Author Interview: Peggy Tibbetts – Letters to Juniper

Today for Tween Tuesday I’m very excited to welcome Peggy Tibbetts author of Letters to Juniper.  I just finished reading the book, and I’ll be reviewing it later today.  Peggy was kind enough to answer some questions about the book and her writing.

Before we get to that, here’s a bit about the book:

Twelve-year old Sarah Smith remembers when she was six years old her mother died and she moved to northern Idaho with her brother and father. Their lives changed drastically. The only vivid memory she has of her early childhood is her best friend Juniper Holland. In her letters to Juniper, Sarah reveals her innermost thoughts and feelings about her reclusive life with three younger brothers under the rigid oppression of her father and stepmother who call themselves Separatists. Their lives are turned upside down by an FBI investigation into her father’s association with members of the Aryan Nation. As the tension and violence escalate, Sarah faces life and death decisions in order to survive.

Welcome Peggy to The O.W.L.!


For your Letters to Juniper – what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
The unexpected ending of “Letters to Juniper” has been described by reviewers as “shocking”, “mind-numbing”, “brilliant”, and “similar to the surprise kick in the movie ‘Sixth Sense’”. I can appreciate the readers’ astonishment. It surprised me, too.

Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write Letters from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision if you can!
I wrote “Letters to Juniper” in less time than it took me to write my other novels. It took about six months to write it. Usually I spend a couple months researching and outlining my books. But in this case, the story came to me so quickly I had to do the research as I wrote it. Then I spent another two months editing and revising. Revision is my favorite part of the process because I have a story to work with instead of a blank page.

During the revision process I use this list of questions to improve my story:
 1) Can you summarize the story in a sentence or two?
 2) Have you checked spelling, grammar and formatting?
 3) Does your main character have flaws? Is she/he someone readers will be interested in?
 4) Does the beginning draw the reader in?
 5) Did your main character change throughout the story?
 6) Have you chosen the best point of view?
 7) Does your dialogue move the story forward, as in no idle conversations? Does everyone sound alike? Or can readers tell who’s talking without dialogue tags?
 8) Is there tension in this story?
 9) Is there unanswered conflict until the end?
10) Is every character necessary to this story?
11) Does each chapter offer information that moves the story forward?
12) Does every scene?
13) Does the story end where it’s supposed to?
14) Do you like this story?

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?
“Letters to Juniper” isn’t based on anything or anyone in my own life. However during the 90s, I was as horrified as everyone else at news stories about the Montana Freemen, Ruby Ridge, and the Waco Siege. In all three cases, children were living inside the compounds during the standoff. I asked the question: “What would it be like to be a child, yet old enough to be aware of what was happening?” The skeleton for the story is based on the events at Ruby Ridge in 1992, which involved a standoff between federal agents and the Randy Weaver family at their home in northern Idaho.

How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)
I trust the cover design to my publisher, although I do have final approval and I’m allowed to make changes. Big publishers with big budgets use artists and cover designers and original design and artwork. I work with a very small publisher who uses stock photos and Photoshop to create eye-catching covers that pop. By “pop” I mean in today’s digital world the cover needs to stand out not only in full color paperback but even when it shows up as a tiny thumbnail image in black-&-white on an ereader screen.

Now something not related to your book or writing!  What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?
When I was in first grade, every morning our teacher, Miss Knight helped the class compose a “Today” story, which she wrote on the blackboard. Then we had to copy it on blue-lined manuscript paper. Through that daily exercise I grew to love writing and learned how to tell a story. I still write my first drafts in long hand, only now I use yellow legal pads. In school I enjoyed English and History equally and I was definitely a good student. Actually I was kind of a nerd with glasses and my nose always stuck in a book. But it was a good background for a writer because I spend a lot of time reading and a lot of time doing research.

And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?
L’Engle. She was a great writer and a great teacher. She taught me how to write fiction in two weeks. I have been practicing ever since.

As a child my favorite authors were Madeleine L’Engle, Beverly Cleary, Albert Payson Terhune, Jack London, and Phyllis Whitney.  As an adult, and probably because I am also a writer, my favorites have changed over the years. These days in young adult authors I also admire the works of M.T. Anderson, Cynthia Voight, Louis Sachar, S.E. Hinton, Philip Pullman, and Gary Paulsen, to name a few. For me favorite authors tend to be about what I’m into at the time. So currently I like Natalie Collins for her edgy mysteries that give readers a glimpse behind the veil of Mormon life – and for her friendship. I like Bruce Cameron and Sara Gruen’s amazing animal stories. And because I am currently writing a dogoir – a memoir about a dog – I have been reading lots of nonfiction dog stories. My favorite so far is Jon Katz because he really delves into understanding animal behavior.


 Thank you Peggy! And please stay tuned because later today my review for Letters to Juniper will be posted! 
And if you want to learn more about Peggy check out her website 
and follow her on Twitter.

Tween Tuesday was started by GreenBeanTeenQueen!

Interview with Taylor Morris and GIVEAWAY

Yesterday I was able to review the tween book BFF Break up by Taylor Morris.  A good book about that dreaded fear of losing your BFF.  Today I get the pleasure of sharing her answers to some questions I was able to ask.  Make sure to look below the interview for a two SIGNED book giveaway!

Welcome Taylor Morris to The O.W.L.!!

For BFF Breakup – what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
In BFF BREAKUP, I’m proud of how I handled the actual fight that led to Brooke and Madeline’s breakup. I wanted to write something that the reader could empathize with from both sides. I didn’t want there to be a hero and a villain. Or even so, perhaps one reader was on Brooke’s side and another was on Madeline’s. I just didn’t want it to be obvious which character was at fault because in the end they both were, in their own ways.


Tell about your writing process. How long did it take you to write BFF Breakup from idea to finish? Please tell about revision is you can!
I started thinking about BFF BREAKUP months before I began writing, which is usually the case. I start with an initial idea—like, How about a story about best friends who get in a huge fight and break up?—and then start thinking about who the characters are, who their friends and family are, what lead them to the fight, what exactly the fight was about, what happens afterward, etc. All that plotting and planning will hopefully make for a better book and an easier write. I thought about BFF BREAKUP for about nine months before I started writing it, and then it took about three months to write. That’s a pretty short writing time but I was on a steep deadline with a series I was about to begin.

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?
Sadly, yes. My best friend and I had into a huge, ginormous, awful fight that had us not speaking for three years. I assumed we would never talk again. In the meantime, an acquaintance friend of mine got angry at me for something I did and sort of wrote me off and I started to think, What is it about me and girlfriends? Am I a bad friend? Or do I choose bad friends? I looked back on all my friendships and really started to think about it. Then, my best friend and I started talking again—very slowly and tentatively—and I thought that the story of best friends was so simple and yet complex, not to mention relatable that it would be a good story to tell. BFF BREAKUP is not the story of me and my friend, although I can certainly understand the emotions my characters, Brooke and Madeline, experience.

I really think this is something most girls and women can relate to!

Why MG instead of any other grade level?
I have sharp memories from that time in my life so I started from there. When I wrote my first novel, CLASS FAVORITE, I had the main character as 16 but my agent felt like she acted a bit young and asked if I’d consider changing her to 13. And like that, I became a middle grade writer and have had five novels published with more on the way. I’ve written two other books for young adults—one that will never see the light of day, and another that I will edit and resubmit to agents. I’d like to have a hardcover YA book but beyond that, I love writing for and about teenagers and have no plans to stop writing middle grade books. I have no desire to write for adults. 

Ok once the story was done – How much say did you have in the cover of this book? What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)

Absolutely zero say whatsoever. They did email me and ask me what I thought about it but I’m pretty sure it was just a courtesy. For my series, Hello, Gorgeous!, I didn’t even see the cover until it was finalized. Generally speaking, unless you’re some big-selling, fancy author you usually don’t have much say in your book cover. Sometimes the editor will ask if you have an idea for a concept before they begin designing and they might take that into consideration. But the ultimate decision is with the publisher’s art and marketing departments. That’s their job and their strength. Leave the writing to me. (For more on covers, got to Melissa Walker’s blog for Cover Stories where she has authors talk about their experiences with this.)

Now for a nonwriting question that my students are always curious about- What kind of student were you? Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?
I was a completely average student! Truly, there was nothing special or outstanding about me. I made average grades, had an average amount of friends, was of average popularity. I did some writing when I was in elementary school (including a 12 page handwritten novel called Love At First Sight, starring two of my classmates) but after that I didn’t do much writing until college. English was definitely my favorite subject—I always liked stories but also I always got As so of course I liked it!

And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?
I read shockingly little growing up. Some Judy Blume in elementary school. In junior high I read the Flowers in the Attic series and for some reason, Drew Barrymore’s autobiography Little Girl Lost. By high school I was reading Gone With the Wind. Other than that, it’s strange to say I wasn’t much of a reader. I loved reading, but I never knew what books to buy or get at the library.

As for authors from today who I admire, I love Maureen Johnson’s wit and Meg Cabot’s humor. Barbara Dee’s middle grade books are adorable and full of heart. The Harry Potter series will always be in my top five—what an incredible writer and storyteller J.K. Rowling is!

Thanks for hanging out with us today!

Now for the giveaway.  
Taylor Morris has provide the first two books in the Hello Gorgeous series: Blowout and Foiled
Now that she’s had her thirteenth birthday, Mickey’s finally old enough to work at her mother’s super glam hair salon-Hello, Gorgeous! And true to the old cliche about people confiding in their hair stylists, Mickey starts getting an earful right off the bat. Customers love talking to her because she’s so empathetic, but what happens when she starts getting overly involved in their dramas?

To Enter
Must be US resident
Must FILL OUT FORM
+1 for commenting on REVIEW
+1 for commenting on INTERVIEW
Ends Aug 3rd





Interview: David Stahler Jr. Author of Spinning Out +GIVEAWAY

I’m very excited today to host a stop on tour for Spinning Out by David Stahler Jr.  I was  lucky enough to be able to ask him a few questions!

A bit about the book:

High school senior Frenchy has little ambition beyond hanging out at the smoking rock until his best friend, the ever-witty and conniving Stewart, gets him to try out for Man of la Mancha. To everyone’s surprise, the guys are a hit. But when Stewart’s antics begin to grow more obsessive he wears his costume 24/7, freaks out about little details, and displays an incessant hatred of the high-tech windmills outside of town Frenchy worries that there’s something deeper going on. Is Stewart spiraling into madness, just like Don Quixote? And can Frenchy battle through his own demons in time to save his friend from self-destruction before it’s too late?

So today I welcome David Stahler Jr to The O.W.L.!

 
In Spinning Out- what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?

I think I took my game to the next level in general on this book. Richness, texture is at the heart of good fiction—how many balls can you juggle in the air and still have it work? There’s a lot going on the novel, lots of different layers and story elements. This is not to say that there aren’t flaws, of course, but I think in general it all works pretty well. In terms of one single aspect I’m most proud of, I’d say it’s the narrative voice of Frenchy, particularly the dialogue.

It always amazes me how authors can keep all the story lines plotted out so well! All the different threads coming together.

Tell us about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish? Please tell about revision is you can!

I came up with the concept for the novel back in 2004, wrote the first draft in 2008-2009, and now it’s finally being released in 2011, so it’s had quite a journey. In terms of my process, I teach high school English, so it’s catch as catch can sometimes. The year I wrote the rough draft, I was only teaching in the morning, so I used the afternoons to write. The schedule makes for long days, but it allows me to provide a stable income for my family and still be able to publish. Last year was occupied with revisions. The novel went through extensive rewrites—several chapters were added, others were completely rewritten, and a few were just plain cut. I was very fortunate that the book ended up with Julie Romeis at Chronicle Books. She had a very clear sense of what I was trying to do with the story, shared my passion for it, and most of all was willing to really push me to get the most out of it. The growth that I experienced as a writer—despite having already published five novels—was mostly due to her diligence.

I teach too so it’s awesome to see another teacher being published! I think my students would be amazed to know how long it can take for a novel to come together.  And to hear you cut entire chapters would just floor them!

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?

Not specifically. The whole controversy over putting 300’ wind turbines on ridges where I live in northern Vermont was in full swing as I began to write the novel, and it seemed like a perfect fit with a story about a production of Man of La Mancha. And the story is set in my own stomping grounds, so there’s some inspiration there. The characters in Spinning Out, as well as my other Vermont novel A Gathering of Shades, aren’t based on particular people, but rather composites—a little bit of this person, a little bit of that person. I suppose every writer does this.

So the old saying “write what you know” didn’t really apply here.  I wish my students would get that as well.

How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)

Publishers have their own design teams who are professionals and very good at what they do, so I generally trust their talent. For this book, my editor Julie Romeis was very good about keeping me in the loop, showing me proofs, soliciting feedback. The final cover—which is different from the ARC you probably read—is very striking. Bright red and silver with foil paper. Very cool looking. It features the wind turbines, which I was glad about. They’re very strange, alien looking things. I always loved the cover to the YA novel Godless with that foreboding, looming image of a water tower, and I always imagined something similar for this book with a wind tower, so it was neat to see them go in that direction.

I saw that the final copy had a different cover. I like them both for different reasons.

What kind of student were you? Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?

I was precocious as a youth, so school was never hard, but as a result I didn’t develop the best study habits, which caught up with me later when I went to college. English was always my favorite subject. I wrote some as a kid, but not as much as a lot of kids do. I was mostly a reader. I always had a book tucked away in my desk or under my pillow. In fact, I wish I read as much now as I did when I was a kid. There are so many things competing for my energies these days—children, work, chores, music, the internet…I could go on and on—so ironically I rarely sit down to read a good old-fashioned novel. How embarrassing is that coming from a novelist?

Ok, not so sure I want students to hear that last part 🙂

And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?

One of my favorite authors in terms of fiction and influencing my own work is Ray Bradbury. It’s a strange case—he’s widely read and everyone knows who he is, yet I can’t help but feel that he’s underrated and overlooked as one of the great contemporary fiction writers. I love his prose style—artful yet unpretentious—and the fact that his work transcends genre. Much of it is traditional sci-fi, but a lot isn’t. He just tells a great story and manages to combine interesting ideas with very moving characters and situations. I also love Ursula LeGuin and Margaret Atwood. When I was growing up, I loved Tolkien. Beyond that, I didn’t have a favorite author per se—I just read whatever came my way.

We read Ray Bradbury every year in my classroom.  I try to impress upon the students how important he is, but I’m not so sure they believe me.  Maybe they’ll believe you!

Thank you so much for joining us today!!!! It’s always fun to hear what authors have to say.

Now for the giveaway
To enter for a copy of Spinning Away:
Must be US resident
Must be 13 at least
Must fill out the form (+1 for a thoughtful comment to the interview)
Ends July 6th midnight CST
FILL OUT THIS FORM!!

 

Author Interview: Myra McEntire Author of Hourglass

Today I’m so very excited to welcome Myra McEntire to The O.W.L.  Myra is the author the soo-to-be released Hourglass.  I just finished up Hourglass and will be posting my review later today (pssst – I haven’t been that hooked by a book in long time!)

With that Welcome Myra and thanks for hanging out at
The O.W.L.!

For your most current book – what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?

A sci-fi aspect that I’m actually in the process of fleshing out. This book isn’t set in the HOURGLASS world, and it’s darker in an off-balance kind of way. Maybe Tim Burton-esque. I have no idea what I’m doing/where it’s going, which means I have the freedom to write whatever I want! Fun!

Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish? Please tell about revision is you can! It took me almost two years of writing from idea to between the pages (realize the book has been finished since last October.) Being willing to revise is the very best thing a writer can do. My editor told me that writers who are willing to revise are the writers who have long careers. That’s what I want!

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?

The character of Dru is based on two of my girlfriends. They both do stylist work for a lot of musical artists (I live in Nashville) and one is a makeup artist, the other a hairstylist. That author photo? They did that. Most of the time I forget to brush my hair.

How much say did you have in the cover of this book? What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)

I had NO say at all! And I’m so glad! I would have never come up with something as gorgeous as what I have. I will tell you that the photographer is seventeen years old, and she took the picture that’s on the cover OF HERSELF. That’s some inspiration, right there!

What kind of student were you? Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?

When my mind was engaged I was a great student. For me the best kind of learning happened not in one class, but when my classes were connected. That worked better in college than any other time. Say for example you’r

e studying Abraham Lincoln in history, and your English class is reading ABRAHAM LINCOLN: VAMPIRE HUNTER. (Yes, that’s really a book. Crazy, right?)

And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?

I admire J.K. Rowling, for the conventional reasons, but also for some personal ones. Once you finish your book and get it out in the world to promote, writing is no longer a solitary process. It’s not really your book anymore; it belongs to the world. I admire the way J.K. has managed to keep herself apart and keep writing. You have to be in a certain frame of mind to really dig deep into your story, and sometimes that means you have to be really, really alone.

THANK YOU SO MUCH!

And thank you Myra!  I can’t believe the cover picture was taken by a 17 year old! That makes me like it even more.  Side note about the cover – it took me FOREVER to realize she was walking on the wall!  I just thought the hardwood floor was a door.  Once I figured that out the cover was even cooler for me!

Make sure to check out Myra’s Website to learn more about her and Hourglass.

Author Interview: Helen Stringer The Midnight Gate Plus a GIVEAWAY

Today I have the pleasure of welcoming Helen Stringer to The O.W.L.  She has a fantastic new book out The Midnight Gate sequel to Spellbinder (you can read my review of Spellbinder HERE).  Watch later today for my review of The Midnight Gate.
Welcome to The O.W.L. I’m very excited to have you here today talking about The Midnight Gate as well as writing in general. Let’s get started.

In The Midnight Gate – what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
I really enjoyed writing the Queen of the Abyss. She was originally going to appear in Spellbinder, but I had to put her off until book two. I love characters that are not quite what they seem.  It’s so common to make snap judgments about people based on their appearance and that’s something you can really have fun with in the fantasy genre.  The opportunity to find out more about Steve was great, too.  Too often people assume that kids who don’t do well in school are stupid, when their curiosity might just show itself in other ways. Steve is having to deal with the disappearance of his mother as well as his new-found skills, but when push-comes-to-shove (that’s an English expression, do you use it here?) he usually makes the right decision.
Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision is you can!

Boy, can I tell you about revision — Spellbinder was originally around 650 pages long!  I had been looking for an agent for a while when one of the people who read it said that it was too long and that it should be half as many pages.  I did what I always do – went off in a huff.  Lots of mutterings along the lines of, “She doesn’t get it! Lots of books are longer than that! I can’t cut anything! It’s all absolutely crucial!”  Eventually, I just looked at the stack of paper, split it in the middle and had a look where that was.  I then wrote a completely new ending and wound up with a much better book. And my critic became my agent!  I had hoped that the half that I cut would be book two, but the changes that I made to Spellbinder meant that very little survived – except, of course, the Queen of the Abyss.

In general, though, I start writing when I have the germ of an idea, without any plan or outline. I need to explore the characters a little, see who they are and how they speak. After I’ve written a couple of chapters I read them aloud to friends and family. It’s a really good way to tell if something is working – their responses (and silences!) really let you know whether something is working or not. I may prepare an outline once I’m about four or five chapters in, but it’s always fairly fluid. I’ll get other ideas while walking around, watching TV, or having a shower and the whole story will have to change. Sometimes I’ll go back and adjust the stuff I’ve already written, but more often I’ll make a note along the lines of “Don’t forget about the lighter!” and carry on, only going back to make the changes when I have a complete draft.  Once the draft is complete, I send it to my agent who will respond with pages of notes (more grumbling), then I’ll revise and send it back. This might happen several times.  Then it goes to the publisher who will send yet more pages of notes (even more grumbling). Eventually it ends up in the hands of a copy editor who sends notes about grammar and punctuation, most of which I will agree with (after the requisite grumbling, of course!).

I think one of the things to remember about revision is that everyone’s goal is to make it a better book.  I also suspect that working in the film and television industries really helped me to appreciate that.  A movie is very collaborative – nothing gets made without everyone working together.  A screenplay is only a blueprint which the producers, director, actors, cinematographer, designers, composer, gaffers and grips (to name but a few!) bring to the screen. Everyone is working towards the same goal – making a good movie.  It might not be as obvious when you are writing a book, but all of those notes and comments, from the first glimpse that you give your family to the last suggestion that perhaps a comma would be good just there, help to make your story the best it can be.

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?

Some parts of the story were based on real life.  Some of the things that happen in school, for example.  Quite a lot of the places were based on real ones, though. The school is based on the school I attended back in Liverpool – it really was made up of three Victorian houses joined together. It’s still there, of course, but they have added a lot of newer buildings now. Arkbath Hall is based on Speke Hall just outside Liverpool, the House of Mists on Croxteth Hall where I worked for a while, and the ruined Fenchurch Abbey on the spectacular Furness Abbey just outside Barrow in Cumbria. Not all the places are based on ones in England, though – Evans’s Electronics was inspired by something I saw on a tour of the old theater district in downtown Los Angeles. It was a tiny electronics shop, all blaring TVs and flashing lights, but once you go through a small door in the back of the store you find yourself in a beautiful old vaudeville theatre, built in 1912 and still complete with velvet curtains and gold-painted angels!

As to characters…Belladonna is largely based on my sister, Becky. She was always very clever, but terribly shy. Miss Parker was definitely inspired by the headmistress at my school – a very daunting lady who swept along the corridors wearing her black academic robe, which billowed behind her like the wings of a giant bat.

How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)

I didn’t have much say at all.  The publisher designs the cover and sends me a draft.  If there’s something I strongly object to they would probably change it, but they usually design the cover to appeal to particular readers. Publishing companies do tons of research on things like that, so I think it’s wise to defer to their expertise.

What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?

I was the kind of student who gets remarks along the lines of, “Helen has a great deal of potential but must work harder.”  My sister always got great grades but I could generally find reasons not to do my homework and was miserable at anything science related – which is odd because I’m really fascinated by it now.  Basically, I did well at the things I was interested in: English, history, art.  I was also always planning things: plays, films (once I got my first camera at 13), and really, really complicated games that went on for days.  I was constantly making up stories.  Having a younger sister helps in this.  Becky is only 15 months younger than me and we shared a room, so every night I would tell stories until she fell asleep.  This was my first experience of rewriting, too – if she didn’t like the way a particular story was developing she’d tell me and then I’d have to start a new one! 

History was (and still is) one of my favorite subjects. The stories always gripped me and sent my imagination flying.  I would picture myself living in past times or speaking to the people we were reading about, and I would wonder whether I’d have done anything differently if I’d been there. I reference quite a lot of English history in my books, as well as the myths and legends of various countries, and I make a real effort to get the facts right just in case someone is interested enough to want to find out the whole story about (say) Charles I or the Viking invasions.

And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?

I think the two writers I admire most are Jane Austen and Charles Dickens.  Austen because she chooses her words so carefully – she always says exactly what she means. I can remember when I hated her stuff.  At 13 I thought her books were glorified romance novels and couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about.  But the very fact that she is still being read today when most of her contemporaries are long forgotten shows that her way of looking at people was so accurate and true that even though it is nearly 200 years since she last set pen to paper, which still recognize her characters in those around us.  As to Dickens…well, it’s easy to forget if you haven’t cracked open one of his books in a while, but he wrote cracking good stories. If people have never read him, I usually recommend Nicholas Nickleby to start – mysterious, adventurous, funny and touching.

When I was growing up my favorite author was Alan Garner. He isn’t very well known here, but it’s definitely worth hunting down books like The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, Elidor and The Owl Service.  He was the first fantasy author I read whose work was grounded in a world I recognized.  One of my favorite American authors is Raymond Chandler – he has real fun playing with language, which I think is so important.

I have to ask the last question about Spellbinder.  Where did the idea for the giant cockroach like creatures on the ceiling come from??? I still shudder at them!

I have no idea! Though there’s nothing worse than noticing a spider on the ceiling above your bed just as you turn out the light. Insects on ceilings – ugh!

Thank you so much for agreeing to be interviewed on The O.W.L.  I particularly loved your view on why we revise – with the goal to make it better!

It’s a pleasure! 
Now for the giveaway!
Spellbinder series giveaway! Three lucky winners will receive one copy each of THE MIDNIGHT GATE and SPELLBINDER along with some bookmarks! To enter, send an e-mail to SpellbinderSeries@gmail.com. In the body of the e-mail, include your name, mailing address, and e-mail address (if you’re under 13, submit a parent’s name and e-mail address). One entry per person and prizes will only be shipped to US or Canadian addresses. Entries must be received by midnight (PDT) on 6/17/11. Winners will be selected in a random drawing on 6/18/11 and notified via email.

For excerpts, games, links, and more, visit Helen’s website at: http://www.helenstringer.net/
Read Helen’s blog: http://helenstringer.net/blog/

Author Interview Julie Crabtree – The Crepe Makers’ Bond

I’m very excited today to welcome Julie Crabtree the author of The Crepe Makers’ Bond.  

A Bit About the Book

Ariel is the head chef in her family kitchen. Cucumber salads, fettuccine carbonara, fish tacos, and peanut butter pie are just a few of the dishes she crafts when she’s feeling frustrated by the world. And it’s turning into a frustrating year. Ariel, Nicki, and Mattie have been inseparable friends since they were little kids, but now Mattie’s mom has decided to move away. It’s the girls’ last year in middle school, and they can’t fathom being separated. The friends concoct a plan that will keep Mattie in the Bay area — she’ll move in with Ariel and her family. But before you can say “bff,” the party is over. Everything Mattie does gets on Ariel’s nerves, and it’s not long before the girls are avoiding each other. This was supposed to be their best year ever, but some painful lessons are threatening to tear their friendship apart. Can the girls scramble to make things right before the bond crumbles?

Watch for my review of it tomorrow.
Now for the interview!
Welcome Julie Crabtree!
  
Thanks for visiting The O.W.L.!!!!!
For your most current book – what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
The Crepe Makers’ Bond features a young teen, Ariel, who wants to be a chef. Her character makes me proud. She is passionate, dedicated, and unwavering in her quest. Ariel is who I wanted to be when I was that age, but certainly not who I was. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I was in eighth grade. I already loved to cook and write, but I never pursued either of those “hobbies” because I didn’t see them as possible life paths. I felt fearful that such pursuits could not sustain me in the real world. I know now that I was wrong. I dismissed my own abilities and passions. I didn’t have the bravery to stand up and follow what I love to do until years after college. Unlike me at that age, Ariel is fiercely committed to becoming a chef because it is what she truly loves to do. She is aggressive and unapologetic about her goals. Ariel makes me proud because, through her, I hope kids that dream of becoming an artist, writer, musician, game designer, athlete, or anything else that seems scarily unattainable might lean into it their passions rather than run away from them.  

Tell about your writing process. How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision is you can!

It took me about a year to write The Crepe Makers’ Bond. It is a sequel (to 2008’s Discovering Pig Magic), so the characters already existed, and I just continued their story. I write in the mornings, when my kids are at school and it is quiet and peaceful. I don’t outline or plan ahead; I just sit down and plunge into the story. I feel as if the characters are real and I am merely an observer who writes down what they say and do. It is a peculiar sensation, hard to describe, and I often wonder at this process myself.

The revision process has been similar for both the books I have published, and I will describe it to the best of my ability. Once the book is finished, I put it aside for about a month and don’t think about it. After that, I go back to it with fresh eyes and do my best to revise and polish it before sending it to Milkweed Editions, my publisher. My editor then reads the story. He combs through the manuscript (that’s what a book is called when it is still a story on unbound pages that hasn’t been made into a real book yet) and suggests ways to improve it. These suggestions range from large chunks that need to be rewritten or deleted to small tweaks that might help make a character more believable or improve the flow of the plot. The editor and I work on this first revision together, and it can take a couple of months and a lot of revising to make the original manuscript satisfactory to both of us. But that’s not the end of the revision process!

After this “macro” edit comes a “micro” edit called the copy edit. A copy edit is like the math of the English world. It doesn’t focus on big issues with the story that involve characters or plot, that has already been revised, but rather it focuses on the grammar, punctuation and structure of the story. Facts are checked. It is a more technical, less creative, rule-driven type of revision. So…yep, lots of revising goes on, and it adds many months to the process of publishing a book.

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?


The story and characters aren’t intentionally based on any real life people. But! I have two girls who are in sixth and eighth grades, and a lot of their experiences slip into my stories. Sometimes I don’t even realize I am “borrowing” characteristics or events from my children or their friends until I read it later or one of them points it out. I also believe it is impossible, at least for me, not to put some of my real life and my past into the stories I create. I think of my writing like a patchwork quilt made from scraps of everything I have ever worn. That pink square might have been the dress I wore to my birthday party when I was five, and that purple fuzzy patch may have been my favorite coat when I was in high school, but now they are parts of the quilt. They are old and familiar, but put together they form a completely new thing. Likewise, the year I got bullied (sixth grade), my love of cucumbers, or the friend I had that loved sailing might contribute to the story as pieces of it, but the story as a whole and each character are unique creations. 



How much say did you have in the cover of this book? What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)

Whoever said a book isn’t judged by a cover knew nothing of the book industry! Covers are so important—a potential reader makes all sorts of instant judgments about a book based on the cover. For this reason, the publisher goes to great lengths to find a cover that will fit the story and appeal to its readership. As the author, I have very little say-so about the cover. Perhaps more established authors might assert creative control over what cover is chosen for their books, I don’t know, but in my experience, it is best left in the hands of the publisher. What I do well is write stories. I know my place! I do not design or intelligently analyze cover art. For this reason, I am happy to have my publisher control the cover design. They have deeper knowledge of the book industry than I do, access to feedback from readers and other industry professionals, and lots of experience choosing covers designs for books. We all desire the same thing, to see the book well-received, so I try to write the best story I can and trust them to choose the best cover.

I cannot speak to the specific process within the publishing company of creating the cover. I know there are graphic artists and cover designers who submit suggestions. Perhaps you might consider interviewing an editor about this? (mine might be willing, please let me know if you are interested in approaching him about this, and I’d be happy to pass it along)

Interestingly, The Crepe Makers’ Bond had a different cover originally. I loved the first cover, but it was not well-received. My publisher swapped it out for a cover that better reflects the themes and tone of the book. I later heard criticism, both on line and from kids directly, that the first cover seemed cold and made them think of “their mom’s book club.” Ouch! Not exactly what we had in mind. The new cover has been embraced and I believe it has contributed to the early success of this book. If I had chosen, it would still have the first cover, which illustrates my original point: I am a writer, not a cover designer!

What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?


 I was a high achieving student. My parents were both educators, so not getting good grades was never an option for me. In elementary school I loved English, history, and all the “word” subjects. I struggled constantly with math and felt a lot of disappointment in myself about that. I worked very hard to please my teachers and parents, and sometimes I felt like I was “tricking” everyone who thought I was smart because I didn’t really feel smart. I just knew how to work hard. By high school I realized that working hard could get me where I wanted to go, and I learned to stop trying to figure out the “smart” question. The hard work led me to a good college. I still struggled with math and the sciences in college, but I majored in English and found joy and success in that department.

I have written in school and for myself for as long as I can remember. It’s how I process the world, through writing. I may not be good at math, but I can write about how it feels to be frustrated by it!

A funny sidebar: my first little stories and poems, around second grade, are written right to left. I am left-handed, and perhaps had some early dyslexia. I can still write in mirror image fairly effortlessly. It is my only interesting “party trick.” Oh, and I can do the Vulcan hand sign and speak Pig Latin too!

And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?

I have such a hard time choosing favorites because there are so many! As a kid, I loved Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahl, Madeline L’Engle, and about a bazillion others. Right now, I read all the stuff my kids read, and some of it is absolutely amazing. The Hunger Games books are fantastic (I am team Gale if you are wondering). The Percy Jackson books are brilliant, and right now I am reading the Gregor the Overlander series. Such imagination! I read the Twilight series, and found them quite compelling. I could go on for days about books and authors, there are so many that inspire me. I love reading as much as I love writing.

Thanks for “talking” to me. Happy Reading!

Thanks for spending some time with us Julie (and secretly I’m amazed by the pig latin. I can’t speak it at all!!!)

Review and Author Interview: Halloween Kentucky Style

Today The O.W.L. is excited to welcome Charles Suddeth author of the very fun tween book
Halloween Kentucky Style.

First let me tell you a bit about the book and what I thought of it.

From Goodreads
For Halloween 1959, Mike and Timmy try to trick their cousins, Alice and Rose. The trick is on them when a homeless man and their nine-year-old neighbor team up to give them a Halloween scare that they will never forget.

My Review
I remember growing up heading out on Halloween planning on scaring some people.  I lived in a very (VERY) small town, so we’d run around all evening scaring people, hiding from others and just genuinely having fun.  This book reminded me of that time so much!

What I really liked were the voices of the main characters.  Sometimes I read a tween book, and the way the young character talk is so completely off.  I didn’t find that at all here.  Although set in 1959 is still has the true ring of young boys and girls.  I could just see these kids carrying out their plans and reacting to what ended up happening. My favorite line that showed how perfectly drawn these kids were was, “Mike was excited.  This was going to be so much fun, if nothing went wrong.  And what could go wrong?” (pg 30).  That just sets up the characters and the events that unfold.  Love it!

Final thought: Very cute book about something we all love – pulling a prank on others.
Best stick with you image:  Can’t say – too much of a spoiler
Best for readers who: Love Halloween.
Best for ages: 8-11

INTERVIEW
I was lucky enough to have Charles Suddeth answer a few questions about his writing and life.

Welcome to The O.W.L.

1. For your most current book – what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
        When you write a story and it clicks it is a really wonderful feeling. I liked the story and my friends liked it, but we were all prejudiced. However, an editor at Random House wanted it. The acquisition committee turned it down because it was seasonal, but they would have just sold it for one Halloween. A second publisher offered me a contract, but they weren’t going to promote it right, so I didn’t sign it. Diversion Press offered me a contract. I took it because I found out that they would have it in print for several Halloweens.

2. Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision is you can!       I’m old fashioned, so I wrote the rough draft on paper. I can be more creative with pen and paper. It took about two years for the book, mostly for editing and the many revisions. I can understand why you’re interested in revision. I think most writers either hate it or they’re afraid of it—or both. Once you get to know revision, it can be a lot of fun. First, you have to be just as creative with it as you are the rough draft. Don’t be afraid to throw out paragraphs or even chapters or at least rewrite them. Always print out your manuscript and edit on paper. It will let you see your mistakes and/or weak sentences. And read it aloud, even if you’re alone, especially dialogue. Again, you can often hear problems that you couldn’t read. Find someone who can give you good advice and let them read it.

3. Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?
      Some of the events are loosely based on things that happened to me or people I knew. Determining where the characters came from is more difficult. Although I didn’t specifically base them on anyone, I’m sure that subconsciously I must have.

4. How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)
     I was asked for my opinion about the cover, but I have a small publisher. I told the editor what I wanted and she accommodated me. Large publishers don’t often involve the writer in the cover at all. They even change the title to meet their marketing needs. This is the computer age, so I was told that my cover was photo shopped. Even the printers get digital files, so I have copy that was sent to the printer. It has both covers and the dimensions in fractions of an inch along the margins for the printer.

5. What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?
      I was usually a good student, but honestly, not always if I didn’t like my teacher. I didn’t have favorite subjects when I was in school, except I didn’t care much for social studies. My sixth-grade teacher had me write a short story, and I have never stopped writing since. An English teacher in high school helped me appreciate and write poetry. I still write poetry, but just for fun.

6. And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?
     There are so many wonderful writers that it’s hard to narrow down. Mark Twain quickly comes to mind. He not only used his imagination and came up with fantastic stories, but he was conscious of his writing craft. So his work has survived the test of time. When I was in school I liked to read James Fennimore Cooper and Edgar Rice Burroughs, because their stories were great too. Unfortunately they didn’t pay attention to their writing, so their books have gone out of style and they sound clunky. Some of my favorite authors today: JK Rowling because her stories are believable fantasies and she has made readers out of countless kids. Charlaine Harris writes a series of books about Sookie, a young woman fighting vampires. Although they’re too extreme for those under eighteen, Sookie has a tongue-in-cheek attitude that reminds me of young adult books. Another writer I like is Mo Willems. He writes a picture book series about a pigeon, but he drags the reader/listener into the story. When I was younger I liked John Steinbeck, because he was such a marvelous storyteller. Another one I liked was A. A. Milne and his Winnie the Pooh, because of his absolute whimsy. And of course, Tolkien who created a magical world like no other. Instead of super heroes, Tolkien’s tales involved little people doing super things.

Thank you to Charles Suddeth for stopping by!

Author Interviews: Broomsticks by Sean McHugh and Katie McHugh Parker

Today The O.W.L. is excited to welcome Sean McHugh and Katie McHugh Parker authors of the cute tween book Broomsticks.

A bit about the book

Pocky McGuire has no idea why she is different. No one else in her family can levitate books or freeze and angry dog in his tracks. She felt alone in the world until one day she met a strange boy with a goatee. Unlike Pocky, Stamp had no doubt who he was. He was raised by witches and he was a witch. Upon meeting Stamp, Pocky hoped to befriend her magical counterpart and learn a few tricks of the trade. Stamp, however, wanted no part of anything or anyone mortal, including Pocky. Will it take magic to bring these two kindred spirits together?

Welcome! Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions.

1.  For your most current book – what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
Katie’s Answer: I’m really happy that I could help develop Sean’s characters – Stamp, Pocky, and Blevins.  These were characters that he created on his own, years before I ever got involved in the project.  They were originally the main characters in a comic strip he had developed.  I am just as excited about the sidekicks, though.  I feel like I had a lot more input in their development since they came along later.  All of them are so neat and unique.  I’d love to hang out with them!  The one I am most proud of, though, is Mrs. Wheeler.  Mrs. Wheeler is one of the main adult influences who will appear in all of the Broomsticks books.  Her character is based on and named after a local lady who was a librarian in town when Sean and I were younger.  I don’t remember her as much as Sean does, but what really tugs at my heart is that we have had a few of the “real” Mrs. Wheeler’s family members come up to us at book signings and introduce themselves.  They have responded so warmly, even bringing us pictures of Mrs. Wheeler.  We can just tell how genuinely honored they are to have had her represented in our books.  I feel we have done her justice.  That makes me happy.  

Sean’s Answer: I’m just excited that the characters that have been such a major part of my life for the past 10 years are out there for the world to see.  I’m a proud papa!

 
2.  Tell about your writing process.  How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision is you can!
Katie’s Answer:  The writing process….well, it was so long ago and once we started, it was kind of like a whirlwind so it’s kind of hard for me to remember.  I remember the day Sean asked me to collaborate with him.  I was in my apartment, on the phone with him when he asked me if I wanted to help turn it into a children’s book.  I probably didn’t even let him finish the question before I gave him a gigantic yes!  I had seen some of his Broomsticks comic strips and loved them.  With those characters and a basic idea of the adventures they would have….I was ready to go!  We worked on it through email, phone, and snail mail.  Sean’s writing style was more dialogue-focused.  He has so many great ideas running through his head about what the characters would say in certain situations.  So, then I would kind of take that dialogue and work the narrative around it.  He would send me handwritten scripts, basically.  I would rework it with narrative and add some of my own dialogue or change some things around (with permission of course) and then retype it.  We didn’t really do a whole lot of revision.  Sometimes, I’d sit at the computer and type while we discussed it on the phone.  We never had a set method on how to write it as a duo.  We’d switch it up all the time.  Still do.  Like with the 2nd book in the series, we’d even alternate chapters.  In the third book, my main assignment is the sub-plot.  So, it’s different all the time.  But, it works.  

Sean’s Answer:  It really didn’t take too long at all.  Stamp & Pocky were already established in the comic strip.  So, once we decided on a plot & storyline, we finished the first draft in about 2-3 months.  The revising mostly consisted of the dialogue.  “Would a nine-year-old say that?” 

 
3.  Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?
Katie’s Answer: Yes, the characters’ personalities are great combinations of friends and family.  They are named after them too.  It’s kind of funny, because in our second book, we introduce a new character, a little girl who was originally named Katie, after me.  But, the first draft was written before I had any children and I have since been blessed with a daughter named Sophia.  Sophia had not yet appeared in any of the storylines, so we decided to change Katie to Sophia.

Sean’s Answer:  Oh, yes! Most of the characters are named after friends or family members. Pocky is my sister’s nickname.  Stamp’s attitude and personality is directly taken from my friend, Keith Blevins and we named Stamp’s familiar Blevins. By the way, Blevins often appears as an OWL!!!  Whoooooo!!!  

4.  How much say did you have in the cover of this book?  What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)
Katie’s Answer:  Sean had originally designed the artwork that would be used for the cover.  We did not have control over the logo/lettering.  Diversion Press made a great cover!

Sean’s Answer:  I had control over the artwork, but we had no control over anything else like the logo/typestyle or look of the cover. But we are very happy with it.  Diversion Press did a great job.  We especially like how they arranged the type on the back cover in the shape of a witch’s hat!


5.  What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?
Katie’s Answer:  Oh my goodness, yes! Yes! Yes! I was a good student and I have always loved English.  I have been writing since I learned how!  I can relate to our character Pocky in that way!  Even if I am writing a note to someone, or writing in a diary, I get a little wordy!  I used to write stories all the time, when I was younger.  I have even had a poem published.  I was the co-editor of my high-school newspaper.  I was so proud of my term paper comparing/contrasting L. Frank Baum to Lewis Carroll, that I kept it!  Now I enjoy teaching English!  I guess my students think it’s pretty cool to have a published author as their English teacher!  LOL!

Sean’s Answer:  I was a pretty good student except for math.  I HATED math and still do!  I loved English and I loved writing when I was young.  I was usually making up superheroes and coming up with their origins, etc.  The first children’s story I wrote was “Katie & The Jack O’ Lantern” when I was 12 years old.  I wrote it for Katie because she wanted to hear a Halloween story that wasn’t scary.  Little did we know where it would lead us.


6. And because it’s the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?
Katie’s Answer:   I do love children’s books still.  I love reading to my 6 year-old daughter every night.  I enjoy reading to my students.  For years, I have read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to them.  It never gets old.  I do enjoy C.S. Lewis.  I have always loved L. Frank Baum, a man who really knew how to use his imagination and create a great fantasy.  He did not forget what it was like to be a child and that is very important, whether you are a writer, a teacher, or a parent.  When I was in grade school, I enjoyed Judy Blume books.  These days, I probably still read more children’s books than anything else!  Regarding the grown-up books, I would have to say my favorites are Nora Roberts, Dan Brown, and Gregory McGuire.

Sean’s Answer:  Most of the books I read now are “How to” and ” Promoting Children’s Books for Dummies”  type books.  I still love the books I loved as a child.  I love the Mary Poppins books by P.L. Travers and the original Raggedy Ann & Andy books by Johnny Gruelle.  I was so excited to learn just a few years ago that Gruelle was originally a cartoonist who turned his comic strip idea into a children’s book series.  I loved The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew books,and Encyclopedia Brown.  As I got older I also loved Chris Van Allsburg, Marcia Jones, Debbie Dadey, and I love Henry Winkler’s Hank Zipzer books.  And, of course, I love l. Frank Baum, the man who made “good witch” a household phrase!
 

Thank you Katie and Sean for visiting!  I’ll be posting my review later today, but I’ll give you a hint: C.U.T.E!

Author Interview: G.S. Wolff The Girlz of Galstanberry

Today I welcome G.S. Wolff author of a great looking new series for girls – the Girlz of Galstanberry.  You’ve got to check this series out because it looks fun, postive and perfect for the tween set.

Below the enterview be sure to check out the book trailer and link to the website. 
Welcome to The O.W.L. G.S. Wolff!

1.  Tell how you came up with the idea for The Galstanberry Girlz series.
Great question! I began writing, The Girlz of Galstanberry when I was a research fellow at the National Institute of Health in Washington D.C. It was an opportunity to just unwind after days of laboratory experiments with mice. Ewww!! I thought it would be fun to write about a prestigious boarding school similar to mine. However, I wanted Galstanberry to be completely different from the popular genre of “preppie” books on shelves and adapted into movies. My years at Wellesley College, an all women’s institution, inspired me to give Galstanberry depth-history, purpose, sophistication. But, the uniqueness does NOT stop there! I wanted the characters to be realistic and relatable. Soooo, the five main girls-Lillian, Brandi, Fei, Tabitha, and Nisha-are modeled after close friends from middle school and Wellesley. Infact, three of the girls, Fei, Lillian, and Nisha, are named after close friends. My cousin Janet and her friends, who are as diverse as the characters, were my test group. They read the 5 diary entries of each character and fell-in-L-O-V-E!!! Janet’s fave character is Fei because she’s funky and independent. The rest, as they say, is history!

2.How long did it take you to write the first book – from start to finish including revisions?
It to took a total of 5 months to write and revise, The Girlz of Galstanberry, the first book in the Galstanberry series. My editor revised, I amended it, and then revised it about 1000th more times!! The whole process seemed like a stressful, but interesting literary eternity 🙂

3. I love that you’ve included girls from all different backgrounds.  Why did you decide to do that?
The world is diverse! Tall, short, blonde, braids, outspoken and timid-every girl is unique in her own way.  I wanted to create a series that celebrates the unique and diverse voices of girls. However, diversity is not only ethnically, but also socio-economically and geographically. Each of these factors help to shape a girl’s personality, her friends, and opinions on life. Therefore, The Girlz of Galstanberry is a celebration of girls’ unique voices.

4. According to your bio you attended a private school.  How much of the series is based on your experience there?
The series is heavily based on my life, Kindergarten-12th grade, at Detroit Country Day, a prestigious private day and boarding school in Beverly Hills, Michigan. It was, and still is, replete with students from Fortune 500 companies and political families. For example, the Galstanberry blazer and tie is mirrored after my middle school uniform. The traditions I followed at Wellesley College, such as High Tea and HouseMothers, are also incorporated into Galstanberry, but with a twist!

5. (This one my students always want to know) When you were in school, were you a good student especially in English since now you are a writer?
In school, I was a great student. However, English wasn’t my favorite or best subject. If I was permitted to write stories without being graded for proper grammatical structure (ugh!), then ALL was well with the world. But, when my precious stories were returned COVERED in red pen, my heart just sank into the abyss of disappointment. Now, I can combine a really great plot with good gramatical structure. All it takes is patience, and well, a good editor 🙂 So, the moral of the story is: Don’t let red marks scare you! Because under them is a FAN-TASTIC piece of literary work! 

6.And because this is The O.W.L. WHOOOOOOOO are the authors you enjoy reading now and/or WHOOOOO has influenced you as a writer?
Hmm. My two favorite authors are: 1) Edith Wharton, particularly her book, The House of Mirth, and; 2) Isabelle Allende’s famous book, The House of Spirits. I LOOOOVE these authors! Through reading their books at least once a year (seriously!), I have learned how to write vividly and passionately. These two authors can totally paint a picture with words.

7. Tell us about the Website!!Every time girls, teachers, parents, and librarians visit the site, they fall-in-love! The bright colors and super cool music (can you name the artist?) reflect the spirit of Galstanberry-fun, sophisticated, and unique! Girls can take the personality quiz to see which Galstanberry they are most like, or vote on the character that should be featured on the collectible bookmark that will accompany Book #2 (fall 2011 release). Additionally, people can watch the cute trailer or video excerpts from the special Galstanberry author event sponsored by the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Michigan. The website also contains links for the e-book, which can be downloaded from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The paperback, which can be autographed and gift wrapped for no extra charge, is only available for purchased on the website. So, what are you waiting for? Check it out, http://www.galstanberrygirlz.com/!

Here’s the trailer.

Author Interview: Kimberly Derting

I’m so excited that I was able to interview Kimber Derting who is part of the Dark Days of Supernatural Tour with HarperTeen. This tour highlights five fantastic authors with five awesome books.  I’m super excited because the tour is making a stop here at The O.W.L. and in my hometown, so I’ll get to meet several of the authors in person!

Kimberly Derting’s latest book, Desires of the Dead, was just released.  It is a sequel to The Body Finder (I’m currently reading The Body Finder and LOVING it!).  Here’s a bit about it, if you haven’t heard of it yet:

The missing dead call to Violet. They want to be found.

Desires of the DeadViolet can sense the echoes of those who’ve been murdered—and the matching imprint that clings to their killers. Only those closest to her know what she is capable of, but when she discovers the body of a young boy she also draws the attention of the FBI, threatening her entire way of life.

As Violet works to keep her morbid ability a secret, she unwittingly becomes the object of a dangerous obsession. Normally she’d turn to her best friend, Jay, except now that they are officially a couple, the rules of their relationship seem to have changed. And with Jay spending more and more time with his new friend Mike, Violet is left with too much time on her hands as she wonders where things went wrong. But when she fills the void by digging into Mike’s tragic family history, she stumbles upon a dark truth that could put everyone in danger.


Now on with the interview! Welcome, Kimberly Derting to The O.W.L.!
I like to ask authors questions that my students always want to know the answer to, so they are from them.

1.  Where did the idea for this series come from?

Oh boy, here we go….my husband loves this question!  He will jokingly (I think!) say that he is “the wind beneath my wings” or even my “co-author” all because he was the one who first said:  “What if there was a kid who could find dead bodies?”  Of course, what he conveniently forgets is that his idea was for a middle-grade boy adventure.  Oh, and that I’m the one who actually wrote the book!

2.  Have you always written? When you were younger did you write a lot?

When I was really young, I used to write stories about winged horses that lived in these elaborate cities in the clouds.  But it wasn’t until I took 7th grade journalism that I realized I wanted to be a writer.

And here we are, just a couple decades later. 

3.  How did you do in school? Was English your best subject?

Honestly, no.  I was good at English, but I wasn’t really a great student in high school.  I did best in classes that had real-world deadlines, like journalism and yearbook.  Other than that, I was really good at writing notes to my friends…or what kids today call “texting.”

4. How long did it take you to write this book (or any book)?  How much revision do you have to do?

Generally it takes me about 4 months to write a good solid first draft and get the stamp of approval from my agent.  And then there are several months of revising with my editor (which involves a lot of back-and-forth) until it’s in good enough shape for readers.  And thank goodness for agents and editors, that’s all I can say!

5.  What are some of your favorite authors now and when you were younger?

When I was younger I read Harper Lee (To Kill a Mockingbird), John Saul (who writes these really good ghost stories), Thomas Harris (the Hannibal Lector books), and anything by Stephen King.

Now, I love SO MANY authors:  Melissa Marr, Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl, Cassandra Clare, Kelley Armstrong, Alyson Noel, Becca Fitzpatrick, Carrie Ryan…and probably a zillion others!!!

6.  And this one is because it’s The OWL – Whooooo is your inspiration when it comes to writing and why?

Stephen King was a huge inspiration for becoming a writer.  When I was younger, I LOVED the way he would scare the heck out of me!

Thank you Kimberly for sharing your answers! Now for a few more goodies.
If you’d like to read a chapter in Desires of the Dead click HERE!

And here’s the trailer if you haven’t seen it yet.