Interview with Award-Winning Author Lewis Buzbee

Get to know Lewis…

Lewis Buzbee is the author of Fliegelman’s Desire, After the Gold Rush, First to Leave Before the Sun, and The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop. Steinbeck’s Ghost, his first novel for younger readers, was selected for the California Library Association’s John and Patricia Beatty Award, and was a Smithsonian Notable Book. His second middle grade novel, The Haunting of Charles Dickens, won the Northern California Book Award and was nominated for an Edgar Award. Bridge of Time, was published this May.  A bookseller and publisher for over 20 years, he has taught for the last 12 years in the MFA program at University of San Francisco. For more info, visit his website

Let the conversation begin!

Can you share a nugget of writing wisdom? 

“No more doughnuts.”  This was said to me, with great force, by Stephen Dobyns, a teacher of mine, while I was studying for my MFA.  What he meant was simple: no more screwing around.  If you want to do it, do it.  And that means writing.  No amount of extra-literary stuff is going to help you.  It’s all about the will do sit at the desk and write.  Nothing else counts. 

Tell us about the book you’re working on. 

I’m just finishing the last draft of a new nonfiction book for adults, Blackboard: The Life of the Classroom, but have just started taking notes for a new novel, my first YA.  Garbage Hill follows five characters during a day-long music festival, five stages, forty bands, from early morning ’til past midnight, “a day of sun, fun, music, and madness.”  Every character has a dream; every character has a secret; everything will change on this one day.  This is a fun time to be working on a new book, it’s all fresh ideas and the world and the characters banging around in my head.      

What book are you reading right now? 

Beverly Cleary’s memoir, A Girl from Yamhill.  I’ve been re-reading her a lot lately, and can’t get enough of her prose.  It’s so pure, so clean, so American, and she’s just about one of the funniest writers ever, such great timing.  Reading her prose is such a pleasure, a luxury. 

Do you keep a writing journal? 

No.  I take a lot of notes, write down ideas, etc.  But when I’m writing I’m writing. 

Coffee or Tea? 

Coffee–black. 

Why do you write? 

Because I have to.  Because stories and books assault me and if I don’t write them down, I’m afraid I’ll go a little mad.  I like to think of it as a public service, to those around me.  When I’m writing, I’m a better person, more civilized.  

When are you the most productive? 

Mornings.  I drive my daughter to school–while still in my pajamas–and when I get back I go to my desk.  I have to write before the noise of the world gets too loud. 

As a teenager, what was your favorite musical group? 

I’m old, so it was The Beatles, hands-down.  And they really helped me as a writer, I believe.  How to craft a shapely song, something with drive and momentum and surprise; how to write songs that are both sophisticated and simple at the same time; how to put those songs together on an album for a narrative arc.  

Who is your best friend?  

Ken Taylor, who I’ve known for over 35 years now.  We know each other’s deepest and darkest secrets, but more importantly, we put up with each other’s stupidities and madnesses.  When he’s acting all wonky, I can say, that’s just Kenny; when I’m spazzing out, he can say the same thing about me.  We’re not expecting each other to change too much. 

Who was your first date? 

My high school girlfriend, Selinda.  It was the Sadie Hawkins dance, where the girl’s supposed to ask the boy.  But I spent several days trying to hint–rather baldly, I fear–so that she would ask me out.  And she did, rather out of exasperation.  I got a speeding ticket on the way home from the dance, and her dad was outside waiting for us.  I was sure the cops had called him, but he was just watching a house down the street that was on fire. 

If you could live anywhere for one year, all expenses paid, where would you live? 

I’m fascinated with Taiwan.  I watch a lot of Taiwanese game shows and soap operas, and it always feels like the future to me–bold and bright and very weird.  I’d love to just hang out there. 

What did you want to be when you grew up? 

In this order: a Marine sergeant, an astronaut, a football player, a stand-up comic, a rock star, a writer.  

If you could have one super human power, what would it be? 

Creepy as it sounds, Invisibility.  To see what people do when no one’s watching.  Which is a great metaphor for what writers do, seeing into the secret heart of their characters.  Writers are basically nosy people. 

What is your favorite season?  

I love autumn, and I think it has something to do with the approach of school, a sort of excitement around that.  I love the smell of it, and the colors of light, the shortening days and how that compresses all the color into some lovely evenings.  And the sense that Halloween is just about here. 

Which of the seven dwarfs describes you best? 

Grumpy, with a touch of Sneezy. 

If you were attending a Halloween party, what would your costume be and why? 

I would love to go as a Day of the Dead skeleton-figure.  Halloween has become such a masquerade ball, but I’m old school on this.  Spirits of the dead, of the other world, that’s what it’s about for me. 

What was the first live concert you ever attended? 

Again, I’m very old, so it was Ten Years After, a band that had recently played Woodstock.  I was 13, and my brother, who’s much older, took me.  It was great, and terrifying. 

Is the glass half empty or half full? What is in the glass? 

It’s both, isn’t it?  We have to honor what we have as much as honor what we’ve lost.  I want the whole picture, the real picture–life is never totally perfect nor totally bereft. 

What is the worst possible name to call a child? 

Richard.  It just can’t end well. 

What do you miss about being a child? 

How long a day can be.  

What is the best part of writing? Worst part? 

Frankly, I like all of it.  Even the hard parts.  I love first drafts, which I write really quickly, and revision has its own rewards, the shaping of it.  I think writers need to be two-faced in a way–the one who composes, the one who cuts.  And back and forth.  I just feel so lucky to be able to write, and then to have some readers, oh, that’s grand. 

If you could only write one more book, what would it be about? 

The early years of The Beatles, told from George’s point of view.  I’m talking about before they were The Beatles, before Ringo, even before Hamburg, that first year or two when they were in Liverpool, just some teenagers trying to start a band. 

How long have you been writing? Does it feel like yesterday? 

I started when I was 15 and haven’t stopped since.  That’s 40 years.  Oddly, it kind of feels like yesterday, because I still have that sense of amazement when I’m working–that these squiggles on paper will create an entire world–along with the sense that, after all these years, I still feel like I don’t know what I’m doing, that every story or book is a brand new puzzle to be solved. 

What specific thing have you done that impressed yourself? 

When my daughter was very young, we were very poor, and I was teaching part-time and trying to write, and I needed to go back to bartending three nights a week, just to pay the bills.  It was grueling work, and yet I managed to do that, teach, and write two books at the same time over three years.  And those books made it possible, financially, for me to stop bartending.  

What cartoon character best represents your personal philosophy? 

Bugs Bunny, no doubt.  He’s smart and funny, and basically a nice fellow.  But he also won’t suffer fools gladly.  He uses his wits, instead of his might, to win his battles. 

What’s your passion? 

Reading.  Oh, I love to read, still and always will.  That’s one.  Another, right now, is going to live music shows with my daughter, who’s 14, and has great taste in new bands, and introduces me to all this great music.  I’m often the oldest person at the club, but I don’t feel old.  It’s great. 

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Interview with Bestselling Author Julia DeVillers

61D6ficiRrL._SL1000_Get to know Julia…

Julia DeVillers is a bestselling author of books for kids, tweens and teens. She writes books for Simon and Schuster, Dutton, and Random House.  She is represented by Mel Berger at William Morris Endeavor Entertainment. 

Her book, How My Private Personal Journal became the Disney Channel Original Movie, Read it and Weep. Julia appears in a cameo as “Grossed-out customer being served pizza with real chicken feet sticking out of it.”

Her books have been featured in the New York Times, USA Today and all the major teen magazines. Julia has a M.A. in journalism from The Ohio State University, and a B.A. from State University of New York at Oswego. She just spent a year overseas in Tbilisi, Georgia and now is dividing her time between Saratoga Springs, NY and Columbus, Ohio. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

Do you begin with character or plot?

Character. I tend to start with a what if: “What if I were a 14-year-old girl whose journal became a bestseller?” “What if I was a kid and my father was elected president?” “What if my twin and I switched places when we were in middle school?” 

What was the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?

How about the weirdest food I pretended to eat? One of my books was made into a Disney Channel TV movie called READ IT AND WEEP. I had a cameo in the movie. The father character owned a pizza shop and was trying to drum up business by inventing unique pizzas and they ‘served’ me a chicken feet pizza. It had real chicken claws sticking out of it, like they were reaching for me. Shudder. It smelled and looked disgusting, and my face in my cameo looking like I’m going to puke isn’t acting. 

What element would you add to your writing space if money wasn’t an issue? 

A beach view. (I live in Ohio, so this is unlikely.) 

Describe your perfect day.

Setting: Beach

Characters: My family, all my friends and my favorite authors

Plot: After finishing my manuscript (that will need no revising) (hey, it’s a dream), I throw a great party on the beach to celebrate. No, revise that: someone else throws a party for me. (And they clean up afterward, too.) 

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

My first grade teacher, Mrs. Guest, used to let me write and illustrate little books that she would photocopy for the rest of the class.  One boy would promptly throw it at somebody, crumple it up or chew on them. Mrs. Guest told me “All writers face rejection. Keep writing.” 

(P.S. She never said: Don’t give up illustrating. In hindsight, there was a reason for that.) 

What advice would you give young writers?

Read. Everyone says that, right? How about: Check out writers’ conferences and events in your area. I love to see teens at events, getting exposure to the the business of publishing and meeting authors and editors. 

What’s the first item on your bucket list?

This inspires me to make a bucket list but I did have one when I was a teen (I sent it in a letter to a friend, and she kept it.) It included:

  •  Do something glamorous!

  •  Have the best friends ever!

  •  Win a shopping spree!

  •  Get published!

  •  Help the world!

  •  Get a really cute boyfriend! 

  • I still haven’t won a shopping spree. 

Outliner or seat-of-the-pantser?

Seat of the Pajants.

In grade school, what did you want to be when you grew up?

According to the “My School Years” book I still have, I wanted to be:

1st grade: Writer (Thanks again, Mrs. Guest.)

2nd grade: Gymnast (Apparently I hadn’t realized I was uncoordinated yet.)

3rd grade: Actress

4th: A teacher at a school for the deaf (my twin and I perfected out sign language skills so we could communicate when the teacher wasn’t looking.)

5th: Wife of (5th grade boyfriend’s name.)   

Easier to write before or after you were published?

After. Validation—and deadlines- are motivating. 

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

Go to bookstores and browse every section, except the horror one. 

Earliest childhood memory?

I just turned four and my little sister was being born—during a hurricane. I was staying with my grandparents and their roads were flooded for days so I had to wait in suspense to see her. 

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Interview with Bestselling Author Anne Mazer

Get to know Anne…

Quite a lot of Anne Mazer’s writing education took place while she was unconscious. Her parents wanted desperately to become writers and made themselves get up at 4:00 a.m. Every morning in order to have writing time before their three young children awoke. The first thing Anne heard every day was two big, noisy electric typewriters. The furious sound of typing was her childhood wake-up music. During the day, her parents endlessly discussed ideas, plot, and character, and before she was seven years old, Anne knew about revisions, first and second drafts, and rejection slips. It was like growing up in a twenty four hour, seven day a week writer’s boot camp.

Anne is the author of forty-four books, including picture books (The Salamander Room), novels (The Oxboy, Moose Street), and two best-selling series (The Amazing Days of Abby Hayes; and Sister Magic). She edited four acclaimed anthologies which have been widely used in elementary through college classrooms. Her latest work is Spilling Ink: A Handbook for Young Writers, co-authored with Ellen Potter. For more info, visit her site and super cool Spilling Ink creativity blog with Ellen Potter. 

Let the conversation begin!

Was it easier to write before or after you were published?

Interesting question! For me, it’s much easier to write AFTER publication because I take myself more seriously as a writer. Of course there’s a little more pressure, but the rewards far outweigh it.

Are your characters fictional? 

When I imagine a character, I always begin with a real person in mind. That always helps me visualize him or her. Sometimes I combine traits from two or three people. Very early on, though, I let go of real history, and let the story take over. By the time I finish the book, my character is completely fictional.

What advice would you give young writers?

Funny you should ask! I co-wrote Spilling Ink: A Handbook for Young Writers with my friend Ellen Potter for all the kids who’ve ever asked “where do you get ideas?” and “how do I become a writer?” For those who don’t have the book handy, here are three quick but essential tips:

1. Read a lot!
2) Write regularly.
3) Pay attention to what’s around you.

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

I used to think it was “Don’t give up” (from my mother), but now I like Ellen Potter’s “Do what’s fun for you.”

Daily word count?

I don’t have a clue! Word counts drive me crazy. I’m compulsive enough without them. All I try to do is work every day, five days a week, and try to move my story forward, at least by a line or two.

Outliner or seat-of-the-pantser?

I am definitely NOT an outliner. For me, outlines kill all the fun, scariness, and surprises of writing. I like to leap in and see what happens. But if outlines make you happy, you should definitely use them. It’s all about finding what works for you.

When are you the most productive?

Morning is my best time for writing new material. I can edit any time of the day.

What would you add to your writing space if money wasn’t an issue?

A tree house. With a slide into a pool…

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

Do something that’s a lot of fun, very new, and somewhat challenging.

Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress? 

I’m usually pretty secretive, but I’ve gone out of my comfort zone to show w-i-p to my friend Ellen Potter.

If there is one genre you’d never write, what is it?

 Any story with explicit violence and gore. I have no tolerance for it.

Would you rather publish a string of mainstream books or one classic?

A stream of books. Because some of those mainstream books really are classics!

Is there a genre you avoid?

I’m not overly fond of vampires, zombies, and the supernatural dead.

What initially drew you to writing?

It was always all about the books for me.

Do you begin with character or plot?

Both, really. One doesn’t make sense without the other.


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Interview with Award-Winning Author Betty Birney

1010563-_0Get to know Betty…

Betty G. Birney is the author of the award-winning According to Humphrey series, which has won seven state awards, and several Children’s Crown awards. The eighth book, Mysteries According to Humphrey, comes out in July and Winter According to Humphrey will be published in October. Her book, The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs, has been on numerous state lists, including the California Young Readers Medal. For her television writing for children, Betty has received an Emmy, a Writer’s Guild award, and three Humanitas Prizes. Fore more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

Can you share a nugget of writing wisdom?

I believe you have to write the whole book in order to learn what it’s about. The story will tell you, if you let it. Unfortunately, we all put up a lot of obstacles to prevent that from happening. If you’re quiet and listen, the story will speak to you. No one ever wrote a book while talking! I need lots of quiet and time alone to let the story speak to me. 

Do you keep a writing journal?

Yes. It’s not a journal where I write down what I did each day, but where I record ideas, quotes, names, rhymes – all kind of crazy things, including the occasional recipe or shopping list! 

Coffee or tea?

Both … and then some. Late in the afternoon, when I look at my desk, I’ll have quite a collection of beverage containers from the day. Coffee first, then iced green tea most of the day, water, the occasional Diet Coke (my vice), Trader Joe’s Low Sodium Garden Patch Juice (my favorite). I do stay hydrated! 

Tell us about the book you’re working on.

I’m really funny about this. I don’t tell anyone what I’m working on, except my husband and sometimes my agent and editor. I like to keep it really private and inside me and I think all the energy goes away when you talk about a story too much. Maybe it’s just a superstition. I don’t even tell my husband a whole lot, because he’s my first reader and I want it to be new and fresh when he sees the manuscript. 

Do you make your bed every morning or do you leave it unmade?

Oh, definitely make that bed in the morning. (Or my husband does.) I may work at home, but I am showered, fed and dressed (not too sloppily), when I write. I have to signal myself that I’m going to work. I do check emails and surf the net in my PJs.

I you could pick one fiction character to meet, who would it be? What would you ask him/her?

Oh, there are so many!  I loved the Betsy-Tacy books growing up. I thought I was Betsy. She had brown hair in pigtails and she wanted to be a writer! I’d like to spend a day exploring Deep Valley with her, back in her time. It would also be interesting to meet Laura Ingalls Wilder. She’s not exactly a fictional character, but she’s not exactly non-fiction, either. I’d like to find the line between the real Laura and the Laura of the books, which I adored. And of course, there are the stories about whether she wrote the books or her daughter did, so maybe I could find out the truth, not that it matters. The books stand alone.  Maybe I could ask Dr. Doolittle how to talk to the animals and understand them. Right now, I’m only good at speaking hamster! In the end, maybe I’d like to meet Nancy Drew and let her tell me how to be cool. Because Nancy was really cool. 

If you could live anywhere for one year, all expenses paid, where would you live?

England, hands down, with side trips to Scotland. Because of the popularity of the Humphrey books there, I usually go there once a year (or more) and there’s never enough time, especially to explore the endless array of literary landmarks. I also have fabulous friends there that I stay with. I’m salivating just thinking about it. The Brits and the Scots have been extremely generous to Humphrey and me, and I never get enough of London or the countryside. 

A couple of years ago, I spoke at the Edinburgh Book Festival and then my husband and I took a 10-day train trip through the Scottish Highlands. It’s a trip I would gladly repeat, moment by moment. In 2011, I did a World Book Day event with Camilla and had a formal introduction and chat with her (she was lovely). Someone at my publisher there (Faber and Faber) recently called me an Honorary Brit, which delighted me.

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Allan Stratton

6e5065a4a8327cc09879f098192a7c11Get to know Allan…

Allan Stratton is the internationally acclaimed author of Chanda’s Secrets, winner of twenty-six awards and citations including the ALA’s Michael L. Printz Honor Book, the Children’s Africana Best Book Award and Booklist’s Editor’s Choice. The film version, Life, Above All, won the Prix François Chalais at the Cannes Film Festival and was South Africa’s Oscar entry for best foreign language film. Its sequel, Chanda’s Wars, won the CLA Young Adult Book Award and was a Junior Library Guild selection (USA). His most recent novel, Borderline, earned an American Library Association Best Fiction nod. All his books have been nominated for the White Pine Award. He lives in Toronto. For more info, visit his website.

Let the conversation begin!

What is your very favorite part of the day? 

I like morning because the day is filled with challenges and possibilities. When I was in my twenties, though, I liked the middle of the night because it was so still and great for quiet walks. Mind you, I did get stopped by the police occasionally, because I was a bit scruffy back then and the best walks were through extremely nice neighborhoods. 

How do you recharge your creative batteries? 

I travel, usually with just a driver/guide. My favorite trips have been to Cambodia, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, China, and Argentina. If I’m in Europe or North America I just kick around on my own: Rome, London, Paris, and New York are great walking cities; some of the smaller centers I love are Venice, Nice, Amsterdam and San Antonio. If I’m really burned out I just go south – Cayo Largo, a small coral island off the south coast of Cuba is my favorite place to dive and snorkel. 

Best writing advice you’ve ever received? 

Read, read, read. Write, write, write. 

If you were handed free opera tickets, would you go or sell them? 

I’d go of course. A buck is a buck. Experiences are irreplaceable.

Will you have a new book coming out soon? 

THE GRAVE ROBBER’S APPRENTICE has just come out. It’s lots of fun–a medieval fantasy about a boy washed ashore in jeweled box and adopted by a grave robber. Also, a young countess on the run from a bloodthirsty archduke, an evil necromancer, a circus of dancing bears, a wolf king and a mountain hermitage with monks who are not what they seem. Click here to see the book trailer.

Any advice to give to aspiring writers? 

Write because you love it, because it’s the most fun thing in the world, because you need to write as desperately as you need to breathe. 

Is there anything you’d like to shout out to your readers? 

THANK YOU FOR BEING THERE! 

Are you a person who makes their bed in the morning? 

Gosh no. I don’t want to disturb the cats.  

Would you rather plan a party or attend one?  

I’d rather plan a party because then I’d have something to do to keep my mind off being uncomfortable. Honestly, parties make me tense. I don’t drink and I hate small talk. I can talk to large crowds and feel confident and at ease, but put me in a cocktail party and my cheeks lock. (Both sets.) 

Best party you’ve ever been to? 

That would be any party back in my twenties when I was still drinking. 

Of all your books, what was your favorite chapter to write? 

Either the end of CHANDA’S SECRETS when Mrs. Tafa’s secret comes out or the demise of the Necromancer in my new book, THE GRAVE ROBBER’S APPRENTICE. In the first case, because I discovered Mrs. Tafa’s secret only as she told it to me, and it brought back all the friends I‘ve had who’ve died of AIDS; it was pretty emotional. In the second case, because the Necromancer’s grisly end (offstage) was such poetic justice it made me grin. 

Do you come up with your book titles? 

Yes. It’s as personal as naming a baby. 

What is the easiest part of the writing process? Hardest? 

Dialogue is the easiest for me, probably because I started as a playwright. Description is what I have to work at. 

And that brings me to the end of the questions, so – thank you so much for getting the chance to connect with YOUR readers. I hope to see you all at my site, and to hear from you, too.  

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Author Interview with Nikki Loftin

NIKKIGet to know Nikki…

Nikki Loftin lives with her Scottish photographer husband just outside Austin, Texas, surrounded by dogs, chickens, and small, loud boys. Her middle-grade novel, The Sinister Sweetness of Splendid Academy, will debut on August 21, 2012. For more info, visit her website and Twitter.

Let the conversation begin!

Can you share a nugget of writing wisdom? 

Don’t forget to have fun. Life can be short, and if you spend all your time doing something that gives you no joy, you’ve kind of missed the point. If you want to love writing, but still sort of dread it, it might be for the same reason I once did: I was writing in the wrong genre. Once I switched from adult literary fiction to middle grade fantasy, my writing improved, my skin cleared up, and my gray hairs vanished overnight! 

Do you keep a writing journal? 

I do not, and I’m sort of intimidated by people who do. I mean, I’m supposed to write all these words for books and stories, AND write about the writing? It makes my fingers cry when I even think about it. Of course, I have these fantasies that I could be one of those writers – the ones who sit in a bar, or on a park bench, jail, wherever, writing about their writing. “It was a bad day today. Only four sonnets, a haiku, and a half-chapter of the wretched novel about my thankless children. I should have had better children, or worse ones, so this novel would show more complexity. My muse has deserted me. I believe she is hiding at the bottom of a chocolate sundae. I will find her, if I have to eat every scoop of ice cream in this blighted city!” This is the sort of thing writers scribble in those journals, right? 

Coffee or Tea? 

One cup of coffee first, then tea all day long!  I have an itty-bitty ritual of sorts. I’ll make a pot of herbal tea (a different flavor for each novel!), then drink from one of the antique, flower-painted bone china teacups I’ve collected for decades. (No, I am not kidding. It makes me feel very special and precious, and helps with the inevitable frustrations of writing. And yes, I may use a faux-British accent when I’m talking to myself as I work. Even MORE special.) 

Also, the tea helps wash down the copious amounts of chocolate I consume as I work. Lindt bars, if you’re curious. Mmmm. 

Why do you write? 

It’s the best job in the world. To me, there is nothing more satisfying than telling a story. And since I write funny stories sometimes, I love making myself – and my readers — laugh. My first readers are my own sons (ages 9 and 12). If I can make them laugh, I win as a writer and a mom! It almost makes up for those months when I’m on deadline, and I have to hire a pack of wolves to raise them for me. 

When are you the most productive? 

I am most productive in the morning. When I have a deadline for a new book, I’ll take my calendar and write out how many words I must get down on paper each day. Some days it’s a thousand, some days four thousand, depending on my other responsibilities. I write until I have met my quota. I refer to this as “making the word sausage.” It’s ugly, and you probably don’t want to see how it’s done. But it gets done, and it’s delicious in the end. (And yes, I completely realize this makes my muse weep tears of ash, but she’s learned to cope. And I almost never miss a deadline.) 

Daily word count? 

The most I’ve ever done is around 5,000. Normally, I hit one thousand. I take breaks between novels and work on poems, short stories, and essays. I think short form fiction, in particular, is very good practice for learning to write economically. 

If you were attending a Halloween party, what would your costume be?

If I wanted to be truly frightening, I would go as Dolores Umbridge, who is the worst, most evil villain in all of children’s literature. My heart beats fast when I even think about her. But I usually go as a Gypsy fortuneteller, since I love the clothes, and the drama of it all, and pretending to read peoples’ palms. 

What specific thing have you done that impressed yourself?

I recently wrote an entire draft of a novel, on deadline, in five weeks from start to finish. And it didn’t stink.  

Is the glass half empty or half full? What is in the glass? 

The glass is always full. Sometimes it’s just half full of chocolate milkshake, and half full of the memory of chocolate milkshake. 

Where do you see yourself in ten years? 

Oh, I hope I’m writing lots and lots of books, and lots and lots of letters and emails back to kids who love reading my books. Is that too much to hope for? Also, I would like a pony.  

What is the worst possible name to call a child? 

Trevor. 

What do you miss about being a child? 

I miss being small and irresponsible enough to climb out on my roof. I spent most of my childhood sneaking out onto the roof of my house, and watching the world go by below me. I’d take books, snacks, paper and pen for writing poems, and stay until I heard my mom calling. Which was usually about sixty seconds after the neighbors had telephoned to report me.   

What’s your passion? 

Spreading joy and light, especially to kids. If I can give children even a small portion of the happiness and escape I found in books as a child, if I can transport them or make them laugh, entertain them for a few hours in the hospital or in study hall? I win. 

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Terry Trueman

Get to know Terry…

Terry Trueman received his B.A. in creative writing at the University of Washington. He also has an M.S. in applied psychology and an M.F.A. in creative writing, both from Eastern Washington University. The father of two sons, Henry and Jesse, Terry Trueman makes his home in Spokane, Washington, where he has lived since 1974.

His novel, STUCK IN NEUTRAL was a Printz Honor recipient. INSIDE OUT, his second novel was released in August 2003. In October of 2004, his third novel CRUISE CONTROL was released — a companion to STUCK IN NEUTRAL that tells brother Paul McDaniel’s intimate side of the story. Hodder Books released SWALLOWING THE SUN, which follows a teen’s heroic efforts to save friends and family after his Honduran village is destroyed by a devastating mudslide, in October of 2003 (only in the UK). And NO RIGHT TURN, Trueman’s fourth US and fifth all-around novel. For more info, visit his website.

Let the conversation begin!

Can you share a nugget of writing wisdom? 

Bukowski put it best, ‘don’t try’. This two word philosophy of life is inscribed on his grave stone and seems the perfect advice. Write because you love it. Write because your life will be either insufferable, or at least less happy if you don’t write. Sit down and write. Do it, don’t try. 

Describe your writing process. Do you work from an outline?

I don’t work from an outline. My stories are all based, in greater or lesser degrees on real life things I’ve lived through. They are also written in first person present tense, so once I have the protagonist’s voice in my head and a clear sense of what/why I’m writing, it all flows well so long as I write every day. 

Did you attend writers’ conferences before you were published? If so, did you enjoy them?

I’ve been to some writer’s conferences, but usually as a speaker, rarely as an attendee. I don’t know if they help other people or not. Writing is pretty much a non-team sport, which is the way I like it. 

Do you enjoy speaking engagements? Or would you rather stay locked in your office, writing?

This isn’t an either or question or at least not an either or answer. I enjoy speaking engagements a lot AND I’d rather stay home writing. 

Have you ever had a reoccurring dream? What was it?

Reoccurring? Not that I can remember right now; besides other people’s dreams are usually pretty boring, so I have to assume my dreams would be equally boring to them. 

What was your nickname growing up or now?

I was the smartass/verbal bully who gave out nicknames, not the guy who got labeled with one. 

Who was your hero when you were a child?

I had no heroes, not as a child nor as an adult, although certain writers/authors/poets have played a big role in my development as a writer. 

Who inspires you and how are you a bit like them?

Charles Bukowski inspired me a bit; we both started earning a living as writers after age 50, we both had plenty of trouble with women over the course of our lives and he wrote with such passion and apparent honesty about everything, especially writing itself. 

How did you learn to ride a bicycle?

I’m 64 years old. I don’t remember a time when I couldn’t ride a bike and I only barely remember back so far to having any enjoyment of it at all; I hate riding a bike. 

Based on something you’ve already done, how might you make it into the Guinness Book of World Records?

I won’t and don’t want to. It’s a publication celebrating, for the most part, mediocrity by pointing out the most extraordinary achievements of mediocre people doing mediocre things. Who ate the most hot dogs? Who held their breath under water the longest? Who cares?   

When you have 30 minutes of free-time, how do you pass the time?

At 64 years old there is no such thing as ‘free’ time, it all feels like ‘borrowed’ time, precious and not to be taken for granted. Everything I do these days I try to do with purpose and understanding and the rest of the Buddhists’ eight fold path. 

If you could do anything and get away with it, what would you do?

Hmmmm? Probably some crime of getting $$ without hurting anyone, enough money to never worry about having enough ever again . . . an odd choice since I have no real $$ worries. 

If you won the lottery, what is the first thing you’d do?

I rarely buy a lottery ticket. I don’t think about this very much and I feel that my luck and life have been so blessed already that I don’t care much about winning the lottery; I know this sounds contradictory to my previous answer, but even stealing a great deal of $$ and getting away with it would require some grit and smarts and chutzpa (sp?) whereas winning the lottery requires being just plain old dumbass lucky. 

What story does your family always tell about you?

My family is my sister, my sons, my wife and my dog; none of them tell any stories about me. 

What age did you become an adult?

Hasn’t happened yet: I’m a 14 year old boy, trapped in the body of a little old man. 

What was the last movie or book that made you angry? 

Angry? Hmmm? Not sure anything has made me angry ever, at least not on account of the work itself. I get fired-up about politics, racism, sexism, all the is’ms—and whether I’m reading about these subjects or seeing them presented, like in the movie The Help, I get frustrated, probably a bit angry. But all my life I’ve struggled with a terrible, childish temper and only in recent years have I begun to feel a little bit of control over it; and I love that feeling. 

What advice would you give to new writers?

If you’re doing it for fame and fortune, give it up. So few people ever make a living at it, much less achieve some sort of mini-immortality. Write for the sheer joy of writing, because you love it and because if you don’t do it, you’ll be less happy. 

What mischief did you get into growing up?

All kinds, but nothing of any importance. I never wanted to hurt people or animals, even insects, like spiders I always tried to catch and release, trusting in my rehabilitation efforts. 

If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be? 

It’s too weird a question. No offense, but every age has had drawbacks and advantages; I can say that I’ve never felt spiritually and psychologically better than I do right now. I’d have the wisdom of my old age and the body of my mid-twenties. 

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

Plant my butt in a chair and write an hour every single day. Everything in my life that came from writing started with that advice (given, btw, by Pat McManus at one of those writer’s conferences I said I hardly ever go to). 

What would you like your life to look like in ten years?

Again, I’m 64. I’d like to remember my name, not be wearing adult diapers, and still enjoy writing and life as much as I do today; that’d be plenty! 

Most embarrassing moment?

I type with two fingers so I’m not going to tell about my most embarrassing moment as it takes too long to set-up. Let’s just say it involved a girl in Jr. High, come to think of it there were scores of almost equally embarrassing moments starting at that age and never letting up. 

Can you share a recent traveling highlight?

As much as I like people, enjoy speaking and making $$, and love meeting my readers, the highlight for me of every travel experience these days is getting back home. I’ve traveled the world, or at least to most of it that I care about seeing; Europe multiple times. I lived in Australia for a couple years, and in Central America for a year. I’ve been to Mexico and Hawaii too many times to count, South Africa, which was quite a trip and an adventure, and to most of the 50 states. There’s no place that I’m ‘dying’ to see or experience. That cliché, ‘wherever you go, there you are’ really applies to me. I only travel now when I’m paid to do so. 

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