ALL FOUR KIDS: AN INTERVIEW WITH RYAN GEBHART, AUTHOR OF THERE WILL BE BEARS

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We’ve got another great interview with OneFourKidLit author Ryan Gebhart, whose MG contemporary, THERE WILL BE BEARS, came out yesterday. (And there’s a GIVEAWAY, so read on!)

About THERE WILL BE BEARS:

BEARScoverfinalThirteen-year-old Tyson loves hanging out with his roughneck Grandpa Gene, who’s a lot more fun than Tyson’s ex–best friend, Brighton. These days, Bright just wants to be seen with the cool jocks who make fun of Tyson’s Taylor Swift obsession and dorky ways. So when Grandpa Gene has to move to a nursing home that can manage his kidney disease, Tyson feels like he’s losing his only friend. Not only that, but Tyson was counting on Grandpa Gene to take him on his first big hunt. So in defiance of Mom and Dad’s strict orders, and despite reports of a scary, stalking, man-eating grizzly named Sandy, the two sneak off to the Grand Tetons. Yes, there will be action, like shooting and dressing a six-hundred-pound elk. Is Tyson tough enough? There will be heart-pounding suspense: is Grandpa Gene too sick to handle the hunt, miles away from help? And, oh yes, there will be bears…

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Ryan Portrait 001KV: Congratulations on the release of THERE WILL BE BEARS! What inspired you to write it?

RG: Way back in the long, long ago, I had this idea about a kid breaking his grandfather out of a nursing home, which was inspired by the movie Big Fish and by my grandma getting put in a home. But the story had no meat to it, so it got shelved. A year later, my buddy offered me a job at a hunting ranch near the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. I hadn’t hunted before nor even fired a gun, and the next thing I knew, I was quartering elk and packing it onto horses and legitimately terrified that a grizzly bear would charge out of the woods and eat my face. The first time I packed out an elk, I thought I’d have a panic attack from all the blood. But as I was hacking away, it felt like all my primal instincts were kicking in. I also had “Party in the USA” playing in my head, which… maybe was not so primal.

It was such a coming-of-age time for me–despite the fact that I was twenty seven–and it gave my inter-generational story idea plenty of meat… and teeth and blood and bears.

KV: The first chapter made me laugh out loud, so now I have to know, have you ever pruned?

RG: Fortunately, I’m regular without the need of assistance, lol. Nah, that whole episode was inspired by my buddy Brendan’s stories of pruning with his brothers. I’d like to say I’m a pretty adventurous guy and that I’ll try new things for the sake of my art, but I draw the line at chugging a liter of prune juice.

KV: Tyson’s relationship with his grandpa is really sweet (though he’d probably be horrified to hear it described that way). What inspired their friendship?

RG: Growing up, I was very close with my grandparents as Tyson was to his own, but I don’t think my papa had ever touched a rifle, let alone gone hunting. My grandparents were more into golf, gardening, and 60 Minutes. I dedicated this book to them because of how much they helped raise me and my siblings, and how they always encouraged me to pursue my random and always changing interests. I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for their unconditional love.

KV: Tyson’s voice is so authentic that it made me wonder if his character was somewhat autobiographical. Were you a lot like Tyson as a kid?

RG: No, but I was at twenty seven 😛

There are a few elements of Tyson’s character that I can trace back to my childhood, like the fact that we both had a pet newt (however, mine wasn’t named Jar Jar Newtingston), but Tyson is way more confident than I ever was at his age.

I’m always thrilled when someone comments about how authentic Tyson’s voice is, because it took me forever to discover his character, his wants and needs and fears. During the very long and trying submission process, so many editors commented about how inconsistent his voice is, how he would fluctuate between a know-it-all sixteen-year-old and a ten-year-old with emotional problems on one page. So I credit his voice not to my own personal experiences, but to lots and lots of revisions.

KV: Tyson’s a huge fan of Halloween–and especially Halloween costumes. What’s your best costume ever?

RG: Ohio University is infamous for their massive Halloween parties, and I tried to outdo myself every year while I studied there. My first year, I dressed up as Forrest Gump; dying my hair black, shaved in a receding hairline, and I handed out chocolates to people on Court Street. My second year, I went as Bob Ross, complete with a palette and his amazing ‘fro. Year three: Mr. Rogers. And for my fourth year, I dressed as Bob Barker and built a fully functional 4’x6’ Plinko board. But everyone thought I was Bill Clinton with a skinny microphone.

KV: The great outdoors also play a huge role in the story. If you could go on a camping trip with any three fictitious villains, who would you pick and why?

RG: Go camping with three villains? Am I insane??? Well, I’d probably want them to be nice and not stab me in my sleep, I guess?

KV: As this community is fearless, we’d like to know something you are afraid of and something you are not afraid of.

RG: I thought I’d be afraid of quartering and packing out a six hundred pound elk, but it ended up being one of the most natural things. I wasn’t necessarily a pro at it, but at least I didn’t have a panic attack, which I’m prone to getting in unfamiliar situations.

I have lots of ideas for novels, and I guess I’m afraid I won’t get the chance to tell them all. BEARS is a pretty simple story and even that took me three years to get right, however my WIP is far more challenging and speculative and it questions the meaning of the universe, and I’m afraid I’m just not qualified enough of a writer to give this story justice.

KV: Thanks for joining us, Ryan! We hope your debut day was great–and only involved fictitious bears. 🙂

You can find Ryan on Twitter, @RyanGebhart. And for a chance to win a copy of THERE WILL BE BEARS, leave a comment on this post (and include your e-mail address). The contest is open internationally (provided The Book Depository will ship to your country) and will close at 11:59 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, May 7. We’ll pick a random winner the next day. Good luck!

Krista squaredKrista Van Dolzer is a stay-at-home mom by day and a children’s author by naptime. She holds degrees in Mathematics Education and Economics from Brigham Young University and lives with her husband and three kids in Mesquite, Nevada. She is the author of a forthcoming-but-as-yet-untitled debut (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015) and the forthcoming DUEL/DUET (Sourcebooks Jabberwocky, Fall 2015).
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5 thoughts on “ALL FOUR KIDS: AN INTERVIEW WITH RYAN GEBHART, AUTHOR OF THERE WILL BE BEARS

  1. The title only makes me want to pick this up. I love a good story with a touch of bittersweet, and this seems like it has just that, with Grandpa’s disease. Congratulations to you, Ryan, on what sounds like a great read. Looking forward to it. (And the 60 minutes line had me laughing. My grandparents were all about Wheel of Fortune.)

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