As an educator associated with Early Childhood Education for more than thirty years, Elspeth Benton knows that the first nine years are critical in the life of a child. These are the years when children learn to trust or not to trust, and acquire social and critical thinking skills. However, of all the "advanced" countries in the world, the United States alone doesn't adequately serve the learning needs of its young children, who are our citizens of tomorrow.
"We have Head Start," says Benton, "but it serves only a small portion of America's children and families. Yet, if all children could, in a safe and stable environment, learn these social and critical thinking skills, we would see far less violence and war in the world. My desire to increase awareness of this is the driving force behind my mystery, Crucial Time."
Elspeth Benton, MA in Early Childhood Education, taught parenting classes through Pasadena City College, directed a co-op preschool, and all-day, year-round child care centers in southern California. She has spent several years living in France, and has appeared in four amateur musicals in Santa Rosa. She also proofreads/edits books. Elspeth lives with her black-and-white cat, Pip, in Santa Rosa, California, near her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. She is a member of Redwood Writers, and recently chaired its Short Story Contest.
Watch interview with Elspeth Benton as she speaks about the inspiration and writing process for Crucial Time
Read Elspeth's interview with Jeane Sloane:
Hi Elspeth: It's nice to have you on my author interviews blog.Tell me, where did you get all your ideas for your mystery, Crucial Time?
The ideas came from two sources--a lifetime of experience working with young children and families, plus two years of research on Zimbabwe (guidebooks, history, memoirs, fiction). I also talked with Zimbabwean friends and my Peace Corps friends who were sent home from Zimbabwe when it was closed in 2005 due to the extreme danger.
What would you say was your primary theme in the novel? The primary theme is the urgency of giving all young children, everywhere, a solid, dynamically peaceful start in life, before the violence all around us takes over. Hence the title, “Zero to nine [in a child’s life]; it’s the crucial time!”
Have you been to Zimbabwe? I wish! I definitely want to go there!
You certainly are well qualified to write a realistic novel about a childcare center. How many years did you teach and direct? I have an MA in early Childhood Education and have taught and directed over 30 years. Most large urban child care centers today are widely international and they afford the perfect opportunity to sow seeds of peaceful coexistence, hence the underlying theme in my book.
What do your family and friends say about you having published a novel? They're highly supportive, though the one sex scene did offend a family member
It must be amazing to have great-grandchildren! Definitely amazing, though having my own unplanned first child 50+ years ago was probably even more of a shock!
Have you always wanted to write a novel?
I o.d.'d on fairy tales as a child, and have grooved on novels ever since, starting with Gone With the Wind--Kingsolver, Tolstoy, Zora Neale Hurston, Harriet Doerr, Paul Harding, Elizabeth Strout, F.S. Fitzgerald, to name a very few jumbled-up favorite authors. So yes, I always just assumed, without even thinking about it, that once my children were raised and my working years ended, of course I'd be writing fiction! Then it dawned on me that many writing classes and workshops would be needed to begin to learn the craft—all my writing heretofore had been letters, board reports, journaling, grant proposals, newsletters, etc.—so I jumped into the classes and workshops and am still participating in these.
Do you have plans for a second novel? In my mind, I'm working daily on a sequel in the Hannah Cooper mystery series! In reality, all my energies are presently going into marketing Crucial Time. There's never enough time for it all!
It's great that you placed your book in Book Passages, Corte Madera. Do you have connections? Mostly I'm just very persistent, going to bookstores and using whatever logic I can to get my book placed with them. With Book Passages, I mentioned that I'd participated in their annual four-day mystery writers' convention (plus other writing classes there), and am a local author. "Local author" turns out to be a useful foot-in-the-door ploy.