Benedis-Grab is the author of the new middle grade novel I Will Find You. It's the third in her Secrets and Lies series. Also a librarian, she lives in Boulder, Colorado.


Q: What inspired you to write I Will Find You, and how did you create your cast of characters?


A: I had such fun writing I Know Your Secret and I KnowYou’re Lying, which are both set in Snow Valley as well, but take place at school.


For this third thriller I wanted to get outside in a new setting with different stakes and a slightly different type of mystery. I thought back to my own middle and high school years for inspiration and when I remembered my ninth-grade camping trip, I knew I had the set up for I Will Find You.


Of course no one disappeared on my trip - our greatest challenge was tents that leaked in the rain - but the story potential was there and I ran with it.


In each of the Secrets and Lies books I try to create characters based on how they can learn and grow throughout the story.


I like my characters to be very different from one another and initially be put off by those differences but then learn to respect them as well as discover places of commonality.


In the end though, the simple answer to this question is that every character is an exploration of one of my own personality traits, my shyness, my anger, my fear, my anxiety, etc. So as the characters get to know each other and themselves, I get to know myself.


Q: This is the third in your Secrets and Lies series--how do the books relate to one another?


A: I have two answers to this question. :)


The first is that all three books are set in the same town and same school, and each have a mystery that presents itself in the morning and must be solved before the end of the day.


Each year there’s a new cast of seventh graders and I always put in glimpses of characters from past books, both the students and many of the teachers and admin, so that connects them as well.


But the books also share a lot of the same themes: the secrets we keep, the anxiety we have about stepping out of our own comfort zones, the incredible things that can happen when we make new connections, and the fact that every one of us has a story that shapes who we are in the world. 


Q: Did you need to do any research to write the book, and, if so, did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: In this story one of the characters has an autistic brother. At the time I wrote it I was working in a school with a wonderful program that supported autistic learners so my first bit of research was spending time with my autistic students and learning from them.


But once I wrote the story I wanted to be sure I was representing my character authentically so I asked one of the teachers, Jenny Licata, to read what I’d written and give me feedback. Despite her busy schedule she found time and helped improve the character as well as the relationship between the siblings.


I learn a lot from all my students but this particular process helped me comprehend even more deeply how fabulous our brains are and how the world is so much more interesting when we spend time with people who see it differently than we do.


Q: What do you hope readers take away from this story?


A: I am currently the librarian in a middle/high school with students I adore who often stop by the library to talk.


A common thread to the problems they face is finding themselves in relationships (family, friend, romantic) where they don’t feel able to be their authentic selves and struggle to hide who they are or lash out in anger rather than feel the pain of that.


In this story the characters struggle with similar things but ultimately discover the incredible affirmation that comes with being seen for who you truly are. My hope is that readers can take this with them and seek out those places that celebrate their authentic and true selves. 


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I am working on the fourth Secrets and Lies novel, tentatively scheduled for release in fall 2025, so stay tuned!


Thanks so much for having me on your awesome blog, Deborah!! 


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Daphne Benedis-Grab.

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