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Interview with illustrator Daniel Wiseman; & book giveaway!

I am excited today to welcome you all to my first ever interview with an illustrator! Daniel Wiseman, illustrator of When Your LION Needs a BATH, and When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles – both written by Susanna Leonard Hill – is participating in Susanna’s blog tours. I am thrilled that he graciously consented to an interview for Polilla Writes

Welcome to my interview corner, Daniel! I’m happy to have you as the very first illustrator I’ve interviewed. By way of introduction, could you tell us a little about yourself?

 

Thanks! I’m flattered that you decided on me as your very first illustrator interview! My name is Daniel Wiseman, and I’m an illustrator from St. Louis, MO. I live here with my wife Elizabeth, my son Henry, and another soon-to-be son who has yet to be named! I love the outdoors, specifically the mountains. I miss them almost daily. I grew up in East Tennessee, where I suppose I took the plethora of beautiful locations for granted, because now I’m surrounded by miles and miles of flat, corn-covered farmland. I like to bike, hike, cook, watch new movies, re-watch old tv series, and listen to music while I have a beer on my patio. I also work A LOT. In addition to illustrating picture books, I co-founded a company called Pixel Press. We created a product called Bloxels. You can find it at your local Target or Toys ‘R’ Us. 

Triple Congratulations on your expected new little boy, your co-founding of a company, and for the game you helped create! (Bloxels looks interesting – I checked.)  🙂

When did you first know you wanted to be an illustrator? Who or what inspired you, and what keeps you motivated? What do you remember about the very first time you received an assignment?

I’ve always known that I wanted to be some type of creative. During my adolescent years I was in love with Calvin and Hobbes and The Far Side. I was convinced that I would someday be a cartoonist. When I got a bit older I began playing music and joining bands. I ended up playing drums in a locally successful band for basically my entire 20s. We all had stars in our eyes, and wanted to be rock stars. During that time is when I picked up Photoshop and began making album art for my band as well as all of my friends’ bands. That’s when I realized I could make money by making art. It opened up a whole new world for me. Since then I’ve learned to do many design related tasks, but I’ve always been drawn to illustration (pun intended). It’s the only thing I’ve picked up that’s felt completely natural. I’m inspired by a mix of the world around me, and other illustrators. Music and pop culture find their way into my work pretty regularly. Nature as well.

As far as other artists go, there are quite a few who I really admire. Christian Robinson, Zachariah Ohora, Greg Pizzoli, Quentin Blake, Nicholas John Frith, Roger Duvoisin, Charles Dutertre, Alice and Martin Provensen, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian…just to name a few. Taking breaks outside keeps me motivated. I tend to get bored easily. I’m not one of those people that can just sit and grind away on drawings for 8-10 hours at a time. I need to get up and move around. Give my brain some time to wander. Having multiple projects going at once sometimes helps with this, but it can also make things very difficult. I find that if I’m having a hard time coming up with ideas, or even just finding it impossible to actually sit and work, I will go on a bike ride and all of the sudden new ideas will just start flowing.

My very first assignment was album artwork for a band that was really popular in my hometown of Knoxville, TN. I got the job through a local producer, and at the time it all felt extremely professional. I remember that I had to teach myself a lot about print design in a very short time, as I knew nothing about how to set up album artwork. I worked so hard on that album. It took just a ton of hours. I had no idea what I was doing, but trying really hard to come off like I did. All in all I probably averaged about $1.50 an hour. Not bad, huh?!

Better than for nothing, and you can’t put a price on the learning experience of it, right? 🙂  You have a very interesting background and lead-in to what you do now.     What process do you go through when preparing a project?

My process varies a bit based on the project. Normally there’s a good amount of brainstorming and research up front. I like to focus on character building first, if that applies. One of the things I love about illustration and story telling is that you can create whatever universe you have in your head. There are no rules. A book can be just as powerful whether its main characters are a group of kids, or a group of highly intelligent woodland creatures with the ability to talk. Once I have a good idea of the characters and setting, I usually get down to sketching. I like to sketch and take notes on the same page (or file if I’m doing it digitally). While I’m sketching, I’m also doing a lot of Googling. I like to build a stock pile of inspiration and create secret Pinterest boards for every project. Once I’ve done enough sketching and inspiration gathering, I’m usually ready to dig in. With all of that said, the process can change at the drop of a hat. Sometimes I have to knock something out in an absurdly short amount of time. When that’s the case, all bets are off and I just start making final art and hope it looks good!  

Challenging and exciting! Can you tell us a little about your technique and choice of medium?

As unexciting as it is, almost everything I do is digital. I use a Wacom tablet, Photoshop, and custom brushes that I sometimes tweak to fit my mood. This is done purely for efficiency’s sake. I can work much faster and more confidently this way. However, I love real ink and I love watercolor, and colored pencils, and tons of other traditional mediums. I worked on so many books this past year that I didn’t allow myself to divert from my typical medium, but my goal this year is to slow down and experiment with others. I’m even taking a watercolor class this weekend! (first weekend of July)

I hope that course was inspiring for you. How do you decide on how the characters you’ll create will look?

Most of the time I have an immediate picture in my head right after reading a manuscript. I think this is probably the case for most illustrators. Growing up I’d do this with any book I read. I’d imagine what the characters sounded and looked like. It’s just part of being a visual thinker, I suppose. For LION and ELEPHANT I wanted to make sure that the characters first and foremost were human, and represented a diverse cross-section of society, because it’s important for children to relate to these books. This will become even more apparent as subsequent books in the series are released. 

Your imagination must be a wondrous place. 🙂 How much is your own idea when illustrating a book, and how much direction is decided for you? In other words, how much freedom are you given? Do you brainstorm with the author at all?

So far my experience has been that it varies from publisher to publisher. For the most part I have creative freedom, but for some books I’m put in more of a box than others. The brainstorming usually happens with either the art director or the editor. For LION and ELEPHANT Susanna and I have been in contact about a lot of marketing materials such as activity kits, bookmarks, etc… With that being said, I’m very new to the world of picture books, so I could see in the future doing more collaborative type work with authors as I progress and make friends with them. 

Your illustrations for Susanna’s books, When Your Lion Needs a Bath and When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles, are wonderful. Approximately how long did it take you to complete each book?

Thank you! The process took between 4-5 months per book. A lot of that time is spent waiting for different sketches and illustrations to pass around the powers-that-be at Little Simon. Because my process is mostly digital, I can usually knock out a spread or 2 (or more) a day. Although, all of that may change since we’re about to go from a family of 3 to a family of 4 in November. I foresee some of my drawing time being taken up by baby time! 😃 

Oh, yes! And your wife will thank you. 🙂 What is it about illustrating children’s books that appeals to you?

Pretty much everything! It’s been a dream of mine for quite some time, so finally getting to really do it is a wonderful feeling. I love taking a manuscript and pushing the story even further with pictures. That’s really what picture books are about. You need the images to fully tell the story. That really appeals to me. The idea that I’m not just drawing pictures, but I’m visually story-telling. That’s just fun! Also, there’s something about creating a tangible product that is super special to me. I’ve spent a lot of time working on digital products. Things like apps, websites, etc… As an artist, I work just as hard on that artwork and after a few months it just disappears, and it’s replaced by something else. Picture books are the exact opposite of that, and I love it. I love the fact that I can create things that my sons will be able to pick up and read to their kids someday and say “Grandpa Daniel made this book!”. I mean, what’s more special than that?

Indeed! Is being an illustrator all you had hoped or thought it would be?

It definitely is! I’ve been lucky to have an agent (Teresa Kietlinski at Bookmark Literary) that has really encouraged me to work on projects that are fulfilling and fun. I’ve heard much different experiences from other illustrators. In some ways this first year has been even more than I thought it would be. Immediately after signing with her I began work on LION and ELEPHANT, and soon after that I began work on 3 other books for 2 other publishers. It was shocking how quickly things took off. It’s been a whirlwind year, and it’s super exciting to have the first books I’ve worked on just days away from being out in the wild. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for the years to come. 

A year that got you off to a flying start! I’m sure we’ll be seeing much more of your work.    Writers have critique groups, editors, agents, how does that work for illustrators? How did you get your agent?

While I’m sure there are formal critique groups for illustrators…outside of art school of course…I don’t know of any in my immediate area. My version of that is sharing a lot of the things I do on Instagram and Tumblr. I get pretty decent feedback on there. I also have a few illustrator friends that I occasionally share my work with. Lastly, I show my agent pretty much all the book related things I do. She has a lot of experience in the agency world as well as past experience as an art director and writer. My agency is Bookmark Literary, which is run by Teresa Kietlinski. She is one of my favorite people on the planet. I owe every ounce of success I’ve had in the picture book world to her. She’s believed in me from the very first email exchange. You know how you can meet certain people and you feel like you’ve known them for years?…I definitely feel like I’ve known her my whole life. I’m truly grateful for finding her, which was just by a simple Google search for “children’s illustration agencies”. I just sent her my portfolio and she got back to me almost immediately. Everything has been smooth sailing from there!

Wow, that’s amazing! You must credit the fact, too, that she has good work to promote, Daniel. 🙂  Do you have any advice for hopefuls?

Sure! If you want to make picture books, then just start building a portfolio of work that looks like it should be in picture books. Research what other illustrators are doing. Read a lot of picture books. Study them. What do you like about some, but don’t like about others. Spend as much time as possible writing stories and illustrating them. As you do it, share it with the world. Get feedback. Reach out to illustrators and authors that you admire. I guarantee most of them will respond. People that make books for kids are really nice…that’s why we chose this medium. Basically spend as much time as you can thinking about picture books. This should come pretty easy if you really love them. I firmly believe that if you just set your mind to something, and really take action towards that goal, then you will eventually achieve it. How could you not? If you spend all your hours pouring your soul into something then you will become a master of it. Just make sure that goal is something reasonable like making picture books, and not something unreasonable like turning yourself into a robot in order to move to another galaxy…

Also, listen to Alan Watts. He will help you through anything.

Thank you so much, Daniel, for this very interesting peek into the world of an illustrator. 🙂  It’s been an enjoyable interview. I wish you much success.

Where you can find Daniel:

WEBSITE
http://yesdanimal.tumblr.com/
Instagram: @d_wiseman
Twitter:  

And now …

Susanna Leonard Hill, and her publisher, Little Simon, are offering to one of you a copy of When Your ELEPHANT Has the SNIFFLES! Yay!!!

The rules are simple. Leave a comment on this post telling how you would take care of your elephant or amuse him when he has the sniffles, and your name will be entered into the draw. 🙂 You have until Saturday, July 22, at 9:00 PM EST to enter. Using the “random name picker” I will select one name, and the next morning – Sunday, July 23 – I will announce the winner. Be sure to check your email Saturday night because I will be contacting the winner for a mailing address.

Don’t delay, comment today! And please pass the news on to your friends; post on Twitter, FaceBook, or what ever way you communicate with the world. We thank you.

To keep up with the exciting things happening here all month read about it.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

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Interview with author Susanna Leonard Hill; & book giveaway!

I am excited today to welcome you to my interview with author Susanna Leonard Hill! This interview is part of the blog tour that Susanna is doing for her picture books being released this month. Please read my review of When Your Lion Needs a Bath, and later my upcoming reviews of When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles (review on July 11), and The Road That Trucks Built (review on July 18.)    Now, allow me to introduce our guest author …

Welcome to my interview corner, Susanna! I’m happy to be participating in two back-to-back blog tours for your … not one, not two, but THREE new books coming out this month! Thank you for doing this interview at such an exciting time.

First, please tell our readers a little about yourself.

Hmm… a little about myself…

  • I was born in New York City.
  • I have two brothers and one sister.
  • I once poked my kindergarten teacher with an umbrella.
  • Wasps and ticks give me the heebie-jeebies.
  • The year I turned 9 my birthday was on Easter Sunday – which never happened before or since.
  • Red is my favorite color of jelly bean.
  • At summer camp I drank Orange Crush out of the can with a Twizzler.
  • I love to play with words – writing, of course, but also word games of all kinds.
  • I went to school for a really long time for advanced degrees I don’t use much when writing about bath-averse lions, little girls who won’t sleep, and opinionated groundhogs 🙂
  • I know all the words to the Gilligan’s Island and Partridge Family Theme Songs. (Though I am uncertain about the PIN# of my ATM card. 🙂
  • I have five amazing kids.
  • If it’s made of chocolate, I love it. 🙂
  • On my last school visit the popular guess on how old I am was 100. Seriously.

And you have a wonderful sense of humour, I’d say. 🙂  When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you?

It probably sounds trite, but I’ve always wanted to be a writer.  (Well, after the phase where I wanted to drive a steam roller… 🙂 )  I grew up in a house full of books and I was always read to, so I had a very early love of picture books and there was something about them that just called to me.  I wanted to write one.  I wanted my name to be on a book because I had written it.  And something about writing helps me think.  I am far more comfortable writing than speaking!

I’m sure we’re all very glad you chose writing instead of operating a steam roller! 🙂  As a writer, do you do much reading? Who were/are your favourite authors or books or genres?

I have always read a lot.  When I was little I read Pippi Longstocking, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, the Little House books, the Anne of Green Gables series, every single Nancy Drew mystery, and every horse book I could get my hands on… just to name a few…!  Nowadays I read a wide variety – I like mysteries, action, adventure, fantasy – Jack Reacher, Game of Thrones, etc. – but I also read and like a lot of YA.

Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in
yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?

I have never felt like giving up writing.  I love to write.  I need to write.  But I have felt like giving up submitting.  It can be very discouraging.  I am not a person with a lot of self-confidence, so I’m not sure even now that I believe in myself.  But I did start identifying myself as a writer after my fourth book was published.  At that point I felt like, somehow, I was at least a little bit legitimate.

I understand about the submitting. Do you have a favourite motto or quote or Bible verse that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?

I don’t know if I do exactly… that’s an interesting question.  The quote at the top of my Face Book page is one I like a lot – “Live well.  Laugh often.  Love much.”

That’s a very good one to live by as it affects one’s attitude positively. How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals .. daily? weekly? monthly? long-range?

I write because I love to write.  I can’t really say that I have specific goals or a specific schedule.  Creativity takes a lot of energy, so there are times when life is busy and a day or a week will go by when I don’t write anything new.  And sometimes life is hard, and that can rob me of creativity as well.  But in general, writing is one of the things I look forward to – not that it’s easy! – but, as I’m sure is the case for many writers (and other creatives – artists, musicians, etc.), it fills a need in me and is something I can’t stay away from for long.

Yes, I agree, it does take a lot of energy. What other interests do you have for a change from writing?

I love to be outdoors.  I like to walk, run, and hike.  I love animals – dogs and horses in particular – and I love to ride, although I don’t have time for it as often as I’d like.  I play the piano (when it isn’t so covered in books that I can’t get to the keys 🙂 ) and I love to read.

All great ways to restore that creative energy. What have you had published thus far, and what do you remember about the very first time you were published?

THE HOUSE THAT MACK BUILT (Little Simon, 2002)
TAXI! (Little Simon 2005)
PUNXSUTAWNEY PHYLLIS (Holiday House 2005)
NO SWORD FIGHTING IN THE HOUSE (Holiday House 2007)
NOT YET, ROSE (Eerdmans Books For Young Readers 2009)
AIRPLANE FLIGHT (Little Simon 2009)
FREIGHT TRAIN TRIP (little Simon 2009)
CAN’T SLEEP WITHOUT SHEEP (Walker/Bloomsbury 2010)
APRIL FOOL, PHYLLIS! (Holiday House 2011)
BEER IS ZO MOE! (Veltman Uitgevers  2011) – available in Dutch only
WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH (Little Simon 2017)
WHEN YOUR ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES (Little Simon 2017)
THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT (Little Simon 2017)

Every time I get a call from my agent saying she has an offer, it’s like a dream come true.  I can’t believe how lucky I am that an editor liked something I wrote enough to get behind it and share it with the world.  And I feel grateful that there will be another book (because I never EVER take that for granted!)

But there’s something extra-special about the very first time. 🙂

I had gone from remedial language tutoring with dyslexic kids to being a full-time stay-at-home mom after my youngest was born. I had been writing for kids for a couple years in my “spare time” (2 AM by the bathroom nightlight, you know, that kind of spare time 🙂 ), and found my agent by serendipity (but that’s a story for another day!) and she had sent a couple of my manuscripts out on submission a few months earlier.

One cold, gray January day in the early afternoon, when one child was at first grade and two were napping, the phone rang.  It was Liza (my amazing and wonderful friend and agent.)

“So,” she said, with a smile in her voice, “I have an offer for you!”

My heart stopped.

I couldn’t breathe.

Her words wouldn’t sink in!

“What?” I stammered intelligently.

“Erin Molta at Little Simon wants to buy The House That Mack Built!” she said.

In a haze of unreality, I scribbled notes about the details of the deal, then hung up the phone in disbelief.  My heart was so full I couldn’t hold it in, but the babies were sleeping and every parent on earth knows you never want to wake a sleeping child!

So I hugged this wonderful, amazing, unbelievable news to myself, fist-pumped the air, squealed a silent “SQUEEEE!!!” in my head, and on light bare feet raced a lap or two of the downstairs of my house, overflowing with excited energy!

I was going to be published!

There was going to be a book with my name on it!

It was, quite literally, a dream come true and one of the best moments of my life!

I feel the excitement in your relating of it for us, Susanna! What process do you go through when writing and perfecting your work?

I write every first draft with pen and paper.  I think better with the physical act of forming letters 🙂  Once I have a draft, I type it into the computer, revising as I go.

Then I revise again.

Then I revise again.

Then I revise again.

You get the idea. 🙂

Until I feel like the manuscript is as strong as I can make it.

At that point, I usually give it to a trusted critique partner or two to read and comment on.  Occasionally I send it to an editor friend to critique for me.

When I feel like the manuscript is as ready as I can get it, I send it to my agent.

Sometimes she says, “This is great!  I’ll send it to so-and-so!”  Other times she tells me she thinks it could work if I change the ending or strengthen the conflict or something, in which case I take a crack at it.  But sometimes she just doesn’t see potential and doesn’t think she can sell it, and I have to chalk it up to an idea I couldn’t make work.  For now… 🙂

I, too, hand-write most of my drafts. The process of actual writing is healthier for the brain, a serious consideration.     I admire your work ethic and determination. What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?

I’m afraid there isn’t much in the way of “method” or “keeping track”! 🙂  I scribble things on random scraps of paper which litter my desk in piles!  If the occasion arises when I’m scrambling for ideas, I rummage through the piles! 🙂  I would include a photo of my desk, but I don’t want you to have nightmares. 🙂

Haha! You wouldn’t want to see my desk! I’ve found buried notes and thought … oh, wow, did I write this? It could be a good idea! 🙂 What inspired you to write your three newest books? When Your Lion Needs a Bath; When Your Elephant Has the Sniffles; The Road That Trucks Built.

I think I mentioned that I have 5 kids. 🙂  That pretty much sums it up. 🙂

A large percentage of my ideas come from life with my children who, I’m sure you will be shocked to know 🙂 , frequently objected to baths and haircuts and bedtime and were sometimes miserable with sniffles. So the WHEN YOUR… books came from a lot of those moments.  THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT was inspired by two things: my son, who as a toddler was so enamored of construction vehicles that one of his first words was “mass excavator”, and a good friend who actually builds roads.

There’s inspiration all around us, if we’ll only see it. 🙂  Approximately how long did it take you to write each of the three books? Did you have to do much research for any of them? Is there something specific you’d like to share about each of them?

You know, this will sound terrible, but I’m not really sure how long it took me to write each book!  I know I got the basic idea down and then went through several rounds of revision, much of it focused on tightening the text.  As for research, well, in the case of LION and ELEPHANT I’d pretty much done that over the course of 20 years as a parent. 🙂  And in the case of TRUCKS, my son picked out the books he wanted me to read to him and I read them…research as a bonus of reading with my child. 🙂

It all works! 🙂  The illustrations for each are wonderful. Did you get to share your vision with the illustrators of your books?

I never get to speak with my illustrators during the creation of the book.  But in the case of LION and ELEPHANT, I did include a fair number of art notes because the text was fairly brief and much of the humor depended on what was shown in the art in relation to what was said in the text, so I had to make sure my vision was clear.  Daniel did an absolutely fantastic job.  I couldn’t be happier!  His illustrations are exactly right for these stories! 🙂  I did not include such notes for Erica for TRUCKS, but even without my helpful instructions 🙂 she did a fantastic job!

I agree! Both illustrators did fabulous work. How ever did you manage to get three books published so close together? And along with that how did you go about finding a publisher? an editor? or did you have an agent to handle that for you? (You mentioned her earlier.)

The fact that these books are coming out so close together is just luck of the draw!  Since WHEN YOUR LION NEEDS A BATH and WHEN YOUR ELEPHANT HAS THE SNIFFLES are the start of a series, the editor wanted to release them together.  The third series title will release on January 2, 2018, and the fourth in Fall 2018.  THE ROAD THAT TRUCKS BUILT was edited by a different editor in the same house!  I don’t know how often that happens – it has never happened to me before – but somehow the books were all just ready at the same time.  I do have an agent – the wonderful and talented Liza Voges of Eden Street Lit without whom I wouldn’t be where I am today!– and she was in charge of submissions.

That’s amazing! What is it about writing children’s books that appeals to you?

Everything is new to children.  They are still full of curiosity and wonder.  I love writing for people who are so eager to absorb and for whom you can make a difference.  Because along with the positive side of newness, children have a lot to learn about the world and their place in it, and that can sometimes feel a little frightening, confusing, overwhelming, or lonely.  Books can help children understand both how things work and that they’re not alone in their experiences and feelings.  If I can help one child feel more comfortable with the arrival of a new sibling, or laugh over having the sniffles instead of feeling plain miserable, I feel like I did a good thing.  And just the opportunity to make reading an enjoyable experience for kids – something they can carry with them – is very appealing.

I like your heart. What do you do to help and encourage others in their writing goals?

I teach an online picture book writing class called Making Picture Book Magic, which I try to make accessible and affordable and doable time-wise, and which I hope is helpful to those who take it.  I also write a blog with features that allow writers to practice pitching (Would You Read It Wednesday), do a fun writing exercise together (Short & Sweets), or ask questions about the picture book writing life and craft (Oh Susanna!).  I also run several writing contests a year on my blog for which I try to include prizes such as critiques by editors, agents, and authors.  I also offer critiques of picture book manuscripts.

I plan to take your writing class at some point and have been urged by other writers because they’ve found it to be so good. I’ve only added my comment once in your pitching help, and I’ve participated in two of your writing contests. I’ll be back to try more! 🙂 Do you have other projects in the works? If so, can you give our readers any hints?

I have a couple more books coming out over the next 2 years …

  • WHEN YOUR LLAMA NEEDS A HAIRCUT (Little Simon January 2, 2018)
    WHEN YOUR MONKEYS WON’T GO TO BED (Little Simon Fall 2018)
    ALPHABEDTIME! (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House Spring 2019)
  • MOON DREAMS (Sourcebooks Spring 2019)

– those are all to some degree works-in-progress because there may well still be a call for edits on one or more of them.  Aside from those, I have a few other manuscripts I’m kicking around that are not ready for humans yet, although my dogs have had to listen to them innumerable times. 🙂

That’s actually FOUR more books, Susanna! How fortunate you are. As for dogs, they make a considerate audience; my little one tips her head attentively when I read anything out loud. 🙂 Is being a writer/author all you had hoped or thought it would be?

You know, Lynn, it really is – for me.  I love to write.  I am grateful that my circumstances allow me to do what I love, even though what I earn is more supplemental income than making a living.  I have been incredibly fortunate to be published, and that has allowed me to teach writing, which I love to do, and to do school visits which I also love, and to write a blog where I get to be part of a lovely community of like-minded folks.  So yes.  If anything it’s more than I thought it would be 🙂

I’m so glad for you.  Do you have any advice for hopefuls?

My advice is probably much the same as what you’ve heard from other writers.  Read as much as you can in the genre you hope to be published in.  Practice your writing.  Read good books on writing craft.  Take some writing courses if you can – online or in person.  Join SCBWI and go to some writing conferences.  Join a critique group. Write.  Write.  And write some more!  And if you really want to be published, never give up.  Keep improving your writing.  Keep trying.  Keep submitting.  Because the best idea ever won’t sell if you never bring yourself to write it and send it out into the world. 🙂

Thank you, Susanna, for an insightful interview. It’s been fun. 🙂

Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, Lynn, and for doing so much this month to give my new books a good start!

It’s truly my pleasure. 🙂   And now …

Susanna Leonard Hill and her publisher, Little Simon, are offering to one of you a copy of When Your LION Needs a BATH! Yay!!!

The rules are simple. Leave a comment on this post telling how you would coax your lion into the bath, and your name will be entered into the draw. 🙂 You have until Saturday, July 15, at 9:00 PM EST to enter. Using the “random name picker” I will select one name, and the next morning – Sunday, July 16 – I will announce the winner. Be sure to check your email Saturday night because I will be contacting the winner for a mailing address.

Check out Susanna’s blog for fun things including the schedule for the other participating blogs in her tour.  More from Susanna:

Website
Blog - watch a fun trailer for When Your Lion Needs a Bath
Making Picture Book Magic (online writing class)

Don’t delay, comment today! And please pass the news on to your friends; post on Twitter, FaceBook, or what ever way you communicate with the world. We thank you.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

I am the featured guest — my first interview!!

Okay, so I am a little excited today! 

I am usually the one asking the questions, the one doing the interviewing, but today I am the guest on Leanne Dyck’s blog!  Yes, I am!

Last year I received an email from Leanne saying she was interested in featuring me on her blog. I was sincerely puzzled. I am not an author in the way one expects an author to be … with a published book and all that good stuff. I thought she had misunderstood something about me. When I replied to her she clarified that no, she made no mistake, and having checked out my blog she was interested in interviewing me.  ME!  Wowsers!

Unfortunately, 2013 was a jumble of things so that I couldn’t even put my mind to writing anything for her. When I finally got something completed she was booking far ahead. It’s been a wait, but today I am delighted to say I have been interviewed!  🙂

I hope you will visit Leanne Dyck’s writer’s blog HERE and while visiting leave a comment for me. We look forward to meeting you there!

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂

Interview with Penny Zeller & book giveaway

You haven’t had to wait long for this promised interview. For my review of Kaydie you can read my May 7 post, but now I am delighted to introduce Penny Zeller (image below on the right), author of Kaydie.

Penny Zeller is the author of several books and numerous magazine articles in national and regional publications. She is also the author of the humor blog “A Day in the Life of a Wife, Mom, and Author” (www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com). She is an active volunteer in her community, serving as a women’s Bible study small-group leader and co-organizing a women’s prayer group. Penny devotes her time to assisting and nurturing women and children into a closer relationship with Christ. Her passion is to use the gift of the written word that God has given her to glorify Him and to benefit His kingdom. Kaydie follows McKenzie in Montana Skies, her first series with Whitaker House. When she’s not writing, Penny enjoys spending time with her family and camping, hiking, canoeing, and playing volleyball. She and her husband, Lon, reside in Wyoming with their two children. Penny loves to hear from her readers at her Website, www.pennyzeller.com.

          

Penny, welcome to my blog. As we begin this interview the first question on the agenda is: Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?

Hello, Lynn! It’s great to be here. The happiest days of my life were the day I married my husband and the times we became parents to our two daughters.

I like your priorities. Now, your most recent book is Kaydie, which is Book 2 in your Montana Skies Series and was just released last month. Can you please give us a brief synopsis?

I am thrilled about the release of Kaydie. A short synopsis is as follows:

For the first time in years, Kaydie Worthington Kraemer can breathe easily. Although she is still haunted by memories of her abusive husband, Darius, she takes comfort in knowing the man is dead. Staying with her sister McKenzie and brother–in–law, Zach Sawyer, at their ranch, Kaydie is still wary of men, especially now that she has another life inside of her to protect. As she looks forward to her baby’s birth, she builds a protective wall around herself that won’t be easy to tear down.

Ranch hand Jonah Dickenson views his boss, Zach, like a brother. He does not, however, envy Zach’s new role as a husband. Deserted by his mother at a young age and forever despised and rejected by his own father, Jonah has few close relationships. But there’s something about Kaydie that draws him to her and makes him question his decision to remain a bachelor.

When Cedric Van Aulst, an old friend of Kaydie’s, comes to town, an unforeseen prospect of marriage arises. Cedric is someone Kaydie trusts. Will she settle for a safe union with him, or can she trust God to guard her heart and her life in the arms of Jonah?

Cindy Sproles produced a fantastic book trailer for Kaydie, which can be viewed athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vwihs6rsqDk

Is there any person who has been a strong influence in your writing journey?

When I was in second grade, my teacher, Mrs. Vernon, encouraged me to never stop writing stories about Jesus (I began my writing career rewriting Bible stories and publishing them in homemade cardboard books).

In addition, my husband and children have been strong supporters of my writing. As far as influencers or mentors, I would have to say authors Sharlene MacLaren and Amanda Cabot have been wonderful mentors to me.

When you were a child did you have a favorite book or books?

I was an avid reader as a child. I loved Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries and read every copy of those books I could get my hands on!

This is funny and not something I have shared much, but beginning when I was 10 or 11 years old, I also loved the romance stories in the back of “Good Housekeeping Magazine.” In those days, the stories were wholesome and I would sneak outside with my mom’s copy into our playhouse to read. I loved the stories because they would have pictures of the characters drawn by an artist with a little tidbit under each picture, such as “Lydia thinks she’ll never love again – that is until James unexpectedly walks into her life…” I laugh when I think of those early days reading those stories. I suppose I have always been a romantic at heart!

Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in yourself so you can say “I am a writer”, or did you never doubt your calling?

I definitely have felt like giving up. As a matter of fact, I can think of two times when I was determined to “throw in the towel.” Once was when I was a beginning writer and writing magazine articles. The second was a couple years in my career.

I have loved to write since I was in second grade. In the year 2000, I quit my full time job in a field of social services to stay home with my infant daughter. It was then that my passion for writing was rekindled. I began with writing magazine articles, and in 2003, had my first book published.

Why do you write the kind of books you do?

Writing is my ministry, and I pray daily that the path of writing that I have chosen in life will glorify the Lord. I am in constant prayer for wisdom, guidance, and that my books would be life-changing – that they would bring others to the Lord or closer to the Lord. I have chosen Psalm 19:14 as my life verse: “May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Do you have a favorite Genre to both read and write?

Historical romance is my favorite genre to write, followed by contemporary romance. In third place would be nonfiction, which I also enjoy writing as well. As for reading, I would have to say my favorite is historical romance. There’s something neat about being able to pick up this genre and escape into a simpler time.

What process do you go through when writing and perfecting a story?

I first write the story as it comes to me. Usually, I have thought about the story beforehand and have “watched” the scenes unfold in my mind, as though it was a movie. Secondly, I have an editor friend who goes through all of my work before I submit it to my publisher. After my editor at the publishing house goes through it, we talk on the phone about any changes that might need to be made. I then go back and make those changes. I am blessed to have a wonderful editor at Whitaker House!

There is a lot of work that goes into writing and perfecting a story. I remember before I was a writer, I used to wonder why it took so long for the sequel of a book to be released. Now I know! *grins*

What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?

Good question, Lynn! Let’s see…I have several file folders, each one labeled with the book idea. I then include any pages I have written in that folder.

What inspired you to write McKenzie and Kaydie: The first two books in your Montana Skies Series?

My family and I were in a car accident a couple years ago where I suffered neck and leg injuries. During that time period of seven months, I was also hit with back-to-back bacterial infections. Because of the injuries and illness, I was pretty much homebound and my active athletic lifestyle suddenly became limited. I look back now and praise God that He gave me McKenzie, as well as two other manuscripts (another historical and a contemporary) I wrote in that seven month period of pain and illness. God took what was a difficult time for me and turned it around to something positive that can be used for His Kingdom – taking the time to write the books that I had always wanted to write.

He has since healed me and I pray daily that the path I have chosen in life will glorify Him.

Wow! That reminds me of an incident in my own life, not nearly as dramatic, but through it He led me to write something very meaningful. What prompted you to write about the Montana Territory?

Our family has traveled extensively through Montana on road trips. We have visited two well-preserved ghost towns, which provided me with so much inspiration! I love the scenery and the history of Montana and couldn’t wait to base my characters in that setting.

How long did it take you to write Kaydie? Did you have to do any research?

It took me a couple of months to write Kaydie. I did do some research, mostly online, but because I had already researched and written McKenzie (Book One in the series), the research time wasn’t as extensive. For Kaydie, the setting was in the same town and in the same year as McKenzie, thereby making research easier. 🙂

Good planning. 🙂 Did you find any part of the story difficult to pull together?

Actually, yes. Halfway through writing Kaydie, I came to a stopping point – a type of writer’s block if you will – where the words didn’t come nearly as easily as they usually do. I prayed about how to proceed and I felt God say to me “wait on Me.”

I’m glad I heeded God’s guidance because when I stepped out in obedience and didn’t try to force the words, but instead waited on Him by putting Kaydie aside for a time, something amazing happened. When I revisited Kaydie, the words began to flow again at a pace I could barely keep up with. More than ever, I now continue to fully submit to the Lord – and fully rely on Himfor the words and the direction of every aspect of my writing.

Did you, or do you ever, write a little of yourself into any of the characters? Do you have a favourite?

I take bits and pieces of different people and write them into my characters. I do think there would be bits and pieces of me in characters too 🙂 For example, Kaydie is very sensitive, which would be one word I would use to describe myself.

As for a favorite character, I really can’t name just one. They are all different and special in their own way. My goal is to make the characters as realistic as possible and allow them to face struggles, as we all do.

How did you go about finding an editor? A publisher? An agent?

I’ll start with the easy question first…I’m different than a lot of authors because I don’t have an agent, per se. I consider my agent to be the Lord.

For my books, I have had four different publishers. It’s been different in how I found each of those publishers, but for my Montana Skies Series (Kaydie, McKenzie, and Hailee), I actually found the listing for Whitaker House, my publisher, in the Writer’s Market book. After much prayer, I submitted a query letter to the editor. She responded with a request for the manuscript. I was ecstatic! Writing Christian historical romance has always been my goal (even though I have enjoyed the nonfiction and the children’s fiction book I wrote as well). When she accepted the manuscript and contracted me for a series of three, I was so humbled and honored!

That’s interesting. I consider the Lord to be my Editor-in-Chief, hadn’t thought beyond that. How do you find time to write when you are busy with life?

Prioritizing is for sure my most difficult writing obstacle. To be honest, Lynn, I’m still working on figuring how to effectively do just that! *grins*

But really, I think prioritizing is one of the biggest challenges of being a writer, especially since I work from home and have a family. I have posted my writing hours on my office door, not so much for visitors, but for myself. It reminds me that if I don’t set time aside for my writing, it will be spent doing a host of other “necessary” things.

I have to be deliberate about putting aside time for my writing. I work while my children are in school and then quit for the day when they come home. My husband and my children are my main ministry, so they are the most important. I also do a lot of volunteer work. In order to keep my priorities in perspective, which is critical, I spend a lot of time in prayer seeking God’s guidance in using my time wisely.

How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals – daily? Weekly? Monthly? Long range?

I am currently working on a second historical romance series set in the post-Civil War era. I have written the first book and am now working on the second one. I also have several other standalone books in the works.

I commit my time each morning to the Lord and write as He prompts me. Some days, I write 6,000 words. Other days, it’s 2,000 words. Some days, I don’t get the chance to work on my current book at all because I am spending time doing marketing projects. There is a lot of marketing that is done with the release of a book!

You mentioned having another book in the making, can you give us some insight on what it’s about?

I just finished the third book in the series, Hailee, which is scheduled for release later this year. Here’s a little teaser about what’s to come:

Times in Pine Haven have changed over the past few years. The town has doubled in size and Montana has become a state. Bethany Ethel is now the older sister to spunky seven-year-old twin brothers who find great delight in providing trouble for the new teacher, Miss Hailee Annigan. The Sawyers have added to their own family with daughter, Chloe; and Lucille Granger continues her antics as the town busybody.

Faith. Love. Hope. Forgiveness. This recent installment of the Montana Skies Historical Romance Series explores all four in the continuing saga of a peek into the lives of those who call Pine Haven their home.

I’m also working on a historical romance series that takes place in the Post-Civil War Era. I’ve finished book one in the series and have started writing book two.

Your ‘fluency’ amazes me, Penny! Is being a writer/author all you had hoped or thought it would be? Any advice for hopefuls?

I am blessed to be an author. It has been a dream of mine since I was seven. It is hard work and takes perseverence, but I feel it is worth it.

When I meet a reader or fan face to face, I love to chat with her about what she envisions herself doing for God’s Kingdom and how can I pray and encourage her in that pursuit. If she is pursuing her dream as a writer, I tell her that one of the most important things to remember in being a writer is that if God has called you to do it, He will guide you every step of the way.

I would advise her to give her writing to the Lord and to not give up! I speak from experience when I say that when He closes one door, He opens another (much better) one.

I offer more suggestions for sticking with writing on my blog at www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com.

Great advice! Where can readers purchase a copy of Kaydie?

Kaydie is available everywhere books are sold, including Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Kaydie-Montana-Skies-Penny-Zeller/dp/1603742174/ref=pd_sim_b_1

Where can fans find you on the internet?

I love to connect with my readers at my website www.pennyzeller.com,

my blog www.pennyzeller.wordpress.com,

on Twitter at http://twitter.com/pennyzeller, and

on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Penny-A-Zeller/96391560959?ref=ts

Do you have any parting comments?

I would like to thank you, Lynn, for having me here, and also thank my readers for their support and encouragement. I couldn’t do it without you.

Thank you, Penny, for this very inspiring interview. I wish you continued success in your journey with words to the Glory of God and for the blessing of your fans.

Readers, I hope you have enjoyed getting to know more about Penny Zeller.  Penny and Whitaker House ( http://www.whitakerhouse.com ) are donating a copy of Kaydie to one of you.

If you would like a chance at winning a copy of Penny’s book simply post a comment here on my blog, telling what you most enjoyed in the interview. Enter only once, please. I will put the entries into a basket and at 9:00 pm (8:00 EST) on May 18  my husband will draw out the winner’s name. I will contact that person for his/her mailing address. If I do not get a reply by 8:00 pm EST on May 21 we will select another name – so check back!

Thanks for reading this interview, and … Creative Musings! 🙂

Interview with Billy Coffey & book giveaway

I won’t keep you waiting any longer for this interesting and informative interview.  You can read my March 22 post for my review of Snow Day – but now I am pleased to introduce Billy Coffey, author of Snow Day.

Billy was born and raised in Virginia, USA, where he and his wife are now bringing up their family.  Billy is a prolific writer and quite the philosopher. You may wish to check out his blog (link at end of interview) and be inspired by his insights.

 

Billy, welcome to my blog.  Please start us off by telling us a little about yourself.

I am a proud country boy. Cities scare me, and I do my best to avoid them. I’ve learned more in the mountains than I ever have in school. I hate adverbs. The best storyteller I’ve ever known was a hillbilly named Cracker. I love my family, and I worry about the world we’re all growing up in. I can hit a knuckleball and throw a tomahawk. Clowns scare the heck outta me.

I agree about the clowns!
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you? Or discouraged you?

I was your stereotypical jock in high school, which meant I tried much harder on a ball field than I did in a classroom. By my senior year, seven of my classes were study halls. My plan was to coast into either college or the minor leagues.

My English teacher had a different plan. She told me one day she wasn’t about to let me sit around doing nothing, so she assigned me a weekly column in the local newspaper. My baseball career ended a few months later with a shoulder injury, and I poured out my frustrations in a column a few weeks later. A week after that, I received an anonymous letter from someone who said what I’d written had convinced them not to commit suicide. I’ve been writing ever since.

Wow! That one person whose life you impacted certainly was great encouragement to continue.
As a writer, do you do much reading?  Who/what were and are your favourite authors or books?

The general consensus is that a writer has to read, and I fully embrace that. I’ll read anything I can get my hands on, from Dr. Seuss to the Stoic philosophers. I love Flannery O’Connor and John Steinbeck. Tolstoy’s always been a favorite. And I think Stephen King is a genius.

Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?

I think every writer’s biggest enemy is his or herself. That little whisper deep in your secret places will always tell you to give up, that you’re just a pretender. And honestly, I think that’s a voice to prove wrong rather than silence. There were times when I actually did give up. I was tired of rejection slips and thought I’d be happier without them. But not writing offered much more misery than writing ever could. I think that’s the mark of a writer—you want to give up sometimes, but you know you never can.

As far as believing in myself so I can say “I am a writer,” that’s a tough one. There are still plenty of days when I don’t think I’m a writer at all.

Do you have a motto or Bible verse or quote that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?

I’ve always liked Psalm 66:16: “Come and hear, all who fear God, and I will tell of what He has done for my soul.”

Oh, nice one.
What have you had published thus far? Of those, what do you most enjoy writing?

So far, one book, more articles than I can remember, and a few years’ worth of blog posts. By and large, writing a book is the most enjoyable. There’s a freedom in building a full story that you can’t get anywhere else.

What process do you go through when writing and perfecting a book or article?

I’m big on planning, whether a book or an article. I like to think things through before I start writing, let things stew for a while. I’m a firm believer that most writing gets done well away from a computer or a sheet of paper.

I wish I were one of those people who can write a first draft straight through. I’m not. I revise as I go, writing today’s words only after picking through yesterday’s. That takes some extra time, but the upside is that by the time I finish a first draft, I actually have the second as well. I’ll let that sit for a while, then go through the whole thing one more time. Sometimes, three drafts is enough. Oftentimes, it isn’t.

What method do you use to keep track of your writing ideas?

Despite all attempts at change, I’m still the most disorganized person I know. I have notebooks everywhere, ideas written down on napkins and receipts. All of that resides on a corner of my desk I refer to as My Mess. It really is sad. The only comfort I have is that if an idea is written down, I’ll rediscover it eventually.

What inspired you to write Snow Day?

I went through a job scare during the winter of 2005. I was working in a factory that handled textiles, and the textile industry is usually ground zero for a recession. Horrible, horrible time. A man has to feel like he’s providing for his family, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do that anymore. It hollowed me out inside.

Snow Day began as a series of journal entries. I couldn’t understand what was going on and why God would allow such a thing, but I had the idea the answers would come if I just paid attention to what was happening around me. The things Peter Boyd learns are the things I learned.

When did you realize it would be an adult Christian novel, or was that your plan from the start?

I was never sure it would be a CBA novel, though there was little doubt Christianity would be an integral part of the book. I prefer to think of myself as a Christian who writes rather than a Christian writer. Deep down, I feel like a career in Christian publishing would mean a career preaching to the choir. I’m not sure I’m comfortable with that.

How long did it take you to write Snow Day?  Did you have to do any research? And how did you come up with that title?

From start to finish, a little over five months. I was lucky in that the only research I had to do was pay attention. The title pretty much suggested itself. The day I found out I would likely be laid off was the day a snowstorm hit our town.

Did you find any part of the story difficult to pull together?

I think the most difficult part was deciding what to leave out. So much happened during that time. If I would have put everything in, the book would have easily been over 100,000 words. I pared it down to a little over half that, which I think is a manageable length for a first novel.

Did you write a little of yourself into any of the characters, perhaps the main character?  Do you have a favourite?

I wrote a lot of myself into Peter Boyd, the main character. He’s a smarter version of myself. My favorite, though, is probably the character of Bobby Barnes. He seems so tragic to me, but at the same time ready for some kind of redemption. He makes another appearance in the manuscript I just finished, and he’ll be the main character in the one I’m getting ready to start.

Oh, that sounds very interesting.
How did you go about finding an editor? A publisher? An agent?

I’d been querying agents and publishers without success for what seemed like forever. An editor at a New York house finally expressed interest but said I needed work on my platform. She suggested I start a blog.

Building an online audience took so much time and effort that querying went by the wayside. I finally just surrendered my writing career to God. And as is usually the case, when I gave that to Him, He gave me something back. One of my readers was a client of Rachelle Gardner’s and offered to introduce us. Rachelle signed me a month later, and I had a book contract a month after that.

From what you’ve said so far regarding your writing career, it seems that from the very beginning it has been a step by step process in God’s plan for you.
Tell us about the exciting publicity Snow Day has received thus far.

I can’t say enough for the work FaithWords has put into Snow Day. They hired a PR firm to handle publicity, which opened up avenues I didn’t think were possible for a first-time author from the sticks. There have been ads in both Library Journal and Book Page, a mention in Writer’s Digest, a dozen or so radio interviews, and a television appearance in the Washington, D.C. area. It was all fun, though a bit nerve-wracking at times. I’m much more comfortable being the guy watching everyone else from the corner of the room. Being comfortable in the middle of that room has taken a lot of effort.

As a writer do you also have a job to go to every day? If so, how do you find time to write when you are busy with life?

I have a full-time job, Monday through Friday from 7:30-4:00. That makes it tough to write every day. I’ve learned to be flexible. I’ll write when and where I can and forgive myself for that being all I can do. I’ll admit it’s aggravating at times.

What other interests do you have that you turn to for a change from writing?

I love sports, always have. And there are about 30,000 acres of wilderness outside my front door, so I’ll often either hike or ride my bike through some trails. My kids are my main interest, though. It’s tough being a parent in a Lady Gaga world.

How do you consistently write?  Do you have writing goals – daily? Weekly? Monthly? Long range?

When I’m writing books, it’s 1,000 words a day, every day, any way I can get them. That rule is unbendable. Over 1,000 is fine, but never less than that. If I’m not writing books, I’ll concentrate on my blog. I only post twice a week, but I try to write a post a day. That way when it’s time to start another book, I have the luxury of being able to concentrate on that with a healthy backlog of posts ready.

That is very smart thinking and a great tip for other writers.
Do you have another project in the works?  If so, any hints you can share with our readers about that?

My second novel is Paper Angels and will be out in November. It centers on a man named Andy Sommerville, who loses his parents as a child and prays that God will send someone to help him. God answers, and Andy spends the rest of his life trying to figure out if that answer is a blessing or a curse. It’s much like Snow Day as far as the country flavor, but it’s completely different in many ways.

I look forward to reading it!
Finally, is being a writer/author all you had hoped or thought it would be?  Any advice for hopefuls?

For years I suffered under the false assumption that landing a book contract with a major publisher would solve all my problems. It didn’t. Many went away, of course, but that just made room for a whole new set. That said, there’s nothing that can quite match the sight of your book on the shelf at Barnes & Noble. It’s an exciting time, but it’s also a humbling time.

The best advice I can give? I’m a firm believer in the power of perseverance, so my advice is to always try once more. If you write a story you decide is awful, try once more. If you get a rejection, try once more. In the end, it doesn’t matter who gives up on you. All that matters is that you don’t.

What helpful advice. Thank you, Billy, for this enlightening interview. It has been interesting learning more about you and your journey. I wish you much continued success as you continue your writing.

Readers, I hope you enjoyed getting to know Billy Coffey better. You can read more of his insights (and his amazing testimony) here: http://www.billycoffey.com/

Also, FaithWords is generously donating a copy of Snow Day to one of you.  Check them out here: http://www.faithwords.com

If you would like a chance at winning a copy of Billy’s book simply post a comment here on my blog, telling what you most enjoyed in the interview. Enter only once, please. I will put the entries into a basket and at 9:00 pm (8:00 EST) on April 8 my husband will draw out the winner’s name. I will contact that person for his/her mailing address. If I do not get a reply by 8:00 pm EST on April 14 we will select another name – so check back!

Thanks for reading this interview, and … Creative Musings! 🙂

Interview with Laura Best & book giveaway

This is what you have been waiting for,  so get comfy!  🙂   You can read my January 18 post for my review of Bitter, Sweet – but now it is my great pleasure to introduce Laura Best, author of Bitter, Sweet. Laura has lived in the small community of East Dalhousie, Nova Scotia her entire life. Her fiction has been published in literary magazines across Canada, including The Antigonish Review, Grain, and Room, and she was a contributor to two Christmas anthologies published by Nimbus. In 2003, her short story “Alexander the Great” was nominated for the Journey Prize.

Laura, welcome to my blog. I’m delighted to have you as my first interview participant. 🙂 To start things off, please tell us a little about yourself.

Nice of you to invite me to your blog, Lynn. Besides being a writer, I’ve been married for thirty-one years. I have three children, two girls and a boy, and last year I became a grandmother for the first time. I belong to the Writer’s Federation of Nova Scotia and I’m also a member of CANSCAIP. I’m very much interested in local history, and I’m a member of the local museum Society as well as a volunteer with the local church.

When did you first know you wanted to be a writer? Who or what inspired you?

Although I enjoyed writing at a very young age, and continued to write through high school, I never considered it seriously as an option until after the birth of my third child. That was when I realized that I needed to do something for me, and right away I knew that ‘something’ was writing. Did anyone in particular inspire me? Not really, it was more of a matter of necessity in the very beginning, a strong need to express myself with words.

As a writer, do you do much reading? Who were/are your favourite authors or books?

Because a lot of my time is spent writing I don’t get to read as much as I’d like to, but I think I read a fair bit. A day does not go by that I don’t read something. There are a lot of authors whose work I really enjoy: Donna Morrissey, Jill MacLean, Christy Ann Conlin, Syr Ruus, Jan Coates, Ami MacKay, I could go on and on. Some of these are writers that I’ve met within the past two years whose work I thoroughly enjoyed.

Have you ever felt like giving up? When did you finally believe in yourself so you can say “I am a writer”?

It took quite a few years and a few published stories under my belt before I really believed that I was a writer. When I could actually tell others that I was a writer without a flicker of self-consciousness then I knew deep in my heart that I was. For many years I was a closet writer. Very few people knew my secret. I didn’t know anyone else who wrote and I was about as removed from the writing community as anyone would want to be. I didn’t even know a writing community existed. Writing in isolation like that takes a lot of determination. I might not have felt like a writer back then, but I was determined that one day I would. So much has changed for me since then. I’ve met more writers this past year than I could ever have imagined. My oldest daughter is also a writer and last Fall we both had work published in the same issue of R.E.A.L. Seems like I’m surrounded by writers and it feels pretty good.

As far as giving up goes, I think most writers feel like giving up at some point. Writing is not for wimps. It’s a lot of hard work with many disappointments along the way. My times of discouragement are always short-lived because when I’m completely honest with myself I know that I couldn’t give up. Even if I never had another thing published I would still write.

Do you have a motto or Bible verse or quote that you try to live by and that helps to keep you going?

I do have a favourite verse from the Bible. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.” I truly believe that everything happens in its own time and that we need to have patience and faith. I try to keep in mind that no matter what is happening in my life that there is a purpose.

What do you remember about your very first time to be published, how did that happen?

My very first publication came in 1993. It was a short story that I submitted to The Amethyst Review, a literary journal right here in Nova Scotia. I saw an article about the journal in the Chronicle Herald and it mentioned that they were one of very few journals who offered feedback on the submissions. Since I’d never received any feedback it sounded like a good idea. I submitted the first time and my story was rejected, but then I reworked the story with the suggestions they had offered and it was accepted.

That must have been exciting! What have you had published thus far? Of those, what do you most enjoy writing?

So far my list of publications includes over forty short stories published in literary magazines, some non-fiction articles, pieces in two Christmas anthologies and a farm anthology published by Nimbus Publishing. My debut young adult novel, Bitter, Sweet was published in 2009 by Nimbus Publishing. As for a preference, I enjoy writing from a child’s perspective, for me it wouldn’t matter if it was a short story or a novel. I’m happiest writing either.

That’s a wonderful list of accomplishments. What process do you go through when writing and perfecting a book or article?

I usually spend some time thinking about the story I want to write before I begin. When I’m writing fiction I always need to have a character in mind before I start writing. I sometimes jot down notes as ideas sometimes come to me at the oddest times and when I’m no where near my computer. I’m not one of those writers who work from an outline. For me, it’s sometimes a matter of showing up on the page each day to see what will happen. I sometimes get surprised! When I’m not writing I’m often thinking about my characters and getting to know them better. I tend to edit as I write, and will go over a paragraph or sentence many times until I’m satisfied with the way it sounds.

What inspired you to write Bitter, Sweet?

The inspiration for Bitter, Sweet came from a newspaper clipping that I’d saved for a number of years about a family of kids who get in some trouble with the law. I saved the clipping thinking that a similar situation might one day make a good scene for a story. I wasn’t sure in the beginning if it would be a short story or something longer. Then one day out of the blue a line came to me. Turns out it was spoken by Pru, the eldest daughter in the book. When I got further into the story I began to see that it was going to be much longer than a short story and as more and more ideas came to me I knew I was writing a young adult novel.

How long did it take you to write Bitter, Sweet? Did you have to do any research? And how did you come up with that title?

Bitter, Sweet came about very quickly and ideas seemed to flow quite freely. I think I wrote it in about three or four months. Setting it in the community where I live I think helped immensely. It was easy to write about the things I grew up knowing about.

Although I had some knowledge of healing plants I needed to do more research on that topic. I had to check to make sure that the deadly nightshade plant actually grew in Nova Scotia. I was pretty sure it did but since it plays such an important role in the story I had to be positive.

The title is in reference to the deadly nightshade plant or bittersweet. The Publisher wanted to keep the title I had chosen because they felt it was the perfect title for the book even though there were many books on the market with bittersweet in them. The comma between the two words was the publisher’s idea to help set it apart from other books with the same title. Now that I’m used to the comma I couldn’t imagine it not being there.

Did you write a little of yourself into any of the characters? Do you have a favourite?

It’s difficult for a writer to choose a favourite character. We tend to like all the characters we create on some level. But if I had to choose, I’d probably say that Pru would be at the top of my list.

I think most authors put a bit of themselves into their characters. It would be difficult not to. I enjoyed writing the character of Issy the most, and her dialogue seemed to come so easily. Since I happen to share some of Issy’s beliefs, I’d probably answer yes to that question. I can see some of my own traits in Issy.

How did you go about finding a publisher? an editor? and do you have an agent yet?

So far I’ve hardly given any thought to acquiring an agent, but one never knows what the future will hold. When I submitted a synopsis of my story and a few sample chapters to Nimbus I waited about eight months before I heard anything. At that point I was asked to submit the entire manuscript. Four months after that I received a call from Penelope Jackson, the Children’s Book Editor. Nimbus wanted to publish my book. When it came time to edit the book Caitlin Drake was assigned as my editor. She was wonderful to work with. The rest is history.

Bitter, Sweet has been on a thrilling publicity ride.  Besides your book making an appearance in the Hallmark movie November Christmas, tell us what honours this book has received thus far.

Last July, Bitter, Sweet was shortlisted for the Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People. This is a national award presented by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre in Toronto and it was an honour and a thrill to be nominated alongside some of Canada’s best known YA writers.

You are not only a writer but you have a job to go to every day, so how do you find time to write when you are busy with life?

Since my job allows me to have months off at a time I probably am fortunate to have more writing time than writers who hold down a year round job. Oddly enough, it is during those times when I am working that I tend to get more writing done. When my time is limited I make writing a priority. I set aside a specific time to write in the evening and I try my best to stick with it.

What other interests do you have for a change from writing?

My others interests would naturally include reading, but I’ve been known to do a little knitting as well. While I like to try new things I also know that any other hobbies would take time away from writing.

How do you consistently write? Do you have writing goals?

While the idea of writing goals sounds appealing to me, and I know having goals works well for others, I haven’t found that to be the case for me. Setting goals doesn’t allow for those unexpected things that crop up, revisions that you hadn’t planned on, a new plot twist, those kinds of things. I do like to keep a record of my daily word count so that I can at least look back on the progress I’ve made so far.

Do you have another project in the works? Any hints you can share with our readers about that?

I’m working on another novel at the moment. I don’t often discuss my work with others. All I will say is that it is young adult and set in a fictitious community in Nova Scotia.

Oh, that sounds intriguing, I look forward to reading it. Finally, do you have any advice for hopefuls?

The best advice I can give to hopefuls it to write as much and as often as you can. Pay close attention to any comments that editors send your way. Forget the notion that your work can not stand to be improved upon. Everything can be improved. You’ll start to know when you’re getting closer to publication. Those comments will be laced with a sweet touch of sugar as your writing get stronger. Lastly, don’t give up. If you believe in your talent keep working at it, perfect it to the place where someone will want to publish it.

Great advice! Thank you so much for this interview, Laura. It’s been fun learning more about you and I wish you much continued success.

Readers, I hope you enjoyed getting to know Laura Best a little better. Visit her blog, being sure to check out her Publications link and her November 29 post: http://www.lauraabest.wordpress.com

Also, Nimbus Publishing generously donated a copy of Bitter, Sweet for me to offer here. Check them out at: http://www.nimbus.ns.ca

Would you like a chance at winning this copy of Laura’s book? Simply post a comment here on my blog, telling what you most enjoyed in the interview. Enter only once, please. I will put the entries into a basket and at 9:00 pm (8:00 EST) on February 14 – Valentine’s Day – my husband will draw out the winner’s name. I will contact that person for his/her mailing address. If I do not get a reply by 8:00 pm EST on February 21 we will select another name – so check back!

Thanks so much for reading my first interview, and … Creative Musings!  🙂


Book reviews & author interviews

It has been almost two weeks since NaNoWriMo ended and I have not added to my story yet.  It was so much writing jammed into that month that I lay my pen down and have not picked it up to continue.  I do plan to do that, though, the story is still playing in my head.  And the PiBiIdMo ideas are waiting to be filled out into complete stories, as well.

Although Christmas is two weeks away and I have TONS of things to do, now I am thinking about books and authors.  I have MANY books to read, some older ones and now lots of newer ones (mostly YA) have been added to my waiting reading stash.  But something that has been working around in my mind, besides writing book reviews of some of the books I read, is to attempt interviewing authors.  I have a few authors in mind whom I would like to interview after I read their books.  I think it is great promotion for them, assuming people actually come here to read our conversations.  🙂 And I do believe in helping with that promotion.

What do you think of these ideas?  Would you like to read my book reviews and interviews of authors?

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  🙂