Thursday, February 16, 2012

got teen fiction? welcomes Beth Fehlbaum author of Hope in Patience

Thank you, Beth, for spending time with us today! And mega thanks for providing a signed copy of Hope in Patience to a lucky winner! (See details below.) Hope in Patience, was named a 2011 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. And just for the record folks, I've read it, reviewed it, and loved it! So let's jump right in!

Is Hope in Patience auto-biographical in any way?

I drew on my experiences as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and as a teacher to write the Patience books: Courage in Patience, Hope in Patience, and Truth in Patience . The protagonist, Ashley Nicole Asher, was sexually abused from the age of 9 to 15, and she has PTSD. I was sexually abused from the age of 8 to 14, and verbally and emotionally abused much longer than that. Like Ashley, I have PTSD. I look at my books and they are distinct individuals, yet they are also like photo albums of my recovery journey. When I wrote Courage in Patience, I never intended to publish it. I had been writing poems and short stories as a way of processing my own rage and grief. I shared them with my therapist and one day he suggested that I try writing a novel. That ended up being Courage in Patience, which documents what happened to Ashley when she was young and her first tenuous steps into not only recovering from what happened to her, but also discovering who she is. Hope in Patience continues Ashley’s story. When I wrote Hope in Patience, I was struggling with the notion of acceptance.  Truth in Patience explores Ashley's desire for a normal relationship with a boy--and to think of herself as being just like everybody else-- and the challenges inherent in that when one is recovering from childhood sexual abuse. 

In the process of knocking down the walls I had built around myself,  I found Ashley Nicole Asher, age 15, and Patience, Texas, a tiny East Texas town populated with people who can be found anywhere, dealing with the same problems that all people must face, whether they want to admit it or not. Through my recovery, I learned the value of truth, and I am committed to being a truth-teller. I respect young adults too much to talk down to them or pretend that life isn’t messy sometimes.

What was the most challenging part/scene to write and why was it so challenging?

In Courage in Patience, the scene when Ashley's stepfather tackles her in her bedroom doorway was very difficult, but it served to desensitize me from my own memories.  In Hope in Patience, the scene in Cheryl's hospital room just about ripped my heart out.  I was writing it at a time when I was struggling with the notion of acceptance of the situation with my own mom. In Truth in Patience, Ashley remembers being raped. That was pretty hard to get through. 

What was your road to publication like?

[Pardon me while I scream......and... I'm back.] Apparently, I'm doing this whole publishing thing backwards. I'll explain: a lot of people struggle for years, trying to find a publisher. I found a publisher for Courage in Patience pretty quickly--within a year of writing it. Courage in Patience released in September, 2008. Problem was, Kunati Books, an independent publisher in Canada, was not all that it seemed to be. The company went under within two years, and I was able to get my rights back.  My agent was actually shopping Courage in Patience to a new home, when we found WestSide Books. WestSide was not interested in publishing an already-released novel, so they bought Hope in Patience, which released in October, 2010. Hope in Patience is a 2011 YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers! I'm very proud of that accomplishment. 

As of July, 2011, WestSide announced that they were for sale, and my agent is currently negotiating for the return of my rights to Hope in Patience. I earned out my advance + a little more so far (YAY!)-- which means that technically, WestSide and I should be "square".  And...that's all I can say about that right now.  

As of last summer,  Truth in Patience, the third (and I believe final) book in the Patience series, was complete. I rewrote/revised Courage in Patience, making it more YA-friendly and in line with the style and tone of Hope in Patience. (I credit my wonderful editor, Evelyn Fazio, with helping me learn a LOT through the revising/editing process of Hope in Patience). 

Because the rights to Hope in Patience are currently tied up--and I'd like to place the Patience Trilogy in one publishing house--I am at this point unable to move forward on them. Courage in Patience is still available for sale through used booksellers; Hope in Patience is still available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, indy bookstores, etc.; Truth in Patience is on my computer.  Once in awhile, it screams, "Let me out! Let me out!" 

I have started writing my fourth book. It's not a Patience book; it's called Icing. It's about a seventeen year old girl with binge eating disorder (something else that is close to my own heart), who bullies a gay classmate nearly to death.  I teach full-time during the school year, so I mostly write full-time during the summer. I'm likely having reconstructive surgery on my left foot this summer, so that should give me lots of B.I.C. (Butt In Chair) time to write-write-write! 

What advice do you have for teen authors when it comes to writing a novel?

First, make sure, before you decide you have a novel, that you actually have something that you want to read a million times while you edit it. So many times I have kids come up to me who tell me, "I wrote a book!"--and they show me something that's twenty pages long with tons of errors. I teach writing for a living and I cannot state enough times (I had to learn this myself, believe me:)-- don't fall in love with your first draft.  Second, write for the love of writing--without worrying about getting it published.  That's the first question teens ask me: How do I find an agent? Don't worry about that yet! Focus on developing your craft. Take a class. Check out your local SCBWI group because they probably have authors who will mentor young writers. 

What do you do when you get writer’s block?

I close my eyes and ask myself what happens next. What would happen if I allowed anything to happen? Just write what you see happening, without letting fear or self-editing get in your way--just let it flow. That's what I do. Plus I rewrite a lot and solve plot problems by letting my mind relax until the answer just comes to me.

What is the thing that has surprised you most about publication?

Having two publishers go out of business within a very short time has blown my mind. I can't believe I'm in the position of trying to find a new publisher again.  I am very hesitant to ever sign again with a small independent publisher!   I am hesitant to go it alone, i.e. self-publishing, because I so, so value the teamwork and support provided by publishing houses. On the other hand, I've learned to compare everything I've been through in my life to things that I'm afraid of. When I do that, striking out on my own-- knowing that I'm really good at self-promoting and not afraid to put myself "out there"-- self-publishing doesn't seem so scary.  Fingers crossed, though: I'd love to work with a strong, financially stable publisher who will assist me in getting my books into the right hands.

Thank you, Beth, for sharing your incredible story with us.

How to win a signed copy of Hope in Patience courtesy of Beth Fehlbaum.
1. Join this blog.
2. Leave a comment below or email us directly at Type "WIN HOPE" in the subject line. 
3. Get one additional chance for each re-post you make about this contest on any social media.

Posted by Karen


  1. Thanks, Karen, Selene, and Joe, for inviting me to drop by GOT TEEN FICTION! I invite readers to check out chapter previews by dropping by my site, AND you can enter my fabulous birthday contest, too! Check out
    to find out how to win a prize pack valued at 100.00!

  2. P.S. An exciting development since I did this interview with you:
    the owner of WestSide Books agreed in writing to revert the rights to Hope in Patience. A few details need to be worked out but my agent is shopping the Trilogy and I'm VERY excited about that. :)

  3. Yay! Go with it, Beth. This is wonderful.

  4. Thanks, Lee! I'm sure trying to go with it! :)

  5. Hi Beth, I'm glad you shared this contest for your book on Facebook! I twittered about it (under my K.L. Gore Twitter account). Nice interview...the book sounds very intriguing. I've known others who dealt with publishing houses that went under as well. It's a shame it happened to you twice.