Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Book Review and Author Interview: Child of privilege by Ross Ponderson

Dana Van Werner is riding a bus bound for nowhere.
In her pockets, she carries a bus ticket, $260, hope, her own wits, and an unbreakable will. In her memories, she carries the nightmares of frequent beatings, growing up in constant fear, physical and verbal abuse, and her father's unfathomable hatred. Dana, a 19-year-old débutante born into wealth, privilege, culture, and social standing, ponders her new world--the "real" world--for which she is laughably ill-prepared.
She doesn't know where she's going, where her next meal is coming from, or where she'll sleep tonight. She does, however, take comfort in two certainties: that the brutal beatings at the hands of her father--a psychotic, powerful attorney--are finally over; and that her decision to run away from the palatial mansion she once called home has probably saved her life.
This lovable, down-to-earth teenager (more "girl next door" than débutante) grows up quickly as she confronts intercity buses, seedy motels, wet t-shirt contests, jail cells, honky-tonks, and predatory night people. All the while, she is relentlessly pursued by private investigators hired by her revenge-obsessed father to bring her back under his control. 
You'll find yourself cheering the courage, strength, and determination of this endearing heroine as she searches for a new home and a new life, and finds a gentle, caring man--a bachelor deputy sheriff--who truly loves her. 
But she has no inkling of the nightmare awaiting her at the end of the road.
This emotional rollercoaster will lift you to heartwarming heights, plunge you into tearful depths, and amuse you with moments of wry humor. 
Join Dana Van Werner on her desperate journey. Let this Child of Privilege inspire you, uplift you, and touch you in her uniquely personal way. You just may discover a part of yourself in her.

My Review:
I received an e-copy of this book from the author for review. This was a really hard book to read, emotionally. Ponderson brings up a lot of hard topics that I had to take a break from a couple times, and it took a long time for me to digest and write a review. Like, six months long. Sorry, Ross.

But this book was a really good, if not really important book to read about how even the most privileged can be suffering under the ruling thumb of an abuser. It also highlights how shady and what lengths abusers will go to in order to hide what they are doing and continue abusing people.

It's a tough book to read, not necessarily for the faint of heart. But ultimately Ponderson approaches a hard topic that is usually only discussed behind closed doors and brings it to light in the form of a high quality fiction novel.

The Interview:

On your nightstand now: The Pitcher by William Hazelgrove (haven’t opened it yet) and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life.
Favorite book when you were a child: Mister Roberts. See below.
Your top five authors:
I’m basically an “old school” guy, and my reading tastes lean toward the classics that have endured the test of time. Over the years, my favorite reads have been the authors to whom I was introduced (literally by force) back in school: John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, Thornton Wilder (nearly everyone was required to read Our Town in high school), Charles Dickens (who can hate A Christmas Carol?), and Mark Twain. If I have a yen for a more “modern” read, I would probably gravitate toward Scott Turow, John Grisham, Clive Cussler, William Hazelgrove, and maybe a touch of Danielle Steel.
Book you've faked reading: 
The Magnificent Ambersons. Unfortunately, there was a pop quiz on the book later that week. Oops.
Book you're an evangelist for: 
Forgiven by Charles E. Shepard, which describes the rise and fall of the PTL empire and its leader, TV evangelist Jim Bakker.
Book you've bought for the cover: To Sleep With The Angels by David Cowan and John Kuenster. This heartbreaking book recounts the disastrous 1958 Our Lady of the Angels School fire in Chicago. 92 children and 3 nuns lost their lives in a fire that many insist to this day could’ve been prevented.
Book that changed your life: 
Mister Roberts by Thomas Heggen. This is such an endearing story packed with lovable characters from Lieutenant Roberts, to Ensign Pulver, to Doc, to the crew, and even the authoritarian, mean-spirited captain. The ending pivots from sad (with the revelation that Roberts had been killed in action) to bittersweet (when Pulver defiantly dumps the captain’s beloved palm tree overboard) within the span of a few pages. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve enjoyed this book.
Favorite line from a book: 
Two, actually: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” and “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I think virtually everyone in the civilized world has spoken these two lines at one time or another.
Book you most want to read again for the first time: 
Actually, preparing for this interview reminded me of this book. It might still be available on Amazon or eBay. I found myself rummaging through my attic to find it again. I was glad I hadn’t sold it or given it away. It’s called Runaway by Linda Weintraub. It told the story of a group of misfits from around the country who individually trekked to Los Angeles to start their lives over again. They fall in with another misfit who becomes something of a father figure to this bizarre brood. As a group, they manage to piece their lives together again and form a close-knit (but very strange) family. Of course, they do live happily ever after.
Why any human should plunk down cash money for your book: 
Hey, if a Vulcan or a Romulan or Martian or whatever can plunk down legal tender to buy the book, that’s fine by me. I don’t necessarily restrict my readers to the human race.
Anyway, Child of Privilege is a quintessential “cheering for the underdog” story. Americans love underdogs. Look at the unprecedented success of the Rocky movies. Look at the movie Rudy. While the medium is different, the message remains the same: people love rooting for an underdog.
While Dana Van Werner was blessed with a life the rest of us can only envy (money, privilege, ease, social status), inside the walls of her family’s mansion, she was still a scared little girl literally starved for her father’s love and approval. Despite her best efforts in school and in life, she was destined to be a second-place finisher, a runner-up. This infuriated her type-A, success-and-winning-and-status-obsessed father to no end.
After a childhood and adolescence of humiliation (public and private), parental violence, and beatings, she desperately escapes and grabs the next bus out of town. What kinds of thoughts do you suppose went through her mind as she rode an intercity bus for the first time? I hope I captured her stream of consciousness accurately in those chapters. Meanwhile, she is robbed by another passenger, leaving her with $200 to her name. This forces a decision upon her: whether or not this privileged, blue-blooded teenager can bring herself to strip naked in front of a honky-tonk loaded with strangers to earn money for a bus ticket. After that, a stay in a jail cell awaits her. Not exactly afternoon tea at the country club. She is “rescued” by a sleazy private investigator who attempts to sexually assault her. She escapes him and finally enjoys a peaceful respite in a Colorado farm town.
Every possible misfortune and mishap seems to happen to this poor kid. Yet she remains a down-to-earth, good-natured “girl next door” that any guy would love to bring home to meet his folks.
Finally, a stunning twist of events forces her back home into the inevitable showdown with her father. In the process, a humiliating family secret hidden for years is uncovered. The confrontation is violent, bloody, and pulls no punches. Everything hits the fan. But in the end, the expected happy ending unfolds.
It is my hope that readers will find the story thought-provoking, the characters unique and quirky, and Child of Privilege a satisfying read.

Based on the description of Child of Privilege I know there may be some drama, action, and a bit of romance. But can you tell us what more to expect? 
You can expect multiple sub-plots involving backstabbing, betrayal, adultery, embarrassing family secrets, behind-the-scenes scheming, abuse of power, some mild sex scenes, and lust for revenge (no, it’s not a political
novel). As a bonus, I also include courage, determination, defiance, strength, and a lovable teenager struggling to save her life. And most importantly, a tearful happy ending.
What made you decide to write this book in the first place? 
It began back in the mid-1990’s as a game of “what if” that struck me while I was reading a newspaper article about a group of débutantes attending some charity fundraising ball. Naturally, the young women were impeccably made-up, wearing beautiful formal gowns, and smiling profusely for the camera. I started wondering about their lives away from the public eye: their families; how they dealt with adversity; and if they could survive in the paycheck-to-paycheck world. After awhile, the concept simply took on a life of its own and blossomed into Child of Privilege.
What is your writing style?  
I have two principal writing spots at home: the living room sofa (which has seen better days), and the master bedroom which has a big, comfy recliner in which I can sit for hours. Dragging my laptop and monitor up and down the stairs and setting them up is a drag sometimes, but what the hell. Also, I always have a precise mental roadmap for a session. I need to know which characters I’ll be working with, where I’ll take them, and how I’ll get them there. If I don’t have this solidly in place, I don’t even fire up the computer. Quiet seems to help me concentrate during writing, so I’ll even turn off the phone ringer during a session and let everything go to voicemail.
Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time? 
Even though I’m currently retired, I only write part-time. Some of that is due to the marketing and promotion of Child of Privilege occupying many hours. I am–for a number of reasons—attempting to transition back into the working world. My job search is job one. For the moment though, I can still write pretty much whenever the urge strikes. But that will change soon. Then writing will be squeezed into whatever free time I can find.
What do you hope readers will take from your writing? 
The sense that things aren’t always as they appear to be. That there are all sorts of people fighting all sorts of hardships … and in many cases, these battles are being fought silently, behind the scenes, without fanfare, and without victory parades. If readers find Child of Privilege thought-provoking, entertaining, and a worthwhile read, then I’ve done my job as an author and I’m happy.
Where can people learn more about you and your work?
While I do have Goodreads and Facebook pages, I really don’t use the Facebook page that much. Most everything you’d want to know about me and Child of Privilege can be found on my book page on The customer reviews are there (so far so good … fingers crossed!) along with my author bio. Feel free to stop by.

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