“Middleview” Interview with Debut Author Ryan Gebhart

Posted by Tamera Wissinger

Today, Ryan Gebhart is joining Smack Dab In The Middle Blog for a guest “middleview” interview. Ryan’s debut middle grade novel THERE WILL BE BEARS, Candlewick Press, releases on 04/22/2014! Congratulations, Ryan!

Here is a bit about Ryan:

Ryan Gebhart was born and raised in Maumee, Ohio, and graduated from Ohio University with a master's degree in Spanish. Having held twenty-one jobs in his life, he can do lots of unexpected things, from wiring a house to painting portraits to quartering large game to making a fierce smoothie. There Will Be Bears was inspired by a gig working at a hunting ranch in western Wyoming. Ryan Gebhart lives in Ohio.

Here’s a description of THERE WILL BE BEARS:

Tyson is determined to hunt an elk — even if it means sneaking his grandpa out of a nursing home — in a debut novel sparked with dry wit and wilderness adventure.

Thirteen-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. . . .

Here are the links to Ryan online: Twitter, Goodreads Note: There is a 5-copy giveaway currently underway on Goodreads – hurry, though, just two days remain.

Now it’s time to hear from our guest:

Smack Dab Middleview with THERE WILL BE BEARS author Ryan Gebhart
1. In a nutshell, what does your main character, Tyson want?

Tyson wants nothing more than to go elk hunting with his grandfather in the Bridger-Teton National Park in Wyoming.

2. What is in his way?

His grandfather has been hiding a sickness from him, and his parents don't want them going because of the recent spate of bear attacks in the park. 

3. Did you know right away that this was your story, or did you discover it as you wrote? How did the story evolve?

The original draft was actually a fantasy about an imaginative kid playing along with his grandfather's dementia, and he pretended they were trying to escape from a dungeon, but in real life that dungeon was a nursing home. But the story had no meat to it, so it got shelved, along with a hundred other random, awful ideas. I found a way to bring this concept back to life after returning from a season working at an elk hunting ranch. I really think that combining two ideas that, at first glance, don't seem to play well with each other, I think that's an effective way to develop a unique and compelling plot.

4. Was There Will Be Bears always for middle grade readers or not? If so, why did you choose middle grade? If not, what had to change for it to be considered a middle grade novel?

I had attempted to get an agent with five YA novels, all with zero success. My YA "voice" just wasn't there. But one of my beta readers pointed out how natural my MG voice sounded in the flashback sequences, and she suggested I try to write for a younger crowd. So when I returned home from the hunting ranch, I knew my escape-from-a-nursing-home-to-go-elk-hunting story was destined to be MG.

5. What is the best part of writing for middle grade readers?

For many MG readers, the middle school years will be the worst time of their lives. But also the most memorable. Middle school kids are awkward and bizarre from an adult perspective, but they're just desperate to fit into their own skin, to fit in with their friends, and to discover their own identity. This whole "growing up" thing is completely new to them, and it gets thrown at them from nowhere. It's like, dude, I was just playing with toy trucks in the sandbox three minutes ago and now you want me to have responsibilities and date girls??? Being able to speak to MG'ers and to represent them in this coming-of-age time is a complete honor, because I remember just how much the things I loved stuck with me at that age.

6. Is there any downside?

Having not completed and published a novel in other genres, I'm still 100% certain that pulling off an effective and not-condescending MG is the hardest thing to do. In the world. Since the dawn of time. Because on page, it seems so, so easy. But to effectively write in the voice of a thirteen-year old, and to capture his fears, wants, insecurities and make it all honest... it's like, dude. You have no idea. My book has been called a "slim volume" and a "quick, easy read" and it took me THREE YEARS to pull it off.

7. Is there one question you wish you could answer about writing, your book, or the author's life, but have never been asked? Here's your chance to Q &A yourself.

Q: Did you rip off the title for your book from the movie There Will Be Blood?

A: Absolutely.

Thanks for joining us at Smack Dab in the Middle Blog, Ryan. Again, congratulations on the release of THERE WILL BE BEARS!


  1. Great interview (love that last Q&A)! I'm really looking forward to this one :)

  2. I love all these questions and of course Ryan's answers were awesome. I can't wait to read this. I have a serious soft spot for assisted living escapees.

  3. Love this interview, especially since my very own Ryan-signed copy arrived today! The question is, who's going to read it first? The 13 yo son or me?
    LOVE this premise! So glad you found your writing niche, Ryan. I started out trying to write YA, too. Guess I'm just stuck in sixth grade!

  4. Congrats Ryan. The book sounds like a winner and I look forward to reading it! Best of Luck with the book and with bears!

  5. Easy reading is always hard writing! Congrats, Ryan!

  6. Congratulations, Ryan! I can't wait to read it.


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