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Q & A

Author Tara Lazar: How to Work on your Craft

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome an award winning author who’s one of my mentors (and who’s hilariously funny): Tara Lazar. We recently had an interesting conversation via Twitter and I wanted to share some of it here because it was it was fascinating. And oh, did you know she just released yet another picture book? It’s Three Ways to Trap a Leprechaun published by HarperCollins, you should definitely check it out.

.What is your writing process, and does it change depending on the project?
 My process begins with collecting ideas and then sorting through them, often with the help of my agent, and deciding which is the most exciting concept to work on. Then there’s a lot of THINKING. I like to call it “marinating”. The idea is working itself through my brain while I grind through my daily…umm, grind. Somehow the idea announces that it’s ready—I get this full-body creative squirm that forces me to sit down and write it out.

What do you do when you get stuck in a manuscript?
I work on something else. Or I do laundry. Or take a shower. Something rote and mundane lets the creative gears spin in the background. There is always the question of “why” popping up—why does this character act this way? The story has to use logic as it moves along. There is action and reaction, and it has to make sense, even in that pretend world.
I like to write flash fiction short stories for adults, too, and I find that genre helps me whittle things down to only the most important details, and that’s a skill essential to picture books as well.

Tara and I had an interesting discussion a few months ago about how writers need to keep writing and practicing. Some manuscripts never get published, but each project is another stepping stone on the road to publication. All that practice pays off and you may one day write a story that comes out smoothly because of it. Tara, how many times has this happened to you?
It’s just how I have approached the business. Not everything you write will get published, so you must accept that some projects get shelved. Maybe you can turn back after some time and examine it with fresh eyes, more experienced eyes, and make changes that propel it onward. Or sometimes, you see why a story was not destined to get out there. Writing is never wasted time. Baseball players have batting practice—they never stop trying to improve. Not every hit will be a home run. But taking many swings is what matters.

Once you get to that magical place where things flow more organically, does the experience repeat itself or is it always different?
Every story is different. Things gel for me a little more quickly than they did in the past, but still, not every story is a winner. There are many variables that you cannot control in this business. What you can control is writing as many stories as you can.
It reminds me of that Picasso fable. Someone asked Picasso to draw something on a cocktail napkin for them. Picasso drew it, handed it to them and said, “That will be $1 million.” And the person scoffed, “A million? But that took you a few seconds to draw.” Picasso replied…”Yes, because it took 30 years of work for me to draw that in a few seconds.”
You should look that up because I just paraphrased it—but that is essentially the story! You put in years of work to work more efficiently, to work more successfully.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Write, read, network. Never stop learning and growing.

 And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Pistachio. It’s my favorite. I could lick my fingers when I’m hungry!

Who’s Tara?

Street magic performer. Hog-calling champion. Award-winning ice sculptor. These are all things Tara Lazar has never been.

Instead, she writes quirky, humorous picture books where anything is possible.

Her picture books available now are:

Tara is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of the Erin Murphy Literary Agency.

Her last name rhymes with “bazaar”—you can listen to Tara pronounce her name on TeachingBooks.net. She’s not Tara Laser-beam (although that would be awesome).

For more information: https://taralazar.com/

Author Nancy Churnin’s Nonfiction Mentor Texts plus Giveaway!

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Nancy Churnin. She has written countless nonfiction books that serve as mentor texts for many of us. Join us as she discusses her new book, Beautiful Shades of Brown, the Art of Laura Wheeler Waring published by Creston Books.

But first, Nancy is generously giving away a FREE copy of her book! To be eligible, please leave a comment on this blog. It’s that easy! Deadline March 30, US residents only.

 

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I began working on this book in 2016. I took it to workshops, submitted it to editors that told me it was too quiet which is funny in a way because Waring was a quiet person and some people think she didn’t get her due because she preferred to speak through her paintbrush. I put it aside.  My agent, Karen Grencik, connected with an editor who was looking for “hidden voices” – people that had been overlooked and were deserving of having their stories told. The editor loved it and we worked on revisions before going to acquisitions. We didn’t make it through acquisitions, but the very next editor I sent the revised manuscript to Marissa Moss at Creston Books, who loved it and felt it was good to go. I was thrilled when she found Felicia Marshall to do the illustrations. Felicia channels Laura Wheeler Waring’s heart, style and brilliance with colors. I am happy that Beautiful Shades of Brown found the right home and the perfect illustrator.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration? 
I fell in love with a painting of Marian Anderson. I had been wondering why there weren’t more books about female painters. When I discovered this painting I loved was by Laura Wheeler Waring, I felt compelled to learn everything I could about her. The more I learned the more I wanted to know and the more I wanted to share what I knew about this amazing artist who used her paintbrush to change perceptions of African Americans in segregated America and whose artwork can now be seen and enjoyed in major museums, including the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian Art Museum in Washington D.C. and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, Pa.

 What is your writing process like, and does it change depending on the project?
The process changes depending on the project and where I am on my writing journey, but some things do remain the same.  I research until I find the heart of the story – the part that resonates with me and that I hope will resonate with the kids. I make notes. I write through. I edit and research more. I rewrite, rewrite, rewrite, sometimes on my computer, sometimes in longhand. When I feel I’ve taken it as far as I can, I run it by my critique partners to get their feedback and revise again.

What draws you to the world of nonfiction? Do you ever write fiction?
I am drawn to the forgotten people, the people who were left out of the history books that deserve to be known. I feel a personal mission to shine a light on them. I have recently been increasingly drawn to the world of historical fiction, which would allow me to embroider stories that might have happened against a historical backdrop. That’s one of the genres I hope to work on more going forward. As for fiction, I love to read it – who knows – maybe one day I will write that, too.

 Please paste a short and compelling excerpt from your book.
“Laura looked at Marian and saw again the teenager singing so soulfully years ago. She heard again the music in all its beautiful shades of brown. She felt the melody travel down her fingers as she dipped her brush into the paints of her palette and found the exact luminous shade of Marian’s beautiful brown skin, her gown, the room.”

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I have a second book coming out in 2020, For Spacious Skies, Katharine Lee Bates and the Inspiration for “America the Beautiful” (April 1 from Albert Whitman & Company), which tells the story of the poet, professor and suffragette who fought for equal rights, including a woman’s right to vote, and gave her poem, “America the Beautiful” to America as a gift. I have a new book, A Queen to the Rescue: the Story of Henrietta Szold, coming out in fall of 2021 from Creston Books/Lerner Books. I hope to keep writing, creating, visiting, sharing and empowering children. I offer free teacher guides and create projects for each book. I would love to see myself both sharing stories about heroes and encouraging kids to be heroes of kindness in their schools and communities.

Please share your favourite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you? For classics, The Hobbit is a wonderful example of a quest story You have an unlikely hero that inspires no confidence in anyone (including himself); only the wise wizard sees past appearances. He faces challenges on the way to achieving his goal. He achieves the goal in an unexpected way that changes his perception of the world and who he is. Finally he returns home, but in the spirit of T.S. Eliot: “…the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” For contemporary books, one of my favorites is The Color Purple. That, too, is a quest story of sorts, with the heroine on a journey to discover her own strength and self-worth.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
If your heart beats with your characters, your heart will continue to beat in that story after you send it into the world — and children will pick up that beat and know it for their own.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Vanilla with dark chocolate covered almonds because it’s crunchy, mellow and CHOCOLATE.

BIO
Nancy Churnin is the award-winning author of eight picture book biographies, with a ninth on its way, including a Junior Library Guild selection, a Sydney Taylor Notable, a South Asia Book Award winner, an Anne Izard Storytellers Choice Award pick, a Notable Book for a Global Society selection and two National Council for the Social Studies Notables and two Silver Eureka Award winners. Her books have been on multiple state reading lists and she has presented at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles, the Ruby Bridges Reading Festival at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn., the Tulisoma Book Fair at the African American Museum in Dallas and the New York City School Librarians Conference. Nancy graduated cum laude from Harvard University, has a masters from Columbia University and lives in Plano, Texas with her husband, their dog named Dog and two cantankerous cats.

Social Media
Website: https://www.nancychurnin.com/
Blog: https://www.nancychurnin.com/thekidsareallwrite
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/NancyChurninBooks/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/nchurnin
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/nchurnin/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Beautiful-Shades-Brown-Wheeler-Waring/dp/1939547652
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/beautiful-shades-of-brown-nancy-churnin/1133250747?ean=9781939547651
Interabang Books: https://www.interabangbooks.com/book/9781939547651
IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/indie-bookstore-finder
Lerner Books: https://lernerbooks.com/shop/show/19649
Express Booksellers: https://expressbooksellers.com/kids-books/

Author Laurie Wallmark on Female STEM Pioneers

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Hello world!

Welcome to my Blissfully Bookish book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Laurie Wallmark. I really enjoy her nonfcition books that tend to focus on women and STEM, topics that are dear to my heart. Here she is discussing her new book, Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Mathematician illustrated by Yevgenia Nayberg and published by Creston Books.

Book quote:

“As the only woman in her classes, Sophie rarely spoke up. One day, while the professor was lecturing, she spotted a mistake on the blackboard. With a pounding heart, she walked to the front of the room.”

  1. Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?

I love math and wanted to share this love with children. Although two of the women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) in my picture book biographies have been mathematicians, they were known more for their contributions to computer science. I thought it was time to give a mathematician her due.

  1. Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

Once I knew I wanted to write about a mathematician, I had to choose which one. I thought about the women mathematicians I knew about and looked through lists to find about ones I didn’t. I chose Sophie for two reasons. Her major mathematical accomplishment, the rotation of solid bodies, has real world applications that children can understand. Second, she solved the problem known as the mathematical mermaid. Who would ever think that those two words would appear in the same sentence?

  1. What is your writing process like, and does it change depending on the project?

For my picture book biographies, my writing process starts with lots and lots of research. Along the way, I make a list of the possible scenes I might include. This helps me figure out the perspective and focus of the book. Then it’s the usual–write, revise, repeat–occasionally doing more research. For fiction, I still might have only to do a little bit of research, but the rest of the process is the same.

  1. What differentiates your book from others with similar content currently on the market?

Numbers in Motion: Sophie Kowalevski, Queen of Mathematics is the first biography of this important mathematician. She’s so important, that every year the Association of Women in Mathematics celebrates a Sonia Kowalevky Day. (To find out why this is a slightly different name, look in my book’s back matter that explains transliteration from the Russian alphabet.

6. Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?

I have another woman in STEM book coming out next year. In addition, I have three fiction picture books on the way. I can’t be more specific than that except for the one book that’s already been announced–Dino Pajama Party. I’m currently working on several more picture books and a novel in verse.

  1. Please share your favourite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?

I don’t have a good answer to this question (a common one asked during school visits). It’s too hard to narrow the field. There are so many excellent books out there. I will say that in general what moves me about books is the use of language and the way the story unfolds.

  1. What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers? 

Keep on keeping on.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavor of ice cream, which one would you be and why??

I’d be vanilla, because it’s my favorite ice cream flavor. But I’d hang out with all the other flavors, because what’s life without the great diversity of ice cream flavors (or people for that matter) in the world?

BIO
Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture book biographies of women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in fields ranging from computer science to mathematics to astronomy. Her books have earned multiple starred trade reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, AAAS/Subaru Prize Longlist, and Parents’ Choice Gold Medal. Laurie has an MFA in Writing from VCFA. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor.

Social Media
Website: https://www.lauriewallmark.com/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lauriewallmarkauthor
Twitter: @lauriewallmark

To Buy
Indiebound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781939547637
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Numbers-Motion-Sophie-Kowalevski-Mathematics/dp/1939547636/

Author Kirsten Larson: From NASA to STEM Kidlit

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author (and my friend) Kirsten W. Larson. Trust me, this woman is going to make her mark in the world of kidlit. Jois us as she discusses her new book, WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE published by Calkins Creek. 

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
I first researched and wrote WOOD, WIRE, WINGS in March 2014 as part of Susanna Hill’s “Making Picture Book Magic” class, so it took almost six years from first draft to published book. For two years, I revised with my critique group and in response to agent and editor feedback at conferences and from queries. In February 2016, I queried agents with the book and signed with my agent, Lara Perkins of ABLA, soon thereafter. This was the first manuscript we sent out. My editor, Carolyn Yoder, asked for an R&R (revise and resubmit) before offering in February 2017. After that, there were still two more rounds of revision. So my takeaway: The publishing process, especially for picture books, is slow.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
The book Rosie Revere, Engineer by Andrea Beaty, illustrated by David Roberts inspired this book. The name of Lilian Todd and a note that she was the first female airplane designer appeared in one of David’s illustrations. Though I’d lived and worked around airplanes my whole life, I’d never heard of Lilian. Neither had my husband, who’s a test pilot and aviation history buff. I knew Lilian’s story was one I needed to tell.

Please share some of your writing process.
My writing process has evolved quite a bit since WOOD, WIRE, WINGS, but for each book my research process is similar. I start with secondary sources and read widely about the person and/or time period I’m tackling. Secondary sources provide needed context for primary sources and also point the way to primary sources through endnotes and bibliographies. I typically have both a file box for books, copies of print sources, and drafts. But I also create a file in Evernote for electronic sources. I use the Evernote web clipper to clip journal and newspaper articles, online letters and diary entries, etc.

When I feel like I’m starting to see the same information over and over again, it’s time to write. Normally I start with a timeline or what I call my “kitchen sink draft,” which has all the names, dates, and details that probably won’t appear in the final draft. Then I can let all specifics go and be more creative with my structure, storytelling, and voice. I also carefully consider what must be said with words and what can appear in the illustrations.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve always been a writer in some fashion, and my interest and experience has mostly been nonfiction, specifically journalism. I wrote a newsletter filled with articles about  my family when I was in high school. It included breaking news about birthday parties and trips to the dentist. In college I was a reporter and editor at the college newspaper, The Cavalier Daily, and wrote for two different newspapers in my hometown. I also interned at NASA as a college student, working in the public relations department. (We call it Public Affairs at government agencies). That’s the career field I eventually went into. I didn’t turn to writing picture books until I had two children who devoured nonfiction children’s books about space, weather, and everything else imaginable. Reading those books, I realized I could write them and would probably have a blast doing it.

How did working at NASA influence your writing?
Working at NASA Public Affairs, I considered myself a translator for technical information. My job was to work with the news media providing the information they needed to inform the general public about NASA’s work. That often involved “translating” technical talk and engineer-speak into everyday language when writing press releases and newsletter articles, for example. This was great practice for writing STEM-based picture books where I often read journals and talk with experts. Working at NASA also influenced the subject matter of my first two picture books, which focus on women in aviation and astronomy.

Why do you write nonfiction?
I write primarily to satisfy my own curiosity. Whenever I tackle a new subject, it’s an excuse to become an expert in that field. If I can write a children’s book about the topic, then I know I truly understand the material myself.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
I have two more forthcoming nonfiction picture books, only one of which is announced. THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars are Made Of, is being illustrated by Katherine Roy and will be published by Chronicle Books. I continue to research and write nonfiction picture books but have also tackled graphic novels, another favorite genre. I’m revising a Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales-type graphic novel that marries history with fictional elements.

Please share your favourite kidlit books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
I’m a huge fan of mentor texts, and the books I use are tailored to each project. For WOOD, WIRE, WINGS, I had Debbie Levy’s I DISSENT (illus. Elizabeth Baddeley, Simon & Schuster, 2016) by my side. That book really showed me how to provide just enough historical context in an interesting way. One of my favorites from childhood was THE MONSTER AT THE END OF THIS BOOK, a Little Golden Book featuring Grover, by Jon Stone, illustrated by Michael Smollin (1971). It’s such a perfect example of strong page turns propelling the story forward and a surprising ending. I still have a copy.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
Because of the nature of publishing, I think the best thing we can do for our work is to enjoy the journey. We must make sure each book is the story we want to tell, even if it never sells. Finally, there are always people who can help us tell the story better, whether it’s a critique partner, an agent, an editor or an illustrator. Being able to really revise and reimagine a story in response feedback is perhaps the greatest skill a creator can have.

And a bonus Q- If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why?
I’m a big fan of pistachio gelato, which I learned to make in Italy.

BIO
Kirsten used to work with rocket scientists at NASA. Now she writes books for curious kids. Kirsten is the author of WOOD, WIRE, WINGS: EMMA LILIAN TODD INVENTS AN AIRPLANE, illustrated by Tracy Subisak (Calkins Creek, 2020) and THE FIRE OF STARS: The Life and Brilliance of the Woman Who Discovered What Stars Are Made Of, illustrated by Katherine Roy (Chronicle Books), as well as 25 nonfiction books for the school and library market. Kirsten lives near Los Angeles with her husband, lhasa-poo, and two curious kids. Her house is filled with LEGOs, laughter, and lots of books!

Social Media
Website: www.kirsten –w-larson.com
Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest: @KirstenWLarson
Facebook: @KirstenLarsonWrites

Author Annette Whipple on Creating Compelling Nonfiction

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Annette Whipple as she discusses her new book, The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide. It’s nonfiction, which I love!

  1. Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?

Oh, it’s been a long journey! The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide began with the idea in 2014. In 2016 I had an offer from Chicago Review Press, but we put the contract on hold until I received all the permissions needed from the Little House people. We moved to contract in 2018. I turned in the manuscript in May 2019. It’ll be published in July!

  1. Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

Of course Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books were my biggest inspiration. There’d be no book without them. However, I got the idea for the companion guide when I was reading Roar!: A Christian Family Guide to the Chronicles of Narnia. My kids loved it and so did I.

  1. Please share some of your writing process.

I read each the Little House books a few times and took notes in a chart I created. I noted the plot and events, people, food, and activity ideas that I might want to include in my book. I also noted words that might be included in my book as pioneer terms.
In The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion, I help the reader understand the Little House story and especially the complicated history at that time. All of that took a lot of research! One of my favorite features are the “Fact or Fiction?” sidebars. My kids and I got hands-on experimenting for the 75 recipes, crafts, and activities included!
For those interested, I wrote an entire blog post last year about the writing for The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion. https://www.wildercompanion.com/2019/03/manuscript-process.html

  1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

I was well into my thirties before I realized I love to write. In 2009, I began blogging to share with family about my daughter’s progress overcoming a speech disorder. Soon I realized I wanted to share with a larger audience and began a new blog. After a few years I took a few writing classes and wrote a few magazine articles. And then I attended my first writing conference in 2015.

  1. Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?

The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide is my sixth nonfiction book. I plan to keep writing for children, especially nonfiction because facts are fun. (That’s something I emphasize during my author visits as well as professional development workshops for teachers.) In the fall Reycraft Books plans to publish my book (tentatively titled) Whooo Knew?: Discover Owls. I’m thrilled Reycraft plans to illustrate the picture book with photographs. I also have another book under contract, but I can’t talk about that one yet! I can tell you it’s about some important people in American and world history.

6. Please share your favourite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?

Obviously, I think Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books are full of inspiration for good storytelling. But Little Women by Louisa May Alcott strikes me differently every time I read it (which is just about every year). Terrific Tongues by Maria Gianferrari is a picture book that I’d love to use as a mentor text—though I haven’t yet. It’s fun and full of great facts.

  1. What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers? 

Every writer needs a good critique partner (or two or a group) they can depend upon. It’s best if they have experience writing in your genre.

Here’s a quote I find inspiring: “I write alone, but I depend on others to help me write well.”

Here are two posts I’ve written about the value of feedback.
https://www.annettewhipple.com/2020/01/writing-success-is-art-part-1.html
https://www.annettewhipple.com/2019/09/the-value-of-feedback-for-writers.html

And a bonus question just for kicks!
If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Ha! Maybe pecan. The pecans add just a bit of nuttiness to the vanilla…a perfect combination!

BIO
Annette Whipple celebrates curiosity and inspires a sense of wonder in young readers while exciting them about science and history. She’s the author of five published books. In 2020, The Laura Ingalls Wilder Companion: A Chapter-by-Chapter Guide (Chicago Review Press) and Whooo Knew? Discover Owls (Reycraft Books) will be published. When she’s not reading or writing, you might find Annette snacking on warm chocolate chip cookies with her family in Pennsylvania. She explores the world of Laura Ingalls Wilder at WilderCompanion.com. Learn more about Annette’s books and presentations at AnnetteWhipple.com.

Social Media:
Book Link: https://amzn.to/2R3QPiD
Also, about the book:  https://www.annettewhipple.com/2019/11/the-laura-ingalls-wilder-companion.html and
https://www.annettewhipple.com/
https://www.wildercompanion.com/
https://www.facebook.com/AnnetteWhippleBooks
https://www.facebook.com/LittleHouseCompanion/
https://twitter.com/AnnetteWhipple
https://www.instagram.com/annettewhipplebooks/
https://www.pinterest.com/AnnetteWhippleBooks/

Author Tim Wynne-Jones on Creating Thrilling YA

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Tim Wynne-Jones as he discusses her new book, The Starlight Chain and its journey to publication. And oh, did I mention Tim is also a fellow Canadian? 🙂

  1. Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?

The Starlight Claim is a weird kind of sequel to a novel called The Maestro, that came out way back in 1995. For ages, kids have asked me what happened to Burl, the protagonist of that book – and what happened to his horrible abusive father! I always meant to write a sequel but when I finally got around to it, Burl would have been old enough in real years to have a sixteen-year-old son of his own and I decided that would be more interesting. I could giver old fans the answer they wanted but set out on a whole new adventure.

  1. Please share some of your writing process.

By now, I’m not at all sure what my writing process is. After 37 books, I’d have to say my process changes as the story requires it to. Kind of like the way we try to parent our kids the best way we know how but have to make allowances for their differences. At best, I like to write a first draft as quickly as I can. That way, I get to find out what’s going to happen! I’ve never been much good at outlining; I write to discover. I want to be as excited as the reader when I turn the page. It’s great idea, in theory, but it means you sometimes take a whole lot of wrong turns along the way.

  1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

Only when the door to my dreams of being an architect was slammed shut in my face. I failed out of third-year architecture and ended up as lead singer in a Toronto bar band. I started writing songs; the songs got longer; eventually they had chapters!

  1. Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?

I have a middle-grade novel almost finished, but the last part has proved obdurate. Grrr. Even after so many books and so many years, a story doesn’t always go smoothly. After that, who knows. I don’t feel I’m ready to hang up my hat but I look around and hear so many exciting new voices clamoring to be heard and I think, it’s somebody else’s turn. So I don’t have the same drive as I did twenty or even ten years ago, but I’m not ready to stop dead. I guess what it comes down to is that I’ll only want to throw myself into a project that feels so right I can’t resist putting my whole heart into it. Which is kind of what it’s always been like…

  1. Please share your favourite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?

This is a hard one. I read all the time and pick up valuable tips, along the way. You never stop learning to be a better writer. I love A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner. I love the cleanness of the writing, the humour. You’d be hard-pressed to find even a hint of Milne’s influence on my work. Or John Le Carré’s either. Or Barbara Kingsolver’s, for that matter. I wish! Probably my favourite book of the last few decades is Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass, as well as the other two books in the series His Dark Materials. The inspiration I get from those books and many others is the desire to write as well as I can. To write to open up. To write to surprise. To write to discover something that matters.  

  1. What is the best piece of advice you would give to other writers? 

Write the book you need to write. We all learn to write from emulation, but at some point, there is a story only you can tell. Write that.

BIO
Tim Wynne-Jones has written 37 books for people of all ages. He has won The Governor General’s Award twice and been short-listed six times. He has also won the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award twice, the Arthur Ellis Award of the Crime Writers of Canada, twice, and, once upon a time, the Edgar Award presented by the Mystery Writers of America. His books have been translated into a dozen languages. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2012.

Social Media:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/tim_wj
Website: http://www.timwynne-jones.com/
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Author Jeanne Moran on Writing Historical Fiction

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Hello world!

Welcome to my book blog. For this Q & A, please welcome author Jeanne Moran as she discusses her new book, The Path Divided, and its journey to publication.

But first, YAY! Jeanne is generously giving away two FREE copies of her book, one in print, the other in eBook form. To enter the contest, follow me on Twitter (@LydiaLukidis) and leave a blog comment below. (US residents only, ends Jan 1, 2020)

Can you describe the journey to publication for this book?
The Path Divided is the sequel I didn’t plan to write. Seriously, who wants to research and write a second novel set in Nazi Germany? After Risking Exposure was published, I was ready to move on to more pleasant subject matter. And I did, for a little while.
Then, (I tell you this in full trust that you won’t call the men in the white coats) I awoke in the middle of the night with a grouchy old man’s voice in my head. Without knowing who he was, I stumbled to the computer and documented his words. About five hundred words into his dictation, I realized he was an unrepentant Nazi. After another five hundred words, I recognized him as the antagonist from Risking Exposure, but six decades older. The seed for The Path Divided was sown.
I wouldn’t write about an old, unrepentant Nazi without a counterbalance of someone with decent morals and behavior. When I revisited the character of his more noble sister and found her still in 1938 (I’m not a time traveler, just a writer,) her story grew also. The Path Divided weaves together her historical narrative with his more contemporary one.

Where did you draw the book’s inspiration?
My novels were born of my curiosity and my ignorance. Books about Nazi Germany tend to focus on the war and the horrors inflicted on Nazi targets. They’re typically told by either the regime’s victims or the WWII victors.
Enter my curiosity. As a second-generation American of German descent, I wondered about the German experience. If my grandparents hadn’t emigrated, my parents would have grown up in Germany during the Nazi era. Their school curriculum would have been Nazi-designed and approved. They would have been members of Hitler Youth, as was the law. They would have been bombarded with the regime’s version of news through government-controlled media. Perhaps they would have been caught up in the fervor of a torchlight parade or an enormous rally.
I knew the Nazis were good at brainwashing their citizens; they spewed propaganda into German minds for six years before war broke out. But I wondered—what if a regular teenage German thought for herself? What if she was headstrong and independent and refused to go along with the crowd? Those ‘what if’ questions pushed me on.

Please share some of your writing process.
I typically start with a character and spend some time getting to know that character and her world before I write anything. I try to understand what she wants and why she wants it. I jot down ideas—settings, events, secondary characters, etc.
The writing itself tends to be in fits and starts as a scene takes shape in my mind. Don’t tell my English teachers this, but I don’t start by writing the opening scene. Gasp! I write scenes out of order, and I always write the ending before I write the beginning. Also, I avoid heavy edits until the entire first draft is finished.

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I was one of those kids who wrote stories and stuck them under the bed, but in my adult life, I worked as a pediatric physical therapist. We therapists ask children to do exercise that’s really hard, and the kids on my caseload struggled to participate. All that changed when I embedded the needed exercise into a story. The kids were no longer lifting a weight, they were raising their sword to defend against pirates! They weren’t walking to increase endurance, they were explorers on a jungle safari! Their cooperation (and their motor skills) soared.
Time and again, I was struck by story’s power to transform. I knew I had to do more of that, and I’m delighted to do so still.

Where do you see your career headed? Do you have other WIPs or projects in the pipeline you would like to mention?
While I won’t discount the possibility of writing more historical fiction (I love research,) I’m delighted to say all the Nazis are out of my head! I’m currently writing a funny middle grade chapter book series tentatively called The Companion Finders. In it, a prank-loving Friendship Fairy must team up with the self-absorbed Fairy of Love to find human companions for the world’s loneliest creatures: Sasquatch, the Loch Ness Monster, the Yeti, and Jack Frost.

Please share your favourite books that have inspired you and served as mentor texts. Pick one classic and one contemporary book. What is it about them that moved you?
I love character-driven kidlit, and a classic favorite of mine is Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White. When I read it as a kid, I thought, “I can’t believe I’m crying about a spider!” and when I read it again as an adult, I was again touched to the core. The characters of Charlotte, Wilbur, and Fern still ring with authenticity. A more contemporary favorite is The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin. The unique voice and delightful character of Suzy were so well drawn that I actually missed her after I closed the book.

What is the best (one) piece of advice you would give to other writers?
When the reader truly experiences a story, that story becomes part of their understanding of the world.

And a bonus question just for kicks! If you could be any flavour of ice cream, which one would you be and why??
Banana ice cream with chocolate coated almonds swirled through. Why? Because the color yellow brightens everything, the almonds swirled in because I’m a bit scattered and nutty, and the chocolate because, hello, it’s chocolate!

BIO
In my career as a pediatric physical therapist, I helped hundreds of children gain strength and motor skills. That left me spare time (ha!) to teach Sunday School, direct an after-school program, organize an international student-athlete exchange, and plan a new community playground. Along the way, I learned a bit about tang soo do and sudoku, tap dancing and German, whole foods cooking and the joy of selling on eBay. Anything to avoid cleaning!
I write fiction and creative non-fiction for young and young-minded readers surrounded inspirational quotes, vinyl records, countless books, and innumerable dust bunnies.

Social Media:
Twitter: https://twitter.com/JmoranAuthor
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/jeannemoranauthor
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/jeannemoran.author/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUu5e32rKDY2CPkkIv8ZH_Q

To purchase book:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07KGHFQLH
https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-path-divided-jeanne-moran/1130061077?ean=9781987019278
https://www.indiebound.org/book/9781728729152

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