August 1, 2014

Author Interview: Kashmira Sheth

Posted in author, books, interview, reading, school visits, writing at 9:34 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

kashmiraToday I’m welcoming Kashmira Sheth to my series of author interviews. Kashmira is the author of many children’s books. Her picture books include the recent Tiger in My Soup, as well as My Dadima Wears a Sari and Monsoon Afternoon. For middle grade readers, Kashmira has written The No Dogs Allowed Rule, Boys Without Names, and Blue Jasmine. Kashmira also has two young adult novels: Keeping Corner and Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us about your new picture book, Tiger in My Soup?

Kashmira: Tiger in My Soup came out of my desire to capture the relationship between my brother and me. The narrator of the story, a young boy, is very much like my brother. Growing up, he always wanted me to read to him. Once I took that concept and started writing the story, the imagination of the little boy took over and tiger steamed out of his soup. It was a fun process.

Elizabeth: Can you tell me a little about the illustrations?kashmira tiger book

Kashmira: My publisher wanted to pair this story with an illustrator who could bring the story alive. I can’t imagine anyone better than Jeffery Ebbeler to illustrate this story. Here are his comments about illustrating Tiger in My Soup:

Jeffery Ebbeler:

The main focus of Tiger in my Soup is the interaction between the boy and his sister, and the tiger that only the boy can see. I wanted to keep backgrounds pretty minimal so the focus was on the interaction between the characters.

Most of the book takes place in one room (the kitchen/dining room) inside the house. It can be hard sometimes add variety to a book that only has one setting. Since this book had so much action, that wasn’t a problem.

The first few page of the story don’t specifically mention where the characters are, so I thought I would put them outside to establish a setting for where they live. Since I illustrate books for many different authors, I try to approach each new book with a fresh perspective. I want to imagine as much as I can about the specific world that these characters live in.  Anything that might add additional character or uniqueness, including where the story is set, the type of house they live in, the kind of clothes they wear.

I was working on my rough sketches for Tiger in My Soup while I was on vacation with a friend that I have known since grade school. His extended family owns a small one-acre island, far out in a lake in Canada. The islands in the lake are all bare granite rocks dotted with pine trees. Several years back I had helped build the new cabin on the island that sits high up on the rocks. I was sitting on the cabin’s porch looking down at the old, red-roofed cabin that my friend’s great-grandfather had built in the 30’s, and I thought– why not set the book here? The image of the boy chasing his sister up the stairs with his book was taken from that view from the cabin porch. (I posted pictures of the cabin on my web site http://jeffillustration.com/tiger.html) I did embellish the look of the house to give a more mid-century modern style.

I was also inspired by all the seagulls flying around the island. I wanted to add a background character that followed the boy around through the whole story. The seagull is the only character that can see the tiger chasing the boy around, and I liked the interactions between the two of them, especially the scene on the porch where the two of them are trying to read the book together.

Tiger in My Soup is one of the favorite books that I have illustrated. It’s such a clever and unique story and I’m really pleased with how it all came together.

Kashmira: Thank you, Jeffery, for providing such insightful detail about your illustrations.

kashmira dadima bookElizabeth: I also love the illustrations in My Dadima Wears a Sari and Monsoon Afternoon. Were they done by the same person?kashmira monsoon book

Kashmira: The illustrations for My Dadima Wears a Sari and Monsoon Afternoon were both done by Yoshiko Jaeggi. She used watercolor and captured the essence of saris as well as of monsoon perfectly.  She is also illustrating my next picture book which will be available in April 2015.

Elizabeth: What do you find the greatest challenge in writing picture books?

Kashmira: I think revising the text of a picture book is the greatest challenge. When I first put down the story there is a flow to it that I like. When I revise I may take out parts of it, change words or sentences and yet want to make sure the text has a lilt to it. Since pictures books are read aloud and read more than once, it’s important that they have a rhythm.

Elizabeth: You also write for middle-grade readers and young adults. What different ways do you approach each audience?

Kashmira: I write in the first person, so when I create a story I try to become that person and write from his/her point of view. The most important and challenging thing a children’s writer has to do is to dig down, reach back in time, and think about how it felt when she/he was nine, or eleven or sixteen. All my stories depict an Indian protagonist, so even though the situation, locale or culture is unfamiliar to the readers they must be able to connect with the protagonist at a deeper level. I try to communicate a story that has resonance with young readers by providing emotional honesty so they can read the book and say, “yes, I know how that feels.”

kashmira keeping bookElizabeth: As you’ve mentioned, many of your books take place in India. Keeping Corner is the story of a young woman in India during the time of Mohandas Gandhi’s movement for independence. Koyal Dark, Mango Sweet and Boys Without Names take place in modern-day India. Can you tell us about your own childhood in India?

Kashmira: My childhood was happy but disjointed. I lived in Bhavnagar (a city in the Western state of Gujarat) with my grandparents until I was eight, and then moved with my parents to Mumbai. When I was seventeen, I came to this country to attend college. Leaving places has preserved memories very distinctly in my mind. Imagining and dreaming about those places has kept me connected to them and helped me become a writer.

Another theme of my childhood was listening to my grandparents tell stories. Listening to and reading the great epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, as well getting an education in my own native language, Gujarati, have been among the biggest influences of my life.

Elizabeth: What do you want young American readers to learn about India?

Kashmira: I would like young readers to know that India has rich history and tradition that are passed on from one generation to other. Even though the culture is old, it isn’t stagnant; rather, it’s always changing. I just read an article in The Wall Street Journal about how the stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata are now being depicted with gods and angels who have an updated muscular and strong look. This is just one example of how India has always been able to reinvent itself. It does have its share of problems, including poverty and corruption, but it is also the largest democracy and is a dynamic, multicultural, multiethnic, and vibrant country.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us about some of your school visits?

kashmira boys bookKashmira: In March 2014 I went to Mattoon, Illinois, for their Read Across Mattoon book. Every year 50 students from Mattoon read the twenty books selected from the Rebecca Caudill Young Readers Book Award. After much lively discussion, they select one book as the winner. Last year they chose Boys Without Names. They order 1,000 copies to use in their schools and to distribute in the community. They keep the book choice a top secret until their holiday assembly when the principal presents the winner and challenges the students and staff to read the book.  Starting in January the Student Reading Committee gives copies of the book to various service organizations.

kashmira frameWhat amazed me was the dedication and passion these young students had for the books and how much work went in to making the entire community aware of the book. Not only I was fortunate to visit the school and give several programs, including an evening one for the entire community, but I also had the opportunity to have lunch with the Student Reading Committee. There were so many things they had created to celebrate the book, including posters, artwork, maps, a mannequin wrapped in a sari, and a wooden frame with beads, just like the one Gopal (the protagonists from Boys Without Names) and the other boys had to make. They gave me the wooden frame as a gift. I have it on my desk and whenever I look at it inspires me. As an author, whenever I do a school visit I am amazed and humbled by young readers, their teachers, parents and community.

In early 2015 I will be traveling to Lacey, Washington for their program called “Lacey Loves to Read.” It is a one-city, one-author program, and I am excited about my visit.

Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Q: Pizza or salad?

A: Salad most of the time. Pizza when I am super hungry

Q: Ocean or mountain?

A: Ocean

Q: Tree house or doll house?

A: Tree house

Q: Violin or piano?

A: Piano

Q: Comic story or learn-something story?

A: Learn-something story that has humor in it

Q: Laura Ingalls Wilder or Hermione Granger?

A: First, Laura Ingalls Wilder, because she came in my life first.

Elizabeth: Kashmira, it has been a pleasure learning about you and your books.

Kashmira: Thank you for inviting me to do the author interview and for asking thoughtful questions. I enjoyed answering them.

Elizabeth: For more information about Kashmira Sheth and her books, visit her website:

http://www.kashmirasheth.com and the bookstores hosting her works:

Indiebound:

http://www.indiebound.org/hybrid?filter0=kashmira+sheth&x=0&y=0

Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=kashmira+sheth

Barnes and Noble

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/c/kashmira-sheth

Thanks!

June 1, 2014

Author Interview: Gayle Rosengren

Posted in author, books, interview, reading at 1:06 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

 

gayleToday I’m welcoming Gayle Rosengren to my series of author interviews. Gayle is the author of the middle-grade historical novel What the Moon Said.

Q: Can you tell us a little about What the Moon Said ?

gayle coverGayle: I’d love to! It’s a novel inspired by some events in my mother’s childhood. The story takes place during the early days of the Great Depression and follows ten-year-old Esther’s experiences when her father loses his job and moves the family from an apartment in Chicago to a ramshackle farm in southern Wisconsin. In addition to the challenges of adapting from city life to country life (especially life without electricity or indoor plumbing!) Esther struggles to elicit some expression of love from her undemonstrative and very superstitious mother. Ma emigrated from Russia as a young woman and brought superstitions with her the way many other newcomers brought seeds, and she planted and nurtured them just as carefully as they did, but in her family. As life becomes more difficult on the farm, she clings to them ever tighter and forces Esther to make difficult decisions about her own beliefs.

Q: How long did it take from story idea until the book was published ?

Gayle: Oh dear, this will surely horrify and scare off struggling writers, but in my case it was a ridiculously long fifteen years. However, this is an excellent example of how important timing is in the publishing business. I wrote this story in 1998. Three different well-known editors loved it and wanted to acquire it, but for various reasons their acquisitions committees wouldn’t approve it so they had to pass. I gave up on the manuscript and tucked it away, never dreaming that it would have a second chance years later. But when I was going to an annual weekend retreat three years ago something made me think of it and I decided to submit it. To my shock and delight the editor who saw it fell in love with the character of Esther and her story. She worked with me on some tweaks to heighten the tension, and a year later I had a contract and not quite two years after that I was published. The writers I know all agree that it takes more than a good manuscript to be published. One must get the right manuscript to the right editor at the right time–and all the stars must be in the right alignment!

Q: Do you have any books in the works?

Gayle: I have another middle grade book coming out from Putnam/Penguin Young Readers in the summer of 2015. It’s called Cold War on Maplewood Street. It’s more recent historical fiction set in Chicago in 1962.

Q: Why do you write for middle grade readers rather than YA or adults?

Gayle: Most of the books I read when I was their age are with me still. They opened my eyes to different worlds and my heart to different people. They played a large part in shaping the person I would become. Their impact was immeasurable and lasting. I hope to make the same difference in my readers’ lives as the writers I loved so much made in mine.

Q: How are you able to get into the mind of a child?

Gayle: I have a lot of very vivid memories from the different stages of my own childhood, and I raised three children separated by eleven years, so I had a lot of time to observe two girls and one boy up close and personal; also, I worked as a youth services librarian for several years, which was yet another source of experience; and, oh yes, I was a Girl Scout leader. That totals a lot of my life being in touch with my inner and outer child.

Q: What is your writing process?

Gayle: When I get an idea, I mull it over for a while, then I make a really rough outline of how it would flow–just a few words or a sentence about what I envision might happen in each chapter. These ideas often change if I think of something better while writing, but they are my first vision of the story and like sign posts on a road, keep me from losing my focus and direction. If I think there’s enough substance to the idea, I write the first chapter. This is the true test of whether I’ll go forward with the idea or not. I’m very picky about first chapters. To me, they’re like the foundation of a house and must support everything else that will be built on it. I may rewrite a first chapter dozens of times, in different voices and tenses, and starting at slightly different points in order to get everything basic to the story into the chapter and have a good cliff-hanger ending in less than ten pages so it will keep readers reading. If I remain excited–or even better, get even more excited about the story–it’s a keeper. Then my process is to sit down every morning with my first cup of coffee and write until I know it’s time to stop because I’m tired both in body and brain. I keep at it the next day and the next until the first draft is finished–generally this takes about a month. I read it through and self-edit to the best of my ability, and then share it with my critique partners who will see it through far more objective eyes, since at this point I’m so close to the story it’s difficult to see the missteps. A few weeks later when I have their invaluable feedback as well as a little bit of distance from the story, I go back and edit again in light of their suggestions. Then I go through it again line-editing for the tiniest of changes to make it just as strong and beautiful as I can before I send it out into the world to see if it will fly.

Q: Enough of your books—tell us about yourself.

gayle dog

Fiona

Gayle: Like my main character Esther I love books, dogs and horses. I lived the first 40 years of my life in or near Chicago, and (again like Esther) then moved to Wisconsin due to my husband’s job transfer. I have lived in Wisconsin long enough now that I feel I can honestly claim to be both an Illinois and a Wisconsin author. I love doing school visits. The kids are so interested in hearing about my writing journey and so full of really great questions, the allotted time always goes too quickly. I love to travel. And I have a Bichon Frise rescue dog named Fiona who always tries to come between my husband and me when we hug.

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Q: Pizza or salad?

Gayle: Pizza.

Q: Ocean or mountain?

Gayle: Ocean. There is nothing more relaxing than listening to the surf coming in…

Q: Tree house or doll house?

Gayle: Tree house.

Q: Violin or piano?

Gayle: Violin to listen to; piano to play.

Q: Comic story or learn-something story?

Gayle: Learn-something story, but a little humor along the way never hurts.

Q: Laura Ingalls Wilder or Hermione Granger?

Gayle: Laura Ingalls Wilder. I’m all about realistic fiction.

To learn more about Gayle Rosengren and to win a copy of her new novel, What the Moon Said, visit her website: http://www.gaylerosengren.com

Her website includes a page of discussion questions for book groups and teachers.

Thanks to Gayle for visiting with me today.
 

May 5, 2014

Meet My Main Character

Posted in author, blog hop, books, reading, writing at 10:04 am by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

I’m playing along in the most recent blog tag game. This one has me sharing my main character with you. I was tagged by historical novelist Kim Rendfeld, author of The Cross and the Dragon and the forthcoming The Ashes of Heaven’s Pillar.

What is the name of your character? Is he/she fictional or a historic person?
My main character is Snow White. Both fictional and historic!

When and where is the story set?
Snow White and the Queen takes place in a standard fairy-tale world, with dwarfs, elves, wisps and an evil Queen.

What should we know about him/her?
My Snow White is a more well-developed character than the one you know from the original fairy tale. She is left with the dwarfs as a baby, and as she grows she wonders why she was left there. Who is she? Where did she come from? When she leaves the dwarf kingdom, she is searching for her identity.

What is the main conflict? What messes up his/her life?
We, the reader, know that the Queen wants Snow White dead, and Snow White eventually learns this too.

What is the personal goal of the character?
At first, Snow White wants to learn who she is and why she was left with the dwarfs. When she learns that the Queen is her enemy, she decides that she will defeat the Queen.

Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?
My working title is Snow White and the Queen. I have talked about this story in another blog hop and as part of my 2013 NaNoWriMo project.

When can we expect the book to be published?
Snow White and the Queen is being submitted to agents at the moment. A publication date will hopefully be forthcoming.

Now it is my turn to tag some author friends:

Sandy Brehl, author of Odin’s Promise

Stephanie Golightly Lowden, author of Jingo Fever

and historical novelist Rebecca Henderson Palmer .

You can visit these authors’ websites next week to learn about their main characters.

May 1, 2014

Author Interview: Eileen Meyer

Posted in author, books, interview, poetry, reading, school visits, writing at 3:25 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

eileen

Today I’m welcoming Eileen Meyer to my series of author interviews. Eileen is the author of the recently released picture book Ballpark, for ages 4 to 8.

Q: Can you tell us about your new book?

eileen ballpark coverA: Thank you for inviting me to take part in your author interviews, Elizabeth. I’m thrilled to see this sweet story become a picture book. Written in rhyme, Ballpark brings to life all the sights and sounds of the big game. A boy and his grandpa are heading to their first big league baseball game together. They’ll cheer on their team, keep an eye out for fly balls, eat some peanuts, and hopefully watch their team win the game! Illustrator Carlynn Whitt’s adorable characters showcase all the fun and action of a day at the ballpark. The book celebrates the simple joy of spending a day together.

Q: How long did it take from story idea until the book was published?

A: This manuscript had a lengthy journey to become a published picture book. In its original form, it was a story about the two main characters and also focused on our five senses, incorporating the experience at the ballpark in what we see, hear, taste, touch and smell. After writing it, in 2008 I had submitted the story to a number of publishing houses with no success.

Then I attended the Illinois Prairie Writer’s Day Conference in November, 2010. There I heard a Marshall Cavendish editor express an interest in receiving sports-related picture book submissions – so I made a note to send the editor my manuscript, Ballpark.

Fast forward to Fall 2011. I received an email from the editor. The editorial team had reviewed my manuscript and they were interested in Ballpark, but the story would need some revisions. The editor wanted to play up the experience between the grandfather and grandson and eliminate the sensory focus. I was excited to revise the manuscript with that in mind. In fact, it was a nice challenge. It certainly helped that the fall baseball playoffs were underway and I sensed baseball fever all around.

The editor accepted my revised manuscript and offered me a contract in late 2011 for a spot on their spring 2014 list. Then, the publishing house experienced some corporate changes – Marshall Cavendish merged with Amazon Children’s Publishing, and some of the final paperwork took a bit longer. All told – I wrote the original manuscript in 2008 and six years later, I’m delighted to hold this colorful and beautiful picture book in my hands!

Q: Your book Sweet Dreams, Wild Animals will be coming out in spring of 2015. Can you tell us a little about this book?

A: I’m very excited about this new picture book; this bedtime story presents the varied sleep habits of 14 different animals. Each animal’s sleep habit is introduced with a short poem, followed by a brief factual paragraph, and all are linked with the story thread of a child settling in for the night and wishing “sweet dreams” to each animal.

Q: Your poetry was included in the poetry collection And the Crowd Goes Wild. What do you find the most fun and the most difficult about writing poetry for children?

A: I love writing poetry. I think the challenge of writing poetry (for me, at least) is the mental work I do before I sit down to write. I like to think about what I’m trying to achieve with the piece and find my way “in” – will the poem be humorous, should there be a punch line or a twist at the end, or is it lyrical in style, more informative, etc. Once I have an idea of where I would like to go with the poem, I like the creative challenge of achieving that goal and creating my best work.

Cathy Cronin, Michelle Schaub, Heidi Roemer, Pat Cooley and Eileen Meyer

Cathy Cronin, Michelle Schaub, Heidi Roemer, Pat Cooley and Eileen Meyer

One very rewarding aspect of my inclusion in the anthology And the Crowd Goes Wild has been the opportunity to continue to work with a number of Illinois poets. A few of us have created a wonderful sports poetry elementary school program and we’ve taken our show on the road to a number of schools this past year. Heidi Roemer, co-editor of the book, helped organize all of us and our team includes Michelle Schaub, Pat Cooley, Cathy Cronin, Patty Toht, and me. We’ve had loads of fun working with K-5th graders, presenting both auditorium programs and grade-level break-out sessions. We all wear our favorite sports jerseys, act out a number of skits for the students, and talk about one of our favorite topics – poetry!

Q: What is your writing process?

A: To boil it down to the most basic steps: I like to think about my project for quite a while and brainstorm ideas, then of course I write an awful first draft, revise – revise – revise, then polish the final draft. If it’s a nonfiction piece, of course there is a heavy research component in the early stages, and that is something I truly enjoy.

Q: To write for children, do you think an author needs to have regular interaction with children? How does that work for you?

eileen schoolA: Yes – our young readers are such a key component to everything we do as we write books for their listening and reading enjoyment. My sons are in high school and college, so they’ve graduated well beyond the scope of what I write for young readers and listeners. I make a point of spending a lot of time with young children during my school and library programs. I enjoy the time together and young kids always make me laugh with their great comments! Most of all, I think you have to be young at heart. I love writing days when I can channel what a 6-year-old wants to read in one of my books. It’s a great day to spend time thinking like a 6-year-old!

Q: Enough about writing—tell us about yourself.

A: Thanks, Elizabeth. On the personal side, I’m a mom who is working herself out of a job, which is what we’re supposed to do! I have three sons – one is a sophomore in college, and I have twin sons who are seniors in high school about to graduate. We’re a big sports family –I’ve watched my sons play soccer since they were very young so I really enjoy going to their games. Next year I plan to travel quite a bit to watch their games at their various colleges. When I’m home, I enjoy spending time with my husband and sons. I walk outdoors each morning to start my day and it’s also a good time to do some thinking about projects; I’m also a devoted reader of books and newspapers, and I enjoy traveling, cooking and watching sports. I came to writing children’s books later in life; in college I studied business and then worked for a dozen years with software products and marketing programs. It’s been a rewarding journey.

Q: Do you have any advice for aspiring children’s writers?

A: Of course, join SCBWI- The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. And get involved in your state chapter – attend programs, serve as a volunteer, join a critique group and get to know the community of writers in your state. Not only will you learn a great deal, but you’ll also enjoy getting to know other writers and make close friends. Writing can be a lonely business, so it’s wonderful to connect with other kindred spirits! I’m very close to a number of friends in my writing groups (two groups – one for all genres, one specifically for poetry) and they are very important to me.

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Q: Pizza or salad?

A: I love salads, but can’t resist cheese pizza! So both.

Q: Ocean or mountain?

A: I love hearing the sound of the ocean. It’s always a thrill to vacation near the water

Q: Tree house or doll house?

A: Tree house – I’m a mom of all boys.

Q: Violin or piano?

A: Piano.

Q: Comic story or learn-something story?

A: Learn-something story. I love to research interesting topics and weave the information into my books.

Q: Laura Ingalls Wilder or Hermione Granger?

A: Can’t decide – a tie. I read both series aloud to my kids when they were young, and they enjoyed both immensely.

For more information about Eileen, visit her website: www.eileenmeyerbooks.com

To purchase Ballpark, visit: http://goo.gl/WAkVzG

You can also like her on Facebook: Eileen Meyer, Children’s Author

 

March 10, 2014

Writing Process: A Blog Hop

Posted in author, blog hop, books, interview, NaNoWriMo, reading, writing at 2:47 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Tinney Heath, author of A Thing Done, invited me to participate in this blog hop and answer four questions about my writing process.

What are you working on?  Presently, I have two projects going:

Snow White and the Queen is a middle-grade fantasy novel, offering a new twist on the traditional fairy tale. Hidden from the Queen and raised in the dwarf kingdom, Snow White leaves the kind but memory-challenged dwarfs to discover her identity.  Mischievous elves, a devoted will-o-wisp and a loggerheaded huntsman all help Snow White become what she was always destined to be.  I finished the first draft of this story in January. I’m on my third or fourth revision. I hope to be sending it out soon.

The Stepsister is a steam-punk Cinderella story narrated by Drusilla, who is so obsessed with science and her father’s death that she is oblivious to the daily doings of the rest of her family. It’s the Cinderella story, told from a new perspective, with surprising plot twists that come, in part, from the steampunk world.  I’m about half-way through the first draft.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

My fairy tales offer more in the way of character development than that found in traditional fairy tales.  When I read, I am most interested in character, and when I write it is the same.  I focus on the development of personality, which then makes the behaviors of characters both understandable and believable.  Although I follow the basic fairy tale plot, both of my stories include additional conflicts and subplots which, I hope, give the stories more depth and make them more interesting.

Why do you write what you do?

I write what I would like to read.  I love adaptations of fairy tales, so I wanted to try my own hand at that.  My favorite of these so far is Marissa Meyer‘s The Lunar Chronicles, which I recommend to everyone.  I love historical fiction too, and my first three novels are all in that genre.

How does your writing process work?

I write linearly.  First chapter, second chapter, on and on to the end.  In my head, I know the big scenes and what will happen at the end, and I write to those places.  I have both electronic files and paper notes in which I keep my tentative outline, research details, and other things that I don’t want to forget.

I work best when I have a block of two or three hours to write.  Unfortunately, as a teacher and a mother, I don’t get those blocks of time every day.  My goal is one afternoon or one morning a week.  Each semester, that is a different day, and I try to schedule and stick to that block of time. No cleaning, no errands, no appointments.  Three hours, once a week is for writing.  The rest of the week, of course, I think about the story I’m creating. Walking to work, I think.  Lying in bed, I think.  In the shower, in the pool, in the car driving my children to all their activities, I think.  When my writing time comes, I’m ready to go.

In between those blocks of time, I sometimes do revisions and small additions to what I’ve already written.  These quick-edits can be done in a shorter time period and they keep my story pretty clean.

In my once-a-week writing session, I average about 1000 words.  This isn’t much, but it adds up over time.  My adult novels each took about three years to write. My children’s stories have taken less time.

In November, I participate in NaNoWriMo, which increases my word count considerably.  I devote more evening and weekend time to writing, and spend less time cleaning, cooking, and being with my family.  Since it is only one month a year, I don’t feel as guilty.

The Blog Hop

tinneyMany thanks to Tinney Heath for tagging me. Tinney’s A Thing Done, tells the story of the  jester who became a pawn in the feud between two noble families in thirteenth century Florence. Her story is suspenseful, beautifully written, with exquisite historical detail.

I now tag Anna Belfrage and Christopher Cevasco, whose writing processes I look forward to reading about.

anna belfrageOn March 17, visit Anna Belfrage:
Had Anna been allowed to choose, she’d have become a professional time-traveller. As such a profession does as yet not exists, she settled for second best and became a financial professional with two absorbing and time-consuming interests, namely British History and writing. These days, Anna spends almost as much time writing and researching as she does working, which leaves little time for other important pursuits such as cooking and baking.
Anna Belfrage is the author of The Graham Saga – so far five of the total eight books have been published. Set in seventeenth century Scotland and Virginia/Maryland, The Graham Saga tell the story of Matthew and Alex, two people who should never have met – not when she was born three hundred years after him.
Other than on her website, www.annabelfrage.com, Anna can mostly be found on her blog, http://annabelfrage.wordpress.com – unless, of course, she is submerged in writing her next novel.

chris cevascoOn March 31, visit Christopher Cevasco:
Christopher writes fiction inspired by history. His short stories have appeared in Black Static and the Prime Books anthologies Shades of Blue and Gray: Ghosts of the Civil War and Zombies: Shambling through the Ages, among numerous other magazines and anthologies. From 2003 to 2009, he was also the editor/publisher of the award-winning Paradox: the Magazine of Historical and Speculative Fiction.  He is seeking representation for a recently completed historical thriller about Lady Godiva and is currently working on a novel of English resistance and rebellion in the years immediately following the Norman Conquest.

Learn more about Christopher at his website: http://www.christophermcevasco.com/blog/

March 2, 2014

Author Interview: Wayne Croning

Posted in author, books, interview, travel, writing at 3:19 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

croning
Today I’m welcoming Wayne Croning to my series of author interviews. Wayne is the author of Karachi Backwaters: my love affair with boats and other adventures, the true story of a boy growing up in Pakistan in the second half of the twentieth century.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Wayne.

Wayne: Thanks, Elizabeth. Honoured to be here.

croning bookElizabeth: Karachi Backwater is the nonfiction account of your own life, part memoir, part coming-of-age story, part travelogue. Can you give us a short summary of your story?

Wayne: You summarized it well. It is a coming of age story; of childhood adventure, friendships and a love for boats and boat building. It is a story about growing up in the 70’s , of a simpler time, when kids had to be more inventive to keep themselves entertained. It is a glimpse into what life was like in the golden years of Karachi. A simple time, an innocent age.

Elizabeth: You are now a resident of Canada. How did that move come about?

Wayne: I moved to Canada in the summer of 1992. Most of my family already lived in Canada. I wanted to hopefully start a new and better life here. The typical immigrant’s dream.

Elizabeth: How long have you been writing?

Wayne: I have been writing on and off for about seven years and have written several short (unpublished) stories.

Elizabeth: What made you write this book?

Wayne:  My two children Marjorie and Aaron will never know what life was like in that age and that city. I wanted to preserve those memories especially for them, which is the main reason for writing this book. Also the book is dedicated to my (late) best friend David who shared in most of the adventures.

Elizabeth: Although the story is about your own life, did it require research to get the geography and time line correct?

Wayne: Memory, memory, memory. As I wrote, the memories came flooding back. Music and old photographs helped in the process. Geography and time line are all imprinted in my brain. It was all too important to get this down on paper, before I too start to lose my memory.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process or schedule?

Wayne: I wish I had a fixed schedule. Unfortunately, I work full time, rotating shifts, and it is very hard to set down a regular time to write. I try and write on my days off and luckily have a week off every month, so this helps. I like to look at old family photographs and somehow carve a story out of them.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us what you are working on now?

Wayne: I am currently writing several short stories; one is a collection of ghost stories passed down from my grandpa; another is a true story of a Jewish girl who escaped a death camp in Europe and somehow escaped with another couple and ended up in Karachi during the Second World War; yet another, is my account of a family trip to India about seven years ago.

Elizabeth We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Wayne: Tea for sure.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Wayne: Ocean. I love the ocean.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Wayne: Hiking

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Wayne: Piano. Even though I play neither.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Wayne: Mystery.

Elizabeth: Hester Prynne or Scarlet O’Hara?

Wayne: Scarlet O`Hara.

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Wayne: Can I say yes to both? Okay, Love scene.

Karachi Backwaters can be bought on Wayne’s personal website, http://www.karachibackwaters.com/

or through McNallyRobinson Booksellers in Winnipeg

or at Alibris.com

Thanks to Wayne for joining me today.

February 1, 2014

Author Interview: Marci Jefferson

Posted in author, books, interview, reading, writing at 5:37 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

marciToday I’m welcoming Marci Jefferson to my series of author interviews. Marci is the author of Girl on the Golden Coin, a novel of Frances Stuart, which will be released February 11th. I met Marci at the Historical Novels Society Conference I went to in June, and I’m pleased to have her join me here today.

Elizabeth: Welcome, Marci.

Marci: Elizabeth, it was wonderful to finally meet you in person in June and I’m delighted to be your guest today! Thank you for having me, and for helping me get the word out there about my debut novel.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us a little about Frances Stuart and your novel, The Girl on the Golden Coin?

marci bookMarci: Impoverished and exiled to the French countryside after the overthrow of the English Crown, Frances Stuart survives merely by her blood-relation to the Stuart Royals. But in 1660, the Restoration of Stuart Monarchy in England returns her family to favor. Frances discards threadbare gowns and springs to gilded Fontainebleau Palace, where she soon catches King Louis XIV’s eye. But Frances is no ordinary court beauty, she has Stuart secrets to keep and people to protect. The king turns vengeful when she rejects his offer to become his Official Mistress. He banishes her to England with orders to seduce King Charles II and stop a war. Armed in pearls and silk, Frances maneuvers through the political turbulence of Whitehall Palace, but still can’t afford to stir a scandal. Her tactic to inspire King Charles to greatness captivates him. He believes her love can make him an honest man and even chooses Frances to pose as Britannia for England’s coins. Frances survives the Great Fire, the Great Plague, and the debauchery of the Restoration Court, yet loses her heart to the very king she must control. Until she is forced to choose between love or war.

Elizabeth: What first attracted you to Frances as a main character?

Marci: I first learned about the Royal Stuarts during a stay in London over a decade ago. Someone happened to point out the Banqueting House, stating that’s where Charles I was beheaded. Since, up to that point, I thought kings ordered all the beheadings, I felt compelled to study the Royal Stuarts independently, to understand their fascinating rule. Frances Stuart initially stood out as a woman who embraced her personal liberty in defiance of kings. A few years later I read The Other Boleyn Girl and became obsessed with the desire to do for the Stuarts what Phillippa Gregory had done for the Tudors. I picked up my independent studies again and soon realized Frances Stuart’s independent streak matched the collective spirit of the Restoration age. Since she also happened to be the model for Britannia, I realized there was no better subject for a novel of Restoration England.

Elizabeth: It seems I read somewhere that Frances Stuart was a bit of an airhead.

Marci: I’m certain you did read that! But reading her letters you realize that just wasn’t true. At first I saw her as many historians saw her, as a simple girl who eloped to avoid sleeping with King Charles II. When I read what the French ambassadors and poets and diarists thought of her, I realized she was a very complex person. As I studied the historical events and the kings she interacted with, I realized how close she was and how involved she might have been. By the time I finished the book and realized the sacrifice she made might have saved England from disaster, I had developed a deep respect for Frances Stuart. She was very intelligent, but I believe it suited her purpose to let people underestimate her.

Elizabeth: You did a great deal of research to write this story. Were there certain areas in which you allowed your imagination and creativity to run free?

Marci: Yes, Elizabeth, sometimes I let that research take over my life! But I’m glad you ask about imagination. Believe it or not, I had to push my imagination into overdrive for each and every scene. For each historical fact I learned, I uncovered a new set of questions. It is one thing to know what happened, but another to decide how it made a character feel, and yet another to make the reader feel it through the right choice of words. I couldn’t let Frances Stuart walk down a hall without knowing if her footsteps would echo or fall softly into carpet, whether she was nervous or bored, how the walls looked and even what it smelled like. You can’t glean that sensory or internal detail from floor plans or historical records. Even after years of research, this is ultimately a work of fiction, and therefore a heavy dose of my own imagination.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process or schedule?

Marci: I work part time as a Registered Nurse, so most of my writing is done on my days off. This is much easier now that both of my kids are in school. Other than that I squeeze it in whenever I have a chance. Thankfully my husband and children have been very patient with me.

Elizabeth: Can you tell us what you are working on now?

Marci: A novel about Marie Mancini, who was Louis XIV’s first love. It will be royally wicked!

Elizabeth: Sounds intriguing. Enough about your writing—tell us about yourself.

Marci: Years after graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University, immersing myself in a Quality Assurance nursing career, and then having children, I realized I’d neglected my passion for history and writing. I began traveling, writing along the way, delving into various bits of history that caught my fancy. The plot for Girl on the Golden Coin evolved slowly after a trip to London, where I first learned about the Stuart royals. I am member of the Historical Novel Society. I reside in the Midwest with my husband, making hair-bows for our daughter, trying not to step on our son’s Legos, and teaching a tiny Pacific Parrotlet to talk.

Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Marci: Tea all the way and every day!

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Marci: Ocean

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Marci: Shopping

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Marci: Violin

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Marci: Fantasy

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Marci: Darcy

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Marci: Death is easier to write, but love is easier to read.

Thank you, Marci, for visiting.

You can learn more about Marci Jefferson and her book, Girl on the Golden Coin, at  www.marcijefferson.com or follow her on Twitter: @marcijefferson

Girl on the Golden Coin is available at:

Barnes & Noble

Books a Million

IndieBoundAmazon

January 1, 2014

Best Books of 2013

Posted in author, books, reading, writing at 12:58 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

2013 was an excellent year of reading for me, one of the best in recent memory. I read 111 books last year, finally surpassing 100, my goal since I started keeping track of my books each year.

Normally, I list my favorite books in the order that I read them, but last year was a year in which I discovered some new  (to me) authors, so I’m going to start with these wonderful writers.

First, I discovered Susanna Kearsley, writer of time-slip historical love stories. Her books are beautifully written with wonderful characters, in interesting historical time periods, and clever ways of getting modern-day heroines to discover or re-live past events. The books I read by Susanna Kearsley this year were The Rose Garden, The Winter Sea, Shadowy Horses, The Firebird, and Mariana. Mariana is probably my favorite although it is a close call with The Winter Sea, which you need to read before The Firebird which is perhaps in third place. Or maybe it’s a three-way tie. Wonderful, wonderful books that leave you floating on a cloud of contentment. The emotion I felt at the end of Mariana was so powerful I actually burst into tears, I was so overwhelmed. She’s still alive and writing, and I’ll be reading everything she publishes.

Next, I discovered Georgette Heyer, a writer who published in the 1930s-1960s. Her books are Regency “romances” and I use that term to show that the love story is central plot but neither Kearsley nor Heyer have detailed sex scenes and they are not “sleazy” romances. Heyer’s books are hysterically funny, and nearly always involve getting the heroine and her love interest into a tangle that seems impossible to unwind. The situations are clever and funny – they remind me of Shakespeare comedies or 18th century French drama. I read everything our public library had by Heyer and got some for my Nook as well: These are her books I read in 2013: April Lady, Sprig Muslin, The Nonesuch, Arabella, Bath Tangle, Black Sheep, The Corinthian, A Civil Contract, Cotillion, Frederica, Friday’s Child, The Grand Sophy, The Reluctant Widow, Sylvester, The Unknown Ajax, The Black Moth, and Envious Casca. I read them so fast, one after another, that I can’t remember which is which. I most likely will re-read some of them. What a pleasant thought!

Marissa Meyer is the other author I discovered this year. She doesn’t have a lot of books under her belt (she’s younger than me by quite a bit), but what she’s written so far is spectacular. She is the author of the Lunar Chronicles. The first book in the series is Cinder, a science-fiction re-telling of the Cinderella story. The second book is Scarlet, which continues the Cinderella story while adding elements of the Little Red Riding Hood story. These books are aimed at the female young adult market, but if you don’t read them because of that, you are missing out. My boys and husband enjoyed them. Fast-paced, funny, and really, really clever. The third book of the Lunar Chronicles comes out in February. Cress adds a Rapunzel-like character to the story. The final book of the series is Winter and won’t be released until 2015. When she’s finished with the Lunar Chronicles, I’ve read that Meyer is under contract to write the story of the Red Queen from Alice in Wonderland. She’s an incredibly talented writer. I can’t wait to follow her career.

As this blog has started to go long, I’m attempting one-sentence summaries for the rest of the books.

Other Young Adult titles that made my list:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Can a book about teens dying of cancer be funny and uplifting? Yes, it can.

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by by Mary E. Pearson

In the near future, a dying teen is given new life, illegally, by her parents who save ten percent of her original brain and put it into a fabricated, superior body. Deep philosophical questions about self and morality handled in an exciting story.

Children’s books. Don’t overlook a book because it is intended for children. Some of the best books I read each year are marketed to children but are worthy of an adult audience.

Splendors and Gloom by Laura Amy Schlitz

Historical fantasy set in 19th century London pitting orphans and a rich girl against a sorcerer puppeteer and an enchantress. Exciting and clever. A Newbery Honor book.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

Ivan is a captive gorilla who gives a death-bed promise to save a baby elephant. This book is so beautiful that I am almost in tears remembering it. The first-person voice of Ivan is brilliantly constructed. 2013 Newbery Award winner.

Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo

What happens when a squirrel survives being vacuumed? It gets superpowers, of course. DiCamillo wins again with quirky characters and creative storytelling, incorporating protagonist Flora’s favorite comic book format into parts of the action.

Hold Fast by Blue Balliett

When her father goes missing and robbers destroy their home, a young girl tries to solve the mystery from the homeless shelter where they now live. Mix in clever clues and the poetry of Langston Hughes, and you’ve got a book that is gripping, smart, and eye-opening.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson

I re-read this twice a year with the my children’s literature class and it gets better with every reading. If you’ve never read it, you should. The 19th century language takes a little getting used to, but the story is a classic for a reason. Long John Silver is a brilliantly created character and if the plot twists are easy to follow it’s only because they’ve been copied by other writers for the past 150 years.

Adult novels:

A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

This book was criticized by many, but I found the writing incredible. Rowling’s characters are brilliantly drawn and there are so many of them! The story itself is hard to read because of the painfully honest way she portrays everyday personal conflict. It isn’t Harry Potter, but it wasn’t supposed to be. Taken on its own terms, it is very nearly perfect.

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

In the late 19th century, three sisters try to survive on the meager wages they earn in the ballet school of the Paris Opera. Each of them has different dreams and designs for achieving them. Their characters are well drawn and intriguing. Dance, pain and poverty, love and sex, and finally, a murder, make this a gripping read.

Longbourn by Jo Baker

This is the story of the servants who work for the Bennet family of Pride and Prejudice. Austen’s story is but a shadow against this new novel, mirroring, only slightly, the events taking place among the servants. The story could have been dark and bitter, profiling as it does the difficult lives of the lower class, but Baker makes clear that love and hope exist for everyone.

The Round House by Louise Erdrich

This story is narrated by the 13-year-old son of a Native American who is brutally raped not far from home. His parents disappear as parents and the boy seeks to understand the crime, discover the criminal, and revenge his mother. Erdrich so perfectly captures the mind and actions of a teenage boy. Painful, gripping, exquisitely written.

Steady Running of the Hour by Justin Go

As I was reading, I thought it was one of the best books of the year. It is a dual time period piece following a modern-day character who must discover if he is a descendant of a certain woman in order to inherit a fortune—but he must discover this in a certain time period. The other story follows the beautiful but doomed love story of the woman who might be his great-grandmother. Fast-paced story, intriguing characters, absolutely horrible ending. Or is it? I wanted so much to talk to someone about the ending, but nobody I know has read this book.  So, read this fascinating story and let me know what YOU think of the ending.

Adult Nonfiction

Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet

This isn’t the most well-written book, but I found it utterly fascinating. In his auto-biography, Daniel Tammet, an autistic-savant and a synesthete who recited 22,514 digits of pi and who was able to learn the Icelandic language in a week, writes about his life, his abilities and his disabilities.

Well, my summaries lengthened as I wrote, but I guess that’s OK. I hope I’m given you some titles for your TBR pile. Let me know what you think.

Wishing you a happy New Year and a 2014 full of good reading!

December 7, 2013

Book Release and Interview: A.M. Bostwick

Posted in author, books, interview, reading, writing at 12:00 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

abigail bostwickYou are invited to the book release party of The Great Cat Nap by A.M. Bostwick and published by Cornerstone Press. This event is  Thursday, Dec. 12, at 6:30pm at the CPS Cafe on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point.

I’m going to be there, and I hope you will too. Come, bring a friend, buy a book, listen to the author talk, eat some cookies—it’ll be a lot of fun. I’m lucky to have the author with me on today’s blog. The A in A.M. Bostwick stands for Abigail. Welcome, Abigail!

Abigail: Thank you for having me, Elizabeth!

Elizabeth: Tell us about your book.

abigail bostwick coverAbigail: The Great Cat Nap is a middle grade novel, all told from the point-of-view of a cat. Ace is the feline companion of an editor at a small town newspaper in Lakeville, Wisconsin. When famous show cat, Ruby the Russian, goes missing, Ace is on the story. But Ace bites off more than he can chew when he agrees to play amateur detective and find the lost show cat. Ace has to call on his feline friends, a few dogs, and even a couple bad-tempered rodents in an effort to solve the case. He’ll need to break a cat out of the pound for priceless information and fight a single-pawed battle with animal smugglers to get answers! Ace likes his milk neat, and his jelly donuts thick with icing. My hope is that this book will appeal to not only adolescents, but mainstream mystery readers, feline and animal enthusiasts as well as adventure lovers.

Elizabeth: Where did the idea come from?

Abigail: Well, I’ve always been an animal lover. Some of my earliest memories involve cats or dogs! And some of the first stories I ever wrote as a child were about cats. When I first sat down and seriously tried to write a book, I wanted to have fun with it. I wanted to escape. I drew on my experience as a lifelong cat owner (my own black cat, Boots, inspired Ace) as well as my years as a newspaper reporter to write this novel.

Elizabeth: Did you have to do much research to put the story together?

Abigail: Not a lot! I already knew a lot about small town newspapers, politics, hard crime and felines! Not to mention dogs and their relationship with cats. After that, it was a lot of creativity and imagination – thinking about how a cat might react to situations differently than a human might, how their relationships work to humans and animals and what they would do if they had strong motivation to solve a problem.

Elizabeth: Is this your first experience being published?

Abigail: It is! And it is so thrilling!

Elizabeth: Have you written anything else?

Abigail: I have. I began writing as a child. I’ve always been an avid reader and a writer. Earlier this year, I submitted my first manuscript to agents. I signed with a great one, and am currently working on revisions for a young adult novel to be submitted to publishing houses in 2014. Another novel I wrote earned an award in a contest from the Wisconsin Romance Writers of America earlier this year. As a writer, Ace was my first character, though The Great Cat Nap was not the first novel I wrote. The first novel I wrote was terrible! However, it taught me a lot about not only the writing process, but MY writing process.

Elizabeth: What is your writing process?

Abigail: Staple myself to the chair! I do my best writing in the early morning, usually at my office desk or with my laptop on the sun porch in summer. Getting into my character’s heads is one of my favorite things about the writing process. I spend a lot of time trying to understand what they want, what drives them. Seeing the world through their perspective. I do love characters who get into trouble! I also read a lot. If you want to learn to write, I feel you need to read. And read everything – the great, the good and the bad. Take it apart, find what works and what doesn’t.

Elizabeth: What can you tell me about working with the student-run publishing house Cornerstone Press?

Abigail: It’s been fabulous! I can’t tell you how much it means to have my first-ever novel published by the very university that I graduated from. It’s been a real honor, and so humbling to have my manuscript chosen out of so many. The students and staff have been so supportive, encouraging and wonderful to work with. A real class act.

Elizabeth: Enough about your book, tell us about yourself.

Abigail: I’m a writer, reader and a runner. Besides writing, my other love in life is art. I also adore animals, and spending time with my family and my friends. I live in the Northwoods of Wisconsin where I am an occasional contributing writer for the Tomahawk Leader and live with my husband, dog and thrill-seeking cat.

Elizabeth: We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Abigail: Tea.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Abigail: Ocean.

Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?

Abigail: Depends on my mood!

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Abigail: Piano.

Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?

Abigail: Goodness…depends on my mood! Again, I love both!

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Abigail: Heathcliff.

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Abigail: Death scene.

If you’d like to learn more about Abigail Bostwick and her The Great Cat Nap, come to the book release party: Thursday, Dec 12, 6:30, CPS Cafe, UWSP.

You can order copies of The Great Cat Nap from Cornerstone Press or buy them at many central Wisconsin bookstores.

Contact Abigail at Abigail.bostwick at gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at @bostwickAM.

Don’t forget: Come to the book release party for Abigail Bostwick’s The Great Cat Nap: Thursday, Dec. 12, at 6:30pm at the CPS Cafe on the UWSP campus.

December 3, 2013

NaNoWriMo Update

Posted in author, books, NaNoWriMo, writing at 7:09 pm by elizabethcaulfieldfelt

Well, it’s December 3 which means that NaNoWriMo is over. How did I do, you ask?  Well, I am not an official “winner.”  The adult goal for the month is 50,000 words, and I didn’t write that much. My word count for the month was:

<drum roll, please>

20,115

I’m actually very pleased with that number. My goal for the month wasn’t  50,000 words; my goal was to finish my story. Unfortunately, I didn’t do that either.  I would say that I am about three-quarters through the first draft.  It is a middle-grade story, which I’m calling Snow White and the Queen.

And though I didn’t make either goal, I’m still pretty happy about how much I wrote. And the story! It is coming together in a way that pleases me.  Really, what more can I ask for?

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