An Interview With WEbook's March (5 Word) Challenge Winner!


Now that we're well into May, it seems as though the March (5 word) Challenge finished an age ago... yet the passing of time has little impact on the power of the written word.

This is definitely true of the topic tackled by our March (5 Word) Challenge winner's entry, Mid-Century Teenage Drama, by pdsuitt. Within her story, Pam has woven the pervasive issue of bullying, into a story which resonates with anyone who has ever been to High School (pretty much all of us then!).

Whether you were the character, you saw the character, or you had a hand in creating this character, almost everyone will be able to identify with the events described by Pam in Mid-Century Teenage Drama

Recently we interviewed Pam about her story, the ideas behind it, and how she managed to slip those five tricky words into the piece so seamlessly... 
WEbook: Hi Pam, congratulations on winning the March (5 Word) Challenge!

Mid-Century Teenage Drama, is a very emotionally driven piece of writing - how did you find your inspiration for this story when considering the five words you had to use within it?

Pam Suitt: The main thing was my age. I was born exactly mid-century, 1950. That sounds ancient, even to me! As a child I heard the words from the Challenge in common conversations between the older people I knew. Daddy used balderdash on occasion and grandma called me a rapscallion more than once.

My mother was a bit obsessed about the sinking of the Titanic. She read several books on the White Star Line and the ill-fated ship. She spoke of the elite on board as opposed to the third class passengers and how she supposed things played out on that fateful night. Her version was quite different than the movie versions.

Falsies was a word I heard at school, mostly said with giggles and smirks. Girls really didn’t have anything but tissue and such to enhance their chest area if they were not naturally endowed. It wasn’t a common occurrence, but on occasion you would see the odd overly-pointy or misshapen sweater pass you in the hall at school.

 In deep-south of the USA where I was raised and still reside, biscuits are a staple breakfast food. I have grabbed one heading out the door on the way to school, and in later years when heading to work.

Although most of the words are not commonly used today, they were right up my alley when using them in a story. I didn’t have to think where to insert them, since I set the story in 1957.

WB: High School, teenage-based stories are a popular topic for people to write about - what do you think draws people towards this topic in particular?

PS: Young adult books have become a huge selling genre in the past five to ten years. There are many books as well as movies and television series now with teenage centered characters. The adults in the genre are the secondary characters, something you didn’t used to see.

Even in the 1980’s, John Hughes opened up a vast untouched genre with movies such as Sixteen Candles, Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club, just to name a few. I watched them and loved them… fun stuff.

Teenagers since my hippy days have become increasingly more open and things that were taboo several years ago are now commonly seen and discussed openly. It follows this would become a huge genre and a gold mine.  After all, the teenage years are full of drama, growing mentally as well as physically and emotions we tend to let go of as we become more mature, hopefully.   

When older people read a book or see a movie about a group of teens, they can usually find a character that closely resembles them when they were young, so these books can be entertaining to adults as well.  

To be honest, I watch Austin and Ally on occasion and used to watch ICarly before it was canceled. Nick Teen and Disney have made this genre burst at the seams.  You throw in the “Twilight” series of books by Meyers and the rest is history. Even Harry Potter became a teen with girls, as well as Voldemort on his mind as the series progressed.

WB: Your character construction in Mid-Century Teenage Drama is very convincing, can you give us an insight into how you go about designing your characterisation?

PS: Everything I have written thus far, although fiction is based on my family, my friends and me. I have a mystery series called, Spinning the Yarn. They are middle grade mysteries set in the late 1950’s. The first is Mystery in the Mississippi Delta. The second in the series is, Mystery in the Little Woods. I am writing the third now. Everything in the books is biographical in every aspect of my life during that time. I threw in ghosts, time travel through the fork of a tree in a graveyard and I had a mystery novel. My eccentric, crazy grandma is even a main character!

I used my hometown in the Mississippi Delta of the USA as the setting. I do want to branch out but so far I am stuck in the 1950’s and in my hometown and surrounding area.

When I decided to write a “grown-up” book, I set it in the late 1950’s and in the Mississippi Delta as well. It is titled, When Women Wore Dresses. I started with the name of the book and went from there. The characters in “Dresses” are based on my older sister, who is seven years my elder, and her friends.

That may be taking the phrase, “write what you know” to an extreme, but it works for the time being.  I do plan to branch out in the future to something a little more contemporary.

Mid-century Teenage Drama was based on an incident that happened in my high school years to a friend of mine. She had a hard time coming back to school.  I could see her face while I wrote the story.

WB: Your story centres on bullying and the impact that is has on the victim, why do you think that this is an important topic to address?

PS: Bullying in any form is violence, or the beginning of violence. It may not always be physical, but mental bullying is just as bad, and in some cases, worse. Bullying in school, if unchecked, leads to violence later in life. The bullies of today, if allowed to continue to harass people, could very well be our prison inmates of the future, or at the very least, really bad football coaches.

One thing that makes the bullying today worse than in my teenage years is social media. If my story had been set in a classroom today, several people would have taken pictures and it would have been on social websites within minutes instead of forgotten when the next big thing happened.

We tend to think of bullying as a teenage high school dilemma, but you find bullying on television, the internet and in news articles, as well as schools.  We complain about the media, but we are the media. One email with a half truth or even a complete lie can become the absolute gospel truth once it makes its rounds. People’s lives can be ruined virally in the blink of an eye and it can be done anonymously.  I consider this bullying as well. Sadly we tend to believe that which fits our personal agenda so we pass it along.

WB: What genre of books is your favourite to read, and what is your favourite genre to write in?

PS: I have always been drawn to mysteries. It doesn’t matter if they are gothic, traditional, complex or cozy. I love a well written “who dunnit” that keeps me up at night turning pages. When I was young my favorite mystery author was Agatha Christie. She was such a prolific writer, yet none of her books have the same twists or plot line.

 I also love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s, Sherlock Holmes. He is the inspiration of many books, television series as well as movies, even today. You have to love a brilliant sociopath that makes solving even the most complicated mystery look easy.

I also love writing mysteries. I start with two things, the title and the ending. After that I start writing and let the story unfold as I think of it, winding it toward the ending I have already in place.

 I have never done an outline for a book or thought about it much. I just start writing and see where it may take me, a journey of sorts. It is such fun to create a lot of clues and side plots, having no idea how I am going to connect or fit them together. When I am tired of the book, (we do get annoyed after reading it 30 times) I will have an idea and then I work it into the ending. Sort of like a jigsaw puzzle.

WB: Finally - what are your five favourite words?

PS: Wow, hard one. I like words that have an old flavor, words even before my time. If I have to choose…ruminating, palooka, shenanigans, melancholy, skedaddle. Five fun words that easily roll right off the tongue, an important quality for a word if you live in the deep south of the United States as I do.

WB: Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Pam - congratulations again on winning WEbook's March (5 Word) Challenge! 


The winner of our April Fool's Challenge was announced on Friday - so a huge congratulations to KyleRKopp with his entry Work From Home, They Said

Don't forget that the May Challenge is now running - and this month we're challenging you to write a sorry based on an image. Head on over to the Challenge page now to enter!

The WEbook Team

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