Friday, 4 May 2012

Sneak Peeks & Author Interview: Rebecca Coleman - The Kingdom of Childhood

Happy publication day to Rebecca Coleman with her debut novel The Kingdom of Childhood.  The book tells the story of Judy, a kindergarten teacher, whose marriage is falling apart and Zach, a sixteen year old student, who turn to each other for comfort when their lives are falling apart.  

It's been likened to Notes on a Scandal, and had rave reviews when it was released in the U.S last year, so I'm looking forward to reading it when I manage to find a few spare hours next week.

'It's the job of adults to teach teenagers to be responsible.  That's what grown-up do.'

You've fallen for your son's best friend.  You are a teacher.

You are abusing your power, your responsibility ... your student.

You know it's wrong.  But you cannot stop.

I suppose in the beginning it was a love story.

The Kingdom of Childhood is your first book, how long did it take you to get it published?
Finding an agent took over a year. By the time Stephany Evans offered me representation, I'd collected 93 rejections. And I'd been writing for a long time, so it wasn't the first time I'd done that dance. But I adore Stephany, and so I'm glad it worked out the way it did. Once she accepted it and I did some revision, it didn't take long for MIRA to make an offer for it, which was very exciting.

How did you come up with the plot idea for the book?
I was folding laundry in front of the television-- I have four children, so it's a lot of laundry-- and I caught a news broadcast about a teacher who'd had an affair with a young male student. He was very young, like 13 or 14. I felt disgusted, as I think nearly all of us do, and I thought, "Why on earth would a woman do that?" I suppose because I'd been writing for so long, it struck me right away that the answer to that question must be a very interesting story. With these teachers, you wonder what's in their family backgrounds, their marriages, their psychology, that would make the idea of being sexually involved with a teenage boy seem like a reasonable choice to them. Maybe if we had a better understanding of it, it wouldn't happen so much.

Did you do much research before you wrote your book, or research during the writing process?  If so, what resources did you use?  i.e. online, library, videos etc.  
Oh yes, I researched like mad. I read and listened to the stories of female sex offenders, sought out the perspectives of their victims, and even corresponded with a woman who was convicted of this crime, to get her insights. For the Waldorf School environment-- which is unique and often esoteric-- I double-checked every last detail. I wanted to be emotionally true to the impact of the situation, because despite that people tend to believe the boys are somehow very lucky, in the end what you have is an adult asking a minor to hide a crime. So it was really important to accurately show the manipulation that goes on, and listening to former teachers talk about how they had done that was very illuminating. I used a great deal of that in the book.

If you could have the book made into a film, who would you cast in the leading roles and why? 
You know, I hear so many writers say they based their characters off this or that actor, but for me that is the most difficult question. I think Amy Adams could be great as Judy, the teacher-- she has the frailty but can also be fierce. Zach is only 16, and he's part-Chinese, so that's even more challenging. I think they should cast some kid nobody's ever heard of in that role. Someone caught in the awkward stage, but has the potential to be more appealing in five years.

Can you describe The Kingdom of Childhood in 20 words or less? 
I think Publishers Weekly said it best-- "a scalding tale of two people at very different stages of life, caught in a trap of their own making." 

I have a copy of this book in my reading pile so will be reviewing it shortly.  In the meantime you can find out more about Rebecca on her website where you can also read an extract here.

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