Author tells aspiring writers to pursue dreams

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldMarch 13, 2014 

The science fiction novel The Compound was Stephanie Bodeen's first published novel.

But she doesn't hide the fact that the award-winning book wasn't her first novel.

"It was actually my tenth novel," she said Wednesday. "It was just the first one that was readable."

Bodeen, who uses the name S.A. Bodeen on her books, will speak to students at today's Cavalcade of Authors at Columbia Basin College, having previously attended in 2009.

The Compound also was the Community Reads book distributed as part of the Mid-Columbia Literary Festival, or LitFest, and Bodeen will do a reading and book signing Saturday night at the college.

There were times when the Minneapolis author was ready to throw in the towel on her writing career, she said. But perseverance and her support network allowed her to pursue a writer's life, which she wants to impress on students and other aspiring writers.

"It was my dream," she said. "If you have a dream, don't give up on it."

The Compound, published in 2008, is centered around the character Eli Yanakakis and his family's six years spent living in an underground compound in Eastern Washington because of the threat of nuclear war. However, not all is as it seems and Eli has to fight to save his family. The book is largely directed at young adults but older readers have also found interest in the book.

Bodeen said the idea came from childhood memories of nuclear attack drills at school. She particularly remembered how a teacher told her that if there was a real attack she would have to stay in the shelter for 20 years because of the fallout.

"It's just one of those things that sticks in your head," the author said.

Bodeen already was an established children's author prior to writing The Compound. However, she almost gave up writing after her agent returned five proposed novels with a note saying he wouldn't offer them to publishers.

Wanting to take one final shot, she decided to participate in National Novel Writing Month, or NaNo WriMo, in 2005 and wrote what became the first version of The Compound.

Bodeen showed the book her agent. He gave her a long list of issues that had to be addressed. Initially disheartened, Bodeen said she sat down and rewrote the book in a month and sent it back.

The book went through heavy revision. The original story was set in Washington, D.C., and the family's compound was underneath their house. Bodeen lived in Washington at the time and rewrote it so it took place east of the Cascades, though she hadn't been there before. If she had to choose a more specific location for the book now, it would likely be between Yakima and the Tri-Cities, she said.

But she knew the story was solid, especially after her no-nonsense oldest daughter, then an eighth-grader, read it.

"She came out and said, 'It's really good. Are you sure you wrote it?,' " Bodeen said, laughing.

The book is still selling well and readers and parents still contact her about how it affected them and got them interested in reading.

The Compound's accessible plot and characters were part of the reason LitFest selected it as the Community Reads book, said organizer Bill McKay. Hundreds of copies of the book were distributed in the Tri-Cities and the reception has been positive with good discussions emerging from book groups to family rooms, he said.

The reading project, a new feature of LitFest this year, appears successful, McKay said, and might stay for the future.

"We are already receiving suggestions for what the next one should be," he said.

Bodeen is working on her fifth novel, The Detour, which she says is her best work yet. But her first published book will always hold sentimental value to her.

"The Compound is my symbol of not giving up," she said.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver

Reading, book signing

-- When: 7 p.m. Saturday

-- Where: Columbia Basin College, Gjerde Center, Pasco.

-- Cost: Free

LitFest Lineup

Here's a rundown of otherLitFest events going on in the next few months:

-- "The World of the Internet and Self-Publishing" with Ed Robertson and Jason Bond on May 13 at the Richland Public Library. Robertson is a science fiction and fantasy writer known for the Breakers series. Bond wrote the best-selling Hammerhead and is working on his third novel.

-- Poet Kenn Nesbitt will be at the Richland Public Library on May 15. He has written numerous children's poetry books and musical lyrics.

-- About the Book will be June 3 at Bookwalter Winery

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