Monday, June 1, 2015

Drawn by Chris Ledbetter (Author interview, Book spotlight and Giveaway!)

Today we kick off the tour of Drawn by Chris Ledbetter! It's on tour with Italy Book Tours from June 1 to 19, so be sure to stop by and read the reviews. My review will be up on June 4 at Library of Clean Reads. It's one of my favorite YA novels this year!

About the book:

Caught between the sweltering fall landscape of Wilmington, NC beaches and southern illusions and expectations, all sixteen year-old Cameron Shade thinks about is art. That, and for Farrah Spangled to view him as more than just a friend. Cameron longs to win her heart through art.

After several warm interactions with Farrah, including painting together at the beach, Cameron discovers just how complex Farrah’s life is with her boyfriend and her family. Following a tense run-in with Farrah’s father, she forbids Cameron to ever speak to her again, but Cameron’s convinced there’s more behind the request.

To impress Farrah with a last-ditch effort, Cameron sketches her portrait. But the sketchbook he uses hides a dark secret. Farrah’s now in grave danger because the sketch he drew of her siphons her real-life’s soul into the sketchbook. Cameron now has twenty days to extract Farrah. To save her, he must draw himself into the book.

If he fails… they both die.

My Interview with Chris Ledbetter:

EI: Welcome to Essentially Italian, Chris! Your book has so many great elements to it, one of them being art. This came through beautifully in your book. Are you an artist who paints?

CL: Thank you. I am a very amateur artist. I began drawing at a young age. My earliest memories are from second grade when I sketched Snoopy during nap time. Through the years, I sought to advance my skills, but only through self-education. I drew a lot of graffiti-style art, especially names for friends. I copied and emulated comic book covers. I began a comic series, but then abandoned it. Interestingly enough, in high school, I did sketch a portrait of a girl I sought to impress. So in that regard, art imitates life.

However, I don't paint at all. HAHA! I wish I could paint. I never truly invested the effort into painting. Only one painting of mine exists... one I painted for my mother when I was in elementary school.

EI: The fantasy and original part of your novel that takes place in a drawn setting resembling Renaissance Italy was fascinating. How did you come up with this idea?

CL: I wanted the world inside the book to be created by artists, for artists. The Italian Renaissance was one of the most artistically creative eras in history. And I'm a Leonardo Da Vinci student. And as I was drafting Drawn, the Da Vinci's Demons television series came on and I just dove into it.

EI: Your love for Italy and its art comes through in your novel. I loved that you knew some of the Italian expressions! What is your history with Italy?

CL: I do have a pretty intense love of all things Italian, and Greek for that matter. But the expressions and language all came from research. Tons and tons of research. I hope to Jove that I have adequately represented the language and culture, while at the same time adding a bit of fantasy to the mix.

EI: I truly enjoyed your writing style that I think not only appeals to your YA audience but to my generation. Your metaphors were both beautiful and appropriately humorous depending on the scene. How long have you been writing? Did you always want to be a writer?

CL: Thank you so much! That's humbling. I work really hard. I began writing seriously in 2006. I joined SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and other organizations. I joined a super critique group. We all push one another to grow.

It feels fantastic to know that my writing appeals to different demographics. I don't write down to a younger audience. I simply try to get as deeply into the heads of my characters as I can and allow the story to flow out of that.

EI: I loved the fact that your novel includes interracial relationships. The only other YA book I've read that did that was Like No Other by Una LaMarche. Can you tell me more about how you feel about this topic in novels?

CL: Thank you so much! And, I'm really glad you brought that up. Diversity in literature, as a concept, is very close to my heart. But so is reflecting the real world. I've seen scarcely few interracial relationships in novels. And even fewer in young adult novels. In fact, I can't name a YA novel featuring an interracial relationship. But i wasn't trying to make a statement with Drawn. Cameron and Farrah's relationship is as natural as anything to me. I've been in interracial romantic relationships before. As I walk down the street and when I'm working my day job at a vitamin and supplement store, I see relationships between people ranging from all manner of hues and ethnicities and nationalities and so forth. This is something to be celebrated. When we're able to move past superficial differences, our souls grow closer together.

Love is love. In fact, the term "interracial relationship" shouldn't even be a thing. At the end of the day, it's just two human beings, two souls, connecting.

EI: I agree! I just have to ask this one last question because the ending was satisfying but left an opening for perhaps a sequel? Am I correct in thinking this? I hope I am!

CL: Yes. I am currently working on a sequel. It's gratifying to know that the ending was satisfying yet left you wanting more. As an author, that is the exact feeling we want to leave readers with, whether or not it's more of the same characters or more with a new set of characters.

EI: Woohoo! I'm so happy to hear that. I can't wait to read it. Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.

About the Author:

Chris Ledbetter grew up in Durham, NC before moving to Charlottesville, VA in 11th grade. After high school, he attended Hampton University where he promptly "walked-on" to the best drum line in the CIAA. And, without any prior percussion experience. He carried the bass drum for four years, something his back is not very happy about now.

After a change of heart and major, he enrolled in Old Dominion University and earned his degree in Business Administration. He's worked in various managerial and marketing capacities throughout his life. While teaching high school for six years in Culpeper, VA, he taught business management, business law, marketing, and sports marketing, and also coached football.

He has walked the streets of Los Angeles and New York City, waded in the waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and climbed Diamond Head crater on Hawaii and rang in the New Year in Tokyo, Japan. But he dreams of one day visiting Greece and Italy.

He's a proud member of SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) and a strong supporter of the Need for Diverse Books. As a self-described, young reluctant reader, he writes young adult stories specifically to reach other reluctant readers. As a participant in the prestigious Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program, he was blessed to be mentored by Suzanne Morgan Williams, 2012 SCBWI member of the year.

He now lives in Wilmington, NC with his family, including three cats.

Connect with Chris: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

And now for the giveaway!

a Rafflecopter giveaway