My guest today is B.B. Swann, Author of the Breaking in the 80’s Novels. On top of her busy job as an author she’s a wife, mom and teacher to “firsties”, and a great mentor to new writers. It’s my honor to present, B.B. Swann.
You are a teacher and a mother. Do you feel an extra responsibility in guiding our youth through your books?
This is a battle I have in my head every time I write. I love happy endings and that’s what I want to give my readers. At the same time, I want to portray characters in a realistic, believable way, as any author should. But I don’t want to sound preachy to younger ears. I think sometimes, authors patronize teen readers and don’t give them enough credit for being able to understand difficult situations. In my twenty-five years as an educator, I’ve worked with families who face incredibly sad and difficult times. I’ve had students who’ve suffered or observed poverty, abuse, teen pregnancy, rape, murder, addictions, incarceration, and criminal activities. The resilience I’ve seen in many of these students amazes me. I know they can handle more than I would ever have thought they could, and I want to show readers like that a character who may be in the same situation and the choices that character makes for a different way of life. Sometimes people need to see themselves in a book to possibly gain hope that they CAN change their future. It’s my job as an author to give them that chance and I can’t do it if I shelter my reader from real life. I do draw the line at sexually explicit scenes. While my characters may have encounters, I don’t want to be the one to tell an innocent what happens. That’s their parent’s job! LOL! I focus more on the emotional end of those situations and it’s always a consensual act between two partners.
I was privileged to be an advanced reader for Barriers, and you know what I love most about the book! Who’s your favorite character and why?
Cindy runs a close second, but hands down, my fav is Mike. He was a fun character to write in Breaking the Bro Code, that’s why I decided to make him the MC of the second book. In Bro Code, he was the voice of reason for Hayden during his conflict. His advice wasn’t always the best, but his intentions were. In Barriers, Mike begins very naive about the world of relationships but thinks he’s already an expert. The way he views Cindy is adorable. He really does think their love should be a simple thing for everyone else to accept. I love seeing how he develops and matures throughout the story. Of course, he still has some growing to do, but maybe that will be a part of book three, right?
Is any of Barriers based on true life experiences?
A lot of the story comes from little experiences I had growing up in the 80’s, but the scene that holds the most of my heart is where Cindy speaks to her father in the hospital. My own father passed away ten years ago after an accident. He and my mother lived so far away, by the time I got there, he was gone, and I wasn’t able to say goodbye. When writing that scene, I thought of the things I would have said and that my father would have probably said. It was a very emotional scene for me. I cried writing it and sobbed editing it. I think it’s a beautiful scene and really pulls on the heartstrings. I hope that it can maybe help a reader going through the same thing as Cindy or I did.
Mike’s parents are pretty cool with his relationship with Cindy. Do you see interracial dating as easier or harder today than in it was in 1986?
I knew several multi-racial couples in the 80’s though I never experienced that myself. I do remember it being a huge deal where I lived. My hometown was the setting for Barriers, so I based the reactions of Mike and Cindy’s classmates on people I knew then and how they reacted. Many accepted it but a lot didn’t. I did a lot of research through interviews with older bi-racial couples about their experience in the 80’s and watching videos of the same types of interviews. Many said that even with the civil rights movement of the 60’s, the 80’s still had plenty of resistance. Today the reaction to these types of relationships seems different, but I am definitely not the best one to make that judgement. My son has been involved in a bi-racial relationship for the past five years. While he and his girlfriend say they haven’t had any problems, I still hear of others who aren’t as lucky. Hopefully one day, it won’t be an issue. As Cindy says, nobody should be punished for love.
If you could go back to the eighties, and change one thing in your life, what would it be?
I’m not sure I would change anything. My life is pretty good right now and I wouldn’t want to risk losing something now because I changed something then. BUT if I could guarantee to still have my life… I would go back and not change my major in college. I began as an English major and changed to Early Childhood Education. 5 and 6yo’s are exhausting! I would love to be an English teacher instead right now. Still, at least I don’t have to grade term papers in 1st grade.
What other books have you written?
I have 10 completed picture books, one of which comes out in October. KATIE COMMA is a story about a comma who gets blown from her sentence in a classroom book. She wanders around, hopping into other sentences to hide from the returning students. The sentences inform her that she doesn’t belong, and she continues to search for her home. It’s a simple story that teaches primary children about the correct use of commas but more importantly, it teaches about perseverance, to keep trying when things get difficult. Pelican Publishing will release it in October, and I am super excited. My illustrator, Maja Andersen, did a fabulous job on the pictures.
As for my YA books, I have 8 finished novels. Three are with my agent and one of those is out on submission with several fulls under review by some exciting editors. Right now I am playing the hurry up and wait game with them. I’m pretty terrible at that game by the way. I also have another published book in the same world as Barriers. It’s called Breaking the Bro Code. It’s the story of Molly and Hayden’s romance, Mike and Cindy’s best friends. There’s a little more sports in it, which was fun to write. I based them off my sons and daughter. My boys played soccer and my daughter did cross country and track. It was fun to research those sports in 1986 to see how different they were then.
What is your next project?
There are several books bouncing around in my head, vying for the right to be heard, but I would like to finish the one I am working on currently first. It’s the follow-up book for the one on submission. I’m hoping to get a three-book deal for a cool million so I can retire early. Just kidding (sort of) but every now and then, an idea for a picture book jumps out and I have to stop everything and write it. They are kind of like children, impatient and always thinking of themselves.
When you find time to read what is your favorite genre?
I read a little bit of everything. If it sounds like a good story, I read it. But YA romance will always be my favorite. It has to be quirky and unique though. I usually write magical realism, though not in Barriers, and I love sci-fi and fantasy so that’s what I tend to seek out. But I can never seem to leave Target without browsing the children’s books and dropping a few new picture books in my cart. Thank God for the Target Redcard with 5% off!
Tell us everything we need to know about B.B. Swann.
You pretty much know it already from reading the Q/A above. I am a supporter of respecting each other despite our differences. I believe everyone deserves a fair chance at happiness and that those with should do what they can for those without. But I also believe that we all have a responsibility to WORK for our happiness. Nothing should (or will) be handed to us. We need to go out and make things happen. Integrity is important. Education is important. And love is most important of all. If we let hate take over, we’ve already lost that chance for happiness.
If all of that is too deep, I like cats, my favorite color is purple, and I have 5 years until I retire.
If there was just one thing you want people to take away from Barriers, what would it be?
Life is filled with emotion and that’s what I want my readers to experience. While my purpose for writing is to make others happy, and I can promise I will never write a book with an unhappy ending, that doesn’t mean my readers will never cry or get angry. Those emotions deserve equal representation because without them, the good stuff isn’t as good. I hope they read Barriers and laugh, cry, and ultimately celebrate when the good stuff comes.
It has been my pleasure having you as a guest on my Wake-Up Wednesday blog and I can’t wait for the reviews on Breaking The Barriers. This is a definite must read for teenagers and their parents and I’ve already ordered my own copy!