Today we're talking with Bethany Crandell, author of Summer on the Short Bus
FQ: Hearing the background stories of Cricketís co-counselors was one of my most enjoyable parts of the book. Where did the inspiration for these characters come from?
CRANDELL: Fantine was actually inspired by a girl I went to high school with. She was an athletic goddess, ridiculously smart, sweet without being syrupy and oh-so pretty. To sum it up, she was a bad ass. From the moment Fantine first showed up on my computer screen, I knew she would be modeled after that girl. As for the other counselors, I didnít really set out with a plan of how their personal stories would unfold I just wanted to make sure they had one to tell.
FQ: The real life quality of this book was something I personally loved but were you worried about offending anyone while writing this story?
CRANDELL: No, not really. I knew that to convey the story I wanted to tell, I had to give my characters plenty of room to be themselvesóand that meant not worrying about how they might be perceived.
FQ: How will you react if some readers respond more negatively to this book?
CRANDELL: It would be awesome if every person who picked up this book fell in love with it, but Iím a realist and well aware that the odds of that happening are slim to never. So, hereís my philosophy on negative feedback:
You canít please everyone.
Cricket embodies just about every negative character trait a person can have (and most of us do), so I can see how a story told from that point of view might be off-putting to some readers. I for one would take a flawed protagonist over an angelic one any day, but thatís just how I roll. In the end, I have to trust that the right audience will appreciate the story for what it is. Beyond that, itís out of my control.
FQ: The personalities of the campers and co-counselors were not what I expected but Rainbow the camp director seemed to fit the typical 'just wants everyone to have fun' type director. Did you intend her to be that way?
CRANDELL: Absolutely! If thereís one thing Iíve learned about the earth-dwelling angels who look after our special needs kids (teachers, camp directors, therapists, etc.,) itís that they have an endless supply of enthusiasm for their jobs, the kids they work with, and more patience than a Jedi knight. Rainbow needed to be the camp cheerleader because her life is about encouraging those kids to be the best they can be.
FQ: Was your daughter one of the sole inspirations for this book or did you have experiences with special needs kids before your daughter?
CRANDELL: Some aspects of the book were inspired by my daughter. For example, Jamesí affinity to oven mitts was based on my daughterís love of backpacks. But the real inspiration for writing a story with disabled characters had more to do my own journey getting to know my daughter, understanding her differences, and figuring out how I was going to forge into an honest relationship with her while still being true to who I was. Before my daughter, I had very little interaction with the disabled community--sheís been a huge, welcome eye-opener.
FQ: Would you say the reaction that Cricket had when first realizing this was a special needs camp is the reaction that most people would have?
CRANDELL: Probably not to that extent, but yes, I do believe that most people would have been surprised, and maybe even a bit nervous, to realize that theyíd be working with disabled kids.
FQ: The protectiveness that Quinn showed over his brother and the other co-counselors expressed for some of the campers was such an intimate part of their characters, is that protectiveness something you have experienced as well?
CRANDELL: You bet! Like any mom, Iím protective of both of my girls. But when I catch someone staring a little too long at the younger one (she has cerebral palsy), or scowling at her, the mama bear switch flips and I get a little feisty. I understand that people are curious about her--she does make some weird noises and expressions, especially when sheís excited--but thereís a line between curiosity and just being rude. The location of that line tends to shift depending on my mood. Heh.
FQ: There were many changes in Cricketís view of the world in this story opening up so many possibilities in where her life can go, so could there possibly be a sequel to this book?
CRANDELL: Iíve toyed with the idea of a sequel, but it never includes a starring role from Cricket. I think embarking on a new summer adventure from one of the campersí POVs, (or a few of them) could be a fun/interesting twist.