Interview with Award-Winning Author Kristin O’Donnell Tubb

TubbGet to know Kristin…

Kristin Tubb is the author of Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different (Delacorte Press/Random House 2008), a historical fiction account of the beginnings of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park told through the eyes of 11-year-old Cades Cove resident, Autumn Oliver.  It was selected by the Tennessee State Library to represent the state of Tennessee at the 2009 National Book Festival and has been nominated for the Volunteer State Book Award (2011–2012 list). Tubb’s fantasy debut, The 13th Sign, will be released in Fall 2012 from Feiwel & Friends. Her other publication credits include Cricket Magazine, Spider Magazine, Guideposts for Kids, Wee Ones eMagazine, and Highlights for Children (from whom she received a Pewter Plate Award for Outstanding Arts Feature of 2005). She has written a number of children’s activity books for licensed characters such as Holly Hobbie, The Powerpuff Girls, Scooby-Doo, Strawberry Shortcake, and the Care Bears. To learn more, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

What’s one rule you’re dying to break?

Writing rule? Probably to include as little backstory as possible. (I like back-story!). Life rule? Running with scissors.  

How long does it take you to write a book?

I’m managing to trim the process little by little. I got the idea for my first book, Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different in 2002, researched and wrote for four years, edited for two, and the book came out in 2008. For Selling Hope, that cycle narrowed to four short years. 

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

I wouldn’t say one is easier than another, but the pressures are different.  Before you are published, writing is affected by internal pressures: Is my writing good enough? Will I ever be published? Will my story ever find readers? After you are published, those pressures become more external (which of course means harder to control!). You ask yourself: Will my editor like my next book?  Will people like this story more than/less than the last? Am I growing as a writer, or developing the same story time and again? As long as you can remain flexible and remember to tell the story YOU AND ONLY YOU can tell, the writing will blossom. 

Where do you get your ideas?

I discuss this topic a lot in the workshops I conduct: where do ideas come from? The best quote I’ve heard on the topic comes from Neil Gaiman, who said, “You get ideas from daydreaming. You get ideas from being bored. The only difference between writers and other people is we notice when we’re doing it.” 

I call this “training your brain.” If you think something is unusual, or funny, or odd, or gross, most likely others will, too. A writer has to train his/her brain to pay attention to those “I-never-knew-that” moments.  Good story ideas are the ones that are both unique and universal.  

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

When I was in sixth grade, I had the amazing opportunity to interview Newbery-Award winning author Madeleine L’Engle (A Wrinkle In Time) by telephone.  When I told her I wanted to be a writer, she said, “Good for you! Keep reading and you can do it.” 

Daily word count?

Some days? None.  Others, thousands.  I don’t believe that only those people who can write every day should consider themselves writers. My life doesn’t balance that way, but instead balances on a more week-by-week basis. But I’m always thinking about my work-in-progress, and when an idea strikes, I record it (on my phone’s voice recorder or on paper) immediately.  I believe that as long as you’re thinking about how to make your story stronger, you’re writing. (She says with amazing justification.) 

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

Go for a walk. Exercise. Move.  

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

One thing I’ve learned: never say never.  Go where your ideas take you.  My book, The 13th Sign, is fantasy, both Selling Hope and Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different are historical. I’m working on something now that I’d classify as historical fantasy, with a dash of fairy tale. The idea is the key. Chase it with all your might, and forget genre.  

SellingHope

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