Author Interview with Vanessa Rose Lee

VanessaGet to know Vanessa…

I come from a huge HUGE family and I am so grateful that God has blessed me with the best family and friends that I could have asked for. I love God and I love life-I strive to do my personal best every day and I love helping people. In the words of Hannah Montana: “Life’s what you make it, so let’s make it right.”

Let the conversation begin!

What initially drew you to writing?

I have enjoyed writing ever since I was a little girl. Writing for me is not only therapeutic, but I also enjoy the creative aspect of the field as well.

How many words do you write each day?

It usually varies. Some days, I try to aim for one page and then others it can go upwards of 10 to 20 pages. I think that at least getting one page written on the screen is important to keep up the momentum.

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

Both. Most of the time, the words and characters start popping into my head. I have to keep typing the story so that their message comes out. If I reach a roadblock, then I usually outline the rest of the story.

When are you the most productive?

This usually varies. It depends on the day and what is going on. I work during the day and go to school at night, so I am working on academic papers along with creative projects right now.

What do you do to recharge your creative batteries?

I usually step away from the computer and listen to music.

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

So far, I have two books. “Funny Jimmy,” which is my first children’s book was the easiest to write. I would say that “The Beauty Queen and the School Nerd” was hard, but a fun book to write. It was hard to write both stories since I am juggling other responsibilities as well.

Are your characters completely fictional?

Both. Most of the time, the characters pop into my head. I think as a writer, though, we like to observe others as far as mannerism, appearance, etc. so I have based characters off of real people, too.

Where do you get your ideas?

It is hard to say how I get my ideas—they just pop into my mind.

What advice would you give young writers?

Keep going and don’t give up on your dreams!

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

To write about what you know and love.

Describe your dream vacation.

Anywhere tropical.Hawaiior the Bahamas! I’m more into going away to somewhere warm (preferably the beach) than cold getaways. I would also like to someday visit Europe, Italy, France, England, the list can go on.

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Author Interview with Louise Moeri

Get to know Louise…

Louise Moeri is the author of a number of books for children, including Star Mother’s Youngest Child and Save Queen of Sheba. She lives in California. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin!

Anything you’d like to share with your readers?

I’m glad we have readers. I am a reader. Since we can’t talk to everyone in the universe, it’s the only means we have of using all the assets we have.

What is your worst scar? How did you get it? (Mentally or physically)

No comment.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

I didn’t choose my genre. I fell into it. I knew I was a ‘writer’ but didn’t know what I should write. When I got a desperation job at the public library, I found–for the very first time in my life–children’s books! (I grew up without them) and having found them, I thought–“Aha! Only a few words–I can do that!” As time went by, I got a lot smarter, having discovered they have to be the right words.

What genre do you avoid writing?

I refuse to touch anything resembling either sex or science fiction. The first has been done way too much and I feel that it’s better to live in the present with what we have to work with than to waste time on make-believe. If you were in a boat in the middle of a lake and it started to leak, would you rather have a Harry Potter book or a book on how to fix boats?

How do you recharge your creative batteries?

I have never recharged my batteries. I never had a chance to. There has always been something else pressing that needs to be done, so I just move on. 

Can you tell us about the book you’re working on? Is it coming easily or have you run into road blocks?

I never talk about what I’m working on if I can possibly avoid it. Whatever it is, there will always be road-blocks and open stretches.

Is any material in your books based on real life experiences or purely imagination?

All my books are based on real life–my own. If I have a common theme–it’s survival.

Planner or a procrastinator? Example?

I’m a planner. Minute by minute. Sometimes–second by second.

How many words have you written in one writing session?

I usually turn out something like 500 words before I come to a halt. Occasionally it will be more, but I spend some time on going over what I’ve done.

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

I always make my bed in the morning. It’s the ONLY household job I get done promptly.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

I published my first book back in the golden days of writing when you sent your manuscript to the publisher you picked out of an address book. Or was called “over the transom”. That means that you have no agent to offer your stuff. You just fling it out there and hope that someone at the publisher’s office will like it. I was very happy to have several books published this way, though somewhere along the line I did finally connect with an agent. The challenge with the ‘over the transom’ method, of course, is that you have no guarantee that anyone will even look at it.

What is your very favorite part of the day?

I like early morning because it is a Beginning. And I like the last hour of the day because it means that the day’s work is finished.

What was the worst advice you’ve ever been given?

I don’t recall ever getting any advice as far as writing was concerned. There was no one around to advise me–I was strictly on my own–sink or swim.

How did you celebrate your first book being published? Has the excitement worn off with each book you publish?

I never celebrated publishing any book. Except for my children, my mother and my friends who were probably grateful that now I could get back to my regular chores, I don’t recall anything resembling a celebration. I take that back–on one occasion I bought myself some glass candlesticks!

Best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Best writing advice I ever got was from Ann Durrell, an editor at Dutton. She told me that any successful sequel has to be twice as good as the first book–and that has kept me from ever writing sequels.

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

I would never attend an opera because I am more interested in ‘stories’ than ‘music’. I would be the guy on the street hawking the tickets to the highest bidder.

Will you have a new book coming out soon?

I just had one released called, “Or The Horse May Talk” and have one in publishing process called “Why To Garden” but I’m not sure of the release date yet. I’m always working on something new.

Are there certain characters you would like to return to?

No–I would never go back to a character. See response about sequels above!

Who was the hardest character to develop?

I never developed a character in my life. They show up in my head knocking on the inside of my skull, demanding to be let out.

What has been the toughest blow to your professional career?

I am a paper and pencil writer and I took my biggest ‘hit’ when things went electronic. It is very difficult for an antique like me to learn (overnight) an entirely new language. How would you like to wake up some day and find that everyone spoke words you didn’t know, every appliance in your house ran on new rules, you couldn’t drive your car and stores, banks, etc. all had been transformed and you had no idea how to function? If my wonderful daughter had not rescued me I would be sitter here in a pile of grubby, rumpled paper and you would have no reason to interview me.

Ever participated in a parade? What did you do?

Parade? I can’t think why I would ever find myself in a parade.

Any advice to share with aspiring writers?

Aspiring writers should write. Don’t talk about it. Do it.

Would you rather plan a party or attend one? Why?

Parties? Neither. I love to ‘visit’ and hear about what people are doing. That’s it.

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

I’ve loved all my books, but I guess the one that made me happiest was my newest, OR THE HORSE MAY TALK. The last chapter brings not only hope, but also ‘the hell with it and I’ll just keep on keeping on’ attitude!

Do you collect anything?

For many years I collected music boxes and was given many by my family. I find something magic in them–so small, and yet they sing! I guess that’s really my philosophy–no matter how big you are, sign anyway!

How do you market your work? What avenues have you found to work best for your genre?

I am not a ‘hot’ writer and publishers have never knocked on my door. (I write about real people and real events and most people don’t really want to think about things like that.) Happily, some people have liked my stuff when I finally got them to look at it. As I said, at one time I had an agent and that was a big help. At the present time my daughter handles my marketing and website.

When was the last time you went bowling? Was it fun or total disaster?

Bowling? Are you joking? I never play games.

Do you come up with your book titles?

I don’t ‘come up’ with titles. Most of the time they arrive with the first paragraph–and often–ahead of it.

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

The easiest part of writing is getting a pencil and clipboard and sitting there and letting the words pour out of the pencil. The hardest part is chaining myself to the computer so somebody can make something useful out of all this stuff.

If today was your last day to live, what would you do? What would you say?

If I was told that this would be my last day–I have a plan. I would spend the day writing to and phoning all my children and grandchildren and telling them that they have made my life full of joy and hope and gladness. I’m glad I have been able to write–but the thing that made my life perfect was to be a wife, mother and grandmother. I have never had much ‘worldly’ goods and never will, but I am rich beyond compare with my family. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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Author Interview with Jodi Meadows

Get to know Jodi…

Jodi Meadows lives and writes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia, with her husband, and an alarming number of ferrets. She is a confessed book addict, and has wanted to be a writer ever since she decided against becoming an astronaut. Visit her site here

Let the conversation begin!

Have you ever had something happen to you that you thought was bad but it turned out to be for the best? 

Absolutely. Before I wrote and sold INCARNATE, I went through years of writing, rejection, and depression. I was ready to quit writing for publication because it seemed no one would ever love my books the same way I do. It was an awful period in my writing life.

But when I look back at that, I’m grateful. It made me very appreciative for what I have now  a great agent, a great editor, and a great publishing house. Not to mention amazing fans who seem to love my book as much as I do. 

If I’d succeeded when I’d first started, I wouldn’t appreciate it like I do now. And at that point, I was writing the wrong kind of story; I hadn’t yet discovered my utter love of young adult books. If I’d succeeded then, I wouldn’t have debuted with INCARNATE, and my debut certainly wouldn’t be as strong as it is. 

If you could throw any kind of party, what would it be like? 

Masquerade, of course! I’ve always wanted to go to a masquerade, though if I had to make my own costume, like the people in Range, I’d probably end up going as a big yarn tangle. 

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

I used to say I’d like to stop aging at 25 and then just celebrate anniversaries of my 25th birthday. It seemed like a good age. Old enough to know better. Still young, though. But now, I don’t know. Some great things have happened since I passed up 25. 

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

Yikes. Um. A string of mainstream, I guess? Because I have a lot of ideas and I’d hate for only one story to get published. 

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

I’d buy a new bookcase! 

Do you begin with character or plot? 

Usually I begin with a character in a situation and the plot develops around that. 

Where do you get your ideas? 

I steal them from the minds of people in the grocery store. 

What advice would you give to new writers? 

Read a lot. Write a lot. Don’t give up.

I know that’s pretty standard advice, but it’s the best there is. If you don’t read, you don’t know what’s out there. If you don’t write, you don’t get practice and you don’t improve. If you give up, you’ve taken away your chance to succeed. 

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

When a friend told me to stop trying to write like someone else and start writing like myself, in my own voice. 

Do you let anyone read your work-in-progress? Or do you keep it a secret? 

I have a friend who reads as I write. She mostly cheers me on and brainstorms with me when I need to talk out a plot problem.

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Patricia H. Rushford

Get to know Patricia… 

Internationally known author, speaker and teacher, Patricia H. Rushford has book sales totaling over a million copies. She has written over fifty books, including, What Kids Need Most in a Mom and Have You Hugged Your Teenager Today. She has also written five mystery series three for adults and two for children.  Her recent projects include writing novels for the Guidepost books such as the Mystery and the Minister’s Wife series and the medical series, Hope Haven.  In addition, she has written a soon to be released romantic suspense, Strangers in the Night.

Patricia was nominated for an Edgar by Mystery Writers of America, received the Silver Angel for excellence in media and has received a number of other prestigious awards. Patricia has a degree in nursing and holds a Master’s Degree in Counseling. In addition, she conducts writer’s workshops for adults and children and served as director of the Oregon Christian Writer’s Summer Conference from 2005 through 2010.

In addition to writing, Patricia loves arts and crafts. She is an avid quilter and knitter and works in a number of other crafting areas such as drawing and watercolor.  She is currently active in making charity quilts for Clark County Quilting. Patricia is enthusiastic, loves people, and enjoys teaching and encouraging writers. For more info, visit her website.

Let the conversation begin! 

What is your worst scar? How did you get it? (Mentally or physically)

There’s a song about the first cut being the deepest.  Back in 1975 I received a phone call telling me I had a malignant melanoma. Cancer. The scar was deeper and larger than it probably needed to me, and ruined my chances of ever wearing a bikini again, but it saved my life.  I am a two time cancer survivor and carry a lot of scars from various medical problems.  In time you learn to accept those scars. I was never much of a bikini girl anyway.

Physical scars heal—emotional ones, not so much.  I’ve developed a few deep scars related to writing over the years—and I think the one that cut the deepest was seeing one of my books arrive with the worst cover imaginable. I pulled the book out of the package, excited to see it at last and I wept.  They—the powers that be—had ruined my wonderfully creative and humorous how-to book on relationships.  The book?  Love is a Many Splintered Thing. It still cuts me to the core, but very soon, I shall resurrect it as an e-book.

How did you choose the genre you write in?

When I first started writing I focused on non-fiction how-tos.  As an RN I had letters behind my name, but as a woman, I had experience with children and other life situations that mattered to people. I wrote Have You Hugged Your Teenager Today, What Kids Need Most in a Mom, Caring for Your Elderly Parents and a long list of books that offered hope and help in life’s sometimes painful journey.

I write mysteries because I love the concept of good versus evil and my mind seems to be able to conjure up all sorts of mayhem, murder and mystery. Give me a minute and I’ll give you a mystery.

I write for middle grade (The Max & Me Mysteries) and YA (The Jennie McGrady Mysteries) because I want to offer kids clean, exciting stories that challenge them to think for themselves and provide positive role models.  A young girl wrote to me a few years ago saying that she was thinking of committing suicide, but decided not to because “…Jennie wouldn’t do that.”

What genre do you avoid writing? 

I don’t see myself writing straight romance or formulaic books where the couple must be together for x number of pages.  Nearly everything I write has an element of mystery and suspense, along with a little romance.  I like to let the stories take me on the journey.

How do you recharge your creative batteries?

Being a writer is part of my creative process—I am first an artist. Before I became a writer, I was a production potter.  If I run out of steam with one project I move to another for a while.  I cook, quilt, knit, draw, paint and do a number of crafts.  I also read, or walk or hike in a beautiful place. Sometimes I develop a new idea.  I am never without something to do, though I have been known to pause and sit a while in God’s presence and not do a thing.

Is any material in your books based on real life experiences or purely imagination? 

I don’t believe that one can write what has not been experienced in one form or another.  Not that one must commit a murder to write about one of course.  I use a lot of information I see on television or read in the news—I create characters based on people I know or have met.  The important thing if that the story has to make sense in some way—the reader must be able to connect on some level with the characters and the plot.

How many words have you written in one writing session?

I think around 10-12 pages, which always includes a fair amount of dialogue—maybe 25,000 words.  I am not a marathon writer.  I am most comfortable writing for a couple of hours each day.  When I am on deadline I make myself work harder and longer hours than I really want to.

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

Every morning—sometimes even before I get up.  J  I like to have a tidy bedroom. Messes tend to make me feel disorganized and out of sorts.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

My biggest challenge was learning how to write a book proposal and then how to actually write the book once I got the contract.  I was extremely fortunate to meet an editor at my very first writer’s conference who took an interest in my ideas.  He saw something in me—humor, experience, honesty—I’m not sure.  On second thought I think the biggest challenge was getting the courage to send my work to him.  I had a hard time believing I could produce anything worth publishing.   My editor nudged me—rather sharply several times before I complied.  I really and truly own my success as a writer to this man.

What is your very favorite part of the day?

Morning.

What was the worst advice you’ve ever been given? 

At my first writer’s conference an editor told me no one was interested in what I had to share because I was not famous.  Fortunately, I met with others who assured me that was not the case.  I never forgot those words and sometimes they still haunt me.  I am no one important.  Keeps one humble.

How did you celebrate your first book being published? Has the excitement worn off with each book you publish?

I went to the library to find my name and ISBN number in the catalog file.   The excitement of having a new book come out never ends.  There’s always that hope and awe—that wonderment in seeing your book take on a life of its own. Sometimes it sinks and sometimes it swims, but it is out there—born into the world.

Best writing advice you’ve ever received? 

Years ago, Lee Roddy spoke at a conference I attended.  I am spinning my own take on his advice to writers but in essence he said, you will be asked to do a lot of things other than write—things other’s can do.  Leave those things to others and you do what the Lord has called you to do. Write!  

What is your worst personality characteristic? 

I get depressed easily.  If I get one bad review and ten good ones—I will remember the bad one. I have to fight against letting it drag me down.

What was the best thing that happened to you this year? 

In May, my husband and I went back toGrand Forksto see my daughter and her family.  That’s always the highlight of my year.  This was especially exciting since they had just moved themselves and their ministry (Stable Days Youth Ranch) to this wonderful place on the river.  They rescue horses and kids and I loved being a part of that. I’d never worked so hard, but enjoyed every minute of it—except for the aches and pains.

When was the last time you did something for the first time? What was it? 

Last spring I took a class to learn how to create a picture with thread using a sewing machine.  It’s a quilting technique for art quilters.  That’s a lot of stitches.

If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?

I would create a writer’s retreat where writers could escape the clamor of the world. Here, I would offer writing time, critique and hands on classes.

What is your definition of a productive day?

This would be a day of writing, cooking something gourmet, finishing a quilt and not playing one single game of solitaire.

What is your definition of a relaxing day? 

Hiking in the mountains, walking by a stream, wandering through the fair.

What was your favorite thing to play with as a child?

My imagination.  Because I ended up being the good guy.

If you could be any animal in the world for 24 hours, which animal would you be?

A female cat.  I admire cats and it would be like being queen for a day.

Have you ever jumped out of a plane? If you knew you would survive, would you do it?

I doubt it, but I would try a zip line through the jungle.

Can you share your journey from writing to author?

My writing journey oozed out of a depression I’d fallen into in my early thirties.  I’d tried being supermom—an I-am-Woman woman and failed. I wrote to escape the pain and it often came out in verse.  This was my writing-to-heal phase.  Once I escaped the darkness I felt led to share my experience with others.  Most of my personal writings/journaling has never been published and probably never will be.  Moving from focus on self to focus on others with their wants and needs led me to write my first book, Have You Hugged Your Teenage Today, where I shared stories out of my past and wrote about how to survive the parenting years.  


What is your biggest pet peeve?

Reviewers who give away too much of the plot.

Name a turning point in your life that makes you smile.

I think that would have to be the day I stopped being a Doing person and became a Being person.  It was the day I realized that I didn’t have to do anything to receive God’s favor.  God’s love is mine simply because I am.  

If you were to be on a reality TV show, which would it be and why?  

Wouldn’t it be fun to have a reality show where you can watch author’s write?  It would probably be as good or better than some of the nutsy stuff out there now.  ;-)  

Think of the craziest What If question. Do you think you could write an entire book based off of this question? 

What if I went to leave the house via the garage and as I opened the door a man stood in the doorway with a gun. He shoots me and the noise brings my husband.  My husband rushes forward and the man shoots him. My husband lands on top of me. Later the doctors tell me that the pressure of his body on mine slowed the bleeding and saved my life.  What if….  Yes, morbid as it is, I could write an entire book.

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Author Interview with Ruthie Lewis

Get to know Ruthie…

Ruthie resides in Edmond, OK and is the mother of two amazing grown sons, and a daughter who was a life-long dancer and brought light into the lives of everyone who knew her, and now dances with Jesus.

Think avalanche! — Unstoppable devastation; loss; reshaping of the entire landscape – a GPS repositioning. That’s what happened to Ruthie’s “perfect” life. Just when life was getting good, devastation and tragedy quaked, burying her.

Only a mother’s love encapsulated her with the strength to dig out, gasp for breath, and seek the fire to comfort and warm.

Peace and abundance was the fruit that bloomed, as she never took her eyes off the sometimes, tiniest spark of light, enabling her to take the next breath. Would she, or even could she follow that spark – or lay down and die?

Choices — there’s always a choice. Now, that spark of inner light is a flame, brighter than any firefly’s glow, emanating through Ruthie’s writing, speaking and Life Coaching, empowering others to connect with their inner light, with a message so powerful it will make your toes tingle, knowing how to live “the good life” (Eph. 2:10 amp.) and survive an avalanche.

You see, though the landscape is drastically altered, the majestic mountain stands.

Just like the firefly – LET YOUR GLOW SHOW!!!

For more info, please visit her website and Facebook.

Let the conversation begin!

Can you tell us about the book you’re working on? Is it coming easily or have you run into road blocks?

My new novel, “Fireflies”, is now available, but no, it didn’t come easily.  It was many years in the making.  For me, writing is the easy part.  It’s the experiences that produce the writing and the huge amount of editing that actually takes longer than writing the book, and also the hard work and technicalities that go with launching and promoting a book.  It is a grueling process of metamorphosis that happens to finally see the existence of it all in book form.

As for what I’m working on, I have a sequel to Fireflies in the works, but also a non-fiction book, neither of which are coming easily.  No obstacles necessarily, it ends up being a time challenge.

How did you celebrate your first book being published?

When I finally got the final product in hand, I took my mother to dinner to a lakeside restaurant.  I wanted her to be the first one to have a copy.  There will be signings and launch parties, but that was the real celebration. 

How many words have you written in one writing session?

By session, I assume you mean no interruptions besides food and potty breaks. There were a limited number of times I was fortunate enough to have nothing to do or think about except writing, and on a couple of those occasions, I approached 3,000 words.  Then there’s those when 100 words was the max. 

What was the worst advice you’ve ever been given?

I don’t know that there was any one thing, but anything that suggested a formula to success was the most worthless.  Writing is a call, and if that’s true, it is a unique fit and will play out differently than with anyone else.  While experience can offer priceless wisdom, in the end, you have to follow your inner light. 

Best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Write.  That’s it. If you’re a writer, write. It’s easy to say I want to write a book.  Most who have said that, have never written a page.  Learn all you can about writing and your one-of-a kind style – and write. 

Are there certain characters you would like to return to?

I believe Tammy and Charla will sear a brand in the minds of many and it’s hard to imagine never writing about them again. There is a sequel, but for it to stop there is hard to imagine. 

What has been the toughest blow to your professional career?

Well, a year ago, I would have said it was blows I dealt to myself by my own, self inflicted limitations, but just as I was nearing the end of the editing process of  “Fireflies”, I lost my daughter in a car accident, ten days before her 21st birthday.

So close, yet so far. I didn’t care at that point about anything. A complete GPS repositioning made me realize nothing matters. I’d faced my worst nightmare. I either chose to curl up in my bed till I died, or chose to spend whatever days I had left fulfilling my purpose. So I opened the document, put my fingers to the keyboard, and knew as long as I was breathing, “Fireflies” and my message was my purpose. 

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

That’s hard because I have several scenes close to my heart, but I would say the last chapter is my favorite because it is so unique and so powerful.  It was actually a complete surprise because it was not the planned ending. 

Do you collect anything?

You mean other than books?

Do you come up with your book titles?

Yes, the title is the power behind a book.  It’s hard for someone to see into the purpose behind your story.

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

Writing is the easiest.  Everything else is the hard part.

If today was your last day to live, what would you do? What would you say?

I would write letters to everyone special to me.  I would have a massage, and a glass of wine on the beach. 

Any advice to share with aspiring writers?

Learn everything you can, and write.  Understand that it is hard work and your passion will be tested.

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

Rejection is a given.  The challenge for me comes in not being given any reason for the rejection.  If you’re a serious writer, you only want to know how you can improve, and the smallest tidbit could help but it so rarely happens that way. 

What is your very favorite part of the day?

Without hesitation, the early morning.  There’s things about every part of the day that I like, but the quiet of the early morning singing a new beginning is bliss.  I wouldn’t call myself a “morning person” necessarily, but there’s no question I function better, as a person and as a writer, early in the morning.  My mind is clearer and there’s that feeling of having the whole day ahead of you.  I’m definitely not a night person; my brain simply doesn’t write well late at night.  Okay, I turn into a pumpkin at 10:00.

Would you rather plan a party or attend one? Why?

Hmmm, that’s a great question. I love parties. I love to plan parties. However, I would have to say I would choose to plan one because to attend a party, you don’t know what you’re getting.

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Interview with Award-Winning Author Lori Calabrese

Get to know Lori…

Lori Calabrese is an award-winning children’s author. Her first picture book, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, was awarded DFP’s Best Children’s Book Award. She writes for various children’s magazines, is the National Children’s Books Examiner at Examiner.com and enjoys sharing her passion for children’s books at festivals, schools and events. Visit her website to learn more. 

Let the conversation begin!

From idea to completion, how long does it take to write a book? 

I think it’s different for every author and for each project. My picture book, The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade, took me an entire year to write. When you invest that much time in a project, you must like it a lot and I have to admit, that one’s close to my heart because it was my very first manuscript and it was rewarding to see it win the 2009 DFP Best Children’s Book Award. But to show that time is different for each project, I wrote another picture book called Oh! The Possibilities and that one only took two weeks to write.  I guess sometimes your thought process is overflowing and dying to come out whereas with others, it needs some time.

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

A hot steamy romance. I just can’t see myself writing a book with Fabio on the cover! Definitely count me out. 

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

Great question. I think in my case it’s been easier to write after being published because it’s one monkey off my back. Getting over that hurdle was a big step and once I did it, I found it very rewarding. Knowing that it is possible and as rewarding as it is, definitely makes me want to keep writing and get there again and again.

Where do you get your ideas?

All of my writing inspiration comes from my two boys. They constantly crack me up and have such a fresh take on the world. In fact, the idea for The Bug That Plagued the Entire Third Grade came to me when one of my sons had the flu. When everyone asked how he was doing, I would say, “He caught the bug.” It made me stop and wonder why we say that. Something clicked, so I expanded on the play on words of getting sick and catching an insect. Hence… “The Bug” was born. “Oh the Possibilities” is a children’s book I wrote for John Hancock’s Back to School campaign. They were looking for a children’s book about that age-old question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?” Everyone always takes the time to tell me how my boys are “all boy.” And they truly are, fascinated by everything from super-heroes to dinosaurs to trucks to dragons. I was thinking about professions and thought, what boy doesn’t dream of being a dragon, right? I built off that, so when my character, Miles, realizes he only has human genes and must decide on something soon, he runs through all the possibilities.

Outliner or seat-of-the-pants writer?

I’m definitely an outliner. I envy those who can jump right in and start writing, but I learned early on that that’s just not me. I need to map out my thoughts, and make sure I have enough supporting material. I like how an outline allows you to get your ideas down without stressing immediately about grammar or word choice too early on.

What advice would you give young writers?

If you’re an aspiring writer, you’ve probably heard the tips I’m about to give you a million times—Read a lot and write every day. When I first started writing and read those tips, I’d say, “That’s it? Really? What else? C’mon. There has to be more!” I was certain these authors were holding back on the secret to success. ??But now that I look back at what’s helped me the most, it really is reading everything you can get your hands on, and keeping up with practice. You really have to keep at it and don’t get discouraged with rejections.

Dream vacation?

Me. Maui. Beach. Enough said! =)

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Author Interview with Barry Wolverton

Get to know Barry…

Barry Wolverton has been writing for curious children of all ages for almost 20 years, helping create educational books, documentaries, and online content for Discovery Networks, National Geographic, the Library of Congress, Scholastic, and Time-Life Books. Neversink is his first novel. He is currently working on a middle-grade adventure trilogy called The Vanishing Island, to be published by Walden Pond Press beginning in 2014. For more info, visit his site.

Let the conversation begin!

Where do you see yourself in ten years?

As a full-time fiction writer whose books can’t be confused with anyone else’s. 

What is the best writing advice you’ve received?

I don’t know if you would call it advice, per se. But in 2005 I happened upon Anita Silvey’s 100 Best Books for Children at a small bookstore in Richmond, Virginia. The book is filled with great stories about what some of the most famous writers of the most famous children’s books went through to get published. 

What does it say that Kate DiCamillo collected 440 rejections before getting her first book published? Or that no one wanted to publish A Wrinkle In Time or Harry Potter? Maybe nothing very important, but it gave me some perspective and encouragement when I was struggling to sell my first book, and also dealing with the inevitable negative reviews. There’s so much technical writing advice out there — online, at writer’s conferences — and it can be deadening. To this day I still don’t think anyone knows what they mean when they parrot stuff like “show don’t tell” or, even dumber, forbid you to write prologues or tell you your protagonist has to be 12, not 13. Sometimes you just need a reminder to have some faith in your own vision. 

What is your writing process?

Sometimes I fear I’m doing it all wrong. It seems like most other writers give themselves daily word counts or page quotas, and try to plow through a first draft and revise later. I’ve never been able to work that way. I have no expectations day to day for how many words I will write. So much of writing a novel is problem-solving, and I do a lot of that in my head, all through the day. I take my ultimate deadlines very seriously, and I have gotten better about moving forward and coming back to a problem later, but I write my first drafts carefully and with deliberation.  

If you could be a cat or a dog, which one would you be and why?

Definitely a cat, so I can poop in the house like a civilized animal.

What is your favorite guilty pleasure?

After years as a traditionalist for the printed word, I bought the new Nook GlowLight, and I am enjoying it more than I thought I would. Don’t get me wrong — it’s not as good as a real book. Some of the great design elements and illustrations in Neversink, for instance, look like crap on an e-reader. But my cat Charlie really likes that I can now read in bed with the light off. 

Name a characteristic you look for in a friend.

I don’t let my guard down easily, and I’m very private, so it’s some vague quality akin to trustworthiness that makes me feel comfortable with you. Also, all my close friends have an irreverent sense of humor. 

What book(s) are you reading right now?

 A bunch of seafaring books: Several volumes of the old Time-Life Books Seafarers series from the 1970s, and Susan Cooper’s Victory. My new trilogy for Walden Pond Press takes place in an invented 17th century, and though I’m making most of it up, I wanted some real knowledge of ships and sailing of the era for verisimilitude. I’ve been dying to use the word “verisimilitude” in one of these blogs. 

If you were the eighth dwarf, what would your name be?

Well, I’m 6’3”, so I’ll go with Lofty. 

If you were to perform in the circus, what would you do?

Some sort of freak, for sure. 

If you could be a professional at any sport, what would it be?

Tennis. I love all the elegant angles. 

Who would you like to play your life story in a movie?

Albert Brooks. 

What scares you the most?

Being a published author. 

If you were a tree, what kind would you be?

Some sort of understory tree. I don’t do well in full sunlight. 

If you were elected mayor of your city, what would be your first improvement?

I would ban cell phone use in the car, because I’m tired of fearing for my life when I ride my bike. 

What is your favorite way to express yourself and why?

Writing, because I don’t like to talk.

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Author Interview with Anastasia Hopcus

Get to know Anastasia…

Anastasia Hopcus wrote her first book in the 2nd grade. It was entitled Frederick the Friendly French Ferret and was seven pages long. During high school she wrote numerous short stories and started (but never finished) three screenplays, all as an alternative to doing actual school work. At the very wise age of twelve her career ambition was to drive a Mack truck, but when that didn’t pan out, she tried acting, bartending, and being a receptionist in a dojo before finally returning to writing. Anastasia loves horror movies, Joss Whedon, obsessing over music, and British accents. She lives in Austin, Texas but you can visit her on her Goodreads page.

Let the conversation begin!

Can you tell us about the book you’re working on? Is it coming easily or have you run into road blocks?

My most recent WIP has been much more of a struggle than anything I’ve written before it.  It has two separate points of view, which means I have to spend time getting inside the head of each character. Because it is a time travel novel, I had to do even more research than usual, which is quite a lot as it is.  Keeping the word length down has been the most difficult.  But I think it’s a really good project and I’m excited for other people to get to read it.  

How many words have you written in one writing session?

The most I’ve written in one session was 7000 words, but that’s very abnormal for me. I usually do about 1000-2000 words at one time. 

Who was the hardest character to develop?

Probably Colt, the main female character in my WIP, because she’s very different from me, whereas Phe’s personality is a lot closer to my own, which makes it easy to determine what she would do in different circumstances.  But I do feel like all the hard work on Colt paid off, and I think she’s a very multi-dimensional person. 

When was the last time you went bowling? Was it fun or total disaster?

I don’t remember the exact date, but I’m always terrible at it, but it still ends up being a lot of fun. 

Do you come up with your book titles?

Yes, that’s something I really enjoy. 

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

Dialogue is the part of writing that’s the most fun for me.  I don’t know if it’s the easiest, but it’s the part I enjoy the most.  Structuring the story is definitely the hardest part and something I’m always working to improve on. 

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

The most challenging part was trying to find an agent who had the same vision for my story as I did.  Luckily, I found Meredith Kaffel, who I  work well with.  That search was probably five times longer than it took to find a publishing company for Shadow Hills. But it was well worth it! 

What is your very favorite part of the day?

Around midnight.  That’s when I get my burst of energy. 

Would you rather plan a party or attend one? Why?

I’d rather attend one.  As with structuring my novel, I find the planning phase of anything to be the most difficult. 

Any advice to share with aspiring writers?

I think that learning many different methods to approach the writing process is very beneficial.  Even if you don’t agree with some of the advice, it can help clarify what does or doesn’t work for you.  That way you are better equipped to tailor your own writing experience, which seems to be very different for each individual.  

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

No, definitely not.  I’m lucky if I make the bed once a year. 

Are there certain characters you would like to return to?

All of the Shadow Hills characters, especially my absolute favorite, Brody. Luckily I was able to reconnect with all of them recently while writing a Shadow Hills novella. The novella Holiday Spirits will be out in late fall and here’s a taste of what’s in store for my favorite group of characters: 

Winter break is fast approaching, and Persephone Archer is looking forward to one weekend at Devenish Prep where she doesn’t have to worry about her new supernatural powers or the mysterious affliction that plagues her boyfriend Zach.  All she wants is to lounge around with her friends, and, even more tempting, spend some alone time in front of the fire with Zach.  

So when the friends are forced to work as stagehands by the school’s drama department, the group concocts a prank to convince the Devenish Players that the theater is haunted.  The thing they didn’t count on was that the ghost stories might actually be true…

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Author Interview with Tina Ferraro

Get to know Tina…

Tina Ferraro is the author of three published young adult novels.  To her utter amazement, Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress got a recommendation from “Twilight Saga” author Stephenie Meyer, and How to Hook a Hottie and The ABC’s of Kissing Boys were finalists for the prestigious RITA® Award.  (She is still waiting to wake up and find this was all a dream.) She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, one fat cat and one skinny one, plus whichever of her three college kids is passing through with laundry and an empty stomach.  She has two more young adult novels in the works, whose publication she hopes to report on soon! For more info, visit her website. 

Let the conversation begin!

What advice would you give young writers?

I often hear the advice given to young writers to “write what you know.”  While I do not argue this, I have to say that some of the MOST FUN I have had with my own writing projects has been researching things I did not know.  For instance, I’m fashioned-challenged, yet I wrote a whole book about a prom dress. I have never played soccer, but did not let it stop me from writing from the point of view of a varsity player. Also, seriously, the whole “hook a hottie” thing was totally flying by the seat of my pants!    

What one word describes you? Why?

I am going with “effervescent!”  It happens to be my favorite word, and I have been widely accused of being bubbly.  

What book was the easiest to write? Hardest?

My easiest published book to write was Top Ten Uses for an Unworn Prom Dress because I didn’t honestly think anyone would buy it or read it, so I didn’t “think” too hard, just wrote to amuse myself!  The hardest was How to Hook a Hottie because I had trouble keeping all the “hook-ups” straight. At one point, the book was a huge, jumbled mess. I finally had to revisit all that, deleting, modifying, until I got back on track and was able to follow it and finish it, and to tie all the loose ends together. 

Outliner or seat-of-the-pantser?

I started as pantser, but once I started selling on proposal, had to learn how to follow an outline.  Now I’m somewhere in between!  I am a big believer in critique partners and getting early feedback, and these days have two, both published authors in the young adult romance genre, Kelly Parra (Graffiti Girl, Invisible Touch) and Stephanie Hale (the Revenge of the Homecoming Queen series, The Alpha Bet).  They both read my books in process and keep me sane and honest.

What is your secret talent?

Ha!  I am actually very astute at detecting when someone is harboring a secret crush on another.  I can read volumes in a passing glance or a person’s body language, although my best readings come from being “a fly on the wall,” not too close to either subject.  And while I cannot always deliver, I know crush when I see it, and have been able to say, “I told you so” many times!

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Author Interview with Catherine Stine

Get to know Catherine…

Catherine Stine’s YA futuristic thriller, Fireseed One launched in 2012 with illustrations by the author. Her first YA, Refugees, earned a New York Public Library Best Book. Middle grade novels include A Girl’s Best Friend. More and more, she’s enjoying writing page-turning suspense and speculative tales. Stine has held some colorful jobs, including a stint as a sail-maker, a solar-heated swimming pool cover designer, and a designer of children’s fabrics and watch-faces. Writing, illustrating and teaching are her best gigs ever!

Catherine can be reached on the web at her blog, her Goodreads Author Page, her website and the Facebook Fireseed One page. 

Let the conversation begin!

Care to share a nugget of writing wisdom with your readers?

Write from a raw place, just beyond what you know for sure yet intuit strongly. Enter into a place of wonder and horror, love and brutal honesty. Write about things you are passionate about, not to the trends. 

How did you choose the genre you write in?

I was first published in middle grade fiction, and then in YA. Since I was already a published illustrator, I assumed that I would put out a picture book first, but the story I wanted to tell was always too complex, and I’ve always felt like my truest voice was teen. I’m sure that’s because I’m still trying to work out certain traumas and mysteries from those years. Plus I’m a cynic, yet an optimist, and a romantic, three natural states of teens. 

Can you tell us about the book you’re working on? Is it coming easily or have you run into roadblocks?

I’m working on the sequel to Fireseed One, my futuristic thriller. Seven years have passed, and Armonk, the eight year-old from book one is now fifteen. This sequel’s working title is Children of Fireseed. It follows a few of the characters from Fireseed One. It also introduces a new main character, Scarlet, the girl with three missing fingers from the Fireseed cult in the first book. I won’t give away big secrets, but Varik, the main character from book one also has a major role. Although I’m finding it challenging to expand the world-building I started in book one that’s what makes writing so very exciting. I hope to finish it for the holiday season. Wish me luck! 

Is any material in your books based on real life experiences or purely imagination?

It’s always an amalgam—strands of me, of strangers, of friends; themes that I know intimately, or want to know more about. For example: guilt, temptation and loyalty are themes I’m fascinated by. I do not subscribe to the saying “Write what you know.” I feel it should be broadened to “write what you know and also what you want to know more about.” 

Can you tell us about your challenges in getting your first book published?

I had to revise on spec after having an initial, and very intimidating meeting with a group of editors who disagreed on how I should revise. Talk about quaking in ones boots! But it all worked out. I simply took the comments I liked and disregarded ones that made less sense. 

How did you celebrate your first book being published? Has the excitement worn off with each book you publish?

I splurged on a space in the National Arts Club in NYC and invited tons of people. It was a blast, but as I go along, it’s more like a great dinner with friends and a book blog tour to follow with online reviewers, friends, fellow authors. The excitement though, never ceases. 

Best writing advice you’ve ever received?

Only listen to trusted members of your writing group and editors/agents whom you respect. 

Will you have a new book coming out soon?

I finished a paranormal with an edge of horror and we’ll see whether that comes out first or my sequel, Children of Fireseed. Stay tuned! 

Are there certain characters you would like to return to?

Wilson Warren in my newest novel that I just mentioned. He’s an agent of the devil who is funny, charming and handsome in a Marilyn Manson kind of way—tall, dark, alluring and dangerous. I want to spend more time with him! 

Who was the hardest character to develop?

Marisa Baron in Fireseed One was tricky to craft, because she starts out as a selfish, misdirected antagonist yet ends up having a huge growth range. I needed to make sure she had some appealing qualities even as a villainess so that you don’t hate her before she transforms. This is always tricky! 

Any advice to share with aspiring writers?

Believe in yourself—in your own pure, amazing instinct and the integrity of the story you craft on the page. Don’t rush. Do not send anything out that isn’t completely polished. You only have one chance with each imprint. The inevitable rejection letter or two is tough. All authors receive one at some point. They form a scar across the heart that grows more beautiful with time because it proves you’ve paid your dues. 

How do you market your work? What avenues work best for your genre?

Book blog tours, guest posting online, giveaways on Goodreads, school visits, book festivals, and I’m always learning new ways to market from fellow authors. 

Do you come up with your book titles?

Often it’s a line from the book. As in the Three Little Bears it shouldn’t be too short or too long, but just right! 

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

Revision is easiest, and most fun because you are adding layers of color and tightening the story to a lean manuscript. Writing that first draft is the hardest because you’re jack hammering out that crude draft. 

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

That’s like picking out your favorite child, an impossible task. In Fireseed One it’s when Varik and Marisa share their first kiss. A tiny spoiler, but a good one! I like writing the romantic bits.

 

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