Interview with Award-Winning Author Elizabeth Winthrop

Get to know Elizabeth…

Elizabeth Winthrop is the author of more than 50 works of fiction for all ages. She is the winner of the Dorothy Canfield Fisher Award, the Pen Syndicated Fiction Award, The California Young Readers Medal and the Jane Addams Peace Prize Honor Book among others. Her fiction has been selected by the American Library Association Notable Books of the Year, Best American Short Stories, Children’s Choice Awards, National Council of Teachers of English Books for A Global Society, Barnes and Noble Best Children’s Books of the Year, the International Reading Association Teacher’s Choice List, Nick Jr. Magazine’s Best Books for Children, the New York Times Best Illustrated Books, The Bank Street College Best Books for Children and the School Library Journal’s Best of the Best List among others. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What made you fall in love with writing? 

I’ve always loved to read and to write stories. I was a journal writer from an early age, perhaps because I grew up in a large family, squashed in the middle of five brothers. Writing gave me a secret place all my own.

What was your favorite book to write?

Such a hard question to answer. My favorite book to write is often the one I’m working on at the moment. It’s the bubble, the world I’m living in right now and it’s hard to go back to those other worlds. My favorite characters from my books are William from THE CASTLE IN THE ATTIC and THE BATTLE FOR THE CASTLE, Grace from COUNTING ON GRACE and Ella from THE RED-HOT RATTOONS. Hope that answers your question.

Who was your favorite author as a child?

My mother was a British war bride so many of the books I read when I was young came from England. My absolute favorite was THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE by C.S. Lewis.

What advice would you give young writers?

Practice your craft. Take yourself seriously. Read, read, read and find some time to write every single day even if it’s one line of poetry or a bit of description. Writing daily teaches you how to observe the world around you, how to capture a single instant with a few words. This practice will lead you to developing interesting characters and creating the scenes that introduce those characters to your readers.

What is the most valuable advice you’ve ever received?

Writing is 90% perseverance and 10% talent. This taught me to write when I don’t think the story’s going anywhere or when my last manuscript was turned down or when I’ve got a cold or…..or….or….

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

I’m writing a personal history for adult readers about my parents’ love affair during World War II in London. I’m bringing all my fictional talents to recreating their story based on interviews with my mother and the letters my father wrote to his family from England, the Italian front and from behind the lines in occupied France. It’s quite a story!

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Lisa Yee

Get to know Lisa…

With the publication of Millicent Min, Girl Genius, Lisa has realized her lifelong dream of becoming an author. The winner of the prestigious Sid Fleischman Humor Award, there are over 300,000 copies of MILLIE in print. Lisa’s second novel, Stanford Wong Flunks Big-Time won the Chinese American Librarian Association Best Book of the Year award, and was named an American Library Association Notable Book. Lisa was also named the 2007 Thurber House Children’s Author-in-Residence. Her third novel, So Totally Emily Ebers came out in 2007 and so did Good Luck, Ivy, an American Girl historical novel.

Lisa has also penned her own newspaper column, written TV and radio commercials, menus that have been read by millions, jingles for waffles, and television specials for Disney. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

Where do you get your ideas?

Well, one of my best ideas came from the lobby of a hotel in Berkeley, CA. I had just dropped off my daughter at Girl Scout camps and was struggling with my first novel, MILLICENT MIN, GIRL GENIUS. I just couldn’t seem to get a grasp on the plot. Then suddenly it hit me, “They lie—they lie about who’s being tutored.” And that thought fueled the story.

However, not all my ideas come from Berkeley and not all my ideas smack me in the side of the head like that. More likely it’s something odd that I see or take note of. I scribble things down on small slips of paper, and eventually a few of the notes turn into novels.

When are you the most productive?

Night. No question about it. I don’t even attempt to write in the mornings. Just pretending to be awake is strain enough. I write most afternoons, however I’m at my best when it is dark outside and quiet in the house. This leads to late-night hours. My best writing comes between 11 p.m. and 3 a.m.

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

All of them. They were all the easiest to write once they were finished. Writing a book is like giving birth. It’s an agonizing experience, and once it’s over, you forget the pain and think, “Well that wasn’t so bad, was it?”

That said, the book that most closely approximated writing itself was ABSOLUTELY MAYBE. It was sold on proposal as a funny middle grade novel, but ended up being a slightly edgy YA. I didn’t notice the change in direction because I was so immersed in the writing and having so much fun.

The hardest book to write was probably WARP SPEED. Not because of structure or plot or anything like that, but because of the content. It’s about a Star Trek geek who gets beat up every day at school. Emotionally, the story was hard for me because my heart ached for Marley Sandelski. There are some scenes that are pretty raw and I could feel the pain each time Marley was hit and humiliated.

Random Question: What is your favorite dessert?

I love piecrust without the pie part. That is, just the crust of, say, an apple pie. I’m not a fan of cooked fruit, but somehow when there’s pastry crust involved, I’m drawn to it. I simply regale the fruit off to the side dig in. (My brother loves pie without the crust, so this worked to our advantage when we were growing up.)

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Interview with NY Times Bestselling Author Jerry B. Jenkins

51uAsc9YhdLGet to know Jerry…

Jerry B. Jenkins, former editor of Moody Magazine, vice president for publishing, and now chairman of the board of trustees for the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, is the author of more than 175 books, including the 70,000,000-selling Left Behind series. Jerry has been awarded honorary doctorates from Bethel College (Indiana), Trinity International University (Illinois), Colorado Christian University, and Huntington University (Indiana). Riven, which Jerry considers his life’s work novel, released in July 2008 to stellar reviews and has been optioned for a movie.

Jerry and Tim LaHaye’s most recent collaboration is the Jesus Chronicles novel series from Putnam Praise, four titles based on the Gospels. The first, John’s Story, debuted on the New York Times Bestseller List. It was followed by Mark’s Story. Luke’s Story released in March 2009. The final title, Matthew’s Story, released in February, 2010.

Besides Matthew’s Story, Jerry’s also released in 2010 The Last Operative, an international spy thriller (July). The first of a police thriller trilogy based in Chicago, The Brotherhood / A Precint 11 Novel, released in February 2011. Jenkins’s writing has appeared in Time, Reader’s Digest, Parade, Guideposts, and dozens of Christian periodicals. He also serves as a contributing editor to Writer’s Digest.

Jenkins’s non-fiction books include many as-told-to autobiographies, including those of Hank Aaron, Bill Gaither, Orel Hershiser, Luis Palau, Walter Payton, Meadowlark Lemon, Nolan Ryan, and Mike Singletary. The Hershiser and Ryan books reached the New York Times best-seller list. Jenkins also assisted Dr. Billy Graham with his memoirs, Just As I Am, also a New York Times bestseller. Jerry spent 13 months working with Dr. Graham, and considers the project the privilege of a lifetime. For more info, visit his website

Let the conversation begin!

What initially drew you to writing?

My mother taught me to read at age 4 and I was voracious, especially reading the sports page in the paper every day. I wanted to be a big league baseball player (and was even scouted), but was injured playing football as a high school freshman. I started sports writing to stay close to the sports scene and became a stringer for the local papers before I was old enough to drive. My mother had to drive me to the games and to the newspaper office. But I realized immediately I had found my niche. I was a beginner and no good yet (still not J), but I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I became sports editor of a daily when I was 19 and never looked back.

How many words do you write each day?

I’ve never counted. When I’m on deadline I write enough pages per day to always make my deadlines. I start the day doing a heavy edit and re-write of the previous day’s writing (usually 10-20 double spaced pages), then write that day’s allotment. At the end I go back through the entire manuscript until I’m happy with every word.

Are you an outliner or a seat-of-the-pants writer?

Wholly the latter. I write as a process of discovery, putting interesting characters in difficult situations and writing to find out what happens. When readers ask why I killed off their favorite character I tell them, “I didn’t kill him off; I found him dead.”

When are you the most productive? (Morning, noon, or night?)

Morning. The work I do before noon will be the best work I do all day, though I will write till midnight if necessary to complete my daily quota of pages.

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

Read, read, read, watch movies, read, watch television, read.

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

Riven. I had the idea for more than 20 years and was ready when the time came. Hardest was Light on the Heavy / Bible Doctrine Made Easy for Teens. I had no business writing that book and thought it was short, it was grueling. I though doctrine was what a physician does for a living. On the other hand, a seminarian once told me that “that book got me through divinity school.”

Are your characters completely fictional?

Yes.

Or do you base them off real people?

Every one. I might use one person’s tone of voice, another’s smile, another’s face, another’s hair, another’s gender, etc.

Where do you get your ideas?

I make them up. And I read (did you catch that above?). The best novel ideas are usually interesting juxtapositions. I saw a crucifix and was fascinated by it. A few years later I wondered what would happen if someone chose to be crucified. Riven grew from that.

What advice would you give young writers?

Write every day, and that doesn’t mean texting. Read, read, read. Involve yourself in some kind of journalism. Find a mentor (www.christianwritersguild.com).

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

A piece of published work is always a duet between a writer and an editor, never a solo. Develop a thick skin.

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

I’m in the middle of a trilogy of Chicago-based cop thrillers, an homage to my father and two brothers who were lifetime cops and the city where I lived for more than 30 years. The first, just released, is The Brotherhood / A Precinct 11 Novel. Second (this Fall) will be The Betrayal. Third (next summer) will be The Breakthrough.

Describe your dream vacation.

Kauai, reading by the pool, deciding only where to have meals with my wife of 40 years.

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Elaine Marie Alphin

Get to know Elaine…

I started making up stories when I was very small, even before I could write them down. I always dreamed of writing my stories and seeing my books on library shelves one day, where everyone could read them. After years of writing and working and writing some more, I finally got my dream. You can find my books on your library shelves.

I write fiction and nonfiction books for young readers, nonfiction books for adult readers, and all kinds of magazine stories, articles, puzzles and activities for youngsters and for adults. And I’ve got new stories and book ideas in the works all the time.

I also visit schools to meet and talk with students, speak at Young Author Conferences, and serve on the faculty of writing workshops and conferences across the United States. For more info, visit my blog.

Let the conversation begin!

You write fiction and non-fiction. Do you favor one over the other?

I like them both in alternating projects. I love research, and history plays an important role in almost all of my fiction. But when I write fiction I’m not limited to what really happened – I get to interact with my characters, and that makes the writing process really exciting. Also – when I write fiction, the theme comes entirely from within me, so the take-away from the book is more personal. When I write non-fiction the theme must come from the subject matter, although I choose the subject matter because some aspect of it resonates with me.

Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?

My characters are completely fictional, although I often “borrow” traits from real people that fit the characters I’m writing about, if those traits fit the character’s personality. If I’m writing about a real character, like the ghost in Ghost Cadet, which was based on a real person, I make sure my research is complete enough that my ghost character is completely consistent with the real person.

What initially drew you to writing for young readers?

I always wanted to write (from early childhood) and I always wanted to write books that would make my readers think, that would inspire them to question their assumptions and explore new ideas. Because one of my university majors was English and I studied many “great books” that were written for adults, I assumed that I’d be writing for adults. But as I grew up and got to know more adults, I realized that many grown-ups preferred not to read in order to question their assumptions. Most grown-ups seemed to want to read books that confirmed their assumptions, that assured them they had made the right choices in their lives. But young readers were always exploring new ideas and questioning their assumptions. When I realized this, I realized that they were the right readership for me.

When are you the most productive? (Morning, noon, or night?)

I used to be the most productive in the afternoon and at night, but my writing process is evolving. I find myself waking up and wanting to get to my writing right away, so I’ve become more productive in the morning (not early morning – I’m not an early riser! If I try to force myself to get up too early, like before 8 or 9, my mind is groggy when it comes to trying to write). Then I catch up on things like e-mail and other online activities in the afternoons. But I still find myself thinking and working at night, often until midnight or later. I think every person needs to trust their internal clock to tell them when it’s the best time to write.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

When I was in college, the English professor who taught Shakespeare and theatre (and later taught mysteries – wish he’d taught that while I was there!) wouldn’t let me get away with writing good papers, as I did for other professors. He demanded that I write excellent papers in order to get a good grade from him, because he said I was capable of it and I wasn’t trying my hardest when I turned in a paper that was merely good. His name was J. Dennis Huston, and he taught me how important it was to write better than I believed I could. That lesson taught me never to settle for a promising first draft or first revision that produced a good manuscript, and opened me to the vast possibilities of revision to reveal a book’s heart as clearly as I can.

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Elaine Marie Cooper

Get to know Elaine…

Although currently living in the Midwest, Elaine Marie Cooper spent much of her childhood in Massachusetts. She has long been interested in family history as well as Early American history. She is a registered nurse and an award-winning freelance writer.

Elaine is a regular contributor to a blog on the Midwest called The Barn Door. She continues with magazine freelance writing and is currently working on the sequel to “The Road to Deer Run.”

She lives with her husband of 35 years (Steve) and three dogs and one cat. Both her sons are married and Elaine is “Grammie” to triplets. Her only daughter Bethany died in 2003 from a brain tumor. “The Road to Deer Run” is lovingly dedicated to her memory. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What initially drew you to writing?

I have always loved the written word, ever since I was young. I remember checking out eight books at a time from the library—before I could read! But I really enjoyed writing assignments in school. My dad must have noticed because he began encouraging me to write. I feel very blessed to have had a parent that would say to me, “You can do this.”

What was your favorite book to write?

I think my favorite book to write was my first novel, “The Road to Deer Run.” It was not only an intensely emotional journey of writing a historical romance, but it has opened up a whole new world of writing opportunities that I never could have imagined before. I LOVE to write!

Who is your favorite author?

Wow, I really have to think about that one. I have several. For Christian fiction however, I’d have to say that Karen Kingsbury is one of my favorites because she delves into real life issues in a realistic way. But there is always a spiritual lesson involved in her well-written stories. Just love her work.

Where do you get your ideas?

For my first novel, I got the idea from my own ancestors. As a little girl, I had heard the story about my fourth great grandfather who had been a British Redcoat during the American Revolution. However the story did not progress into a fictional tale until many years later. I get other ideas for writing from anywhere and everywhere: a billboard on a freeway, a spiritual lesson to learn from a movie, a person I happen to come in contact with. There is inspiration everywhere if we stop to notice the world around us.

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

I am currently working on the sequel to “The Road to Deer Run.” It takes place in 1790, several years after the Revolutionary war has ended. Although the war is over, the emotional scars from battle are still being felt. I am so excited about this story! I think after my first novel, I was afraid the second would not be as heartfelt a project nor as satisfying. But my fears were not realized, much to my relief! And I feel that the issues of war-related stress is something that modern readers can relate to. I pray that this novel ministers to many.

What advice would you give young writers?

Write. Every day. It doesn’t matter if it’s perfect, but learn to put your thoughts down on paper or laptop on a regular basis. Find a mentor: an established editor or writer that would take you under their wing and give you helpful feedback. If you don’t know one, maybe one of your teachers could connect you with someone. But learn to trust the urging that you feel to put your thoughts down into words. And enjoy it! I wish you well as the Lord helps you develop your gift!

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Author Interview with Dotti Enderle

Get to know Dotti…

Dotti began her publishing journey in 1995, writing for popular children’s magazines. Her work has been included in Babybug, Ladybug, Children’s Playmate, Nature Friend, Turtle and many more.

As a professional storyteller, she’s entertained at numerous schools, libraries, museums and festivals since 1993. She especially takes pride in her vast collection of original stories and folktales, and specializes in “participation” stories, allowing her audience to join in the fun. She’s a native Texan, living with her family in Houston, Texas. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

Are your characters completely fictional? Or do you base them off real people?

Many are based off real people. Lots of times I use the characteristics of popular fictional characters and add my own spin. In my Ghost Detectors series there is a character named Dandy. He was easy to write because I always pictured Butters from South Park. In the YA I just finished revising, I pictured one of the characters as Rupert Grint. And in Man in the Moon, the main character is me. I drew most of it from childhood memories.

When are you the most productive? (Morning, noon, or night?)

I am NOT a morning person. I tend to start about lunch time. I take my work to a restaurant and try not to drip egg salad on the main character’s face.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Be patient. Take time to learn the craft. Take classes. Read (a lot!) Find a good critique group or beta reader, then grow an extra layer of skin and take their advice to heart. Write as much as possible and as often as possible. If you’re writing a novel, stick to it. Don’t jump from project to project and end up with a lot of half-written manuscripts. It takes discipline. Push yourself to write something difficult. And give yourself permission to write a bad first draft. You’ll have a lot of disappointments along the way, but that’s part of the learning process. Just enjoy it.

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