Audrey Ann Bennett, what’s your damage?

By E.R. McTaggart

To celebrate the publication of our new book, Heathers, we profile a number of the writers involved in the project. Today we’re talking with Audrey Ann Bennett,  author of “Peach Ice Cream“.

There ain’t nothing in this world like homemade peach ice cream. Just nothing.

~ Opening sentences of “Peach Ice Cream” by Audrey Ann Bennett

Your story, ten words or less.

Student, reader, writer, speaker, teacher, mother, wife, manager, volunteer, learner.

Lovely. But by “your story,” I meant the one about peach ice cream. Summarize it in ten words for me.
Silly me.

Young girl clings to innocence, intelligence while facing incest, indifference.

We tend to think young people are interested in all the wrong things. But sometimes a kid just wants to eat some ice cream.

Still some refusal to stay succinct, I see. Very good. Tell me more about you: what’s your day job, and how does it bleed into your stories?
I’m a substitute teacher. Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by what I see and hear in the halls and classrooms. I remember talking too much and too loud about myself and my feelings. I remember feeling left out, or worse, leaving others out. I try to teach students to behave with maturity while secretly savoring their immaturity and feeding it to my characters. Whenever I struggle with getting a scene right or conveying the right emotions, a couple of days monitoring kids in the lunchroom usually cures it.

You seem huggable. Now, on writing: having read a few of your other pieces, I’d characterize your work as faith-based fiction. How do you incorporate faith into secular pieces, while aiming for broad appeal? (Feel free to discuss anything you’re working in specifically here)
While teaching Romeo & Juliet to a group of largely Catholic freshmen, I asked them why it was so important to Juliet that she marry Romeo instead of Paris.  People have affairs. Why wouldn’t Juliet do that? They were stumped. I found myself explaining basic Roman Catholic teachings. In my writing, I want to show characters confronting issues like sex and abortion and AIDS, just as any other writer does, but with God along for the ride. I think some non-Christians – and probably even many Christians! – think that Christian teachings on sex outside of marriage are just more rules God expects Christians to follow, yet my interpretation is that the wise old souls who contributed to the Bible saw that children born to married parents tended to get fed more often. I think the Bible wants us to take care of one another. Not long ago, my pastor remarked in a sermon that the Christian community made a terrible mistake by not rushing in to care for AIDS patients.  I wanted to share that kind of thinking openly.

That’s a good point. But also, I though Paris was her cousin? I suppose that was very in vogue then. Those horny teenagers. Okay, another; what was your favourite book this year, indie or otherwise?
Most of the indie fiction I’ve read this year has been self-published Christian fiction of varying quality. The most entertaining was the book by a high school friend that featured familiar people and places in hilarious situations. But the best book I’ve read this year has to be And The Mountains Echoed by Khalid Hosseini.

I liked A Thousand Splendid Suns very much, so I should add this book about Mountains to my list. Does your friend’s book have a name?
The name is the worst part. It’s called Platforms. Don’t know what he was thinking. The cover is also unfortunate. But the story is really quite good.

Back on the theme of young adulthood, let’s play a game. In a crowded high school circa 1985, identify yourself.
In any era, I’m the bright, shiny girl in love with the morose, moody boy. This is why I have so many dead ex-boyfriends.

That’s a story in itself. I’m not even a foetus yet, and I don’t think I’d be in a high school hall, but if I was, I’d like neon green leg warmers, and the idea that I’d never have to brush my hair. Now that I’ve segued nicely back to me, how have you enjoyed the Pankhearst process? I’ve heard that Miss Middlemass is a real workhorse, cantankerous to boot.
One of my managers used to call me Pollyanna, and not in a nice way. I thought you and Lucy did a great job. In college, I liked presenting my stories to the class. Getting feedback struck me as the best way to pare a story down to its most essential elements. You and Lucy often told me what you were reading. Whenever that differed from what I’d intended, I knew exactly what to change.

Pollyanna was a great character in American cultural history. Much like Veronica. So, last question is hers (but aurally, it’s Heather’s): You win five million dollars. Tomorrow, aliens are gonna blow up the earth. What do you do?
I guess the obvious answer is that I’d arrange for a ride on a rocket and blow this joint. There could be something out there. But assuming no one else knows about the aliens, I guess I’d throw a dinner party.  ‘Cause if everyone else knows the end is coming, the money’s worthless.


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