Penumbras, the sequel to The Kindling, is an adventure packed and a touch of romance novel about the strange lives of Connor, Lexa, and Melanie. In my opinion, this was a no putting down book. The beginning was interesting and persuading to read the rest. I liked, no loved, Penumbras. My favorite character is Melanie. I liked her because she was understanding, caring, and calm on the outside when on the inside she was boiling with frustration or anger. After reading Penumbras, I got to interview the author, Braden Bell.
Interview With Braden Bell
*How do you make the feelings in your books so strong?
A: I’m glad you felt that they were strong! That’s a good question. I think there are a few different answers. My background is in theatre. Actors learn how to draw on their past experiences to create authentic emotion—even if they haven’t been in that exact situation. I try to do this with my characters. Also, some things might be based on a similar situation in my real life. For example, the scene with Lexa and Dr. Timberi at the end was written after a confrontation with one of my students. The situation wasn’t exactly the same, but the emotions were fairly similar.
*When did Lexa become such a drama queen? She wasn’t a drama queen in The Kindling.
A: That’s a good question. I think that Lexa has always had those tendencies. For example, there was a fight she and Melanie had in the beginning of The Kindling when they were trying to decide what to do about the teachers following them—I think that shows some of Lexa’s tendencies.
Lexa is extremely dramatic. She lives her life in very vivid emotional terms. In The Kindling, she was always extremely excited. She talks in long sentences without pausing much. And she had just finished playing the lead in the school play. In The Kindling, everything was new and exciting—most of the time, things went her way.
This book is different because things start not going her way. From the very beginning, she starts feeling left out, and then things start going downhill from there. So, she reacts in very heightened emotional terms. She’s very sorry for that now!
*How long is the series going to be?
A: I’m working on the third book now and I think that will wrap it up. Although, I have toyed with the idea of doing a prequel that talks about how the teachers all get to know each other years before The Kindling starts.
*How do you come up with your characters? Their strengths? Their weaknesses? Their uniqueness?
A: That’s another great question. In the very beginning, I had a few students in mind when I was writing these characters. However, after just a few pages, the characters became very real to me—they were no longer based on someone else. They took on their own life and those qualities just sort of emerged.
*What inspired you to write The Kindling and Penumbras?
Well, many years ago I was at home and there was a massive thunderstorm going on. My family was at a church activity and when they got home, my kids told me about a guy they had seen. He was wearing a black cape and walking across people’s lawns in the storm. I started wondering what on earth someone would be doing out in the storm—and in a cape! That got my imagination firing and I stayed up the rest of the night writing the battle scenes in the choir room and cafeteria for The Kindling. Once that was written, I knew I wanted to write a sequel.
*How do you feel about your characters? Some people say their characters are their children or best friends.
I love them!!!! I don’t know that they are my best friends, but I really enjoy them. I enjoy writing them. And I’ll miss them a lot when the series finally ends.
*How do you choose when to plant the tragic events?
Some writers are very methodical and they outline their books very carefully. I’m not quite that left-brained. I sort of go with what I feel, with what my gut says. Once it’s written, then I do an outline and try to tighten things up. But the tragic events felt like they needed to go where they were. Especially the big one at the end.
*Can you give me any hints for the next book?
Well, let’s see. Lexa realized she acted badly and she’s struggling to not be a drama queen. I’m actually really proud of the maturity shows. Conner and Melanie, on the other hand, are struggling with trying not to blame Lexa for what happened—even though they know it’s not her fault, they still feel some anger. So the three of them have to work through those feelings-their main goal, of course, is to try to find their missing friend. Conner and Pilaf are trying to figure out what’s going on with their gifts, and there is a big trial for their enemy—so we get to hear more about his past.
I’m trying to tie up all the loose ends—so readers will learn why Madi can see Light and Dark, why Melanie’s dad and Dr. Timberi don’t like each other, and why the three friends Kindled at the same time.
I’m kind of excited about it, actually! Especially the ending. It’s basically happy—but a little bittersweet. I hope it will be a really good surprise—I don’t want to say too much about it, but I laughed and cried while writing it because it just felt so right to me.
I recommend The Kindling and Penumbras to readers who like action and adventure - especially if you think Middle School is sometimes weird and sometimes funny. You can find out more about Mr. Bell's books, the blog tour that kicks off tomorrow AND a Penumbras book giveaway on his website.
Thank you for asking me to review your book, Mr. Bell!