Inspirations and Influences

September Girls: Bennett Madison on Inspirations & Influences (& Giveaway)

“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their…well, Inspirations and Influences. The cool thing is that the writers are given free rein so they can go wild and write about anything they want. It can be about their new book, series or about their career as a whole.

Hello everybody! As you probably know by now, Ana LOVED September Girls. Today we are delighted to welcome its author, Bennett Madison, to talk about his inspirations and influences. And true to form, he came up with a cool, different way to do just that.

September Girls Bennett Madison

Please give it up for Bennett!

In the Kingdom of Teenage, everyone drives epically fast cars (generally red convertibles) and wears too much liquid eyeliner. Everyone’s mouths are sweet with flavored lip-gloss. Tony, Michelle and Cassie dance all night, dizzy with pills.

Most places in this kingdom are Southern California except those that aren’t, and the scenery has kind of gone to hell since Lisa Frank, the Royal Designer, got shipped off to rehab. People seem to like it better like a little run-down anyway.

In a graffiti-covered bathroom in a bad part of town, James Dean and Sal Mineo are giving each other smoldering, dark-eyed looks through the veil of smoke that spirals out from their cigarettes. The Shangri-La’s Leader of the Pack plays somewhere in the distance. Then a little sideways smile. Everything is always a game of chicken.

For the Wakefield Twins, it’s always Truth or Dare, unless it’s Never Have I Ever. The members of the Baby-sitter’s Club prefer Mother May I. They all live here too—well, all except Jessi and Mallory. The fact that Kristy is president doesn’t change the fact that Claudia is queen.

After months on the run, Nova Ren Suma’s missing girls have finally made it to the kingdom, but they remain missing. They aren’t the only ones. Around here, no one has any parents and the parents they do have are defined by their absence. Kelly Link’s Girl Detective opens door after door after door and descends an endless chain of staircases in search of her lost mother. Fox is still on a pirate ship sailing around the world in pursuit of Prince Wing.

In a bedroom somewhere in the kingdom’s suburbs, a young-but-not-quite-teenage Liz Phair rolls over and sweeps sleep-greased hair from her face. She has lingered too long here, she knows, but she can’t be bothered to be on her way. And this is her childhood bedroom, isn’t it? So she lights another bowl, picks up her guitar and begins to lay down messy guitar on a battered four-track.

To Trip Fontaine, who is parked on the street outside, it sounds like the music is coming from another planet or from the bottom of the ocean. The words are mumbly and strange. He leans back in the driver’s seat, forever stoned and golden.

Elsewhere, in the royal palace, Rayanne Graff adjusts the crown atop her rainbow of cornrows and nurses a watermelon Blow Pop. Rayanne is lonely on her throne: Tino’s somewhere but he’s difficult to pin down and Angela Chase doesn’t get to travel to the kingdom often.

This should be Angela’s domain too, Rayanne thinks. Shouldn’t it? Well, it should. But she knows the truth of the matter: Angela—however fictional—is a real teenager and therefore can only stop by from time to time. Rayanne herself is just an idea, and ideas of people are the only people allowed permanent residence here.

When you’re twelve, The Kingdom of Teenage is the place you think you’re going to go when you turn thirteen. As an adult, it’s the place you never quite forget you’ve been cast out of. When you are seventeen, it is yours and yet always as remote as ever.

You get a glimpse of it every now and then. You might see it, briefly and in the distance, the first time you sneak into a bar or the first time you kiss someone you really shouldn’t be kissing, or on that day in early spring when you ditch school to jump into the passenger seat of a car that barely slows to pick you up by the side of the road. You will visit it in moments that are more like places; moments in which you are on the brink of something dangerous and new, in which you know that you are younger than you’ve ever been and more adult than you will ever again be.

And when you find yourself standing on the edge of a canyon looking out over Francesca Lia Block’s glittering Los Angeles, the back of your skirt hastily tucked into the waistband of your underpants and fifty empty Bud Lite cans piled at your feet, wondering how did I get here?, at least now you know where you are.

Thanks Bennett!

The Giveaway:

We have ONE copy of September Girls up for grabs! The contest is open to ALL and will run until Saturday July 6 at 12:01am. To enter, use the form below. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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42 Comments

  • Jordan R.
    July 2, 2013 at 1:01 am

    I read a ton of Meg Cabot in my middle school years. I loved how her heroines were so smart and strong.

  • Kate & Zena
    July 2, 2013 at 1:12 am

    A YA book I loved that always inspires me is Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. It was a trilogy I didn’t understand at first because I was really young when I received them for Christmas, but I always came back to them to try to understand them. It was a case of, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” I normally don’t go back, but there was something about those books that kept bringing me back to them. When I finally understood the trilogy, it really helped me understand what giving books a second, third, fourth chance was all about and it inspires critical thinking.

    It’s an inspiration for me for critical thinking and creativity. It’s seriously one of my favorite trilogies ever.

  • Marie
    July 2, 2013 at 1:24 am

    I would read and re-read A Ring of Endless Light by Madeleine L’Engle growing up. I found it to be both comforting and inspiring at the same time. I loved that it dealt with a couple of tough issues for teens in a way that was somehow uplifting, yet still realistic. Even now, I return to this book when I’m looking for a feel-good, comfort read and everytime it feels like getting together with an old, childhood friend. I still love it! 🙂

  • Erin
    July 2, 2013 at 1:42 am

    Courtney Summers, Hannah Harrington and Melina Marchetta. Their books are just those that I can keep re-reading without ever getting bored. To someone who’s still lost somewhere in the Kingdom of Teenage, their books are just so achingly real and beautiful and heartbreaking and so relatable. Some of the best contemporary YA out there.

  • Justine
    July 2, 2013 at 1:52 am

    Melina Marchetta does a really good job describing the immigrant experience.

  • Mieneke
    July 2, 2013 at 3:11 am

    Jackie Morse Kessler’s Riders of the Apocalypse series, at least Hunger and Rage (I still need to get my hands on Loss and Breath). They showed me how really dark and difficult topics that affect teens can be handled with diginity and with humour.

  • Chachic
    July 2, 2013 at 6:00 am

    It’s so hard to choose just one book! I read a lot of Sweet Valley and Baby-sitters Club books while I was a teen because my older cousins passed down their copies to me. I also followed this romantic teen series called Love Stories. I devoured Newbery books as well but I’m not sure if those are classified as children’s books or YA.

  • Rana
    July 2, 2013 at 7:12 am

    Randa Abdel Fattah’s Does My Head Look Big in This? and Ten Things I hate about me really inspired me. Growing up I felt under-represented. Especially books about Muslims tend to be well, you know.
    Her writing reminds me of Meg Cabot whom I also love.

  • Eliza
    July 2, 2013 at 7:58 am

    Oh man, so many, but I’m with Marie on Madeleine L’Engle. I read A Wrinkle in Time so many times I had the first page memorized!

  • mary anne
    July 2, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Teen years were long ago, and young adult as a genre didn’t really exist, but I loved all of Madeleine L’Engle’s stuff – I wanted to be as smart, cultured and brave as her characters. And as willing to be different.

  • Lillian Maloney
    July 2, 2013 at 9:16 am

    I was inspired by pretty much every book by Meg Cabot. I read them all in 5th-8th grade, but The Princess Diaries was my favorite. I got a ton of life lessons from those books.

  • Hebe
    July 2, 2013 at 9:49 am

    Ooh, good question. The Hunger Games series was really excellent – I loved the moral complexity of that world.

  • Chenise J.
    July 2, 2013 at 9:55 am

    Jude by Kate Morgenroth is absolutely at the top of my list. It set the standard for what I consider an amazing, with a well-fleshed out protagonist you simply can’t resist sympathizing with.

  • Clau
    July 2, 2013 at 10:42 am

    Same Difference by Siobhan Vivian. As I was an art student, I could relate a lot to the characters and situations.

  • elena
    July 2, 2013 at 11:11 am

    First off, I LOVE THIS POST SO MUCH! Reading about Bennett Madison’s inspirations and influences totally makes sense to me on why I loved September Girls. Love everything even the references I’m not exactly familiar with because I know I’ll probably love it when I do get around to them.

    This is really recent but a book that recently inspired me is Just One Day by Gayle Forman. I mean, it’s about love and stuff but it’s also about finding yourself which as someone in a transitory state, I am totally into. It inspired me to travel me which I am. I’m going to live in a whole different country because of it!

    Anyway, thank you so much for this post and the giveaway. It makes me really happy.

  • Miss Bookiverse
    July 2, 2013 at 11:22 am

    A few years ago I read Blood and Chocolate and felt very inspired by the main character Vivian because she is such a strong personality and neither women nor men intimidate her. I wanted to be more like her, selfconfident and strong.

  • Aisha
    July 2, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    It was published before YA really existed as a category, but Antonia Forest’s End of Term changed everything I felt about books. It was the first time I really saw characters whose minds worked like my own, the first time I saw my queerness reflected in fiction, and I’ve always promised myself not to be satisfied writing characters less complex than these. (This may be why I don’t really write fiction, so I’m not sure it fully counts as a positive influence).

  • Lexi
    July 2, 2013 at 12:22 pm

    Growing up, I was inspired by Madeline L’Engle and her heroines. This is more middle grade, but I have been thinking about it recently, I loved Maniac Magee and Westing Game also for their very different stories and how they dealt with tough topics.

  • Kristin
    July 2, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    I am heavily inspired by the Tortall Series by Tamora Pierce. Her female characters are fierce and intelligent.

  • Jill the OWL
    July 2, 2013 at 1:36 pm

    Ok in middle school I LOVED Lois Duncan and all her books 🙂

  • Sheila
    July 2, 2013 at 1:39 pm

    Always and forever, The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope.

  • jo
    July 2, 2013 at 2:30 pm

    this book is getting more and more interesting by the minute. this from a girl who normally doesn’t read books written by the male gender … *scratches chin*

  • jo
    July 2, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    ah, i should mention that my contest participation has been noted via my facebook profile (gita par)

    xoxo gita/jo

  • Joanna
    July 2, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Can’t wait to read Summer Girls, I was cautious at first but it sounds wonderful!

    As for the question, The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart pretty much changed my life.

  • Lee
    July 2, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Little Women, Nancy Drew, Sweet Valley High, anything by Judy Blume, and, of course, Choose Your Own Adventure! Thanks so much for the giveaway!

  • Kathryn
    July 2, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    I read and re-read Francesca Lia Block books. I initially discovered the Weetzie Bat series, but I really loved her short story collection, Girl Goddess #9. I think I still have the zines those stories inspired in a closet somewhere.

  • Bennett
    July 2, 2013 at 3:30 pm

    Kathryn! I adore Girl Goddess #9 as well. I actually mentioned it specifically in an earlier, less loopy version of this. The story RAVE is another sort-of-mermaid story and it’s one of my very favorites in the collection. (My favorite is probably THE CANYON.)

  • Lindsay Elizabeth
    July 2, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Saving Francesca really influenced me as a teenager- as someone living with a mentally ill parent, it really spoke to me.

  • Sarah
    July 2, 2013 at 5:20 pm

    I’m convinced! Adding September Girls to the TBR list. One YA book that inspires me is The Ghosts of Ashbury High by Jaclyn Moriarty: “Back to the point: a little MYSTERY, now that’s where it’s at! Secrets, surprises, unexpected twists. Paintings and stories need those just as much as they need “truth”!”

  • Ruby
    July 2, 2013 at 6:12 pm

    It’s hard to choose just one, but I’ll say the last YA book I read, Nantucket Blue by Leila Howland is very good. Different and new to me, mostly because I usually stick to the paranormal/urban fantasy side of the YA genre.

  • Emily
    July 2, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    There are a lot of books that have influenced and/or inspired me, but I’ll choose one that’s done both: Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu. A touching gem about friendship, adolescence, and fairy tales vs. reality. It doesn’t end in a totally-cheesy-happy-ending, which I like. It inspired me to start writing ACADIA, a middle-grade fairy tale book. I’m still working on it and I must say I’m pretty far on it!

  • Victoria Zumbrum
    July 2, 2013 at 8:34 pm

    I really enjoyed the Twilight series. Thanks for the giveaway.

  • Vanessa R
    July 2, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    Every time I thought my life was crappy I would reread The Grounding of Group Six, and remember that at least my parents weren’t trying to off me.

  • Lilibeth
    July 3, 2013 at 8:50 am

    Salvaged by Stefne Miller taught about forgiveness in such a beautifully written book, and Fat Cat by Robin Brande really almost made me go vegan.

  • Elizabeth
    July 4, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly is a beautifully written tale of a girl finding her voice.

  • Judi
    July 4, 2013 at 4:48 pm

    When I began reading YA, Marcus Zusak’s I Am the Messenger was probably the first book that showed me how unique and creative young adult literature could be.

  • Heather S
    July 4, 2013 at 5:40 pm

    Meg Cabot’s books are still my favorite YA books. Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Suz Glo
    July 4, 2013 at 8:14 pm

    I really enjoyed Meg Cabot’s Heather Wells mysteries/YA novels.

  • Nicole R
    July 5, 2013 at 2:43 am

    I’d probably chose Patrick Ness’s Chaos Walking series.

    (I can’t wait to read September Girls on my vacation next week!)

  • Nicole R
    July 5, 2013 at 2:44 am

    Ugh.. meant to say ‘I’d probably choose’ of course.

  • Neysa Kristanti
    July 5, 2013 at 3:14 am

    Although there’s really no books that had affect me greatly so far, I think the one that affect me most would be City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. It introduce me to the amazing world of reading. Oh, and also, maybe the Totto-chan series. It really changed my way of viewing things 😀

  • Ruhee
    July 5, 2013 at 9:04 pm

    Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta is a book that has never left me, though I can never quite put into words why.

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