My interview is featured today on the SummerStorm Press blog.
My interview is featured today on the SummerStorm Press blog.
Color and creativity burst from the pages in the charmingly whimsical picture book, Santa’s Sleigh-Train, written by Dorinda Shelley with illustrations by Nora Hutton. Simply put, it’s the perfect holiday gift for both children and adults, transporting readers to a magical, wintry world through Nora’s enchanting artwork.
An author, as well as an artist, Nora has illustrated several books, including Sea Turtle’s Journey, which she also wrote. The lyrical text matches the playfulness of the illustrations, making it another excellent gift idea.
Tell me a bit about your journey as an artist?
I began illustrating children’s books about fourteen years ago. The first books I illustrated were for retired dermatologist and writer Dorinda Shelley. Our collaboration led to a series of three books, each introducing a science topic, namely Helium. The inclusion of Dorinda’s farmette, where she and her husband raised their three children, provided a setting for the books. These people, animals, and their four-pillar house began my career as an illustrator.
Most writers and artists can name people and/or events from their childhood that have influenced their art… Does anything from that time period stand out for you?
I began scribbling and doodling at an early age. My father used to donate the cardboard from his new shirt purchases to my juvenile efforts at drawing. My mother and father gave us fantastic coloring books replete with Kings and Queens. I can’t say I always stayed within the lines, but it gave me the opportunity to aim for something elite.
In school my first color sense came from a French class I had in kindergarten. I remember sitting in an attic classroom at Ibstock Place in London. I remember learning colors and the French words for each, via a colors-specific magic-marker dot placed adjacent to the word on a white board.
I also had a nice bookshelf full of books by different authors and illustrators who continue to inspire me: Beatrix Potter, Maurice Sendak, Tasha Tutor, and Eric Carle, and more.
How about when you were older? Any junior high or high school teachers that were memorable?
In junior high school I had an art teacher named Martin Nagy. He ran a terrific art room with all kinds of things like a potters wheel, enameling and embossing equipment, and regular things like pencils, crayons, and ink to create with. He even set us up with silkscreening and type-facing stuff.
In high school I had another good teacher named David Burkett. He had us do wonderful projects where we learned how to think more, design more, and I enjoyed the art room which is now the Wolfe Gallery at Maumee Valley Country Day School in Toledo, Ohio. I recently had my first exhibition there.
I mostly work in pencil and watercolor. I enjoy pastels. both chalk and oil. I always feel there is lots to explore and feel inspiration comes from many things. I think children’s books are a wonderful medium for reasons that I continue to affirm in my work as a substitute teacher.
The variety of children’s wishes, wants, and needs–their ways of coping in a world where they are learning so many things–makes the possibility of communication through pages, enhanced by colorfully-illustrated pictures, an extraordinary thing to do for a living.
Outside of illustrating, what other areas of the art world have you explored?
I worked for a few years as an apprentice art conservator. I worked with three men who taught me some things about materials, the handling, restoration and conservation of objects and sculptures. One summer I went to Italy to work on a dig of Etruscan Art in Tuscany. A town nearby opened a museum which housed the work excavated from the dig. I used to stroll in the beautiful fields spotted with poppies, big round hay mounds, bright green grass, ladies dressed in black, and men sitting at cafes drinking at sundown. I started a children’s book then and stuffed its unfinished pages away somewhere in my luggage. I was told by mentors that I was good with my hands. I kept that thought in mind and then after some consultation with a few other people I decided to pick up my paints and pad and follow my pencil and brush into the world of children’s illustration and other art creations I make with my hands and heart.
I hope to make a few books in the coming years. I have ideas for children’s books, which I keep on a list in a notebook. I am engaged to be married in June, and my fiance Kevin Radwanski and I are taking a trip west with our camper and two dogs. Perhaps this will provide inspiration for a children’s book.
My friend and collaborator in the children’s book, The Lakeside Symphony Comes To Town, Amy Heritage, is a flautist. She and I have performed a few readings. She plays flute while we show images from the book and simultaneously I read the text. I would like to do more of these readings.
When approaching an illustrating project, how do you begin? What’s your process?
I look through books I take a lot of walks or go running, absorb nature and maybe something will come to me while I cook or begin sketching. I have a good grasp of art history, and I like to go to galleries and museums.
I begin to work as quickly as I can, juggling my first few ideas to create a dozen or so more. If I am collaborating, I read the text, make notes, and then develop illustrations through the extrapolation of images that filter through my mind.
I might listen to music, make a palette and begin to fill my paper with what is satisfying to me and my watercolor dreams. I never forget the young audience who may later look upon my completed effort, as somehow they are always near.
And now here’s Sherry…
Tell me a little about the title–how did you come up with it?
I knew the book would be a counting book about birds, so “Ten” and “Birds” were no-brainers. The question was what adjective should be used to describe the birds. I made a list – “silly,” “little,” “funny,”… and finally came up with “zany.” I like the word because it’s different and sounds fun. I realize it’s not a word most preschoolers are familiar with, but after discussing it with my critique group, I decided if kids didn’t know it, they could ask an adult and learn a new word. (Zany means funny, in a crazy or silly way.)
If you had to choose only one writer as a mentor, who would that be?
Diana Jenkins, author of Stepping Stones: The Comic Collection, Now You’re Cooking, and several other books, has literally been my mentor. She was part of my critique group when I lived in Ohio. She has this great ability to see plot holes and generate helpful ideas for polishing manuscripts. I have learned so much from her, and I am extremely grateful for what she has taught me.
Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I have always been an avid reader with a vivid imagination. My first stories were written when I was eight years old. I still have a few of those manuscripts. Writing was one of the ways I entertained myself.
Where did your love of books come from? And what were some of your favorite books when you were a child?
My mom always read to me when I was little. That’s where it started. We didn’t have computers and video games when I was growing up, so I read books to keep myself busy.
I enjoyed the Nancy Drew mysteries. I couldn’t get enough of them! One of my first favorite books was James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. The imagination of the author captivated me.
What did you enjoy most about writing Ten Zany Birds?
Coming up with things that would distract the birds and make them leave the party, was the most fun. I imagined what the illustrations would look like as I came up with the various scenarios. Illustrator, Charu Jain, did a great job bringing it all to life.
What are some of your interests outside of writing?
I am a professional musician, so I enjoy playing the violin, viola, and piano. Outside of that, I like exploring the great outdoors – hiking, SCUBA diving – and seeing new places.
And now for a few goofy questions…
If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?
A peacock. Not because they’re pretty – female peacocks aren’t – but because they get to roam around wherever they want, and aren’t stuck in an enclosure. Being stuck in one place would drive me crazy!
Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
It’s on my bucket list. I hope to get there in about five years. I’d like to dive the Great Barrier Reef, attend a concert at the Sydney Opera House, and hold a koala bear (because they’re cute!).
If you had a superpower, what would it be?
The ability to teleport anywhere at will. I’d be able to see and do so much more if I could!
Ten zany birds have a party in a tree, singing and dancing. Five have stripes, three have spots, and one has purple polka dots. They’re all having fun, but one by one, they become distracted.
One is frightened by a loud plane. One gets hungry. One wants to race and another needs a bath. Only one stays to sing in the tree, but who will it be?
Ten Zany Birds is a fun, beautifully illustrated picture book. As parents and teachers read, children are introduced to counting and basic subtraction skills. Whenever a bird leaves, the number of striped, spotted, and polka-dotted birds changes, teaching the application of simple classification rules.
Whimsical and entertaining, Sherry Ellis’s tale of ten silly, distractible little birds is an excellent choice for both pre-reader storybook time and early readers.
As an author, Sherry has written children’s books as well as articles for parenting publications. Her book, That Mama is a Grouch, was honored as a finalist in the Parenting/Family category of the 2010 USA Book News Awards and as a finalist in the Parenting/General category of the 2011 International Book Awards. Other awards include first place in the Parenting category of the 2011 Pinnacle Book Awards, the silver award in the 2013 Mom’s Choice Awards, and first place in the Family Matters category of the 2015 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards.
Sherry is also a professional musician who plays and teaches violin, viola, and piano. She has appeared as a soloist in Germany, and was a semi-finalist in the 2004 International Viola Competition held in Paris, France. She is actively involved in the American String Teacher’ s Association, and has served terms as Secretary and Vice President of the Ohio String Teacher’s Association. Sherry is the principal violist of the Georgia Philharmonic.
Additionally, Sherry is a lifetime member of Cambridge Who’s Who and was honored as a 2010 VIP of the year. In 2012, she was honored as a Woman of the Year by the American Biographical Institute for her contributions in the field of music education. Sherry was the recipient of the 2013 Top Professional of the Year award given by Worldwide Who’s Who and has been recognized as a Top 100 Professional by the International Biographical Institute.
Find Sherry on the web
I recently discovered this wonderful quote in David McCullough’s John Adams, but it was a lesson I learned at a young age and have carried with me my entire life.
A collection of Emily Dickinson’s poetry, along with a compilation of 100 great poems, sits on my bedside table. I thumb through the volumes from time to time, stopping at random and allowing the words to roll over my tongue, soothing my mind with their rhythm and imagery.
One day, Emily tells me, “hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul,” and on another William Carlos William says, “much depends on a red wheelbarrow glazed with rain water.”
So when I heard about National Poetry Day, I was ready for a celebration, despite the fact that it’s a British event and I’m very much located in middle-America.
And I couldn’t think of a better way to get the festivities rolling than a chat with an actual poet, the second part of my interview with my poet-friend Janet Ruth Heller.
Happy National Poetry Day everyone! Now read some verse and make merry!
Tell me about your favorite author… What is it that really strikes you about his or her work?
I love the work of many authors. My earliest favorite author was Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I have loved his poetry since I was in seventh grade. He was one of the first writers to use colloquial language in poetry, especially in his “conversation poems.” He can also tell stories in magical ways in works like “Christabel” and “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” Also, he can use sounds in enthralling ways in poems like “Kubla Khan.”
Most authors are usually introduced to writing at a young age. Where did your love for books come from?
My mother and my elementary school teachers read me many excellent books when I was a child. I liked the way that authors like Rudyard Kipling used words and sound patterns. I could listen to stories for hours.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
In 1972, I had a five-month love relationship with a man. I started writing poems about him every week. After he broke up with me, I was devastated. Writing poems helped me to cope with my feelings and heal. I started writing much more frequently than in the past. By the mid-1970s, I was publishing poems, literary criticism, and essays in journals with national distributions.
Where do you find inspiration?
Any unfairness in my society and in the world prompts me to write about it and to become involved in organizations to remedy the situation. For example, I started a union of nontenure-track faculty at Western Michigan University and have published scholarly essays about ways to improve conditions for adjuncts and better methods for evaluating adjuncts. I also love nature, sports, foreign languages, and words in general. I often write about these topics, too.
And now for a not-so-serious shift in the conversation…
What literary character is most like you?
When I was a child, I identified with Phoebe Jackstraw in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Farm by Betty MacDonald because I shared many of Phoebe’s fears. As an adult, I am more like Elizabeth Bennett in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. I’m smart, but I often misunderstand people, as Elizabeth does.
If you could have any accents from anywhere in the world, what would you choose?
I love the beauty of the Spanish language. I double-majored in English and Spanish as an undergraduate, and I have about one-third of a master’s degree in Spanish literature. The language is very poetic and easy to rhyme.
It’s an honor to have award-winning author Janet Ruth Heller with me once again to discuss her new children’s book, The Passover Surprise (read my review), as well as her writing process and other literary insights. It’s such a great interview, full of so many interesting tidbits, that I’ll jump right into it:
Tell me about your writing style? How would you describe it?
I try to write in a very clear and concise style. I avoid extra words, especially adjectives and adverbs. I want to communicate well with my readers, so I avoid ambiguity in prose. I experiment with more ambiguity in my poetry, however.
Your writing style comes through in your most recent work, The Passover Surprise. How did you come up with the title?
I have always loved the Passover holiday because we used to spend it with my mother’s twin brother’s family. My main character, Lisa, has conflict with her father, and I thought that Passover was a perfect time to resolve this conflict. Passover also celebrates the Jews’ independence from Egyptian masters. Lisa has learned how to cope with a difficult problem and is becoming a more independent young woman. Therefore, Passover seems the right holiday to celebrate Lisa’s new maturity.
Almost all writers are also voracious readers. What books have most influenced your life?
My mother read Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses (1885) to me when I was a child. I loved the poems’ rhythm and imaginative details. I was sick a lot as a child (so was Stevenson), so I especially identified with the poem “The Land of Counterpane.” I read Teenagers Who Made History (1961) when I was a teenager in the 1960s. Author Russell Freedman portrays young people who began to succeed in their chosen careers when they were teenagers. He chooses both men and women from very different fields. Because I was a young writer, I especially connected with the story of Edna St. Vincent Millay, the poet, who won a college scholarship after placing second in a national poetry contest. This book helped to inspire me to become a professional poet, dramatist, fiction writer, essayist, and literary critic.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I learned from John Ciardi’s How Does a Poem Mean? (1959) to write concisely using specific details and images. He helped me to make my writing less wordy.
And what are you working on now?
I’m revising a scholarly essay that I wrote about Jaimy Gordon’s novel Lord of Misrule (2010). I share her love of horses, and I admire her ability to portray the diverse characters surrounding an obscure racetrack.
Looking back, do you remember when your interest in writing first began?
My first-grade teacher Mrs. Mesias did a poetry writing workshop with us. She liked one of the poems that I made up so much that she dittoed 25 copies of it for the class. The poem was about flying a kite with my father in a park. I guess that was my first publication. I was lucky to have fourth-grade teacher Marjorie Schroeder and high school teachers like Zelma May Oole, Barbara Gensler, and Margaret Sturr, who also admired my writing and encouraged me to develop my skills.
And now for a little fun with a few not-so-serious questions…
If you were an animal in a zoo, what would you be?
I love antelopes because they are graceful and can run fast even over rugged and rocky terrain. In contrast, I’m rather slow-moving and I have wobbly feet.
You are given one superpower… What would you select?
I would like to be able to know what people are secretly thinking. Sometimes, I misinterpret people, so I would prefer to understand them better.
And I couldn’t agree more–reading minds would be an excellent superpower and particularly useful for an author. As always, it’s been a pleasure to host Janet today, and I look forward to seeing what pleasant surprises her work brings to readers in the future.
We’re taking a steamy stroll today to the world of erotic fiction with a visit from author April Vine who shares her new book, Reclaimed By Her Master, and discusses her writing, as well as inventing the best superpower ever.
1) Where did your love of books/storytelling/reading/writing/etc. come from?
From my parents. They read voraciously and I grew up in a house with tons of books and encyclopedias which became an innate part of the furniture everywhere I looked.
2) When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I think I always wanted to write, maybe from the time I started reading on my own. But it was only when I secretly picked up one of my Mom’s Barbara Cartland books in my teens that I took an interest in romance and actually wanted to write it too. Suffice to say I’ve come a long way from Dame Cartland’s style of romance.
Fun and a little goofy
3) If you had a superpower, what would it be?
The power to turn everything into chocolate and it should go without saying the power to eat everything I turn into chocolate without any threat to my hips.
4) Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
Space – that would be awesome.
Reclaimed By Her Master
Available April 28, 2015 from KensingtonPublishing/Lyrical Press
He’ll catch her in the act—and never let her go.
No one breaches the defenses of billionaire Dom Stephen Black—until Aria Swift does just that, stealing a priceless painting from his collection—along with his heart. But two can play that game, and soon a treasured necklace that belonged to Aria’s late mother ends up in Stephen’s skilled, waiting hands—along with a dare to retrieve it…
Eight years later, Aria is ready to put closure on her infamous past by meeting Stephen’s challenge. And suddenly, she’s caught in his trap…
There’s only one way to master a woman like Aria—and only one place to do it. Stephen’s luxuriously decadent Gold Room is where he’ll mete out her punishment, stroke by excruciatingly ecstatic stroke. Where Aria will submit to his every desire—and find in his touch, in his control, a frenzied yearning, and the ultimate pleasure of surrender…
Author Vina Arno’s journey from reporter to novelist is as fascinating as the books she writes. So I’m excited to have her on my blog today and discover more about her path to publication and new novel.
Q: How did you come up with the title?
A: My debut romance, In His Corner, is about an Olympic gold-medalist boxer known as the Juggernaut who goes to the ER for stitches and falls head over heels with the beautiful doctor who treats him. I originally called it Taming the Juggernaut, but Martin Biro, Kensington Publishing associate editor, didn’t like it. I submitted 17 alternative titles and he chose In His Corner because he said it immediately tells you the book is about a boxer and it’s more suitable as a romance title. I’m very grateful for his choice. Admittedly it’s a more accessible title than the original.
Q: What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
A: Everything about this book is enjoyable. It’s my first romance book and the first story I’ve written with a happy ending. I started writing this book in July 2013, just two months after finishing another manuscript (a historical novel) about Douglas MacArthur, the iconic World War II general. It was a heavy experience that took me 10 years to finish, from research to writing and rewriting. In His Corner was a real treat for me.
Q: What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
A: The book’s unique selling point is the Juggernaut. The market is saturated with mixed martial arts and other sports heroes, but there’s not much out there about a boxer.
Q: When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
A: I’m a late bloomer. I was already a professional journalist working for the Associated Press when I realized I wanted to have a voice as a writer. As a journalist, I have little choice about what I write and how I write it. There are rules I have to follow and the stories I cover are assigned to me. I don’t have a voice. When you read my news story, it reads like an AP story because that’s what I was trained to do. Fiction writing gives me the privilege to develop my own voice.
Q: Where is one place you want to visit that you haven’t been before?
A: Two places—Japan and Australia. I’m originally from the Philippines, a stone’s throw away from both countries. I always thought I can go anytime because they’re so close. I had no idea I would immigrate halfway across the world. I don’t want to have any regrets, so I would like to travel to those two places one of these days.
In His Corner
Coming from Lyrical Press/Kensington Publishing on April 14, 2015.
No sex for almost a year could kill a guy, but when you’re the boxer known as the Juggernaut, it’s the price you pay for turning pro. Tommy’s fully dedicated to his craft, until he meets the incredibly gorgeous Dr. Siena Carr. Now he’s looking forward to taking on this prim and proper lady in a wet and wild workout…
Siena has seen many patients come through the ER, but none as sexy as Tommy Raines. With a nasty cut over his eye, she knows he needs stitches, but after he takes off his shirt, she needs some air. With rock-hard abs and taut biceps, it’s clear this man takes care of his body. And all Siena can think about is letting him take care of hers…
Dr. Siena Carr dropped the clipboard on the counter and washed her hands. When she turned around, she gasped. “What are you doing?”
The Juggernaut was undressing. Before she could say another word, he was naked. A glorious sight that sent her heart racing and her face burning. Did he know that he looked like a sculpture by Michelangelo? Except for the tattoo on his right shoulder, this man was David incarnate.
She looked away abruptly, grabbing the clipboard. She didn’t even know his name! She looked at his paperwork. Tommy Raines. “Mr. Raines, please put on your clothes.”
She continued scanning his form. Occupation: boxer. Age: twenty-two. Weight: 160 pounds. Height: six feet. Blood type: O positive. No pre-existing health conditions. His temperature and blood pressure were normal. Reason for ER visit: a cut sustained from sparring.
She faced him. Thank God, he was clothed again.
“Sorry about that,” he said. “I thought you’re supposed to check me out.”
Did he just say check him out? “Mr. Raines, this is an ER, not a bar. I don’t check out patients. Do you mean to say check up?”
He smiled. “Yeah, check up.”
“I’m going to take care of your cut, but I’m not doing a checkup. If you need one, you should go to your primary care doctor.”
“I don’t like doctors. I avoid hospitals and clinics as much as possible, but my cut kept bleeding even after I showered. So here I am.”
Vina Arno is a pen name used by Cindy Fazzi, a Philippine-born American writer who has worked as a journalist in the Philippines, Taiwan, and the United States. Her short stories have been published in the Snake Nation Review, Copperfield Review, and SN Review.
Read this Forbes article about Vina Arno: 3 Career Reinvention Tips From A Reporter Turned Romance Writer
Find her online
It’s wonderful to head into the weekend thinking about new books, so it’s fitting that today I’m hosting author Krysten Hager as she introduces her brand-new novel, Best Friends… Forever? (Landry’s True Colors Series), and shares tidbits about her background and writing style.
What books have most influenced your life?
I was a big reader in grade school and middle school. There are so many YA and MG books that influenced me such as The Great Mom Swap, Good-bye Glamour Girl, Invisible Lissa, and My Mother was Never a Kid. In college, I was introduced to so many great writers and books. One that stands out was May Sarton’s Journal of Solitude, which is about May’s life as a writer. Reading that and then finding biographies of the authors Paul a Danzinger and Lois Lowry made me realize writing was my calling.
Tell me about your writing style?
I would say is that I write with humor, honesty, and vulnerability. I feel there’s no point in creating a story that doesn’t have truth and honesty behind it and makes someone feel something.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
I’d say F. Scott Fitzgerald or May Sarton. With Fitzgerald, I feel like I understand what was behind his essays and feel like I could have really gotten along with him. I only wish he had left more work behind—such an amazing mind. May Sarton’s journals feel like those great conversations you have with someone you respect and admire who you’re getting great advice from over tea.
What are you reading now?
I just finished The Paris Wife about Ernest Hemingway’s wife, which I really enjoyed. I’m about to start my book club’s next book, The Goldfinch. And someone gave me a book on clutter…which is here somewhere…oh mystery solved on why they gave it to me!
Landry Albright hopes the new year will start off in an amazing way—instead she has to deal with more frenemy issues, boy drama, and having most of her best friends make the cheerleading squad without her. Suddenly, it seems like all anyone can talk about is starting high school next year—something she finds terrifying.
Landry gets her first boyfriend, but then gets dumped just as things come to a head with her friends. She feels lost and left out, but finds good advice about dealing with frenemies from what she considers an unlikely source. Landry faces having to speak up for what’s right, tell the truth (even when it hurts), and how to get past the fear of failure as she gets another shot at competing in the American Ingénue modeling competition.
I got ready for bed and then stopped to check my social media page one more time and that’s when I saw it — another picture of Peyton, India, and Devon hanging out. They were sitting on the couch with their heads scrunched close together and laughing. It was a cute picture, but then I saw the caption: So glad we could all be together for the holidays. Love these guys soooo much! Best friends forever. #Alltogether #Threemusketeers #BestFriendsForever #ThreeBestFriends #ThreesCompany.
My heart sank. It was India’s caption and anyone who read it would think what a close‑knit group of friends and not realize anyone was missing from that photo. Sure, I was in another state, so naturally I couldn’t be there for it, but the way India wrote that made me feel so left out. I mean, what did she mean by the “ʺThree’s Company”ʺ hashtag? And sometimes people tagged friends who weren’t there in pictures and added, “ʺWish you were here,”ʺ but there was no mention of a fourth member of the group.
“Ready for bed, hon?” Mom asked coming into my room.
“Yeah, just signing off.”
“Okay, sleep well.”
I got into bed and hoped I was reading into things, but the knot in my stomach wouldn’t go away.
What people are saying about True Colors (Landry’s True Colors Series Book One)
From Teenage Book Recommendations in the UK: “This is a fantastically relatable and real book which I feel captures all of the insecurities and troubles which haunt the modern teenage girl. It is about a young model who has to go through tough times when she is torn between a life as a model and managing her friendships. You learn which friends she can most trust and which will create the drama typical of teenage life. Follow the life of Landry and try to see if you can find out which are her true friends before their true colours are revealed. This book is all about relationships, hopes and truth. I loved this book!”
From Books & Authors Spot: “This book is such an inspiration for those who just care about their looks and are tensed about them. This thing is looks aren’t everything. This book is related to every teen’s problem. Hager has written a very inspiring novel.”
Krysten Lindsay Hager is the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series, a clean reads young adult series. Krysten writes about friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, middle school and high school, frenemies, modeling, crushes, values, and self-image in both True Colors and Best Friends…Forever?
Krysten is an Amazon international bestselling author and book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and writes middle grade, YA, humor essays, and adult fiction. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in Portugal, South Dakota, and currently resides in Southern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing when she’s not catching up on her favorite shows. She received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint.
Author C. Lee McKenzie is well known for her ability to tackle modern teen issues, but she’s equally comfortable exploring magical worlds as she proves in her most recent novel, The Great Time Lock Disaster. In the following mini-interview, she discusses her writing process…
Do you have a specific style?
I’ve been told I have a lean prose. I’m not given to flowery words and long phrases, I guess. No mellifluous, abundant sentences. However, I do like description, so I have to watch not spending too much time on that aspect of a book.
How did you come up with the title, The Great Time Lock Disaster?
It took a while. I really wanted to have something catchy like Alligators Overhead (the first book), but since this story is about how Pete messes up a Time Spell, the best I could do was The Great Time Lock Disaster. I prefer short titles, but sometimes they don’t capture the story, so then I have to go for the long one.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
This has changed over the years. Right now I’d love to have Margaret Atwood or Barbara Kingsolver as mentors. Their writing stirs some very deep things inside me. When I’m into one their books, I do nothing but read.
What did you enjoy most about writing this book?
I got to play with Pete and Weasel (my main characters) again. It was kind of like going back to a younger time when I played kickball with the kids on the street, and we told ghost stories to see who could scare all of us the most. I love middle grade books, so I guess writing them is pure fun for me.
What makes your book stand out from the crowd?
Well, I haven’t seen many adventures with alligators being helpful. Even in Peter Pan, the alligator is nasty. I guess you could say that at least makes my book stand out.
Anything else you want to add?
To celebrate the launch of The Great Time Lock Disaster, I’m giving 20 eBooks away. Hope you’ll jump in to the copter and go for a ride! ~ Rafflecopter giveaway ~
Inside the The Great Time Lock Disaster
There’s nothing’s more dangerous than a wizard-in-training. And Pete Riley, has just proven it. He’s worked a bad time spell–a very bad time spell.
No YouTube, no smoothies, no Manga. Not ever again. Not unless Pete figures out how to reverse his spell and free Weasel and him from Victorian England.
He has until the next full moon. Only a few days. Tick. Tock.
More about the author
I recently found myself in the midst of a lively storytelling session with three of my nieces. Five-year-old Peyton told a tale of an evil witch who kidnapped a girl, holding her captive in a mountaintop castle. The story ended with a heroic rescue by the child’s parents as they steered a hot-air balloon up the dark side of the mountain.
Kadance and Anabelle, three and two-years-old respectively, recounted the same story (although with a few missing plot-points, which they made up for with their unlimited enthusiasm).
But it wasn’t until my seven-year-old nephew Jonah sidled into the middle of our group like a professional tale-slinger that the storytelling really took off. He recited accounts of Rumepstilskin and Snow White, complete with dramatic pauses, hand gestures, and well-timed pacing. After working the room for a while, Jonah explained that he’d learned about fairy tales in his second-grade class and promised to share more with us at a later time. (Hats off to his teacher for eliciting so much interest in storytelling and fairy tales!)
The experience reminded me of the timelessness of old stories (mythology, folk tales, and fairy tales) and it got me thinking about a collection of short stories I had stumbled upon recently–Please to See the King (view the: book trailer). For this collection, Kathleen S. Allen found inspiration in traditional English and Irish ballads and spun them into something completely fresh and entertaining.
So I’m very pleased to have the following interview with Kathleen in which she discusses inspiration and discovering something new in the old:
What first attracted you to English and Irish ballads?
I was taking a class at Eastern Michigan University as part of the Master’s in Children’s Literature program called, Ballads, Legends and Folk Tales. I got the inspiration from the professor, Dr. G.B. Cross. He inspired me to write the stories based on ballads we had heard in class. I already knew many ballads because I sang and played English, Irish and Welsh ballads on my folk guitar since I was fifteen. I’ve been fascinated with English/Irish history for ages. My great-grandmother was from Ireland.
I originally wanted to include a CD with the book but I didn’t know anyone who could write an original arrangement for the ballads. At my book signing I did have my daughters, both gifted singers, sing some of the ballads.
What were the challenges you faced in using old source material?
I had to use versions that were in the Public Domain and got permission for using The Child Ballads from the publisher, Dover.
Did you sometimes find it difficult to be original when using a well-known tale for inspiration?
No, I took the song lyrics and went further with them. For example, in the ballad Alison Gross,it is about a witch who promises a man anything he wants, if he will just love her. He refuses, no matter what she offers and she turns him into a worm for rejecting her! In my story, I added a tween sister who witnesses her older brother falling for a witch and his subsequent change into a worm. Another example is Reynardine. It is a song about a “rake”—what we would call a player today— not necessarily a vampire but I made him a vampire who preys on young women. I have the brother of a woman become a vampire hunter. That’s why I say “based on” or “inspired by.”
What books/websites do you recommend to writers who want to learn more about ballads?
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 5 Volume Set . Lots of information in those! And Indiana University has a department on folklore.