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Today, I have a guest interview from Debut Author Bethlene Williams. Bethlene is the author of the upcoming book, The Togi Tree. She loves reading books of all kinds, especially children's novels that take her to another place. Growing up in a large family, they always made up worlds to play in, ideas coming from stories she’d read.

She started writing when she stayed home to be a fulltime mom in Las Vegas and had lots of spare time. She wanted to try something new and make up stories her son might like to read. The first book took just over a year to write.

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Her husband and son dragged her to Salt Lake City. She kicked and screamed the whole way … preferring the desert heat over the snow and cold. She settled in, playing hard in the summer and hiding in the winter. She continued to write and found online friends to help her improve. During a trip to Phoenix over the holidays one year, her family stopped at the Grand Canyon South Rim, where inspiration struck for her second story- The Togi Tree. She wrote the first version in a month and improved it over the next year to be the fun adventure it is now.

She lives in Salt Lake City with her fun, supportive husband, always-inquisitive son and fluffy dog Zeus, who thinks she can’t write unless he’s on top of her desk, watching.

Please welcome Bethlene Williams...

Hi Bethlene. Tell your readers something interesting about yourself AND/OR your favorite character.

My first story took me well over a year to finish. My second story, The Togi Tree, only took me a month to write. Of course it had to go through several revisions before it was perfect.

The Togi Tree is a magical tree that lives in the middle of the Cold River. It can grow large and shrink small, travel to various locations and make itself invisible. But when it is found, its orange fruit can sustain a person for many days. 

In the wake of the most serious drought in recent history, fourteen-year-old Trenton and his brother, Scout, are sent by their village leader to find the wise Togi, who inhabits the Togi Tree and may hold the key to the survival of their village. They discover the life of the mystical Togi Tree is threatened and are sent on a mission to find out why the Cold River has dried up and how the Togi Tree can be saved. With only weeks to spare, Trenton and Scout navigate flash floods, survive unbearable thirst, and avoid wild animals to search for the answers. 

Will Trenton and Scout be able to restore the Cold River to its former abundance, or will the lives of the Togi Tree and the villagers be lost forever? 

What was your favorite book as a teen? Tell us about it and how it affected you as a person.

I loved “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe” and “James and The Giant Peach”. I read them over and over. In my later teen years I fell in love with “Anne of Green Gables.” I always loved to read about different places, made up or real, and imagine myself there.

Tell us about the genre you have chosen to write for. Why do write specifically for them?

I write middle grade novels and young adult novels. I love how you can have so much fun in kids stories, more so than adult books that seem to be more serious. When writing, I try to come up with crazy things for my characters to do, unique obstacles for them to deal with and fun ways to solve their problems. I write stories that I would’ve loved to be in when I was a kid.

Tell us about your new book. How did it come about and share your favorite excerpt/scene.

My new book is my debut novel “The Togi Tree”. The idea came to me after visiting the Grand Canyon one winter. I tried to picture the river at the bottom, because you obviously can’t see it from the top rim. I had a dream a week or two later where I was trying to find the river, but couldn’t see it anywhere. Some people came along and told me the river had dried up and they had to find out why so they could save their magical tree. I woke up thinking it was a great story idea.

Excerpt:

         Something growled in the unnerving silence. In front of him, a cougar stalked out of the dark smoke, its orange fur glowing.

         Trenton stared at the large beast with awe and terror. Run, he told himself. But his legs wouldn’t work. He stood frozen in fear.

         “You’re finally here,” the cougar growled. It circled Trenton once, large eyes studying every inch of him. “Where is the water to put out the fire? It was your only responsibility—get water to the tree. And you failed!” The cougar bared its large teeth as it slunk around him again. “We can’t depend on you for anything! I knew you would be too lazy to save the tree.”

         “I ...I didn’t know I was supposed to get ...water. Why doesn’t someone else help out?” He trembled as the cougar stopped in front of him.

         “There is no one else!” the cougar roared.

         With a thunderous rumble, fire exploded behind Trenton. He spun around. A bright, orange inferno flared into the sky. Bits of fire rained down all around.

         “What’s burning?” he asked, coughing as his lungs filled with smoke.

         “The Tree!” the cougar growled beside him. “We needed water.”

         What tree? He studied the fire, squinting through the smoke. He could barely see the branches of . . .

         NO! The Togi Tree is on fire. He’d seen the tree once in a dream and heard the magical description countless times from Papa. But how can it burn? The Togi Tree lives in the Cold River.

         He glanced down to find that he stood in the dust of a dry riverbed. “The river is gone! There’s no water to put the fire out.”

         “Exactly!”

         A loud crackling noise came from the bottom of the tree.

         “Move!” the cougar commanded as it ran off. “It’s going to fall.”

            The burning tree, tall enough to touch the sky, was falling towards him. His legs wouldn’t move. He threw his arms across his face and screamed . . .

How has writing affected your life? And what’s your favorite part of being a writer?

Writing has been a great hobby for me. I started writing when my son went into first grade and I had more free time on my hands. I wanted to see if I could actually write a story. Now, I’ve finished five books.

My favorite part of being a writer is the satisfaction of finishing a story and seeing it be made into a real book. It’s an amazing feeling.

What advice can you give regarding the writing process?

Keep writing! Even if you get stuck, keep trying. You never know what you might accomplish in the end. Try new stories, explore which writing style you enjoy the most. I was surprised to find I like changing the style I use with each story.

Regarding publication and marketing, what advice can you offer aspiring writers?

Don’t give up. You never know when you’ll get your lucky break. Just a mention about my writing to a friend while golfing paid off six years. So maybe being patient helps, too. 

How can your fans find, follow or friend you?

My website is www.bethlenewilliams.com

On facebook, you can follow my fanpage :

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bethlene-Williams/195801031084

Thanks for joining us today, Bethlene.

C.K. Volnek