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Interview with Taylor Bennett

Taylor Bennett’s debut book, Porch Swing Girl, is the first in the Tradewinds series of Contemporary stories for the Young Adult (YA) market.

Taylor, according to your website, you woke one morning with the title, Porch Swing Girl, “swirling” around your head and decided to write a story set it in Hawaii. Was it difficult trying to describe the beauty of the islands based on your vivid memories?
Not at all! Upon my first visit to Hawaii, I absolutely fell in love with the islands, and took many pictures (and memories) home with me. Those special moments lived with me in my heart, and they prompted me to share them with the world by setting my story in Hawaii. I was also blessed to be able to go on two “research trips” to Hawaii while I was writing and editing Porch Swing Girl. Through these trips, I was able to take even more pictures and explore different parts of the island to help me further the development of my characters and setting.

As a musician, does music play a role in Porch Swing Girl?
It does! One of the characters, Brander, is a worship leader, and his music is mentioned several times throughout the book. When I write, I ALWAYS listen to music, and I even have a special Porch Swing Girl playlist on Spotify. Besides that, a friend and I actually wrote a song based on Porch Swing Girl together.

What music do you listen to when you write?
I love to listen to contemporary Christian music, especially the band We Are Messengers, with a little bit of clean 70’s rock thrown in. I also really enjoy switching between several different instrumental playlists. I have a special, Hawaiian-themed Porch Swing Girl instrumental playlist that is NOT on my Spotify profile (for my ears only!) and several other instrumental writing playlists that fit different moods.

Once you started writing Porch Swing Girl, how long did it take before you considered it ready for publication?
Oh, this is a funny question! I honestly never felt it was “ready” to be published, all I knew was that I loved the story and the characters, and I wondered if anyone else would, too. I’ve always been motivated to reach for my dreams, even if they seem light years away, which is probably why I approached several publishers before I had even completed my first draft!

While this isn’t a faux pas necessarily, it certainly isn’t the most conventional thing to do, especially for an unpublished teen! Surprisingly, though, one of the publishers liked what they saw and encouraged me to finish the manuscript, then resubmit to them. That publisher was Mountain Brook Ink, who, one year later, offered me my first contract.

I read on your website that at the age of thirteen you queried agents and editors with your first manuscript. That’s a lot of confidence for that age. Who was your biggest supporter at that stage?
My biggest supporter was (and still is!) my mom. She instilled in me a love of reading and writing at an early age, and she has homeschooled me for my entire life. Because of this, she was always the one to read and grade my papers, including my writing.

During those early years, she gave me plenty of encouragement, as well as a healthy dose of constructive criticism. She never questioned my dreams and goals, and she was a very wise, supporting mentor during that time.

Now, she’s still my #1 fan, my first pre-reader, and my most faithful proofreader. I’m so thankful to have her by my side as I navigate the ever-changing tides of the publishing industry!

Do you think you’ll ever take that first manuscript out and work on it?
Maybe? I’m honestly not sure! I love the basic idea of the story, a young music prodigy going away to boarding school, but the characters and plot were both extremely weak. If I was to ever attempt a rewrite, I would have to start completely from scratch.

That being said, I love the idea of writing about boarding school, and I would really enjoy making my character a musician, so...maybe someday!

Do you think being homeschooled was an advantage to you as a writer?
Absolutely! Because I’m homeschooled, I’m able to work quickly in subjects that are easy for me (I actually completed my math requirements a few years ago) and spend more time on areas that interest me--writing, of course! I also had the privilege of having a mom who took the time to custom-create a curriculum that would fit my needs. I got to study writing by taking video seminars produced by the Institute for Excellence in Writing, which is an extremely engaging and inspiring program. For my elective classes, I was often able to choose to spend more time on my creative writing during school hours.

Being homeschooled also meant that I was around adults more than the average young person. I grew up with my mom as my best friend, and her friends somehow became my friends. I’m very much an old soul, which has prepared me for working in the writing/publishing industry.

Have you considered writing any other genres for the YA market?
I have! I would absolutely LOVE to write a YA historical novel (or two or three!) … maybe one taking place during the Regency era? I also love the tension and drama of WWII stories, so maybe there’s something to be looked into there...

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
My style of storytelling is unique because, while I love a good plot twist, I don’t stress myself out trying to make my books unpredictable and unconventional. I believe that there are many out there who simply enjoy a good story and aren’t as concerned about unpredictable plots or narrators. For that reason, I love to write stories that focus more on the journey--nuanced prose, three-dimensional characters, and well-developed settings.

That doesn’t mean I want my stories to be boring--on the contrary! I want them to be as enjoyable as a walk through a favorite park, or a cozy evening at home by the fire. I adore heart-pounding, page-turning novels, but I also believe that there’s something to be said for a more straightforward story told with a loving attention toward the characters and prose.

Can you tell us anything about Book 2 in the Tradewinds series?
Yes! Book two will continue to follow protagonist Olive Galloway as she navigates the difficult waters of change. A LOT happens to her and her friends in Book 1 (I’d go into more detail, but...spoilers!) and Book 2 reveals that, while some of the storms have passed, life is never perfect, and people still have secrets. It continues to touch on themes such as grief and friendship, but it deepens those themes and explores them from new and unique angles.

Any parting words?
If there are any other young writers out there reading this...don’t give up!! God has an amazing plan for you, your future, and your writing. Don’t be afraid to trust Him with your future and see what He has in store for you. Just remember--being published isn’t everything! It’s amazing and exciting to see my stories go into the world, but it’s just as amazing and exciting to pen those words for yourself and share them with family and friends. The bottom line? Don’t base your worth on your writing, but also don’t be afraid to chase your dreams. Carry on, young writer, and feel free to connect with me if you have any questions.


Anita Mae Draper's historical romances are woven under the western skies of the Saskatchewan prairie where her love of research and genealogy yields fascinating truths that layer her stories with rich historical details. Anita's short story, Here We Come A-Wassailing, was a finalist for the Word Guild's 2015 Word Awards. Her novellas are included in Austen in Austin Volume 1, The American Heiress Brides Collection, and The Secret Admirer Romance Collection. Readers can check out Anita's Pinterest boards for a visual idea of her stories to enrich their reading experience. Discover more at and

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