What if friendship cost you everything?
Stranded in Hawaii after the death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Olive Galloway is desperate to escape. She has to get back to Boston before her dad loses all common sense and sells the family house. But plane tickets cost money—something Olive gravely lacks.
With the help of Brander, the fussy youth group worship leader, and Jazz, a mysterious girl with a passion for all things Hawaiian, Olive lands a summer job at the Shave Ice Shack and launches a scheme to buy a plane ticket home before the end of the summer.
But when Jazz reveals a painful secret, Olive’s plans are challenged. Jazz needs money. A lot of it. Olive and Brander are determined to help their friend but, when their fundraising efforts are thwarted, Olive is caught in the middle. To help Jazz means giving up her ticket home. And time is running out.
Taylor, tell us about your debut book.
A contemporary YA novel about faith and friendship, Porch Swing Girl captures the mystery and beauty of the island of Maui and delivers a poignant and powerful message about faith, friendship, and sacrifice.
Where do you get the idea?
My debut novel, Porch Swing Girl, was inspired by two things—my love of Hawaii and a mysteriously vague title that popped into my head one dreary February morning. Those three words—Porch Swing Girl—wouldn’t leave me alone, and I couldn’t help but start brainstorming a story to go along with them.
I’ve been absolutely in love with Hawaii ever since I visited for the first time. Homesick for blazing sunsets and crashing waves, I decided that there was only one thing to do—write about the magical islands. Later, I ended up taking a few “research trips.”
Did anything strange or funny happen while writing it?
Well…it depends on what you consider strange or funny. Is it funny that I entered it in a writing contest? When it was only half finished?
Then maybe you’d find it funny that I queried several publishers (when the book was still unfinished) and actually got interest. In fact, I met my dream publisher (who now IS my publisher) after submitting the first few chapters of a half-completed manuscript. When they expressed interest, I scrambled around a bit, trying to finish it before the publisher lost interest.
Thankfully, I managed to get it done—and the publisher was still interested! I ended up with a three-book contract, actually…and all through a query for an unfinished novel!
Did you always want to be a writer?
Though I never really thought it was possible or even realistic, I always dreamed of being an author, even before I could read or write myself. I was born with a love of books, and, as a toddler, I would sit at my mom’s old electric typewriter and peck out pages of gibberish. As soon as I knew my alphabet, I would scribble out strange little stories, staple them together, and call them a book.
As I grew and matured, I began to get more serious about my craft. I studied the market, started reading a few writing blogs, and discovered that my dream COULD become a reality after all.
Where do you write: a coffee shop, attic nook, or a cave? Describe it, please.
I write at an old Singer sewing machine table-turned-desk in my bedroom. It sits right in front of a huge window and a dollhouse-shaped bookshelf hangs on the wall to my right. There, I keep some of my favorite books about writing.
On my desk, I keep several old-fashioned, writerly articles—an old dip pen and an ornate Victorian letter opener—as well as a pot full of succulents and a few encouraging quotes. It’s a fantastic place to write!
Of all your characters, which was your favorite and why?
My favorite character is my protagonist, Olive Galloway. She’s got a unique way of viewing the world and a slightly cynical personality. People that know me who have read Porch Swing Girl are surprised at Olive’s snarkiness, because I’m…not snarky. But for whatever reason, Olive and I get along well, and I dread the day that I stop writing books in her “voice.”
Share a few of the techniques you learned that changed the way you write.
Two techniques have really stood out to me.
First—write! I used to spend ages plotting out stories, making complex character profiles and writing pages of backstory during freewriting exercises. But I got so burnt out that I never actually finished a book! When I wrote Porch Swing Girl, I used more of a pantsing approach, and it really worked well for me. I might have pantsed a little too much when it came to the plot, but I highly doubt I’ll ever fill out one of those 50-question character discovery charts again!
Also, I learned to be consistent. Because I had a publisher interested when I was writing the second half of my book, I knew I had to write quickly and efficiently. Up until that point, I had been writing for fun, so learning to treat writing as a job was a bit of a challenge. Now, I’ve learned that it is immensely helpful to set word count goals and schedule time specifically for writing.
Since typing “the end,” what has surprised you about the publishing process?
How much editing there is!!
Then again…my book was about as rough as one could imagine. It was my first true attempt at a novel, and I’d built the entire story around my main character—NOT a strong plot. I went through copious rounds of developmental edits before my plot was solid enough to keep a reader engaged.
Then there were content edits…
Emergency-attitude-adjustment edits… (I guess Olive had gotten a bit TOO snarky!)
It was all worth it in the end, though. I couldn’t be happier with my book now!
Now for the fun: Tell us 3 things your readers might not know about you.
I play violin, viola, cello, string bass, and piano AND I’m an assistant conductor with my local youth orchestra. Playing and listening to music inspires me so much! I especially love conducting and teaching private lessons…watching students grasp new techniques is so rewarding.
I’m not “writerly.” I don’t have coffee running through my veins, chocolate is NOT my kryptonite. I’m not obsessed with Dr. Who, Harry Potter, Sherlock Holmes, the Hobbit, or any other “fandom.” In fact, I’m not even sure what a fandom IS. All I know is I’m fueled by English muffins and decaf tea (when water is unavailable) and I can’t make it through 99.9% of the world’s most beloved fantasy books.
My mom is my best friend. Never mind the age gap—she and I shop together, cook together, laugh together, talk together…I’m an old soul! Even when I was younger, I was more comfortable around adults than “kids” and I’m still the same today.
If you were a musical instrument, what would you be and why?
I would be a violin—delicate, old-fashioned, and versatile—I dream of writing in several different genres, just as violins can be used in both classical and contemporary music. I have an old soul and I wear my heart on my sleeve, just as the violin can be used to convey every emotion under the sun.
Homeschooled since kindergarten, Taylor Bennett is the seventeen-year-old author of Porch Swing Girl, which will be released by Mountain Brook Ink on May 1st. When she’s not reading or writing, Taylor can be found playing her violin or taking walks in the beautiful Oregon countryside. She loves to connect with readers via her author website, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (her favorite!), Pinterest, and Goodreads.
Porch Swing Girl releases May 1st! You can pre-order it HERE. It's a fun, fresh, lovely story that you won't want to miss! You can find my 4.5-star review here.
And it's Abi again! Was that not a gorgeous interview?! I already like her ;) Do you want to be swept away to Hawaii? Pre-order Taylor's book!