Today I am pleased to welcome author Stephanie Kuehn to the blog to tell us a little more about the main character in her new book, When I Am Through With You!
But first, let me tell you a little more about this intriguing new book and its author...
When I Am Through with You
Publisher: Dutton Books for Young Readers
Release Date: August 1, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
“This isn’t meant to be a confession. Not in any spiritual sense of the word. Yes, I’m in jail at the moment. I imagine I’ll be here for a long time, considering. But I’m not writing this down for absolution and I’m not seeking forgiveness, not even from myself. Because I’m not sorry for what I did to Rose. I’m just not. Not for any of it.”
Ben Gibson is many things, but he’s not sorry and he’s not a liar. He will tell you exactly about what happened on what started as a simple school camping trip in the mountains. About who lived and who died. About who killed and who had the best of intentions. But he’s going to tell you in his own time. Because after what happened on that mountain, time is the one thing he has plenty of.
I grew up in Berkeley, California, which is a quirky sort of a place with many wonderful bookstores. When I was fifteen, my very first job was working in one of those bookstores. It’s where I would go after school, and I’d read everything that I could. Back then, some of the books that had the greatest impact on my life were young adult novels, and now, as an adult, I’ve found my own passion in writing for teens.
Other passions of mine include mental health advocacy, social justice, and sports of all kinds. When I’m not writing or reading (or studying for graduate school), I’m usually outside running or playing with my family. I currently live in Northern California with my husband, three kids, and our menagerie of pets. Life is loud, joyous, and filled with animal hair.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, my last name is pronounced keen. I know! I don’t get it either.
Now, please welcome Stephanie Kuehn as she shares with us the inspiration for Ben Gibson...
When I’m contemplating starting a book, I usually have some glimmer of a paradox or conflict that I want to delve into. With When I am Through With You, I was curious about the idea of starting with a character who’s done something unforgivable and seeing if I could get to the end of that story having found empathy for that character and the choices he makes. There are not meant to be big twists in perception or reality in this narrative: Ben does exactly what he says he does at the start of the book. But along the way we come to understand his actions, their context, and what it all means to him.
I derived Ben’s personality and motivations primarily from attachment theory: that is, the idea that all human children are innately driven to maintain a bond with their primary caregiver in order to survive. This is a theory that predicts that if a caregiver is impaired in some way, or abusive, children in their care may unconsciously alter their beliefs about themselves in order to keep that attachment. So if a parent tells a child that they are worthless—or shows this in their actions—the child’s response might be to believe in their worthlessness because doing so allows them to keep their parental attachment. As the child grows older, these beliefs and patterns of being may get played out in other relationships in ways that are unhealthy.
The text indicates that Ben’s mother was abused by her father as a child, and later, by other men in her life. Subsequently, her attachment with her own son is damaged. She hates Ben and she needs him and she hates him for being necessary. This push-pull dynamic leaves him with the sense that he alone is responsible for his mother’s happiness, and it’s what he comes to believe love is: Love is something you give to another, no matter how much pain it causes you. Love is something you’ll do anything for because otherwise it might leave you. And for Ben, there’s no greater fear than abandonment. His only value lies in how much the women in his life approve of him. Abandonment, therefore, is the equivalent of worthlessness.
So this construct: the toxic notion that love is measured by ignoring one’s own needs, by giving oneself completely to another, no matter how much they hurt you, was the foundation for this character and for the story. I wanted readers to understand Ben—how he came to be who he is and how that plays out in his life—before forcing him into a situation where in order to make the one he loves happy, he doesn’t just have to lose her—he has to be the one to make her go.
Thank you so much, Stephanie! Readers, make sure you check out her book, When I Am Through With You and remember...
3 copies of WHEN I AM THROUGH WITH YOU by Stephanie Kuehn will go to 3 winners
1 winner will receive a copy of WHEN I AM THROUGH WITH YOU & THE SMALLER EVIL by Stephanie Kuehn
4 winners total