Book Review: Child of Privilege by. Ross Ponderson

Publication Date: August 27, 2014

Origins:  From Author for Review

Synopsis: A debutante’s defiance and courage in escaping domestic violence is the heart and soul of this “feel good” story. 

To the casual observer, 19-year-old Dana Van Werner’s life is a fairytale: wealth, a palatial mansion, expensive automobiles, servants, and a prominent place in high society. But she is abruptly introduced to the real world when she runs away from her high society birthright to escape her father: a domineering, authoritarian attorney with a violent temper and an insatiable hunger for revenge. 

She grows up quickly as she confronts intercity buses, seedy motels, filthy diners, wet t-shirt contests, honky-tonks, and predatory night people light-years from the gentrified social strata of home. All the while, she struggles to outrun a parade of private investigators hired by her father to bring her back home. 

She seeks refuge in the bucolic farming community of Beckett Junction, Colorado. Through a chance encounter, she meets Sheriff's Deputy Greg Parmenter. He senses Dana's physical and emotional exhaustion, and offers her sanctuary in his home. Love would slowly blossom from that act of kindness, leading Dana to consider making Beckett Junction—and Greg's humble cottage—her new home. 

However, a stunning twist of events sets the stage for a final and deadly confrontation with her father: a confrontation stoked by resentment, anger, violence, hunger for revenge, and the shocking revelation of a humiliating family secret kept hidden for decades. Several of the characters do not survive to tell their tales. 

However, drawing on courage, strength, and wisdom beyond her years, Dana ultimately finds a new home, a fulfilling new life, her freedom, and a caring man who truly loves her. More importantly, she finds herself.

Review: CHILD OF PRIVILEGE is the story of Dana Van Werner, a 19 year old debutante from an affluent family in North Briarwood. Her father, Richard, rules the family with an iron fist, using his influence to not only control his family to the point of suffocation, but his competitors and anyone else who stands in his way. Both Dana and her mother, Maggie, are Richard’s punching bags and after one especially horrific night Dana decides to leave this house of horrors behind. The only thing she regrets is not being able to take her mother with her when she escapes. Richard tells his private investigator and hired thugs to bring Dana back, no matter what and no matter how as long as she’s still alive. After nearly being captured and drug back home, Dana finds refuge in Beckett Junction, Colorado. She’s given shelter in the home of Deputy Sheriff Greg Parmenter and she blossoms in the light of Greg’s kindness. Due to some nasty plot twists, Dana goes back to North Briarwood for the final confrontation. CHILD OF PRIVILEGE is a captivating novel with a main character you truly want to root for as you struggle along with her. There are definitely descriptions of events which will make readers cringe in sympathy and anger, but don’t let your hot button issues keep you from enjoying a well-written story.

Interview: Q. How did writing this book affect you?
It has enabled me to fulfill a lifelong dream: to actually publish a novel and present it to the book-buying public. The feedback from this process has taught me a great deal about writing (about what I’ve been doing wrong) and promotion (about how little I know!). I’ve learned that writing is much more than giddily stringing words and sentences together. Writing is about conveying something real, something worthwhile, and something intelligent. Your reader deserves that; he/she paid good money for it. If you shortchange them or underestimate their intelligence, you will lose them with no hope of ever drawing them back.

Q. What is the hardest part of writing for you?
The hardest part for me is final editing. I’m grinding through the same words and phrases again and again and again, ad nauseam. I’ve read those words so many times that I can recite entire pages from memory. It’s a real battle to keep my focus and concentration going because I’m thinking more about getting the book onto the shelf already. The second-hardest part would be creating the initial chapter outline where the storylines are born. You’re trying to assemble a skeleton with bones consisting of logic, believability, excitement, dialogue, narrative, pacing, character development, and timing. If your “skeleton” is faulty, all the “meat on the bones” in the world won’t save it.

Q. Do you plan any subsequent books?
Coming up with the concept for a 2nd novel has been about as pleasant as having a root canal. I’ve all but ruled out any sort of sequel to “Child of Privilege.” So, I am currently staring at the dreaded blank palette. Numerous ideas have already been trashed as I’m trying to apply the many lessons I’ve learned from “Child.”

With each potential concept, I ask myself 3 questions: will it read in Peoria? (to paraphrase the old Broadway axiom); does it have the legs to run 90,000-plus words?; and is it a subject folks will want to read about? If I can’t confidently answer “yes” to all 3 questions (especially several days later), into the mental trash bin it goes.

Q. What are you currently reading?
All nonfiction actually. “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Reboot Your Life” by Newmark and Cook; “Little Girl Blue, the Life of Karen Carpenter” by Randy L. Schmidt; and “Forgiven” by Charles E. Shepard, the story of the rise and fall of the PTL empire and its leader, TV evangelist Jim Bakker.

Q. Please tell us your latest news (book-related or not!).
I’ll share this with you first (CNN will have to get it second-hand!): I’m heading back to school. Even though I’m currently retired, I need to transition back into the working world. So, I’m off to my local community college for a course in “internet and social media marketing.” Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Since most communication (or so it seems) these days passes through Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest, perhaps acquiring a background in social media might be a way for this old guy to get back into the world. We’ll see what happens.

Q. What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk?
I need to have a writing session carefully planned and mapped out before I even fire up my computer. I must know what characters I’ll be working with, where they’re going, and how I’ll get them there. Otherwise, the computer stays off. But I must add here that spontaneous things (plot twists, “aha” moments, sudden inspirations, “what if’s”, on-the-fly ideas, etc.) frequently happen during a writing session. That’s likely true for many writers. If I’m lucky enough to experience a spontaneous moment, I’ll simply ride it, get it down, and work out the details later. And I never forget unsalted pretzels and bottles of water; can’t forget the munchies!

Q. Please tell us a fun-fact about yourself!
I still have the first check I ever received in payment for my writing (a photocopy actually). I had written a short humor piece for a lifestyle magazine focused on the Indianapolis area. This magazine (the name escapes me at the moment) was one of many “little” and literary magazines that delighted in providing a spotlight for unknown writers. As I recall, it was operated by a husband-and-wife team out of their basement. This was in the early 1970’s, and the magazine itself is long-defunct. But those were fun days!

Q. Is there anything you haven’t written about that you would like to in the future?
I’d enjoy writing an old-style Star Trek novel (with original or TNG characters), but that’s been done to death by writers far more knowledgeable in the franchise than I. Besides, I could never acquire the rights. Then I often wonder if the apocalyptic, vampire, dystopian, and zombie genres might be approaching the saturation point. So I guess I’ll continue in the same general genre as “Child of Privilege”: ordinary people doing extraordinary things in response to extraordinary challenges … interwoven with a warm and fuzzy romance. But most of all, I’d love to write a best-seller!

Q. If you could learn to do anything, what would it be?
It would be awesome to pilot a commercial jumbo jet and fly it wherever I choose to go. But my fear of heights just might be a problem!

Q. What gives you the most joy in life?
Music is my “magic pill” that keeps me sane. I grew up (musically speaking) in the 1970’s and late 1960’s. I consider the decade of the 70’s as the golden age of pop/rock music. It was the era of the singer/songwriter. My generation was blessed with such talented artists as the Carpenters, Barry Manilow, Neil Diamond, Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, Lionel Ritchie, Carole King, and the list goes on and on. I still enjoy the Grass Roots, the Lovin’ Spoonful, the Four Seasons, the Supremes, and of course, the Beatles. I happened to catch Spanky and Our Gang’s “Lazy Day” on an oldies station recently. It brought back some wonderful memories.

Q. Which of your characters would you want to be and why?
Allow me to rephrase your question slightly since it would be extremely awkward (not to mention bizarre) for me to be a 19-year-old woman. How about “Which of your characters would you like to meet in person?” That’s easy: Dana Van Werner. I painted her as the ideal “girl next door” any guy would be happy to bring home to meet the folks. Even though she comes from a rarified environment surrounded by wealth, luxury, and social standing, there isn’t a trace of haughtiness or arrogance about her. She genuinely likes people and enjoys interacting with everybody (except the detective Reavis Macklin). Despite the horrors she endured at home during her formative years, she is quite capable of loving and being loved (just ask Greg Parmenter). Lastly, with her deep, warm brown eyes, flowing sandy-blonde hair, beautiful smile, and winning personality, she’s quite a desirable young woman.

Q. How do you like to spend your spare time?
It’s good for me to sometimes get away from writing-related issues in order to retain what little is left of my sanity. As I’ve mentioned before, music is (and always will be) a major part of my life. I’ve played keyboards through most of my life and I still enjoy it today. When I was a child, a family friend offered me the chance to play a huge pipe organ. The poor man had a heck of a time prying me away from that console. From that moment on, I fell in love with keyboards. By most reasonable standards, I’m not very good at it, but I enjoy it nevertheless. I also enjoy visiting historical sites and museums in particular ... just being there … where something historically significant took place. History just seems to tug at me somehow. I’m also a railroad fanatic. I love anything related to trains because the railroads were so much a vital part of American history. I make it a point to visit railroad museums as often as possible during the summer.

Q. How did you come up with the title?
Since “Child of Privilege” was actually written in the mid-1990’s, it’s difficult to remember exactly how I came up with the title. I think the expression has been in widespread use practically forever and is mostly used derogatorily.

Q. When did you know you would be a writer?
When I was very young (perhaps early grade school), my parents bought me a toy typewriter because I was always playing around with (and breaking) my mother’s real machine. This contraption was more toy than typewriter, but it could actually type sometimes. I would grab an old newspaper every day, collect some of the news stories and the sports, and pound out (literally) my very own newspaper. I would then foist the copies onto the family and a few very forgiving neighbors. To this day, I’m glad the real newspaper never sued me! Since then, I’ve written quite a number of newsletter and small magazine pieces through the years, not to mention several half-finished novels which will (deservedly) never see the light of day. “Child of Privilege” is the first novel I’ve actually presented to an audience.

Q. Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
To anyone who is considering buying a copy of “Child of Privilege,” please stop in at Amazon and pick up your copy. I hope you will find it a thought-provoking read and a great way to relax for a few hours. It is true-to-life, compelling, sometimes sad, sometimes gritty, but –in the end—a true “feel good” tale. In closing, thanks to you, Star, for allowing me to introduce myself to your readers. You gave me a chance to write something … and that’s always good!

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