The Kidlit Interview Series
Without a doubt, Roald Dahl. I imagine that he would fill my last living moments with pure gems of imagination! Plus, that magnificent brain of his might even spit out a few life-saving ideas, as well. And when we finally came to our witty end, at least we'd make the most morbidly entertaining meal for the zombies.
2) Look, I got a time machine on eBay! Where do you want to go? (Said time machine may possibly malfunction and leave you there. Possibly. It was *very* cheap.)
Wow! I've heard of awesome stuff for sale on eBay, but this sounds like the steal of the century. I'd love to hitch a ride to the Victorian era. With my luck, I'd probably end up slaving away as a laundry maid, but I can't resist the lure of the dresses and the parties and the fancy-pants meals I've read about in so many historical novels.
3) What’s your favourite thing about writing for kids?
I love writing middle-grade stories because kids are the bravest readers. They're willing to follow characters through anything, and to give every circumstance a fair shot, even when things get rough. Kids are quick to empathize and slow to judge. They see the magic in everyday life and are never short of hope. It's this combination of honesty and wonder that draws me to middle grade, both as a reader and a writer.
4) A witch has cast a spell on you (sorry about that) and you’ve woken up as a character in a children’s book – what’s your special talent or power?
Since I was a child, I've dreamt of being able to fly. In those dreams, I inexplicably rise from the ground and soar higher and higher, despite my real-life fear of heights. I'm fueled by nothing more than my utter faith that I CAN FLY. And that is an awesome feeling - gut-wrenching and terrifying, but so liberating that I'm pretty disappointed when I wake up and find that I'm still bound by the laws of gravity.
5) What’s the scariest or strangest thing you’ve ever done?
I studied Design in college, which involved staying up all night and working in cramped studio spaces, so I've done my fair share of weird things, most involving adhesive spray and polyurethane foam. However, one of the strangest (and scariest) moments in my life came much earlier, in high school. My best friend and I came up with the brilliant idea to break into our mutual friend's house, just to scare her. Her parents were out of town for the night, and she was home alone. We painted our faces black, parked by the side of the road, and crept in on foot until we reached her car. The door was unlocked, and the garage door opener was inside. We opened the garage door. We ran inside. And wouldn't you know it, her house door was UNLOCKED. We turned the knob and started to tiptoe down her hall, although she surely must have heard us by then. Two seconds later, her house alarm blasted to life, blaring warnings and flashing lights. We ran. Out through the garage, back to our car, then realized the police would come, and returned to the house to reveal ourselves so our friend wouldn't be scarred for life. That's when we heard the word FREEZE! A man was standing on the porch with a shotgun leveled at us. We put our hands up, and luckily, that's when our friend emerged from the house. The man with the gun was her neighbor, and thankfully, he wasn't mad enough to shoot! We ended up staying overnight with our friend, barricaded together in her room, because we were all too scared to sleep.
6) What’s something you wish you’d known about writing when you started out? What’s something you wish you’d known about publishing?
The one thing I wish I'd known about writing is that no time is wasted time. The times when I'm cooking for my family and picking up my kids from school are just as important for my process as the word count I achieve on any given day. It's very easy to get seduced by the idea of writing books, and to crave completing a draft so hard that you want to neglect the rest of your life. What I've discovered over time is that NO TIME IS WASTED. That hour you spend watching The Vampire Diaries is totally worth it. As is giving yourself the time to take a nice, long shower (not one of those five minute slap dash affairs), or giving yourself the evening off (as in, completely off, with no thinking about plots and characters). The down time is important. It gives your subconscious time to process, so that you can surprise yourself in your next writing session. This is a big lesson, and one I'm still working to embrace.
When I first started writing, I knew very little about publishing. I spent at least a year learning everything I could on the industry, from reading blog posts and books on writing to attending conferences... and in each of these venues, I found there was a tremendous focus on querying and securing an agent. While securing an agent is a critical step on the writing journey, it's important to know that publishing is a much longer game than that. It's far better to give yourself a year to study writing craft, with ZERO intention of querying, than to rush into the hunt for an agent. Publishing is a big industry, with lots of barriers to entry, but publishing also depends on WRITERS. Agents and editors alike are eager to find great new writers They are not looking for reasons to say no; they are hoping for a reason to say yes! So put your writing first, as much as possible. Discover who you are, what you have to say, and what you want to write. The big secret to getting into the publishing world is writing great books.
7) What would your daemon be?
Truth: I had to google that. Did you know that a daemon is a background process that handles requests for services such as print spooling and file transfers, and is dormant when not required? Neither did I! Oh, but it's also a companion animal that is a physical manifestation of your soul, according to Tatum... a little like a patronus in Harry Potter. In that case, my personal daemon would definitely be a badger, because I'm fiercely loyal to my friends and family, and fairly good at digging holes.
8) My books don’t have dragons, but they do have...
Do you remember those special objects from your childhood, the ones you found tucked away in your bedside table when you cleaned out your room after college? The stack of Garbage Pail Kids cards. The pouch of tiny fruit-shaped erasers that used to smell like fruit, but end up reeking like old tires. The paper notes, folded and colored and tucked into fascinating shapes by your friends. These objects from our childhood are our personal talismans, temporary vessels for all of our hopes and fears in those formative years. I try to unearth these special objects in my character's lives and share them with the reader, because nothing makes me love a character more than knowing their secrets.