Sunday, January 16, 2011

Author Interview: Timothy Power, Middle Grade Author

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Timothy Power, middle grade author of The Boy Who Howled. Read below for Tim’s insights on writing and publishing! If you have any comments or questions for him, leave your info in the comments and he’ll stop by later.

Before we get started with the interview, here’s a bit about The Boy Who Howled: As far back as Callum can really remember, he's been living in the Wild as the furless mascot of a wolf pack. But when his pack sends him back to live with his own kind—humans—fitting in is quite a challenge. He doesn't remember English very well, so he accidentally says his name is "Clam." He's spent most of his life eating fresh-killed elk, so dining with vegetarians is tricky. And when he tries to impress the Alpha student in the school cafeteria by stealing food, people seem offended! A mix of wildness and humor, Timothy Power's inventive writing makes him a debut author to watch. And Callum's quest to find his place in a strange world will have readers rooting for him—when they're not howling with laughter.

Hi Tim! Thanks so much for talking with me today. First, I’d like to talk a bit about your debut novel, The Boy Who Howled. What was your inspiration for this novel?

Hi, Jennifer! Thanks for inviting me over for an interview.

The Boy Who Howled started out as a kind of writing exercise. Something got me thinking about the feeling we’ve all had as kids when we’re with our parents somewhere outside the home and suddenly find ourselves lost and alone, wondering where on earth Mom and Dad might be. I decided to begin with a boy who was someplace far from home, and then try to figure out how to get him back to his family safe and sound. I imagined his family lived in the city, and the farthest place from that were the woods, so that’s where I put him at the beginning of the story. The rest came together from there.

Callum is such a funny and real character. When reading TBWH, I found myself not only laughing along, but really rooting for him. He made me smile and giggle often. Authors often pull character traits from themselves or someone they know. How many of Callum’s attributes were inspired by you as a child or someone you know?

Naturally, Callum’s incredible intelligence was inspired directly by me. J The other attributes of his personality rose from his situation. In order for me as the author to get him safely home, I figured he had to be curious, and good at making connections, and had learned to be bold from his education in the ways of wolves.

Mrs. T-G is very bossy, and can be curt in a kind-hearted way. I would say there is something a little “Mary Poppins” about her. And she wears a long, sweeping coat of faux animal skin. I think that probably came from Cruella DeVille. But Mrs. T-G is a hero, not a villain!

World-famous wildlife wrangler Buzz Optigon is definitely a kooky version of the late, great Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin.

The setting(s) in the book also felt very real. What inspired your settings? I assume you’ve never lived with wolves in the woods.:) Tell us a bit about creating Callum’s world, both in the woods and out.

I basically wrote the story of Callum’s life in the Wild as if he were living at home with a human family, and then just changed the physical surroundings. Instead of a chair, for example, there was a rock, and instead of a nice meatloaf being served up for dinner, it was freshly killed elk.

What was your favorite part of writing TBWH?

I loved it whenever the opportunity arose to insert a joke or some kind of silliness. It was never my intention to obscure the serious underpinnings to Callum’s story, but I like a funny story more than anything.

Most challenging?

I found it really challenging to maintain the kind of suspended disbelief that allows the reader to accept Callum’s adventures as they happen, without stopping dead in their tracks with a frustrated “What the hey?”

TBWH is a wonderful story for middle grade readers. It’s so much fun to read and watch Callum on his adventure in what many readers undoubtedly laugh along with as everyday life for them/not so much for Callum. What type of young reader were you? What were your favorite books/authors?

I read like crazy when I was young. I loved Edward Eager’s books, and Louise Fitzhugh is a personal hero. I still read as much middle grade as I can. I love fantasy, and also serious adventures, but my favorites are stories that are scary and funny at the same time. One of my recent faves is Chris Priestley’s Tales of Terror from the Black Ship. And I love Dr. Cuthbert Soup’s A Whole Nother Story.

Since there are probably some aspiring authors that will read this, can you tell us a bit about your road to publication? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I have always written, from a very young age. I wrote my first novel when I was 12. An excerpt can be found on my blog. Sadly, it was not received favorably by my family members. My sister’s opinion of it was especially damning. But I was undaunted, and remained so for the nearly half a century it took me to get any professional interest in my writing.

Tell us about your journey to getting an agent.

I queried far and wide, according to Miss Snark’s advice. And the MS was far and widely rejected. A few agents reacted positively, but felt it wasn’t right for them. A few didn’t understand the book, or failed to connect with the voice. One agent memorably explained to me that she didn’t understand how the wolves were talking, since wolves don’t speak English. And she repped children’s books! Of course, in TBWH Callum imagines what the wolves are saying after interpreting their body language. He uses the voice in his head. Jennifer DeChiara called me out of the blue one day, and right away I could tell that she totally “got” it. I was honored to accept her offer of representation.

And how about finding your publisher?

It took some time for the MS to find a home. A few houses already had “wolf” books on their lists and passed. The wise and wonderful Margaret Miller at Bloomsbury connected immediately to the voice and story and the rest is children’s lit history!

What is the best part of the publishing process?

The best part is hearing someone say they laughed out loud while reading the book. I’ve heard from a few people who say they NEVER laugh out loud while reading a book but DID when reading TBWH. That’s great!

The worst?

That entire civilizations can come and go while waiting for THE SLIGHTEST LITTLE THING to happen in the publishing process.

Can you give us a hint of what you’re working on now? What can we expect to read from you next?

I have a second book currently under consideration at Bloomsbury, but I don’t want to jinx it by saying anything! Fingers crossed, though.

Thanks Tim! Looking forward to reading more from you in the future!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

What do you DO all day? A Day in the Life of a Writer Mom

There is no such thing as typical day for a mom or a writer, but here’s my attempt to capture a typical day in mine and how the two roles overlap and interact… For all those who ask moms and/or writers: what do you DO all day?

7:00 Kids wake. I’m pulled from the depths of sleep where I’ve been (finally!) near my plot epiphany.

7:02 Break up fight #1 between kids.

7:10 Make out way downstairs, pace in front of coffee maker. HURRY UP KRUPS. Who is Krups anyway? Someone who didn’t know how to make coffee quick enough, that’s who!

7:10-7:40 Cartoons with kids and as much coffee as I can possibly ingest in half an hour. Keep notebook and pen at side. Manage a few plot notes while Mickey does the Hot Dog dance.

7:42 – Break up tenth fight of day while making breakfast. Distract kids with game of freeze dance while they wait for food. Wash last night’s dishes (don’t judge) while they eat. Sweep floor.

8:00 - Check email. Get rejection. Ask kids if they want to bake cookies. It will fill the time. Plus, what is better for rejection than baked goods? CHOCOLATE.

9:00 - Break up fight #217 – sparring with spatulas. Maybe baking cookies wasn’t the best idea.

9:01 - Look at batter. Consider eating it all myself.

10:00 - Attempt grocery store. Catches various things kids throw at each other in the cart. After palming a pint of blueberries and five pound bag of flour, I look at them and reconsider my character’s motivations. Perhaps there should be demons in this novel. Make note to ask agent about the plausibility of demons in today’s market.

11:00 - Make it to gym after a near fatal argument in car between boys over whose side of the car the sun was on. Walking in gym is a miracle, but a necessity after the cookie dough. Drop kids off at gym childcare and hop on elliptical. Have a great workout until my rescued plot epiphany makes me scribble furiously in my notebook, while trying to maintain a 6 mph speed. Lose balance and almost fall off the machine. Mortified, straighten up and keep going. Ignore temptation to say, “It’s okay, I’m a writer.”

12:00 - Go home. Attempt to shower while listening to world war three in the hallway. Rinse hair as quickly as possible and hope no one is bleeding.

12:00 and 30 seconds - Get dressed after finding kids strangely getting along. Set up basement tee ball and curse winter. Wish for spring. Make mental note to browse summer vacations online.

12:15 – Realize tee ball bats are too much of a weapon. Set up matchbox car ramps instead. That, at least, is quiet(er). While playing with boys, examine cars and consider what type of car love interest in novel should drive.

12:30 - Make lunch. Clean kitchen while they eat. Sweep floor.

1:00 -Make fort, read books together. Cuddle with boys and love life. Feel incredibly lucky until a fight breaks out and the corner of Giraffe and a Half lands in my eyeball. Curse Silverstein for writing it. Watch helplessly as fight progress to bookcase. Get there too late. Realize just how many books we have as they are in a mountain on the floor. Resist urge to scream at the sudden camaraderie between them at my frustration.

2:00 - Toddler naps. There is a God. Read books/do homework/play games/crafts/color with older boy, who turns into an angel of perfection when his brother is not around. Have lots of aw, isn’t life grand moments. Make second pot of coffee.

3:00 – Older boy watches tv show or movie while I do housework. ***By housework I mean sit and stare into space and brainstorm the next chapter in my WIP. The dishes can wait. Shakespeare didn’t do dishes, damnit!

3:30 - Toddler wakes, magically transforming older boy into devil once again. They fight all the way down the stairs.

3:45 - Breaks up fight 1027 over an imaginary object by promising clementines to everyone, including imaginary friend who supplied said object. Realize there are only 2 clementines. Fine for boys but not for imaginary friend. Upset boils, tantrum is eminent. Think fast. Allergies! Yes! Tell kids imaginary friend is allergic to clementines. Met with disbelieving looks. Yeah, um, the clementines make him lose his superhero powers. It’s like kryptonite. Yeah, that’s it! Whoo, thank god we didn’t give him one. Become hero rather than villain.

4:00 - Perform puppet show with kids. Break up 1,642 fights over puppets while I secretly make certain puppets into my characters and have them perform the next act in my book. No one notices because they are now fighting over a paper napkin that is apparently worth more than all the toys in the world.

4:30 – Curse the person who bought them “marching band in a box.” And the microphone, complete with children’s music and no volume button. And anything related to Elmo and his wretched laugh. Curse Duracell and everyone else who makes batteries. Take Tylenol. Imagine a world without electronic toys and batteries. Hmmm. No electronics and batteries? Consider writing a dystopian.

4:40 - Check Twitter. Feel jealous of everyone #amwriting. Wonder if there is a #amgoingcrazy hashtag.

4:45 – Start daily clean up. Put toys away and realize the dress up clothes are missing. Find dog wearing Robinhood mask and clown shoes, looking embarrassed. Consider a picture book but know it’s overdone.

5:00 - Look at the clock and realize I have no idea WTF to make for dinner. Since no one eats the same thing, I need to plan at least three things and fast. Call hubby and find out he’s stuck at work again. Scream silently.

Consider killing off all the characters in my novel.

Look at the vodka bottle and shake my head. Too early.

5:15 - Start cooking. Hear screams, run upstairs. Find boys running a bath and shoving dog into it. Rescue dog. Herd everyone downstairs. Continue cooking slightly burned dinner. Hear loud thuds. Run into living room to discover a superhero obstacle course gone wrong and toddler rubbing his head. Gather everyone in kitchen, attempt freeze dance again while trying to salvage dinner. One last attempt: Spiderman Says while transferring charred dinner to plates.

5:30 - Feed children, dog, fish in tank, fish in the bowl, set food aside for hubby. Sweep floor. Mentally compose haiku about sweeping. Worry for my sanity.
Realize I never ate. Fold laundry first and make tomorrow’s grocery list since I missed half of it in my Olympic rush to get out of the store before we were officially thrown out and banned.

6:00 - Run bath for kids. Mental note: buy tilex. Watch water fill. Consider a water scene in novel. Consider cheesy symbolism that a writer in their right mind would never consider. Mental note to think about it later.

6:05 - Carry laundry up while kids play in tub.

6:06 - Clean up flood in bathroom.

6:45 - Bedtime stories and cuddling. Feel like luckiest mom in the world. Revel in each hug, kiss and snuggle. Read extra stories and sing extra songs and smile.

7:00 – BEDTIME

7:01 – Life. Is. Good. House is silent.

7:02 - Clears head and tries to get into writing mode.

7:02 – Open WIP. Sigh in a good way over what I wrote the night before. This will be the book that sells. This WIP is pretty amazing. Tries to remember plot epiphany from last night’s dream. Tries to decipher elliptical plot scribbles.

8:00 - Wow this book sucks. I mean, really sucks. How did I ever get an agent, anyway?

8:05 - Realize I didn’t eat lunch or dinner, but there is still cookie dough. Hmmm…

8:15 - Twitter/Email/AW/GChat/Write/Twitter/email/AW/GChat/write

12:00 – sleep

TOMORROW: Rinse. Repeat.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Author Interview: Kim Michele Richardson, Non Fiction Author

Today I had the pleasure of interviewing Kim Michele Richardson, non fiction author of The Unbreakable Child. Read below for Kim’s insights! If you have any comments or questions for her, leave your info in the comments and she’ll stop by later to answer them.:)

Before we get started with the interview, here’s a bit about The Unbreakable Child. (There's also an excerpt after the interview):

During the 1960’s, and as early as the 1930’s, Saint Thomas Saint Vincent Orphan Asylum and the Roman Catholic Church abandoned true Christian values and subjected the children entrusted into its care to unspeakable horrors. Its location in the back roads of Kentucky enabled the nuns and priest to commit their sins far from polite society and prying eyes. For decades vulnerable children without families were grossly abused. What happened next was the 2004 nationally recognized lawsuit against the Sisters of Charity and the Roman Catholic Church and a historic legal decision. The horrors were relived by all, but in the end justice prevailed.

Hi Kim! Thanks so much for talking with me today. First, I’d like to talk a bit about your debut work, The Unbreakable Child. Can you tell us a bit about what made you decide to share your story with the world?

During the lawsuit, I kept a journal for catharsis. Upon conclusion of the lawsuit it was given to lawyer, William F. McMurry, my real life protagonist in The Unbreakable Child, as gratitude for his hard work and to show him his own self worth. More importantly, to learn from past history, stamping history, so that history does not repeat itself to ensure the safety of vulnerable children.

Throughout The Unbreakable Child, I found myself often gripping the book, unable to stop reading. You have an undeniable gift for relating such a heartbreaking tale, while managing to shift into a message of hope in the end. Although you make it look flawless, I imagine that balance was not easy to strike.

Tell us a bit about who you were aiming to reach with this book as I’m certain this story will be a comfort and inspiration to other victims of abuse, but also spread your message and hope to anyone who happens to pick it up.

One of my most cherished goals is that my story will kindle the hearts of people who have been victimized. And many write to inform me you don’t need to have lived my life to relate. Anyone looking for a story of hope, justice and redemption, can find inspiration in The Unbreakable Child.

Since there are probably some aspiring authors that will read this, can you tell us a bit about your road to publication? When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

A roller coaster. Over four years ago, I begin researching and learning about agents and traditional publishers, spending thousands of hours doing such. Then, The Unbreakable Child was placed with what appeared to the traditional publishing world as an up and coming, prize-winning publisher.

What was the best part of writing TUC?

The End!

Most challenging?

Separating myself from the pack of memoirists around the world, and going up against the celebrities who had their own memoirs to share.

Tell us about your journey to getting an agent.

In 2007, and after thousands and thousands of hours of hard work and many, many drafts later, several agents offered representation.

And how about finding your publisher?

A month after signing with a literary agent (2007), The Unbreakable Child was put up for auction. Still, The Unbreakable Child, the first-book of its kind in mainstream publishing, simply wasn’t ready, nor was the publishing world ready for it. It would take more drafts and more hours to finally land a publishing home

Upon release of publication, The Unbreakable Child
earned a rare Starred Review from Booklist and quickly gained a wide readership, picking up great momentum. I found myself working 24/7 on promotions. I was rewarded. TUC went into a second printing after only 1 month out.

Then unbeknownst to me and my literary agency at the time of The Unbreakable Child’s sale, the former publisher took on my book when its house was experiencing financial difficulty. The Unbreakable Child did extremely well in its short, three-months-out, but in August 2009, the former publisher and his group of private investors closed shop, taking with them every cent of large earnings due, which was earmarked to help others.

What is the best part of the publishing process?

So many to choose from!

The generous support of writers and the literary world.

I immediately gained great emotional reward by having my then- agent donate the proceeds of the sale (advance) of The Unbreakable Child to two advocate groups. Even greater; the day I received my first thank you from a stranger whom I had touched with my work. And a still greater reward and catharsis comes from having the privilege to work with survivors—victims of all types of abuse.

And one of the best humbling and gratifying gifts came from landing an amazing and wonderful literary agent in 2010, who was passionate about my work and who placed The Unbreakable Child with an equally passionate mainstream publisher, who is reputable and honest. There, it has found its “forever home.”

The worst?

To find my work had been abandoned in its short time out.

Are you working on anything new? What can we expect to read from you next?

Yes, I have three works in progress I’m very excited about. Two fictions and one non-fiction, which I hope to finish in the New Year. And I currently contribute to the Huffington Post, writing about many social issues I’m passionate about.

Thanks Kim! Looking forward to reading more from you in the future!

Thank you, Jenn!

Read and excerpt of The Unbreakable Child, or contact Kim at the links below:

Excerpt, The Unbreakable Child:

"I looked at the two photographs and the bracelet I'd plunked down on the conference table. It had been decades since I'd pulled them out. These three objects were the only tangible remains of my youth. The realization punched me in the gut. One of the photos depicted me standing in front of a large, weatherworn statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Another showed my First Holy Communion day. And Mrs. Lindauer, a State social worker, gave me the prize scarab bracelet when I turned eight years old.

I picked up the bracelet and rubbed a colored bead. My hand trembled. I curled my fingers around it to stop the shake.

Over thirty years ago I'd walked out of Saint Thomas Orphan Asylum-Saint Vincent Orphanage, and on that day, I took with me only the clothes on my back and my treasured scarab bracelet, hidden in my sock.

'This is all I have from my childhood,' I said softly.

I looked away, bit hard on my lip. To demand justice meant reliving the horrors. The beatings. The starvation. The force-fed drugs meant to keep us compliant.

I was afraid to speak, because speaking brings back voice. William F. McMurray, attorney-at-law, waited, exhibited quiet compassion, interrupting only when necessary.

A forgotten childhood meant a lifetime of evasiveness with acquaintances: friends new and old, avoiding eye contact, and dancing around the subject of youth that others so freely shared.

I'd been running a long time not knowing where I was going, but I knew I had to come home. Someone had to bring me back, and destiny chose William McMurry. By the time I finished recounting, and revealing, I was drenched in sweat, sitting on a pile of memories."
- Kim Michele Richardson, 2010

Contact Kim:

Official website


To purchase from Amazon