Today we have a special interview with Brooks Benjamin, author of My Seventh-Grade Life in Tights.
The Spork Review: Why write for middle-graders?
Brooks Benjamin: The twelve year old in me won’t let me write anything else. Maybe it’s because because he knows that age is such an important time in our lives–it’s when we begin to figure out stuff like who we’re going to be, who we’re going to like, what we’re going to enjoy, fear, and need. Or maybe it’s because he knows it’s the perfect mixture of being a kid and becoming a young adult that makes that age a wonderfully delicious emotional and behavioral soup. Or maybe it’s because he’s an immature little turd that won’t let go of the fact that he still giggles over fart jokes sometimes.
TSR: The main theme of My 7th Grade Life in Tights is “Find the moves that fit.” Why do you feel that it was important to tell Dillon’s story?
BB: Middle school is a jungle we’ve all explored but will always remain unconquered by human beings. There’s an air of incivility that surrounds it which makes those three years some of the worst years in many people’s lives. It wasn’t any different for me. I had an idea of who I wanted to be but was so scared to allow myself to become that person. So I wanted to write something that spoke to that and to any human who has ever felt that way. I wanted to tell every one of them that it’s fine to be scared and it’s fine to be worried but it’s not fine to let others tell you who or what you should be. “Find the moves that fit” is my dancetastic way of sharing that no matter who you are, there’s a style out there for you, even if you have to make it all up yourself.
TSR: Tell us a bit about your writing process.
It always starts with interesting characters. I hear them say something, I see them do something, I imagine their reaction to something. They’re nothing more than an idea at this point, but while I begin to throw out problems and stories and allow them to speak to it and about it, I learn who they are and who they want to be. Their personalities grow and deepen and the rose-colored glasses come off when I see their flaws. But they become very real to me after that. As I begin to write out their stories, there’s always a fear that I’m getting it wrong, but they always let me know if I am. And as their story progresses, I continue to learn things about them. There’s never a time when I know it all. The difference is that by the time that particular story is finished, I’ve grown to love each of them and appreciate their quirks, their worries, their problems, and their needs, about as much as I can appreciate my own.
TSR: Where is your favorite place to write?
My desk beside the big window that overlooks the woods. And when it’s raining outside I love it even more.
TSR: Can you tell us about what you are working on now?
BB: Sure! I’m working on another MG. This one’s about two friends, one who is very real and is trying to find a way to disappear and one who isn’t quite real and is trying to keep from vanishing altogether.
TSR: Favorite NKotB song?
BB: HANGIN’ TOUGH!
TSR: Favorite thing to do to relax?
BB: Play video games while eating pizza.
TSR: Salty or sweet?
BB: You mean salty AND sweet? Yes.
TSR: What is one thing you never leave home without?
BB: My underwear. If I ever have to sacrifice my pants to save someone’s life I want to do it with some dignity.
TSR: Any hidden talents?
BB: I can impersonate a ton of actors or characters from cartoons. When I was a kid, I wanted so badly to be someone else that I tried on different characters all the time. The result was a talent for sounding like, but never being anyone else but me. And that’s pretty cool, I think.
Thanks so much to Brooks for answering some questions for us! Your new book sounds great – I can’t wait to read it!