Friday, August 9, 2013

"Penumbras": An Interview and Book Giveaway with Braden Bell

"Conner Dell didn't meant to blow up the school bus.
Or the bathrooms.
In fact, he only wanted to go to sleep and possibly dream about Melanie Stephens.
But explosions had a funny way of happening when Conner and his friends were around.
Conner Dell wants to be good--he really does. But he is terrified that he might be turning into a Darkhand, especially when new powers start to surface. What's worse, the Stalker is following Conner, but no one else seems to be able to see him. The Magi think he might be hallucinating, the guilt of what happened in the Shadowbox keeps weighing on him, and his relationship with Melanie Stephens is complicating things. Even for a Magi, Conner knows his life is anything but normal. 

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Braden's Website (special offer)

An Interview with Braden Bell
Please, tell us a little about yourself.
I am a middle school choir and theatre director at a small private school. I’m the father of five children and the husband of one wonderful wife.

What inspired you to write this book?
One night during a terrific spring thunderstorm, my kids came home from a church activity and told me about a man they had seen driving home. He had a black cape and was walking across people’s yards in the storm. Wondering about who he was and what he was doing triggered the idea for the book.

Did you plan to be a writer or did it just happen?
I suppose it just happened in that I have always been full of stories. Ever since I was a child, they have run through my mind and I needed to get them out.

What is your favorite non-writing pastime?
Reading and watching old movies, or new versions of literary classics with my wife. I also love working in my yard.

If you had to sum it up Penumbras in 30 or less words, what would you say?
A penumbra is a vague, shadowy, area, neither light nor dark. This particular book follows the characters as they confront the shadowy places in their own hearts.

Do you have a favorite character in Penumbras? Who and why?
Dr. Timberi is a choir teacher and theatre director at a small private school. He looks an awful lot like me as well, and we both have PhDs. However, he is so much cooler than I am! He is not based on me, although I’ve been accused of that. Rather, he’s someone I would love to be.

Without giving it all away, please tell us a little something about how Conner is going to get through his biggest challenge.
Conner Dell is a seventh grader. In the last book, THE KINDLING, he made a difficult sacrifice—giving himself up to the bad guys to save a young child. He was eventually freed, but some of the things that happened during his captivity are just now beginning to surface. They will him with guilt, fear, and push him away from those who can help him. He will need to trust those who love him most and openly confront what happened to him.  

Is anything in your book based on real life experiences or purely all imagination?
There is a very sad scene towards the end between Dr. Timberi and one of his students. While it is not word-for-word, I have dealt with disappointed and angry students for many years. This scene was inspired after a very difficult confrontation with a student of whom I was very fond. I wrote the scene as a way of working through the incident—and ended up keeping it. I get a little emotional every time I read it.

While writing Penumbras did you connect with one character more than the others? Who and how?
No. I love them all dearly! I enjoy my time with them.

Do you have to be alone or have quiet to write?
As a father and teacher, I am almost never alone and never have quiet! I’m not sure I could write in those conditions J

Do you have plans for a new book?  Is this book part of a series?
PENUMBRAS is the second of a projected trilogy. I am currently working on the final installment as I am supposed to submit it by August 1st.

Favorite place? My back deck.

Best Christmas present? Gift certificates to my favorite restaurants.

Favorite author? Charles Dickens.

Favorite smell? Fresh cut grass.

Favorite series? Cannot narrow it down.

Favorite movie? Cranford (A BBC mini-series)

Favorite dish? BBQ ribs.

Favorite color? I have none—like them all.

Favorite quote? “In this world, you must be oh so smart, or oh so pleasant. Well for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant.” From the play HARVEY by Mary Chase.

Your best trait? I’m quite compassionate.

Your worst trait? I’m not easily offended—but when I am, it’s pretty bad. 

The Giveaway
Comment for a chance to win an e-book edition of Penumbras.

Meet the Author
Braden Bell grew up in Farmington, Utah and graduated from Davis High School. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in theatre from Brigham Young University and a Ph.D. in educational theatre from New York University. He and his wife, Meredith live  with their five children on a quiet, wooded lot outside of Nashville, Tennessee, where he teaches theatre and music at a private school. An experienced performer, Braden enjoys singing, acting, reading, gardening, and long walks with the dog. 

Enjoy an Excerpt from Penumbras

Conner Dell didn’t mean to blow up the school bus.
Or the bathrooms.
In fact, he only wanted to go to sleep and possibly dream about Melanie Stephens.
But explosions had a funny way of happening when Conner and his friends were around.
It all started on the annual seventh grade science trip to the Sea Lab at Dauphin Island, Alabama. Fifty-four thirteen-year-olds on a five-day field trip. What could go wrong?
Especially when three of them happened to be Magi.
For a fraction of a second, Conner thought he saw shadows slithering along the base of the cinderblock walls. Tensing, he blinked and looked again.
Nothing. He was alone in the darkness of his dorm room.
Well, except for his friend and fieldtrip roommate, Pilaf.
            Across the room, Pilaf disturbed the darkness by turning his flashlight on and digging through a giant floral print suitcase. Fishing a book out, Pilaf hunched over, tucked the flashlight under his chin, and read.
            “What are you reading?” Conner asked.
             “Sorry. Did I wake you up?” Pilaf squeaked. “I couldn’t sleep. I guess I slept too much on the bus.”
            “No worries.” Conner burrowed into his sleeping bag. He didn’t like messing with sheets on these trips. The springs of the ancient bed creaked beneath him. “I’m not sleepy either.” Lexa? Can you hear me? Conner reached out in his thoughts, wondering if his twin sister was awake in her room on the girls’s floor. Head-talking was a cool benefit of being one of the Magi—a secret group of warriors who used the power of Light to battle evil.
No answer from Lexa. Her allergy medicine must have knocked her out.
Melanie? He tried Lexa’s best friend, Melanie Stephens—also one of the Magi-in-training. Conner listened for her response, trying to ignore the backflip in his chest that came when he thought of her. No answer. Melanie had taken something for motion sickness on the bus. She must be knocked out too.
            Conner jerked up as something skittered across the ceiling right above him. No doubt this time. He grabbed his own flashlight, raking the beam across the ceiling tiles as someone whispered his name.
            “What?” Conner pointed his flashlight at Pilaf, who looked up from his book, blinking behind his thick glasses. Pilaf’s blinks always reminded Conner of the way a light on a computer blinked when it processed data.
            “What?” Pilaf squinted back at him.
            “Why did you call me?” Conner asked.
            “I didn’t.” Pilaf looked down at his book.
            On edge now, Conner lay back down, scanning the room for more shadowy movement, his fingers ready to snap his flashlight back on at any second.
Co-n-n-e-r-r-r-r-r-r D-e-l-l-l-l-l.
            A whispered, hissing sort of growl sounded in his head as a flicker of movement caught his eye. He whipped his head around in time to see a shadowy tail vanish under Pilaf’s bed. Flipping his flashlight on, he investigated the space under the metal frame.
Nothing there.
            “What are you doing, Conner?” Pilaf managed to blink and stare at the same time.
Trying to protect you from slithery shadow monsters that could slurp your soul like a slushie, Conner thought. How could he keep the flashlight on without alarming Pilaf? Out loud, he said, “Uh, it’s a game. Flashlight tag. You’re it.” He shined the flashlight at Pilaf.
            “How do you play?”
            “Well . . . one person’s it and he shines a flashlight all over the room.”
            “That’s all?” Pilaf blinked until Conner wondered if he was broadcasting the telephone book in Morse code. “It seems kind of pointless.”
            “Uh, yeah.” Conner said. “You’re right. Lame. How about shadow puppets?” He slipped his hand in front of the flashlight, wiggling his fingers until the shadow resembled a horse.
            “Cool!” Pilaf shouted.
            A knock at the door interrupted them and a tired-looking science teacher poked his head in, glaring beneath tousled red hair. “What’s going on in here?”
            “Sorry, Mr. Keller,” Pilaf said. “We slept on the bus ride, so we’re not tired. Conner’s making shadows with his hands. Look, a horse!”
“Neeeiiiiggghhh.” Conner threw in sound effects as a special feature.
            Apparently unimpressed with great art, Mr. Keller frowned. “Get some sleep. We have a full day tomorrow.”
            “Yes, sir.” Conner swallowed his depression at the thought of a five-day science class. Five days of plankton, ocean salinity, salt marshes, and beach ecology. Five days of science, 24/7. At least they were close to the beach. That might be fun.
            “Do another one,” Pilaf whispered as the sound of Mr. Keller’s footsteps retreated down the hall.
            “Okay, but be quiet this time.” Conner opened his fingers, making a snake’s mouth, complete with a flickering tongue.
It seemed so real that Conner thought he heard a hiss. Unsettled, he dropped his hands, but the hissing noise continued, twisting into words.
Co-n-n-e-r-r-r-r-r-r D-e-l-l-l-l-l—
Trying to squash the sound, Conner raised his voice. “Here’s another one.” He cupped his hands on top of each other, stuck his thumb up, and opened his fingers slightly.
“Wow!” Pilaf yelled. “A wolf!” He giggled as Conner opened the mouth and growled. “Little pig, little pig let me come in.” Conner prayed that none of the other seventh-grade boys heard he’d been doing Three Little Pigs shadow plays. That would not be cool.
Co-n-n-e-r-r-r-r-r-r D-e-l-l-l-l-l—
The weird voice came louder. Conner dropped his hands away from the flashlight.
The wolf head stayed there.
Fighting panic, Conner switched the flashlight off, but the wolf head remained, darker than the darkest shadows on the wall.
It stretched and grew bigger, becoming life-sized within seconds. It turned and stared at Conner, a three-dimensional head sticking out of the wall like some kind of freaky hunting souvenir.
The wolf growled, then jumped off the wall, and sailed across the room toward Conner.


  1. Thank you, MK! I appreciate you hosting me.

    1. My pleasure Braden. Penumbras sounds like a book my nephew would really enjoy.

  2. PENUMBRAS sounds like a book that both my daughter and I will take great delight in reading.