Friday, March 25, 2011

Interview and book win with Michaela MacColl

Last but far from least, we have Michaela McColl, author of the YA historical fiction, Prisoners in the Palace: How Princess Victoria became Queen with the Help of Her Maid, a Reporter, and a Scoundrel. Her book (as my best friend put it), “is one of the most intriguing books I’ve read in a long time”. Set in London, 1838, it’s about Liza and her dreams of a society debut becoming dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady's maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant's world below-stairs as well as the trickery above. I asked Michaela the same questions as the other interviewees and here is what she had to say:

Q1. First off, my burning question to everyone published is at what point in the long road to publication did you actually think you could succeed, that you could make it into print? 


A1. I think we all have to begin assuming that we can make it into print. Otherwise I don’t know how we would even begin. Happily I knew nothing about the process when I started and I didn’t know how difficult it would be. However, early on, I found a mentor, Patricia Reilly Giff. She assured me (and many other new writers) that writing is a craft. It can be learned. Persevere and you will get published!

Q2. Was there ever a point when it was the opposite, where you thought you couldn’t succeed in getting published? Dare to share the story? 

A2. About year before I eventually sold Prisoners in the Palace, I had a serious nibble from a wonderful publisher. My agent told me that they were talking a “contract by the end of the week!” I was over the moon. But then the deal fell through (because the publisher had a strong affiliate with a UK operation and they dissed the idea of an American writing about their Queen Victoria – really, it’s true!) I was absolutely crushed – I don’t think I’ve ever been so depressed. Thankfully my agent didn’t give up on me – so neither did I. When I finally sold Prisoners in the Palace, my father chuckled and said “You are a stubborn one!”

Q3. I recently found your very cool blog. Has blogging helped you in your path to becoming an author? If so, in what ways? 

A3. I only started blogging after Prisoners in the Palace was sold. I found that I wasn’t terribly comfortable sharing personal information on a day to day basis. So I decided early on that blogging for me was going to be a way to keep my website current. I’ve never tried to build up a following–there are so many other people who do that better than I could.

Q4. I loved the rich detail of Prisoners in the Palace! What was your inspiration for such a unique, historical setting?
A4. I wish I could take credit for the rich detail, but I’m just trying to recreate the past. All the details happened–just as our own lives are filled with smells, tastes and textures. Trying to recreate Kensington Palace was difficult because there wasn’t a lot of information about furnishings. However, the Victorian era is well-documented so the details are out there.

Q5. Any new, exciting writing projects you can share with us?
A5. I just finished revising my copy-edited manuscript called Promise the Night (Chronicle Fall 2011). It’s about Beryl Markham, a famous lady-aviator in the 1930’s. She grew up on an isolated ranch in the highlands above Nairobi. Beryl’s exciting childhood—with natives, lions, sadistic governesses and warthogs, gave her a taste for adventure that she never lost.

Q6. And final question (a writerly one): long-winded first drafter or a skeleton sketcher?
A6. I’m a planner. Even when I’m writing my first chapters, I’m mapping out future scenes, themes to explore, and if I’m lucky, the ending. I admire those people who just write and let their characters decide the story for them… but the idea terrifies me!

Thank you, Michaela! Your answers were just what I needed to hear. To learn more about Michaela, visit her blog or webpage—they are certainly worth your time. In the interim, I won a copy of this book on Caroline Rose’s blog and the publisher (Chronicle Books) sent me an extra copy (along with a few bookmarks). Please leave a comment for Michaela and me, be a follower, and I’ll enter you in to win the book and bookmarks.

Last week’s winner is… Jemi Fraser! Congratulations, Jemi. Go ahead and email me that Canada address of yours and I’ll send you a copy of Tortilla Sun.

Thanks to everyone who stopped by (and contributed!) to my author interview series. I will be back to a regular posting schedule next Friday when I announce the Prisoner winner. (Ha, ha. Love the way that sounds….) Happy weekend everyone! Big hugs from Arizona!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Interview and book win with Jennifer Cervantes

We’re going to finish out March with two more great interviews. Our second to last is the wonderful JENNIFER CERVANTES, debut author of Tortilla Sun. TS is the story of “12 year old Izzy Roybal who is sent to spend the summer in her nana's New Mexico village where she is soon caught up in the foreign world of her own culture, from patron saints and soulful food to the curious and magical blessings Nana gives her tortillas”.


Q1: First off, my burning question to everyone published is at what point in the long road to publication did you actually think you could succeed, that you could make it into print?
A1: That’s a great question and one that is sometimes hard for me to answer since my journey felt so sequential and even serendipitous. But here goes. When I began to write TORTILLA SUN, my only goal was to finish it; I had to see what happened to the characters. And then when I did finish it, I celebrated and felt like I’d accomplished something that felt so big. And anyone who writes an entire ms knows what I’m talking about. It is a true labor love. Then after I finished the manuscript, some crit partners encouraged me to really try to get it published. So I went the long route of finding an agent and when I did, I think that was the point when I thought, Wow, this could really happen.

Q2: Was there ever a point when it was the opposite, where you thought you couldn’t succeed in getting published? Dare to share the story?
A2: I think I was such a neophyte, and so amazingly na├»ve about the publishing world, that I didn’t know to even think about not getting it published. Sometimes I wish I could go back there.

Q3: Now for the hardest question yet: many of my blog readers are moms or are working full-time outside of writing. Can you give us some advice on how you manage to keep up this writing gig and mother kids to boot?
A3: I think all women have to deal with this idea of balance. For me, I succeed on most days and fail on others. There is never enough time in the day to do everything I want to do and to do it well. But, I have learned to be kinder to myself on those days that I don’t quite balance all the components of my life as well as I’d like to. Keeping a schedule and lists really helps. But carving out time for your writing is critical. Sometimes you have to shut the door and post a “keep out” sign.

Q4. How has an online presence helped you become published or promote your book?
A4: For me, I don’t think it helped me get published since I didn’t even have an active presence at the time TS was sold. Now I use my website to connect with readers which is so important to me. Also, visiting with bloggers has been a wonderful way to reach out to potential readers and let them know about TS and my journey as a writer. And I love Twitter and Facebook to stay connected to my writer friends, readers, and the publishing industry as a whole.


Q5. Having been born in a small New Mexico town myself, I’m hungry to see more books about this area. Have any others in the works? If not, care to share any new projects you are working on?
A5: Yeah for a native of the Land of Enchantment! I don’t have any works in progress that are set in NM, but you never know. I just finished an MG manuscript titled MAX OF THIEVES which is about a boy named Max, (who is born to a long line of thieves) the Day of the Dead, a curse, magic, and family. And am now working simultaneously on two projects—one light and fun; the other is creepy and cool.

Q6: And final question (a writerly one): long-winded first drafter or a skeleton sketcher?
A6: In the beginning of a project-skeleton sketcher! And then I can definitely get long-winded.

Thank you so much, Jennifer! Max of Thieves sounds wonderful. I can’t wait to hear more about this one. In the meantime, to learn about Jen and Tortilla Sun, check out her adorable website.

For a chance to win a copy of Tortilla Sun, just leave a comment and be a follower. The chance to win will be open until Thursday, March 24th @ 8 pm MST. The winner will be announced Friday, March 25th, when we’ll have our LAST author interview and giveaway. Then I’ll be back to a regular blogging schedule. :o)

And as for last week’s winner….


The Liar Society goes to: Myrna Foster. Congratulations, Myrna! Please email me your snail mail address and I’ll get the book to you.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Interview and book win with Lisa and Laura Roecker


What a blast of fun I have for you today, my friends! We’re continuing on with the “return to blogging” celebration with a warm welcome to the Roecker sisters, Lisa and Laura, debut authors of the amazing teen book, The Liar Society. Here’s what they have to say to us:

Q1. First off, my burning question to everyone published is at what point in the long road to publication did you actually think you could succeed, that you could make it into print?
A1. After signing with Catherine, we had the opportunity to meet with her in person to review the manuscript. It was a humbling experience. Despite being overwhelmed at first, we dove into edits and worked pretty much around the clock to complete them. After Catherine had a chance to read our revision, she said it was go time. It was this moment that we felt like we could actually do this. We had so much hope for the book and our career. It was a really exciting time.

Q2. Was there ever a point when it was the opposite, where you thought you couldn’t succeed in getting published? Dare to share the story?
A2. Being on submission was also a humbling experience. We had a whole lot of close calls, but as you know, they really don't mean all that much. We were waiting for the real deal! There were definitely moments while on sub when our hope tank was on empty and we wanted to give up. Luckily there are two of us and usually one can pull the other sister out of a funk.

Q3. You two are world-class bloggers! Has blogging helped you in your path to becoming an author? If so, in what ways?
A3. Blogging has helped in countless ways. First of all, it forces us to write every single day and through the blog we've practiced finding a unified voice. And the people! The people! We've met true friends, beta readers and have hopefully helped other aspiring authors with our experiences. We seriously would not be where we are without the blog.

Q4. I love the addition of pink hair to Kate. Can you tell us a) a little inspiration for the book as a whole and b) what transpired the pink hair?
A4. The book was inspired by someone Lisa lost a few years ago. She would email him from time to time and then got to wondering what would happen if he ever wrote back. The Liar Society tells that story. Now...when we originally wrote TLS, Kate did not have pink hair. But, as you know, authors do not have a whole lot of control over the cover process (in fact, we had more input than most!), but when it came down to it, we were told that Kate would have pink hair on the cover. We were pretty much shocked. Once we came to terms with Kate's transformation, we begged to get our hands back on the manuscript to at least have the book accurately reflect the cover. Sourcebooks was nice enough to let us make a few minor changes. So, Kate with pink hair was born. Honestly, we've never looked back.

Q5. Any new, exciting writing projects you can share with us?
A5. We're very excited for the second book in The Liar Society series. Kate is going to be digging much deeper into the Farrow family legacy. We're having lots of fun with it. We also have a couple other series ideas brewing and once we have direction from Catherine, will dive headfirst into one.

Q6. And now for the hardest question yet: many of my readers are moms or are working full-time outside of writing. Can you give us some advice on how you manage to keep up this writing gig and mother kids to boot?
A6. Oh gosh, we are definitely not doing a very good job balancing it all right now. Our biggest challenge is the lack of childcare. Daycare is expensive. Writing is time-consuming. We basically do all of our writing during naptime (if we get it) and into the night. We're not gonna lie. We're pretty cranky and distracted during the day. But we've talked about balancing better, especially over the summer. We have a really hard time saying NO and we want to do everything!

Q7. And a final question (a writerly one): long-winded first drafter or a skeleton sketcher?
A7. Hmm...we fall somewhere in the middle. But we're notorious for adding lots of words during revisions. Our editor wants to kill us.

Thank you so much, ladies! To learn more about Lisa and Laura, The Liar Society, and their books in progress, check out their fun website and blog.

Now for a chance to win an ARC of The Liar SocietySIGNED BTW—just leave a comment and be a follower. A chance to win will be open until Thursday, March 17th @ 8 pm MST. The winner will be announced Friday, March 18th, when we’ll have another author interview and giveaway.

LAST WEEK’S WINNER OF SCONES AND SENSIBILITY BY LINDSAY ELAND IS… Catherine Denton. Congratulations, Catherine! Please email me your snail mail address and I’ll get the book to you.

Have a lovely weekend, everyone!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Interview and book win with Lindsay Eland

Today I have a treat for you all: an interview with Lindsay Eland, author of the middle grade novel, Scones and Sensibility. Take it away, Lindsay!

Q1. First off, my burning question to everyone published is at what point in the long road to publication did you actually think you could succeed, that you could make it into print?
A1. At the time, I had been writing for about four years, focusing mostly on writing picture book manuscripts and dabbling for the first time in a middle grade novel (and obviously I never looked back from that first dabble, though thankfully that manuscript is tucked safely in a drawer!). For my birthday that year my husband gave me a framed piece of paper that he had typed up for me. On it were statistics. Statistics like: "Dr. Seuss's first children's book, "And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street," was rejected by 27 publishers. The 28th publisher, Vanguard Press, sold 6 million copies of the book." It was having this next to me at my desk and reading and rereading and rerereading all the statistics that led me to believe that, "I know for a fact that I WILL get published someday. Why? Because I refuse to give up." And as my editor says, "Publishing is about persistence."

Q2. Was there ever a point when it was the opposite, where you thought you couldn’t succeed in getting published? Dare to share the story?
A2. Umm, that pretty much happened daily until I actually saw the book with my own eyes and held it in my hand--and that was a month before the official release date! I still wrestle with that self-doubt every single day, as I think most authors do, wondering if we'll ever have another book come out into the world.

Q3. You have an amazing blog. I love to lurk around there and glean from your wisdom. Do you feel that blogging has helped you in your path to becoming an author? If so, in what ways?
A3. Thank you so much for "lurking" on my blog! :) Blogging is a ton of fun and though I didn't actually start writing a blog until my agent had already sold Scones and Sensibility, it has been extremely helpful as an author...if for no other reason than to get my thoughts out into the world and express myself creatively. Blogging also curbs my baking habit...you can only have so many dozens of cookies and loaves of pumpkin bread at one time.

Q4. And now for the hardest question yet: many of my readers are moms or are working full-time outside of writing. Can you give us some advice on how you manage to keep up this writing gig and mother kids to boot?
A4. I'm a pretty disciplined person, which pretty much means that I need to keep myself on a schedule or I'll wind up eating bon bons and watching poorly written Soap Opera's all day long :). So, in response to that horrifying image, I keep to a pretty basic writing schedule every day that my kids just accept as being a part of life. They don't question it, they just go off together and play and hopefully not kill themselves in the process. I think that moms need to change how they look at their writing. They are not bad moms for getting away for an hour a day by themselves! Actually, they are: 1. Doing something they love, which rejuvenates the spirit and enables you to LOVE your family better 2. They are pursuing their dreams And 3. They are teaching their kids to do the very same thing--to do something they love and pursue their own dreams! What could be better than that?!

Q5. As a kid, I went through a phase much like Polly’s where I wanted to be and live Anne Shirley’s life. I also had a match-making phase! Do have any thoughts or plans on making a sequel where we can hope to see Polly morph into another phase? If not, anything new in the works you can share?
A5. I have brainstormed a sequel to Scones and Sensibility, though nothing is written yet except a basic outline and a horribly written synopsis. But don't worry, I have not been bon bon eating nor Soap Opera watching! Instead, this past year I have written and completed two other contemporary middle grade novels, and I am currently working on an upper middle grade fairy-tale-esque (YAY for made-up-words!) type of book that has been a LOT of fun to write! (Fun being relative since I have not started revising it yet.)

Q6. Final question (a writerly one): long-winded first drafter or a skeleton sketcher?
A6. Definitely skeleton sketcher...I ALWAYS have to go back and add to my stories, which I am thankful for because it is MUCH harder for me to get rid of things...just look at my closet :)
Thank you so much for having me on your blog!

And thank you, Lindsay! I ADORED your answers. :o) To learn more about Lindsay and her writing, check out her beautiful website and blog.

Now for a chance to win Scones and Sensibility… Just leave a comment and be a follower. A chance to win will be open until Thursday, March 10th @ 8 pm MST. The winner will be announced Friday, March 11th, when we’ll have another author interview and giveaway.

Have a lovely weekend!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I’m Backkkk!!!

Hello, everyone! After over a month’s hiatus, I think I’ve pulled my head back together enough to return to blogging. Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll never get it together enough to satisfy myself, but I just missed you all too much! So I’m back.
Here are a few things I’ve been up to:
~ My little boy’s birthday was Valentine’s Day. He turned four. Between school parties and birthday/V-day celebrations, what a sugar coma that day was.
~ My friends and I have put together half a dozen school kits (see this post) and have three dozen more in the works right now, ready to sew and fill. It feels so good to know I’m getting somewhere with my 127-kit-goal. Thanks to all of you who have contributed to this project.
~ I started writing a new book and am very excited though still too nervous to talk much about it. Soon, I promise. I’m horrible with secrets.
~ I started rereading my critique buddy Susan Field’s wonderful Killing Kessler. How I love her writing. (Yay for Susan!)
~ Edited my Jedda Hitler book enough to get it into my first reader’s hands (aka The Husband). We’ll see what he says then it’s off to a few of you who have asked for it.
~ Organized my exciting return to blogging party—complete with author interviews and book giveaways. (Come back Friday for the first one. Then return for four more Friday interview/giveaways after that. A couple hints about who you might meet… March 1st is…

Happy birthday to Lindsay Eland!
Happy book birthday to Lisa and Laura Roecker!

How was your February? What is new? Did anyone get a book deal or a new agent? Any great new blogfests going on? I need details, people, details! :o)

Happy March Day to all!

Big Hugs,
Jackee