After an assembly we had the privilege to interview author Ben Mikaelsen. When we asked Mikaelsen how he came up with the idea to write Touching Spirit Bear, he said that it was his own past. The book is about Cole Matthews, a troubled young man who works through his anger on a remote Alaskan island. The two main characters in the book reflected both sides of his childhood. He had the awful experience of being bullied, but he also gave kids the awful feeling of getting bullied, as he was also a bully. Ben said, "The hardest character in the book for me to write about was Cole Matthews because I used to be a bully just like Cole. I thought it was all behind me, but I had to dig up those memories to portray Cole. I had to feel the anger again. I had to set the book aside then come back to it afterwards to keep writing, and I didn't like that."
We learned what inspired Mikaelson to start writing books in general. Mikaelsen said, "I love to express myself. Everybody loves to express themselves. Some do it with artwork, some do it with music. I would have loved to do it with music, but you don't want to hear me sing." When we asked Ben about his writing process he said that it can be very confusing sometimes. For each of his different ideas, he has multiple folders that hold all different kinds of information and facts. He does not use all the folders because some may not work or go together the way he envisions it to be. One way that he comes up with the ideas for his novels is that he "looks for emotions and builds stories around the emotions and works around the feelings." When we asked him what kind of research he did before writing one of his books he said, "I put myself right into the situation that I am writing about." The last question that we asked Mikaelson was, "Do you think someone could be a writer if they don't feel emotions strongly?" Ben's answer was a hard no. He feels as though "to have an amazing novel you need to put your heart and soul into it and give it a lot of emotions so that you can make your reader feel something. You can't do that if you don't feel emotions strongly."
Ben Mikaelson is an amazing writer and a very kind person. We were very inspired after being able to interview him. It sparked our writing minds. Hopefully author visits will be a tradition that continues for a long time at St. Joseph School.