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Monday, September 1, 2014

Middle Grade Monday with Author Gayle Rosengren

I'm so honored that Gayle was willing to come on Robin Hall Writes. You will love her, if you don't already, after reading this interview. Her debut, What the Mood Said released from Putman/Penguin Young Readers Feb. 20, 2014.
Okay, let's get to it:)

RH: As I mentioned, I found your book at the library and had to read it because of the cover. I'm mainly a YA reader, but I dabble with MG when my children have favorites or one catches my fancy. And that's exactly what your debut did for me. Were you thrilled with your cover?
GR: I was blown away by my cover!  As a former librarian I know how important a good cover is to attracting a reader and one of the first things I said to my editor when she called to say Putnam wanted to publish my book--after some excited babbles of delight and thanks--was "Please, please give me a good cover!" (That's a direct quote.)  I don't know if that's what spurred the amazingly lovely cover that MOON received or if it would have been every bit as beautiful if I'd said nothing, but I am deliriously happy with it.  I recently saw my second book's cover and it is amazing, too.  The art department at Putnam/Penguin Young Readers is nothing short of fabulous!

RH: Could you tell us a little bit about the process of creating your cover (if you were able to give suggestions or if Putnam did it all, etc.)?  
GR: Putnam did ask for any photos I might have of the farmhouse, but other than that, I think they had a vision from the beginning of what the art should look like.  My editor, Susan Kochan, worked closely with the art director to have artwork that would evoke the feeling of Esther's enthusiasm for life and her love of the farm, and I think they captured it perfectly as well as beautifully.

RH: Did Jonathan Bean, who did the illustrations at the start of each chapter (which I love!) also draw the cover? His drawing style fit so well with the feel of your writing.
GR: No, Mr. Bean didn't create the cover art.  That was the work of talented artist/illustrator Zdenko Basic.  The chapter art by Jonathan Bean was a thrilling surprise that came later.  I agree that his black and white art showing the seasons and settings--Chicago or farm--are a perfect match for my story.  

RH: When reading What the Moon Said, I could picture Esther and her mother rather well. I come from a family of five girls and two boys, and the family dynamic you created felt real to me. I especially liked the letters Esther would write to Julia. I felt for Esther and her need for her mother to demonstrate her love. I read on Literary Rambles that Esther came about a little from how you imagined your mom at ten and then bits of you trickled in and then she became her own self. How many revisions did it take to really discover Esther and her family?
GR: Amazingly, not all that many.  It wasn't so much that I changed Esther's character as that I allowed it to evolve and grow over  the course of the year, much as it would have in real life.  The character I had the most difficult time with was Ma, because I needed to show her through Esther's eyes yet embed hints (for example the information Julia shares in a letter about how Ma blamed herself for the death of her little sister who resembled Esther so much) as to why she might hold herself so aloof from Esther.  I needed to make her brusque without making her seem mean.  It was a tricky tightrope walk sometimes and I had to rewrite scenes that centered on Ma several times to get them "right".

RH: Your grandmother was from the old country and superstitious like Esther's mom. Did you grow up believing some of the same things Esther did? Or were many of the superstitions ones you researched?
GR: Nearly every superstition I used in the story was one that I learned from my grandmother while I was growing up.  Like Esther, I sometimes wondered how she kept track of so many!  I did do some research on Russian superstitions and added a couple of things--primarily the bits about the fairies, because there was an experience from my girlhood that I definitely wanted to use in the story but didn't want to use exactly the way it happened.  Here's the real story: when I was about eight years old my grandmother told me I wasn't to play with a new girl from down the block because she had a mole on her face which Grandma referred to as the "mark of the devil".  I had to use this event, but no way was I going to insert the devil into my story, so instead I used the fairies that pervade many Russian folktales and superstitions to explain Ma's fear.  Fairies, after all, could do plenty of damage, and in What the Moon Said they were the cause of Ma's fear of Bethany.

RH: What the Moon Said is set in Chicago and Wisconsin early in the Depression. I have a huge respect for people who write historical novels. The need to be accurate terrifies me so much that even in my contemporary novels I create fictitious locations. Can you tell us about your research process and how much time it took? Was there anything you couldn't find that you have to guess about? What surprised you most in your fact finding?
 GR: The need for accuracy in historical fiction was the single most difficult aspect of writing Esther's story.  Like you, I am much more comfortable writing about make-believe places and events where I can't be caught in a mistaken detail.  I did lots and lots of research on everything from the cost of a stamp in 1930 to what crops are planted in southern Wisconsin and in what months and when they are harvested. I fretted over every detail fearing I'd make some unforgivable error and lose all credibility and get blasted by reviewers. But every time I read any part of the manuscript I found myself questioning new details and then fact-checking them.  There were three phases to my research.  First, the conversations with my mother about her childhood, especially on the farm; then I read books about the Depression; and finally I did detailed research online. The internet was an incredibly useful tool.  I do confess to making up the name of the town the farm is set near.  I wanted the freedom to make up the details of the community without getting snarled up in the "facts" of a real town's history.  Luckily, too, I had the comforting reassurance of knowing that amazing copy editors at Putnam were watching my back and double-checking anything that raised any sort of flag for them.  But yes, writing historical fiction adds a whole extra layer of work and stress to the writing process.

RH: Your verb choices were precise and strong. From page one I knew you could create a vivid story. Can you tell us about your drafting (pantser/plotter/detailed outliner) and revision process?
GR: I am a plotter who works from a rough outline.  First I get an idea; then I let it simmer on the back burner of my mind for a while to see if it holds my interest/passion and if lots of sub plots sprout from the main idea.  If it does and they do, I start making lots of notes about the main character, their family, their friends, and the setting.  Then I create a crude outline--really more of a summary broken down into chapters.  And when I know how my story is going to end, I begin writing the first chapter. It always takes ten times longer than writing any other chapter since I am still feeling my way a bit and I'm laying the foundation for everything else that is going to follow in the book. If the first chapter isn't solid, it won't grab the reader, and the rest of the story won't grow organically from it.

RH: Could you tell us what you're working on now?  
GR: I just finished the final copyedits on my second book which will be coming out in August of 2015.   It's another historical fiction novel for middle graders, but it's from a more recent time period.  It's called Cold War on Maplewood Street and takes place in Chicago during the week of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. 
Now that it's officially out of my hands, I'm working on a contemporary story (also MG) about loyalty and how far it should go.

RH: What were your favorite books growing up?
GR: Little Women, Trixie Belden mysteries, Anne of Green Gables, Taffy's Foal, Heidi, A Wrinkle in Time, The Wheel on the School, and Charlotte's Web are just a few of the many, many books I loved as a girl. 

RH: My ten-year-old son is writing a book. Do you have any advice for young aspiring writers?  GR: Tell your son I said, "Way to go!  I'm very impressed.  Writing is hard work--but when it's your passion, there's nothing that you'd rather do."  As for advice, I always tell aspiring writers to keep a journal--not necessarily about their daily activities; that can get boring pretty quickly.  But about highlights/lowlights of family events, personal disappointments and triumphs, and especially the feelings that accompanied them. These are great to draw on later to remind us how a ten or twelve-year old thinks and expresses his feelings.  The other reason to keep a journal is to jot down ideas for stories, and to paste in pictures from magazines that suggest settings or stories, as well as to keep track of ideas for unusual characters.  A journal is also a great place to keep a list of the books they especially loved reading including a few notes about why they loved them. All of this is not only going to be a great resource in the future but is a fun way of nurturing the blossoming writer within them.

RH: Thanks so much for being here and sharing so much of your writing experience with us. I can't wait for Cold War on Maplewood Street and am looking forward to your MG contemporary.

Gayle has a great website with all kinds of links to exploring the world where Esther lived. Find all that goodness here.
Find What the Moon Said Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, or better yet, at your local bookstore.

Gayle grew up in Chicago. Like Esther, she enjoyed school, was an avid reader, and loved dogs and horses. She attended Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois, where she majored in Creative Writing and was the editor of the literary magazine. Gayle never outgrew her passion for children's books, and she worked as a children's and young adult librarian at a public library for several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, enthusiastically sharing her love of books with young people.

Also like Esther, Gayle eventually moved to Wisconsin, but by then she was a mother with three children. She worked in the reference library, and later as a copyeditor, at American Girl. During this time period she published short stories for children in Cricket, Ladybug, Jack and Jill andChildren's Digest magazines.

Now Gayle writes full-time in her home just outside of Madison, Wisconsin, where she lives with her husband, Don, and slightly neurotic rescue dog, Fiona. She is living her dream, she says, writing books she hopes will make the same difference in children's lives as her favorite books and authors made in hers. What the Moon Said is her first novel.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer School is Now in Session

That's right, I'm taking summer school. I enrolled for Nerdy Chicks Rule Summer School: Building Character organized by authors Kami Kinard and Sudipta Bardhan- Quallen.

The first class started today and was led by the amazing Kathryn Erskine (National Book Award Winner for MOCKINGBIRD among other brilliance). She challenged us to walk in our characters shoes. One of the activities we did was to take the Meyers Briggs test for our character. You can find one free here.

You can read her post here, but what would be even better is if you join me for summer school. You'll have access to exclusive webinars and great worksheets to use as we explore our characters and complete our "homework." The program is free and registration is still open here.

I hope to see you in class!

This week I'll be at The YA Club Tuesday and Mormon Mommy Writers Thursday.

Keep writing and believing in yourselves because you guys rock!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Guest Post, Cover Reveal, and GIVEAWAY with Cortney Pearson and PHOBIC

In honor of her cover reveal, Cortney is giving away a $50 dollar Amazon gift card!

PHOBIC Series: The Forbidden Doors #1 Genre: YA Horror Release date: September 2014

BOOK DESCRIPTION: Fifteen-year-old Piper Crenshaw knows her house is strange. It’s never needed repairs since it was built in the 1800s, and the lights flicker in response to things she says. As if those things aren’t creepy enough, it’s also the place where her mother committed murder. To prove she’s not afraid of where she lives, Piper opens a forbidden door, which hides a staircase that leads to the ceiling. That’s when the flashbacks of the original residents from 1875 start, including a love affair between two young servants. Each vision pulls Piper deeper into not only their story, but also her house. Piper confides in her best friend, Todd, whom she's gradually falling for, but even he doesn't believe her. At least, not until her house gets axed during a prank, and the act injures Piper instead, cutting a gash the size of Texas into her stomach. Piper realizes her house isn’t haunted—it’s alive. To sever her link to it, she must unravel the clues in the flashbacks and uncover the truth about her mother’s crime, before she becomes part of her house for good.


From Cortney: As writers we are constantly gathering inspiration (whether we know it or not). An overheard conversation, watching people interact, teenagers laughing together, hearing others tell stories. I believe we subconsciously refer to our life experiences as we write and create stories. We have to. In order to generate realistic emotion and detail that readers can relate to, we have to have some kind of jumping-off-point to base them on. I'd like to share just a few things that sparked ideas for me as I created the world of PHOBIC, a world which is based on the ethereal aspect of seemingly ordinary places. Inspiration #1 My great aunt lived alone in this fantastic old house built by her father, my great-great grandfather. And it felt like stepping back through time every time I walked through the door. BUT. Right off from her back door--the entrance we always used--was a staircase. It wasn't long. It wasn't even hidden like those in my story. But this staircase led to Aunt Vay's basement with its concrete floor and old cast iron stove and that pair of metal roller skates that always sat alone on a shelf. I hated going in that basement, especially by myself. Looking back at these pictures now I wonder why I'd been so scared, but as a kid that basement was terrifying! The basement in PHOBIC plays a huge part in the mystery of the house Piper lives in. It's a place she's been forbidden from entering, but this time she's determined to find out why. Inspiration #2 Another instance happened at Aunt Vay's when my mom, sister, and I had pulled in late at night to sleep after traveling from California to Utah all day long. We were tired. It was cold and windy outside. And my mom couldn't find her key to the back door. We tried that knob several times and then as I went to reach for the knob again, the door opened. All on its own. OPENED. My mom, sister, and I all exchanged looks and when I checked the knob (on the now open door), it was still locked. True story! So it prompted the opening and this scene in PHOBIC: My best friend Todd’s red pickup appears at the curb, spewing exhaust like the truck has a cigarette up its backside. I jerk up. My pulse kicks at the sight of him. That’s been happening a lot more lately, my insides flaring up and doing some sort of spastic dance whenever I catch sight of his alluring smile and dark curls. Leaving the second Pop-Tart on the table, I stuff my phone in my pocket and snatch up my backpack and clarinet case. I dart past the round, velvet-topped table in the wide hallway to the front door. I reach for the knob. It won’t turn. Heart pounding, I try again. One way, then the other. Chick. Chick. The lock mechanism is vertical. The door isn’t locked. “Not now,” I say under my breath. “Please not now.” The hairs at my nape skulk up one by one until they all stand on end. My wrist flicks, and the obstinate knob makes the same chick chick sounds. The eerie feeling spreads down the length of my arm, making the knob cold under my touch. What is going on? I’m used to my house doing strange things, but why won’t it let me out? Inspiration #3 The Winchester Mansion in California has also been intriguing to me, especially the staircase that leads to the ceiling. This whole house is completely creepy, but especially this: Piper's house also has a hidden staircase similar to this one. Her discovery of it knocks her sense of reality way off course, and she begins seeing flashbacks of the original residents of house. Which leads to... Inspiration #4 I LOVE romances, along with Victorian/Regency-era stories. So my final inspiration for the story--particularly the flashbacks that Piper has to the past--is: Downton Abbey (I know it takes place after the two eras above-mentioned. But still, inspiration.) It was after watching the first few episodes that my two star-crossed servants in love sprang into my head. There were many other sources of inspiration as well, but these are the main ones. What about for you? What inspires you when you write?


 ABOUT THE AUTHOR Cortney Pearson is a book nerd who studied literature at BYU-Idaho, a music nerd who plays clarinet in her local community orchestra, and a writing nerd who creates books for young adults. She lives with her husband and three sons in a small Idaho farm town.
Website | @cor2ney | FACEBOOK






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Monday, July 7, 2014

Middle Grade Monday with J.A. White and THE THICKETY

Israel Hall here, taking over Mom's blog again. I read THE THICKETY and then told Mom even she would like it. She did, so we emailed J.A. White and he let me interview him. Read below, and then read THE THICKETY. You won't regret it. It is full of a ton of surprises. 

IH: The book was amazing, really. I mean spiderwebs catching rocks, wow. Man, and what a cliff hanger. I haven't seen a cliff hanger like that since, well, actually, I've never seen a cliff hanger like that. It was a five star book. I especially like long books because long books give you a lot of time to read it every day. Your descriptions were amazing!

What do you think is the worst thing that Grace did?

JA: Grace really is awful, isn’t she? I’m sure a lot of readers will disagree with me, but I actually think the worst thing she does is in that first scene in the general store, when she takes Kara’s seeds.  Her later actions are evil, of course, but that is just flat-out mean.

IH: Oh, that's a good one. I hadn't thought of that one. When you named Kara's brother Taff, were you eating Laffy Taffy?

JA: Haha!  Sadly, I have never eaten Laffy Taffy in my life!  (But now I really want to try it.)  I’m not really sure why “Taff” is “Taff.”  It just seemed to fit, somehow.

IH: What are the ferries like? Are they old style ships? Since the animals are so different are the fish different too?

JA: Yes, the ferries are old style, like something you might have seen in the 17th century or so.  The fish are, for the most part, normal fish—with a few notable exceptions.  The really strange creatures are in the Thickety.

IH: Cool. Why did you call the Thickety, the Thickety?

JA: It’s like a thicket, but bigger…and with monsters.

IH: Mom told me a thicket is a clump of trees. I didn't know that, but now it makes sense. Is the Sordyr her uncle or grandpa or something to want her so bad?

JA: Sordyr wants Kara for a very specific reason, which I promise I will reveal in book 2!  Actually, it’s probably the most important secret in the book.

IH: I can't wait. What are the most dangerous creatures in The Thickety?

JA: I think you should answer that one for yourself after you read the second book! I got to make up a lot of creatures in that one.  So much fun…

IH: Can Taff (or any boy) but really Taff, work the grimoire?

JA: You ask good questions!  To the best of Kara’s knowledge, only girls can use grimoires.  Both Taff and Lucas have looked at a grimoire and seen nothing but blank pages.

IH: How long have people lived on the island? What year is it?

JA: The Children of the Fold have lived on De’Noran for centuries.  The calendar in Kara’s world is not the same as the calendar in our world, so I can’t really say what year it is in a way that would make sense.  Just for myself, I created a thirty-page historical outline, however, and in that I reference events as ‘A.K.’ (after Kara’s birth) and ‘B.K.’ (before Kara’s birth).  So, according to that reference, the year is 12 A.K.!

IH: Cool. Have you started book 2?

JA: Actually, book 2 is completely done.  I’ve seen the cover and all the illustrations, which are incredible!  Andrea Offermann is such an amazing artist.  I’m actually working on the third book right now, and I’ll be done with the first draft of that by the end of September.  (And then I’ll sleep.  A lot.)

IH: I can't believe you already finished it. I have to read it. March is forever. I am writing a book too. I'm 68 pages into it. Any advice or questions for me?

JA: That’s wonderful!  My advice would be to work on it consistently each day.  Even if it’s just for a short period—10 or 20 minutes—it’s important to touch base with your story.  This way, your mind will always be thinking about it, and sometimes you’ll come up with some cool ideas when you’re not even trying!  Good luck and keep writing!

IH: Thanks, you too. Bye!

J. A. White lives in New Jersey with his wife, three sons, and a hamster named Ophelia that doesn’t like him very much. When he’s not making up stories, he teaches a bunch of kids how to make up stories (along with math and science and other important stuff). He wishes dragons were real because it would be a much cooler way to get to work.

Monday, June 30, 2014

ILIMA TODD & REMAKE

Guys, get ready for some gushing, because this book has my heart.

I was its first reader, and I know I won't be the last. I cannot wait to hold this beauty in my hands on October 14th. I met Ilima at my first writer's conference back in 2011 and we've been good friends and critique partners ever since. We've come a long way since Louise Plummer's class! Ilima's the one who introduced me to Firefly, and for that alone, I'll be forever grateful. But more than that, she's taught me how to be a better mother, a better friend, and a better person.

This book success couldn't have happened to a better person and I have been privileged to watch her go through her steps to published author. When I grow up, I want to be just like her:)

Not only does the story rock and did I see smoking hot Kai walking down the street in the marine town where I used to live, but I have thought about Nine, her journey, and how much her story means to all of us since reading it in its early stages. Nine lives in a futuristic society where children are raised in batches and on their 17th birthdays choose everything from whether they'll be male or female, to the color of their skin, their name, and their life profession. It's a big deal, especially when they don't have all the facts. I won't give away everything, so you can soak up all the goodness on your own, but here is Ilima holding this week's Publisher's Weekly magazine with her book cover on the front. How incredible is that for a cover reveal?
And here's a close up of the book cover. Her husband designed it and Shadow Mountain liked it so much, they only modified it a bit. Isn't the font perfect for the subject matter?
From Goodreads:
Nine is the ninth female born in her batch of ten females and ten males. By design, her life in Freedom Province is without complications or consequences. However, such freedom comes with a price. The Prime Maker is determined to keep that price a secret from the new batches of citizens that are born, nurtured, and raised androgynously. But Nine isn't like every other batcher. She harbors indecision
and worries about her upcoming Remake Day her seventeenth birthday, the age when batchers fly to the Remake facility and have the freedom to choose who and what they'll be.When Nine discovers the truth about life outside of Freedom Province, including the secret plan of the Prime Maker, she is
pulled between two worlds and two lives. Her decisions will test her courage, her heart, and her beliefs. Who can she trust? Who does she love? And most importantly, who will she decide to be?


Links to the awesome
Ilima Todd
Goodreads
You can pre-order below
Amazon
B&N
Indiebound

Friday, June 27, 2014

Currently…Friday

Currently…

1. Thinking about how weird it is to be all alone in my house. My husband took this kids to grandma's for the weekend. I've never had the house to myself like this. It feels like I'm breaking a law and at the same time it feels freeing. I can do anything or nothing at all. Scary.

2. Enjoying: THE THICKETY by J. A. White. My 10 yo son recommended it to me. He said, "Mom, even you would love this one." My smart son has me figured out. I won't read a lot of his MG favorites, but this one is right up my alley. 

From Goodreads: When Kara Westfall was six years old, her mother was convicted of the worst of all crimes: witchcraft. 

The villagers live in fear of the Thickety and the terrible creatures that live there. But when an unusual bird lures Kara into the forbidden forest, she discovers a strange book with unspeakable powers. A book that might have belonged to her mother.

And that is just the beginning of the story.

The Thickety: A Path Begins is the start of a thrilling and spellbinding tale about a girl, the Thickety, and the power of magic.

3. Feeling: Sleepy, but then it is 9:41pm and I'm an early riser.

4. Wearing: Yoga clothes from the class I taught tonight. I should be honest though, even if I hadn't taught tonight I'd probably be in yoga pants. They're my favorite even when I'm not pregnant.

5. Needing: To finish revisions on my WIP, dang it, and get it out to some betas. Anybody willing to swap MSs?

6.Wanting: This house, horses included.

7. Listening: To silence. It's so rare. I mean I can here the katydids outside. I should really stay up later than my kids every once and a while so I can experience this phenomena more often.

8. Making: A baby and this blog post

9. Eating: A Mini Reeses Peanut Butter Cup

10: Drinking: Red Raspberry Pregnancy Tea. Mix in some honey and it's pure heaven. (recipe here in case you're interested)

Want to list your own Currently? Let me know in the comments or add a link to your post and I'll check it out. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

COVER REVEAL: Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up?

My lovely and talented agent sister, writing as Ella Martin, has the most gorgeous cover for her modern fairy tale retelling with a twist. And you don't have to wait long for this beauty to be available because
Will The Real Prince Charming Please Stand UP? is coming July 1st from Astrea Press

The Blurb: If only fairy tales warned “happily ever after” only happens with the right guy...

15-year-old Bianca learns the hard way when she falls for Dante, the hottest guy in her class, who turns out to be anything but charming. And it doesn’t help that Tim, a long-time crush and her brother’s best friend, still makes her head fuzzy. Bianca has to ask: WILL THE REAL PRINCE CHARMING PLEASE STAND UP?

The Cover:

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And now all the pretty. I am in love with Bianca's yellow dress. Now if only I could convince my prince charming to play dress up with me. Do they have proms for thirty something year olds?


GIVEAWAY TIME: Because WTRPCPSU is being released as on ebook, one winner will have the choice of receiving a new Kindle 6" ereader or a new Kobo Touch! Now that's a giveaway I can get behind.

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Ella Martin is a prep school survivor and a Southern California native. She writes books about spunky teenagers who are way cooler than she ever was, and she totally believes in love and happy endings. She likes sunny places and is terrified of snowy winters, so she now lives in Florida with her husband and son.
Blog: www.ella-martin.com
Twitter: @westgateprep
Facebook: www. facebook.com/AuthorEllaMartin
Tumblr: www.westgateprep.tumblr.com