Without question, it’s bridging the gap between writer and reader. I’ve spent years and years conceiving, researching, and world-building while writing, and for most of that time, I’ve been working on my own, which is essential for writing, but can also be isolating and full of doubt. Will readers get the town of Solasenda’s ban on dreaming? Will they care about Kiva’s exploring her dreams to fill in some of the gaps in her memory and why they exist? Does the world of the DreamKeepers make sense? The really bright spots in that long effort have been whenever I’ve been able to get feedback on characters, drafts, and chapters from readers. That always lets me know if I’m on the right track. It was early readers’ reactions that helped me see how to make DeeDee a much stronger character, how to bring Hilde closer to the girls, and why it was really important to not reveal more about the father’s disappearance right at the beginning. I value my readers’ insights and reactions very highly, so I welcome them to share those or ask me non-spoiler questions on Twitter at @phtbennet or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can you give us a short synopsis of Raising Sleeping Stones?
Ha! That’s actually the hardest thing for a writer who’s spent years building a world to do, but I’ll try. Kiva and DeeDee Stone live in the town of Solasenda, where all that matters is the work you do, how well you do it, and which trade Guild you do it for. It’s a very practical, concrete, and stable world where you always know where you fit in. Except Kiva doesn’t really fit in, and when she fails for the 3rd time to enter a Guild and finds out that there’s a plot to get rid of her, the only people who can help her are the last surviving members of the Dreamkeepers. What they teach her about the world of dreaming, which is a forbidden subject in her town, explodes everything she thought was real and true, and in dreams, she starts to find an identity and a purpose she couldn’t in her hometown. OK, that was pretty short for me, but the best synopsis I’ve heard so far has come from Erika Grediaga, who runs a great books blog called Mami Tales: “Raising Sleeping Stones is a disturbing tale on the consequences of not dreaming.” That actually gets a lot in.
What inspired you to write this book?
It was the recurring nightmares that both my daughters were having. They were losing a lot of sleep, so I was, too. After this had happened a few times, I showed them how they could change their nightmares, make them less scary, and they got results so quickly that they begged me to teach them more. Soon, they were flying, breathing underwater, even lucidly changing their dreams while they were happening. My oldest, Paola, told me I really had to write some of these lessons down so that other kids could do what they were doing. She was obsessed with the Harry Potter books- we all were –and I thought, “What if there were an adventure series that was not only fun to read, but that would actually help kids do their own type of magic in their dreams?” And that’s how the writing began.
How many hours per day do you spend writing?
I’m working on different books of the series throughout the day in different ways. Sometimes I’m reviewing what the ancestors share with Hilde in Raising Sleeping Stones so that I can take those memories to the next level in book 2, other times I’m using research on Tibetan lucid dreaming techniques to write about how WindWalkers use dreams to fly when they’re awake, other times I’m trying to find the best way to describe each tribe’s dream-powered weapons in the battle scene in Book 2, or checking my timelines to make sure that I set up really important plot strand about Kiva’s relationship with her father from Book 1 into Book 3. Because my composers Joao Luis and Leo Langinger created an incredible original story score for every key scene in the App version of Raising Sleeping Stones, I often play tunes from that book to help me create the right mood for a specific scene in the sequel. The deepest hours in terms of concentration are when I’m writing the passages where a lot happens to the girls very fast. That’s when I’m in the same kind of flow state where anything can happen that I’m in while I’m dreaming.
Name your top five favorite books?
OK, since that’s pretty much impossible- I read over a hundred books a year –I’ll narrow it down to the five books that have inspired me most for my own writing about imagination and alternate realities. I’ve got to say that number one is, without question, Harold and the Purple Crayon because it blew my mind. As soon as Harold had a problem, he drew his way out of it, but that created a new problem he had to draw a solution to. Genius! Then there is Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. I was totally captivated by Meg and Charles Wallace’s adventures through tesseracts to find and free their father. It’s really hard to choose a favorite Neil Gaiman book because there are so many great ones, but for my writing, it’s Anansi Boys. The way he created and developed the mystery of why the brothers have been apart for years and now come together is simply brilliant. Patricia Garfield’s Creative Dreaming has been the most influential book on my own dreaming and on what I wanted my books to help readers explore. Everyone curious about what you can do in dreams should read it. Most recently, it’s been Scott Westerfield’s Leviathan series, which is really the best and most amazing steampunk vision I’ve read. Deryn Sharpe’s struggle to survive and thrive as a boy in a world that would never accept her as a girl is brilliant. Apologies to all the amazing books I’ve left out.
What are you working on now?
Two big projects. First, there’s book 2, which has been completed and I’m now editing, and book 3, which I’m in the middle of planning. I’m really excited to publish the second book within the next six months or so because that’s when so many seeds planted in Raising Sleeping Stones flower and when the readers will get to see a world in which dreaming is the single most important thing a person can do. I’m pretty confident that readers will love the battle scene.
Then there’s this summer’s dreaming challenge. I’ve got an incredible group of dream authors and experts to join me to share our favorite tips, tricks, and insights on dreams, nightmares, and lucid dreams with readers who want to explore their dreams more deeply. Since it would take too long to list the authors, their books, and why they are so awesome, I encourage readers to check them all out and sign up for our weekly book giveaways at: http://bit.ly/dreamingchallenge
Title: Raising Sleeping Stones
Author: P.H.T. Bennett
Genre: MG Fantasy
Like every kid in Solasenda, 11-year-old Kiva Stone has been far too busy training for one of the five town guilds to think about something as useless as dreaming. But when she and her sister DeeDee uncover a mysterious plot to get rid of them, their only hope lies with a shadowy group of people who get unimaginable powers from their dreams. As the girls escape with them up the river, they start learning secret dreaming techniques that have been forbidden for centuries. But how can they learn enough to stand against the enemies chasing them? The answer lies in the shattered history of Orora Crona, the lost Valley of Dreams, and whoever can piece it together first will rule for centuries to come.
P.H.T. Bennet began exploring his dreams when he was a child and has never bothered to stop. He had the good luck to have two daughters, Juliette and Paola, who not only served as the inspirations for DeeDee and Kiva, the main characters of Raising Sleeping Stones, but also helped him turn their family dreamwork sessions into this book. His lucky streak grew when he married his lovely wife, Mim,who tolerates his turning on a light in the middle of the night to write down ever-crazier dreams and talking about them in the morning as long as he lets her sleep in, first. His favorite dreams involve flying, visiting the dead, and replaying nightmares until they reveal their secrets.
Pratt’s latest projects are editing Book Two of the Orora Crona Chronicles and planning a virtual summer dreaming camp with other dream authors.
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