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Interview With Indie Author Jozef Rothstein and Signed Book Giveaway

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Signed Book Giveaway and Interview With Author Jozef Rothstein

 UPDATE: This giveaway will be open until Tuesday August 28 th.  

 

On Sunday, August 5th, I had the pleasure of meeting Jozef Rothstein, author of As the Matzo Ball Turns at our local Barnes and Nobles. As we charged his table (yes, my sister-in-law and I bought five books) I knew immediately by his huge bright smile that he was going to be fun and interesting. Talking to Jozef was like chatting with an old friend. I had so many questions (maybe too many) and Jozef eagerly answered every one of them. His sense of humor shined through the entire conversation which I adored because as I told Jozef, I tend to bond with people immediately if our sense of humors match, which his and mine definitely did. I had to pull myself away from his table, because I didn’t want to sabotage his book signing, but it took every ounce of restraint not to run back every five minutes to chat. He was that much fun.

Jozef was totally cool in agreeing to answer some interview questions for my blog. Be sure to include a comment at the end of the interview because you will have the chance to win a signed copy of Jozef’s awesome book As the Matzo Ball Turns. One reader will be chosen at random. All you have to do is comment. I’d love for you to follow my blog or me on twitter @Yolaramunno but you don’t have to in order to win. If you don’t comment you can’t win.

As with all interviews on this blog, answers from authors don’t necessarily reflect my views regarding the industry.

Okay, let’s get to it.

Hi Jozef how are you?

Dandy. Now that’s a word you don’t hear much anymore!!! I am just dandy!

First, I’d like to thank you so much for stopping by Writing Like Crazy.

Thank you for having me Maribeth. It was so much fun rapping with you at the book signing I was chomping at the bit to do the interview!

 I like to start right from the beginning, if that’s okay with you. First, did you always want to become a writer or was your journey (living in Hollywood with stars in your eyes) what inspired your writing career?

Wow, that’s a loaded question!!!! I really have no idea. Hmmm. Let me think about it. How much room do I have? Okay well, I remember writing funny stories in my fifth grade creative writing class that the teacher would read aloud. (And then there was this time at band camp … ) I would pick one classmate per week to build a story around and put him/her on the spot. My teacher and my peers found them humorous, as long as they weren’t the subject of my ridicule that week. AND everybody looked forward to my holiday cards. They didn’t get me any after school kisses but I really enjoyed writing them.

Then came high school. I was a gangly teen who looked like a praying mantis. That has nothing to do with your inquiry but I thought I’d mention it anyway. I really got into sports for a while but I eventually wandered out to Hollywood where my writing career was born out of necessity.

I have always admired people who could pack up everything to go follow their dreams. Can you tell us a little bit about your choice to leave your small town in Pennsylvania to go to Hollywood?

I equate it to the first time I went skydiving. I am six feet five inches tall and as we climbed to five thousand feet, the altitude for my first jump, I was crammed into a tiny little Cessna with like seven other people. I was scared as hell but I was so boxed in for so long I couldn’t wait to jump out of that sardine can and stretch out a little.

How did that first year go?

Well … It depends on who you ask. First, a little background. I ended up taking a liking to the game of football but one crazy life story later I ended up taking a year off after college and then tried to get back in the game. I was acting as my own agent and I got so insanely obsessed with obtaining an NFL career I would call people like Mike Ditka and I don’t know, threaten to eat him and his children if he didn’t bring me into training camp. Believe it or not, this approach was somewhat successful and almost landed me on a couple of rosters. An NFL career just wasn’t in the cards so I exploded onto the Hollywood scene like a clown shot out of a circus cannon.

At first, I grabbed the attention of every big player in the business. But this quickly backfired and worked against me. After my first year in town, unbeknownst to me, I believe my aggressive approach, which had worked so well in football, landed me on every blacklist in Hollywood. It did, however, get me several recommendations for the crème de la crème of acting teachers who were an interesting case study in and of themselves. I spent five years immersing myself in the craft learning various techniques with the best coaches in the business. I worked so hard, I actually became quite good at it.

Can you tell us a little bit about your book?

It’s the story of someone entering the dog eat dog world of Hollywood wearing milk bone underwear. The pitch line for it is “An aspiring actor’s ten year encounter with hit men, celebrities and old Jewish ladies.” To sum it up, it is the story of someone who arrives in Hollywood with a suitcase and announces to the world, “I want to be in movies!” This is the real story, not the E! True Hollywood story, of what 99.9% of people go through, for as many years as they can stand it, before they are sent back to where ever it is they came from with their shattered dreams folded up in their suitcases.

And like almost everyone in LA LA land the only way to earn a decent living while aspiring for a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is to become an indentured servant, oops, I mean waiter. And since everybody and his brother Harry is trying to do the same thing, (If you throw a rock you hit two hundred of us), you are a very disposable commodity at best. I just so happened to pick a very notorious Jewish deli for my ten years as professional whipping boy where most of the hilarity and hijinks in this story occur. And, of course, that’s where the backdrop for the book is set.

How did you come up with the title for the book?

It started out as a joke because everyday at the deli there was so sort of heavy drama going on, much like a soap opera. In a deep announcer’s voice I would observe, “Today, on As the Matzo Ball Turns, John’s boyfriend threatens to leave him if he doesn’t stop performing at the local drag queen bar.” On my way out of Hollywood doing 120mph the title kept repeating itself in my head. With lots of time to think while driving across country with my two dogs, the rest of the story started punching its way out of me. In all my years as a writer I believe every great story starts with a great title. I believe the title has to excite you about your story and from there the rest just falls into place.

Readers get an immediate hint at what type of work you landed out in California by the books jacket. Clad as a beaver in Speedo trunks and Scooby Doo cape while surrounded by beautiful women dressed to the nines. Can you give us maybe a small snapshot of this moment?

It is the equivalent of stepping into a nice warm shower only to have it interrupted by ten federal agents in riot gear who mistakenly arrest you and drag you out into the middle of the street stark naked while the entire neighborhood watches on in horror. All the while your turtle is in the shell, if you know what I mean.

You and I connected on a couple of things. You wait tables in your spare time; I waited tables since I was thirteen years old so I can relate to the waiter/waitress stories. There is a part in the book where you had to wait on a very famous person on Christmas day (I won’t say who the celebrity is-we will make the readers curious ;)) who wasn’t very nice. Your description of standing in front of her asking if she would like a drink while she ignored you hit home for me because I myself have had those moments while waitressing, many times, but never by someone famous. Did you know at that moment that incident would end up in your book?

You mean before or after I imagined myself cutting her in half with a chain saw? I honestly had no idea at that point in time there would ever be a book, let alone a book written about those types of experiences. As a matter of fact, I simply wanted to move on with my career in entertainment and never re-visit them again. Back then, I would have never believed a Hollywood career would not happen for me. But when the light finally turned on after ten years of beating my head against a cement wall and other factors (that are listed in the book) sent me flying out of Los Angeles with a ball of flames shooting out from behind me that’s when the idea of looking back and having one last laugh became very appealing to me.

Okay, now on to some industry questions.

Can you tell us about your journey to publication?

It was like giving birth to a hippopotamus, but I truly believe when it’s your time it’s your time. I had been raging against the machine for quite some time so it only made sense that my publisher would be detached from the Hollywood establishment and the crony media conglomerates. After getting anywhere from 50-100 rejected query letters and exhausting my Hollywood insider connections I put a call out to an independent producer friend who knew a lot of people. This guy really liked my previous writings and I thought to myself what can it hurt? He was actually planning a dinner meeting with a good friend who was in town and whose mother is a successful publisher. A few weeks later they were reading my work and I was getting the green light. The rest is history.

Do you remember the moment you declared yourself a writer?

The day Universal Studios returned my call based on a pitch I left on someone’s answering machine for my first screenplay which was written entirely in pencil. I didn’t have a computer at the time so I had to have a friend who worked at MGM type it up for me so I could present a professional copy.

You are a semi self-published author is that correct?

Yes, even though I’ve bared some of the up-front costs, I had to have their stamp of approval on the material in order for them to publish it and the book had to be good enough for them to want to distribute it. Again, I absorbed most of the costs (which is very typical today for almost any first time author unless you are Paris Hilton writing your memoirs) but the upside is a bigger back end for me. I have an unbridled entrepreneurial spirit and a very clear and concise artistic voice. I refuse to have it compromised for any reason whatsoever and this situation allows me to have the best of both worlds. I couldn’t be happier.

Can you share with my readers how you went about getting your book out there and what resources you used?

At this stage of the game, I just used my instincts and the relationships I had built over the years. I am definitely a one man army when it comes to tireless self-promotion and I believe in my work so I am also like a used car salesman gone wild. There are days when I wish I had an off button but overall I am very proud of the book which makes me want to get it out to people even more. If I have to spray paint the title on the side of my car I will, but I will not stop until As the Matzo Ball Turns reaches the New York Times Best Seller List.

Before you decided to take this route, did you try the traditional methods of querying agents?

Yes, but quite honestly, I knew from my previous encounters with these brain dead drones that they would never in a million years accept my work. It doesn’t fit into one of their neat little boxes and it also exposes the very same industry that sends their kids to the finest schools and gets them invited to all the trendy parties. Well, I am kicking in the door and saying, “Here’s Johnny.”

*I’d like to clarify if any agents are reading my blog, that Jozef’s comments are not my own. I don’t think of agents, editors or publishers as brain dead drones*

If so, how many queries did you send before deciding to do your own thing?

Again, even though I sent out 50-100 queries I knew in my heart of hearts I had to take the grassroots approach but I had no idea how I was going to accomplish it. There is no doubt in my mind that this publishing and distribution set up is the right thing for me because I have never had things fall into place so naturally in my entire life.

Do you have more books in the works?

If I started writing them today I wouldn’t finish them all in this lifetime. But, right now, with my work schedule and the non-stop promotion of this book, I have absolutely zero time to write. I already thought out a sequel to As the Matzo Ball Turns and have another more serious book to scribble down after that. But, I would honestly like to take a stab at making another movie. I worked on one film while I was in LA and learned so much from it I just have to get my hands on another one. And I have a great screenplay to boot.

Okay, I know your head is probably spinning from all of these grueling questions but I like to end my interviews with some fire questions. You ready?

Yikes. Go for it!

*Do you have a thinking spot?

On the john or on the floor while petting my dog, Charlie, who is also a character in the book. He made one public appearance for a book signing and it will most likely be his last. I left him out of my site for just one minute and he scared the death out of two middle aged men entering the store. He was dressed in bow tie but acted more like he was wearing a pin striped suit.

*What is your writing ritual?

Playing solitaire before and after each writing session. I know I just drew ire from the entire writing profession for falling into the lonely writer stereotype but what can I say it relaxes me. And what writer isn’t a little bit of a loner?

*Do you keep Journals?

I scribble down notes. My desk looks like that of a mad scientist. I call it organized chaos.

*What is the strangest thing you ever wrote an idea on because you didn’t have paper available? (I once wrote an idea on a matchbook)

Hahaha. I like yours. For me, it would have to be a bible.

What are you reading right now?

Besides all of these silly questions, I am reading Redemption 4th edition. Long story. It’s not so much for enjoyment as it is personal knowledge. But the truth of the matter is, with this latest endeavor I barely ever get time to read for pleasure. I squeeze it in when I can.

*Do you have a favorite author?

I am very into the freedom and truth movement so two people come to mind. Both are people I loosely know. Sheriff Richard Mack and G. Edward Griffin are incredibly insightful, courageous and intelligent. If you care about the state of the world and value freedom and prosperity you should read their works. It is your duty!

*What is your favorite word?

Duty. Only because the comedic side of my brain just doesn’t want to turn off right now.

Okay, one last thing I promise. Can you tell my readers where they can purchase your book?

I thought you would never ask! Well, if you live in either the Wilkes-Barre or Allentown area you can walk into the Barnes and Noble store either in the Wyoming Valley Mall or Whitehall Mall and snag one right off of their shelves. Other than those two locations (at this point in time anyway) you can order it from a store clerk at any Barnes and Noble store across the country and just about any other book store nationwide. But being that it is the 21st Century, you can also order it through amazon.com or barnesandnoble.com or by simply going to my blog at www.asthematzoballturns.com . Links are provided on the blog for the other online sellers as well and the book is also available for download.

Jozef, I wish you nothing but tons of success. You are an awesome, funny writer and I hope we stay in touch.

Thank you very much Maribeth. I hope so too.

Don’t forget to leave a comment for Jozef. Anyone who comments will be entered in a random drawing to receive a free signed copy of his book As the Matzo Ball Turn

Jozef, please let my readers know where they can find you. Your blog, twitter, facebook, any social networks.

My blog is www.asthematzoballturns.com  , you can friend me, Jozef Rothstein on Face book and my email is jozefrothstein@yahoo.com . Thanks for your interest and happy reading!!!!!

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Filed under Author Interview, books, Giveaway, platform building, Uncategorized, writer's life, writers

Supporting Rachel Harris-Cover Debut and Book Exerpt

Today’s blog is dedicated to the upcoming book My Super Sweet Sixteenth Century by author Rachel Harris. A few weeks ago I was blog surfing when I was introduced to this book. Rachel was super excited that she would soon be able to reveal her book cover and asked fellow writers and bloggers to help her celebrate. I love witnessing other writers dreams come true so I thought Why Not!

Isn’t this book cover AWESOME ? I would love to own that dress.

Being that I am Italian, this book already piques my interest.

                                                                       EXCERPT

I hear their muffled whispers and understand every Italian word. Every witty comment made at my expense.

It’s like my brain is automatically translating.

I bunch the soft fabric of the dress in my hand and then reach up to feel the ribbon in my hair. I lightly skim my fingers over my chin and feel my lack of zit. I take in the costumes of the crowd, the stench of the animals, and the Italian I can now speak and understand. And suddenly it hits me.

Reyna must have pulled some kind of gypsy mojo.

Maybe this is one of those nifty “change your life” magic scenarios like in the movies. I mean, mostly I’m still expecting to blink and be right back in the midst of overpriced, gaudy tourism, but for now, the gypsy-time-warp explanation is infinitely better than thinking I’ve lost my mind. As I decide to go with that option, I feel my frantic tension melt away.

The growing crowd seems to notice my change in demeanor and begins shooting one another amused looks, but I don’t care anymore. A smile stretches across my face. Evidently, I was wrong earlier; Reyna is a psychic mind reader, because if this is her special brand of bibbity-bobbity-boo, then she made my exact daydream from earlier in the courtyard come to life.

The long red gown, the braided hair, the Italian merchant’s daughter, the time period. I am in Renaissance Florence.

I stare dumbly at the ground, the words and reality sinking in.

I’m in Renaissance Florence!

 

Sounds great right? This book  goes on sale September 11th, 2012. You can pre-order at Amazon or Barnes and Nobles. Don’t forget to go on Goodreads and add it to your TBR list.

Don’t forget stop by and wish a fellow author luck.

www.RachelHarrisWrites.com
www.twitter.com/@RachelHarrisYA
www.facebook.com/RachelHarrisYA
www.goodreads.com/RachelHarris

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Filed under Author Interview, books, Inspirational, platform building, writer's life, writers, Writing

Interview with Eisley Jacobs

I am super excited to post another author interview. I met Eisley Jacobs on Twitter in one of the writing chat rooms about a year or so ago. She was one of the first ones to welcome me and has always been willing to answer any questions I had (even know she really had no idea who I was). I knew immediately she would be a successful author. (How? you ask. There was something about her online presence that drew people toward her. If she could do that without being published I could only imagine what she would become when her name was really out there for the whole world to see).

Today, Eisley’s books are being sold and I can’t wait to find out how her journey is going.

Hi Eisley, how are you today? I’m awesome! I just drove in from Colorado for a small book tour visit in California. I’m pretty exhausted from driving with four kids, but I’m excited to be here on this adventure!

Let’s start with your name (or pen name) Eisley, can you tell us how you came up with this uber cool name and what made you decide to not use Heather?

Yes, my real name is Heather but coupled with my last name… it’s taken. If my name was Stephen King, I would have to come up with a pen name. It is NEVER a good idea to share your name with anyone, especially someone famous. The Heather that has my name is actually a publishing author. She is not in my genre but when you google her name, she comes up all over the place (along with a PhD who has published a few papers). So when it was time to start the social media road, I knew I needed a name that stood out from the crowd and meant something. Eisley means “strong or firm” and Jacobs means “to hold onto”… so my name means “to firmly hold onto…” my convictions. And that is just what I plan to do when I write. *That is Awesome*

I remember reading on your blog about your book Born to be a Dragon. It sounded really cool. Can you share with us what this story is about?

Born to Be a Dragon is about the epic relationship between two ten year olds… a dragon and a girl. The story encourages kids to “follow their dreams” and never just accept sterotypes.

What inspired you to write this book?

My children were a big inspiration to this book. They love playing make believe and as I watched them one day, Deglan strolled through my brain. I was in a lull with Rings of Time so it was perfect timing.

How are your books selling?

Remarkably well. My totals are still out, but preliminary totals are blowing me away. If the reviews on Amazon are any clue as to how this book is being received, then I couldn’t be more thrilled!

Did I see Born to Be A Dragon was on the top releases right out of the gate?

Yes! In fact, I hit #1 the first day of release in “Hot New Releases” It was a pretty awesome moment.

Do you remember the moment the idea came to you?

I don’t remember the very moment the idea came to me, but I do know that I was watching my kids play when it came.

How did you come up with your character names?

Deglan’s name came from an intense search of my friends children’s names. Declan was the boys name that Deglan came from. Because he was a dragon, I added a G and made it very dragon. *Super Cool*

Does the stories or the characters come to you first?

I’m a pantser writer. Much like watching a movie, the story and characters reveal themselves moment by moment during my first draft. So they really all come together at the same time. In my second draft I fill holes I may have and round our my characters. But for the most part, it’s all a very organic way of writing.

It seems that agents are often requesting middle-grade novels with boy protagonists. Did you try querying this book before you decided to self-publish?

Oh yes, I queried this book about 90 times. Complete with about 70 rejections. I sent the manuscript to two agents (who are friends) and asked them what was wrong. The surprising answer was NOTHING! Dragon books just weren’t selling to the publishers right now. One of the agents told me to sit on it a while and the other said, “if you believe in the book, go Indie.” So I did.

What was the deciding factor that made you decide to self-publish?Having two agents tell me my manuscript was good but it just wasn’t the subject that was selling right now was good enough for me.

Are you happy with your choice?
I am THRILLED with my choice. This has been an amazing journey that I would not exchange for the world!

Can you tell us a little bit about self-publishing?

It’s a hard road. It’s not for the weak willed. You have no one pushing you for a deadline. It’s all you! You have to press on and move forward and enjoy the ride!

Is self publishing expensive?

Amazingly enough this answer is as varied as the author you talk to. Depending on which press you print with, you will have a fee. Create Space was $39. Then there is your cover artist (that could be $50-500). Mine was free because I’ve got mad skilz… Ha ha. I made it with my tablet and pen. Then you have the editor and proofreaders, again varied costs of anywhere from $100-$1000 depending on how large your manuscript is. So it can cost as little or as much as you can afford. However, skimping on any of these costs will show.

I love the cover of your book. Did you work with an artist for the design?

I didn’t actually. I had a first draft of the cover with an island and a palm tree with a dragon tail, foot prints and a hermit crab, but I just didn’t like the concept as much as I liked the full moon silhouette. After searching around for some ideas, I used my tablet and made my own silhouettes and that is a photo of the real moon, edited a little to fit my needs.

You also have several other books in the works. Can you offer their titles and give us a sneak peek what they are about? (I know Rings of Times is one of them)

Rings of Time is indeed ready for a final read through and publish date, but I don’t have one yet. I don’t want to rush this one but it’s almost ready.

Dragons Forever 2 has a working title, but I can’t reveal it yet. It will be released on BLACK FRIDAY 2011.

I also have a YA novel called PIECES OF ME that is nearly ½ done, but has taken a back seat to everything else.

Your blog is phenomenal. You talk about everything from writing to home schooling. Although I don’t home school my children, I have always been impressed by parents that took on this task. Can you share with us what led you to this decision?

We really decided to homeschool out of necessity. The school wanted to hold my very intelligent daughter back because her age didn’t permit her to move forward (born 17 days too late for first grade). And when I went to the kindergarten orientation I was NOT impressed. They were going to teach her the ABCs and her colors… and she was reading chapter books already. It just didn’t work for us. So we started homeschooling and have never looked back. It continues to fit our lifestyle and my children’s needs. They enjoy their tailored learning and the field trips we attend. I don’t know if we will homeschool forever, but right now, it works for us.

Do you read your stories to your children? What do they think?
My oldest reads the YA stories herself but I read the MG stories aloud to everyone. They absolutely LOVE it and will interject their opinions A LOT… and sometimes it’s helps tremendously!

You are also somewhat of a humanitarian. (Yes, she does it all). You have visited other countries. Have you brought your books with you? Did any ideas get inspired while traveling?
I have brought books with me, but mostly to read during my down time. It’s amazing what you “find” when you aren’t stuck in the writing mode. So I bring my ipad and read through my manuscripts to see what I find.

I have a few ideas for YA/MG novels from visiting the beautiful Ethiopia. We will see how they pan out as the years go on. I go back in March to Ethiopia (See the WHAT A LOAD OF CROC? Post) and plan to bring at least two books with me for the teachers at the orphanage. They love reading and will enjoy the Dragons Forever Series.

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Believe in yourself. Believe in your writing. And do the work. Nothing is perfect and always accept criticism with grace and dignity. Try hard to just say THANKS and not give excuses. Take EVERY critique and really chew it over. REALLY, you may not find value to it today… but come back to it and REALLY debate with yourself as to if the advice is valid. You will be surprised what a couple weeks can afford your attitude. Your critique partners just want to HELP you they do not want to bring you down. Oh and get several crit partners… VERY important.

Okay, before we end our interview I have a few more quick questions.

I often ask other writers what their favorite word is. Mine is BELIEVE! Can you share your favorite word with us?I don’t know if I have a favorite word! That is a new question… and one that I’m not sure I can answer! I really try hard to mix it up and make sure I don’t repeat the same words. I even throw my manuscript through a script checker to make sure I don’t use the same word 1,999 times. But I do love the word twinkling and trembling. Not that I overuse them 😉

Do you have a writing spot?
I don’t really have a writing spot. The couch with my laptop is where you will most often find me. However, I love going to the “office” to write too. Sometimes I am more productive when I leave my element.

What time is your favorite time to write?
At night after dinner. Usually the kids are all settled down doing other stuff and I am able to really concentrate on my characters instead of the dishes, homeschooling or life.

What are you reading right now?
Right now my books (yes plural) are The Clearing, by Anne Riley (YA), Bridger, by Megan Curd (YA) and The Secret of Spruce Knoll, by Heather McCorkle (YA). I also just put on my list Frindle, by Andrew Clements (MG) and Sept 20th the next Secret Series book comes out, You Have to Stop This by Pseudonymous Bosch (MG).

Do you have a favorite author?
C.S. Lewis was always my favorite author and will continue to be.

Eisley, thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. I truly hope that your writing career takes off to levels you never imagined.

Is there a thought you wish to end this interview with?
Believe in the impossible and look for it to happen!

Eisley can also be found on Twitter. Follow her @EisleyJacobs
Visit her at http://www.EisleyJacobs.com

Leave a comment and let Eisley know what you thought of her fantastic interview.

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Filed under Author Interview, books, Fiction, platform building, story writing, writer's life, writers, Writing

Interview With LK-Gardner-Griffie

I’m back! As promised I have an author interview for you today. LK-Gardner-Griffie is the author of Misfit McCabe and Nowhere Feels Like Home. The third book No Boundries will be released this summer. The books follow the life of 14 year old Katie McCabe.
LK is very talented and her journey to publication is extremely interesting. She inspires me to keep going.

The online reviews of Misfit McCabe are impressive. If you are looking for something to read now that the summer is here, pick up Misfit McCabe and Nowhere Feels Like Home. I am positive you will be happy that you did.

I’d love to hear what you think of this interview so please leave a comment.

Hi LK, How are you today?
LK: I’m actually recovering from pneumonia, but I can breathe, washed my hair, and I did a little revising today, so we’ll call it a win all around.

I’d like to start off by asking you a question about your name. Is LK something you chose as your Pen name? Did you choose this or did an agent or editor recommend it? I always wondered if pen names were suggested or not (you know, sort of how some celebrities are encouraged to change their names).

LK: I think I decided to go with my initials at around age ten, so no agent or editor was involved at that time. I decided I wanted to write books when I was nine, and by ten I started thinking about what name would be on the cover. Every year at the beginning of school, or with every substitute teacher I had, my name, which is Liana, would get mangled and it irritated me that teachers, who should know everything, couldn’t get a simple thing like my name right. So I started thinking about how much more it would get mangled when I became a famous author and how easy I would be to find (I’ve always been a private person). And came to the conclusion that if I used initials, it added a bit of mystique and I could write as either a boy or a girl. And while the sting of being called Linda every year until the teacher learned my name had faded, by the time I had completed my first novel, the idea of using initials stuck with me.

Okay, let’s start with Misfit McCabe. How did you come up with this idea?

LK: Misfit McCabe came to me. Literally, in the form of a dream. I woke up one morning with the dream still playing in my head and the desire to write it as a book was born. I didn’t dream every detail, but most of the key parts of Misfit McCabe were in the dream. You’d better believe I did some fast scribbling to capture as much as I could.

Ooh interesting. The book I am currently completing also came to me in a dream.

Can you tell us about how long it took you to write this book?

LK: Believe it or not, this question is a little difficult for me to answer because Misfit McCabe was written quite awhile ago. But my memory says, I think approximately two months for the first draft. Nowhere Feels Like Home was drafted in four weeks, but it gushed out and I just rode the wave. With Misfit McCabe, I wasn’t sure what I was writing was worth the paper it was on, so I took a writing class to help get some feedback on the work, and I’d finished before the class was over, but revisions took longer—as they always do for me.

What was the querying process like for you? Did you rack up a lot of rejections prior to getting the “acceptance”.

LK: With Misfit McCabe, I had a roller-coaster type of experience. I didn’t rack up a lot of rejections prior to getting the “acceptance”, but I did afterward. Let me preface this by saying publishing was a different animal when I wrote Misfit McCabe and even then my experience was an exceptional one. As I mentioned I took a writing course to help make sure I was on the right track with the technical aspects of the story. During the class, we found out about a local writers conference and I decided to go. My first exposure to agents came at the conference when the agents who took the stage that day gave a talk about what they look for in their submissions. One basically said she had a full client list and wasn’t interested in any new submissions. (And I wondered why she was there.) The other gave a realistic talk about the type of time the agent spends on the various activities and where you, as a new writer, fit into that time scheme. Then after the conference, I noticed the agent who actually said something of value had a circle of people around her asking questions, so I joined the group on the fringes, just so I could soak up the information. I had no intentions of asking any questions, I just wanted to learn as much as I could.

She then turned to me and asked what I wanted to know. I panicked. And thinking fast, I asked what the best way was to find agents who handled juvenile fiction. (This was prior to the internet, and even prior to young adult as a separate category, and agents for juvenile work were sparse.) She said that she had a friend who handled juvenile, and that they were trying to work out a co-op type of arrangement where they would recommend clients to each other, and to send her my first three chapters and she’d see whether she could refer me to her friend.
I was ecstatic and scared. And I probably wrote the lamest query letter of all times… along the lines of “Hi – I met you at the conference and you asked me to send you three chapters and here they are.” I sent my package off the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, and that Sunday I received “the call”. She couldn’t stand to be away from the office, so had gone in and my manuscript pages were there and she read them…and LOVED them. By that time I couldn’t feel my feet, but managed to squeak out “does that mean you’re going to refer me to your friend?” To which she responded, “No, I’m want to represent you.” And it was done. (Again, different times and most of publishing was handled by a “handshake” and not a contract.) I had an agent. And after a bona fide happy dance, panic settled in. Holy crap, she wanted the rest of the manuscript and I hadn’t finished it yet. So I came down off my cloud and finished writing the book.

The rejections. Well, it would have been nice if my agent had done something with my manuscript, but I’m afraid it languished around the office waiting to be noticed again. My mistake was not insisting that it be sent to someone who handled juvenile fiction as a part of their work. I was just so happy that an agent loved my work, and to be honest, I was so new to the publishing industry I didn’t know any better. Then there were problems within the agency and the agency dissolved and all of the work was divided up, but my lone little juvenile manuscript didn’t have a home because no one handled juvenile, so it came back to me after a couple years. And Writer’s Market and I went to work. But in those days, simultaneous submissions were taboo, so one submission at a time, via snail mail with average response times of approximately six months. So while I didn’t wrack up a lot of rejections, it happened over years. And life kept getting crazier until I had a job where I traveled constantly and I simply stopped submitting.
Then one day toward the end of 2007, I decided enough was enough, Misfit McCabe had gathered enough dust, and I wanted to put it out to share with my family and friends, so decided to self-publish it. I did another couple of rounds of revisions (I’m addicted to revisions and sometimes don’t know when to stop), had a cover made, and put it out. I’ll share a little more about what happened with it, when I answer some of the questions below.

Can you tell us about Katie (the main character)?
When I first read the back cover of Misfit McCabe I thought I bet I could relate to this girl (growing up I was sort of a rebel but never really wanted to be. I guess you could say I was an accidental rebel).
LK: Katie. She and I have been together for so long it’s like she’s a part of me. She’s smart, but doesn’t think before she acts most of the time. She definitely has attitude, and can be contrary to work with. But she has an innocence that comes of having been well-protected growing up. She’s a staunch friend, has a quick temper, and is very emotional. In short, she’s a teenager. And in many ways, while she rebels, she doesn’t really want to—she craves acceptance, but has difficulty in believing that her new family does care for her and wants her to be a part of the family.

In the first book it is told that Katie lost her mother and her father was seriously ill. How did you tap into the emotions of that for this character?

LK: I’ve always been an empathetic writer. Well, I guess first I’m an empathetic reader. I’ve always been able to put myself in the place of the characters in a book and feel what they are feeling. Which is why when I read, I’m so often a mess afterward, all it takes is a sad moment and I’m bawling my eyes out. So I use that same ability when I write. I experience my characters’ pain. It comes naturally for me to do this, so it is difficult for me to explain how. I believe in them, they are real to me, and just as when you share the pain and suffering of a friend, I share theirs. My job is to keep enough of my mind above the feeling to capture it. But my heart has broken many times with Katie. I go through it first draft, and with every single revision.

I know a lot of what we do as writers is imagine what it would be like to be in a situation. Did you have to imagine the pain she felt or did you have life experiences that told you first hand?

LK: Yes and no. I had both parents in my life growing up, so for the emotions surrounding the absence of her mother, I have to imagine… or the way I think of it, I allow Katie to tell me how she feels. At the time I originally wrote Misfit McCabe, my own father was still alive and at that point well, but had been very ill with cancer during my teens, when I was a little younger than Katie’s fourteen. So I understand her fears about her father’s illness, but because her life changes so drastically, those fears are somewhat sublimated because of all of the new experiences she’s having. When she loses her father, I had not yet lost mine, so you can say that I had to imagine the pain, but I would disagree. Throughout my life I have experienced loss of loved ones, and with the illness my father had in my teens, I went through the same emotions as if I had lost him because he was not expected to live. As writers we can draw on any life experience and extrapolate it to what we need to connect with our character. The loss of a pet is a loss, and can be used to delve into that emotion. I think I have even called on emotions experienced from reading a book to help me in my writing before.

Early in my writing career, I read that a writer should interview their main character. Was their a process that you followed when writing about Katie?

LK: I was so green when I started writing Katie, I wouldn’t have known what you meant by a character interview. But since that time I have done character interviews with her, and with some of my other characters. Katie talks to me…when she’s not in a snit about something, so most of the time I don’t need to interview her. I use the question and answer times for when she’s clamming up about something, which usually means it’s something that has more layers and she’s not comfortable with exploring, which means we have to. For the third book in the series (no release date yet), No Boundaries, I had to do a character interview with one of my characters who kept feeding me fantastic lines, but refused to tell me her name or let me see what she looked like. I had her voice, but nothing else. The root of the problem? She didn’t like her name and she didn’t want to be stereotyped. No worries on that score—she is decidedly an individual. I have another character for another book (Middle Grade) for which there was no need to interview her. She marched up told me her name and told me I was going to write her story.

It is always interesting to me to learn about how other writers connect with their characters. I have journals filled with my character interviews.

The follow up to Misfit McCabe is Nowhere Feels Like Home. What can readers expect in the second book?

LK: Nowhere Feels Like Home was an interesting one for me because, without giving too much away, Katie winds up with a broken ankle at the end of Misfit McCabe and Nowhere Feels Like Home picks up hours after the conclusion of Misfit McCabe, so I have a very active, always looking for something to get into, teenager laid up in bed for the duration of the book. Also, originally the book was not supposed to be a sequel, but a companion book to Misfit McCabe. As I mentioned, the first book was written years ago, but Nowhere Feels Like Home, was written in 2009. And all those years ago I meant Misfit McCabe to be a stand-alone. But after finishing it realized there was another story I wanted to tell, that of Katie’s cousin Sarah. So Nowhere Feels Like Home became a blended book, where I fulfilled the needs of my reader’s by continuing Katie’s story, but also had a chance to tell Sarah’s story as Sarah relates her past to Katie. It gives Katie more of a feeling of her roots, and there is so much from the past that is influencing Katie’s present that she knows nothing about. I like to think of Misfit McCabe as being a story about a girl and her experiences and is very Katie-centric. Nowhere Feels Like Home gives more of a flavor of the McCabe family. The third book, No Boundaries, focuses more on school life.

I’d like to congratulate you on the awards these books have received. Misfit McCabe placed runner up in the Montreal’s Pearson Prize Teen Choice Award and then Nowhere Feels like Home received the The Pearson Prize Teen Choice Award the following year.

How did it feel to be told your book won an award? Was it a surreal moment?

LK: Thanks!! As I mentioned in a previous question, I published Misfit McCabe with the idea of giving copies to family and some friends. But then it started selling to strangers, and I received an email from Michael Sweet, a teacher in Montreal who runs the Learning for a Cause organization, requesting Misfit McCabe’s participation in The Pearson Prize Teen Choice Awards. To say I was surprised was an understatement. I checked into the contest and I really liked the premise of it and even though my book is geared toward the younger side of young adult, and these were high school students, felt that it was an honor to be asked to participate, so I sent in the book expecting to be a participant only. So it was very much a surprise to receive the letter advising me Misfit McCabe had achieved runner up, in a contest where 150 books were read by over 100 students. Not bad for a book which was really geared more toward middle school/junior high age. Then when I completed Nowhere Feels Like Home, the submissions were being accepted for The Pearson Prize Teen Choice Award for 2010, so I sent it in, again not expecting to win. So yes, surreal covers it nicely. It provides me immense satisfaction that students voted on the stories and two years in a row were deemed favorites. They are who I write for, so it really does mean a lot to me.

Everything about becoming published intrigues me especially the book covers. Did you have any input into what your book cover would look like? I have to tell you, I thought Katie looked like a younger version of you. I wondered if this was purely coincidental.

LK: On the covers, the current Misfit McCabe cover is the second cover it has borne. The first one was more comic like in appearance because I really didn’t want to show a person on the cover. I like for the reader to use their imagination and come up with what the character looks like to them. But I had several comments about the cover being too young for the book. People either seemed to love it or hate it. It was polarizing. And since it was something I put out myself, I had complete control over what was on the book, so I decided to change it. In the traditional scenario, I would as a debut author, have had little to no say at all about the design of the cover. Being the publisher, I got to change it, so I started looking for suitable pictures. When I ran across the pictures, which were listed with a creative commons license, it was Katie to me. I recognized her instantly. I knew she had to be my cover. And yes, that she does look like a younger version of me is completely coincidental. I didn’t look like that at her age. The new cover has gone over much better and is more universally liked. What’s interesting is that at a book festival I attended when I was trying to decide on which cover to go with, I had a few books made up with different covers to ask readers which they liked the best. I had both bookmarks with the old cover and ones with potential new covers. Younger kids and boys picked up the old cover and the target age girls picked up the new cover. I have quite a few boys who really enjoyed Misfit McCabe, so in a way I was a little sad to change a cover that appealed to them. I don’t know how many boys will feel comfortable reading the book with the new cover. At least in public.

Can you tell us what you find to be the biggest challenge when it comes to writing?

LK: Sustained belief in myself and my abilities. Most days, I’m pretty good about knowing that I’m a good writer, and that my stories hang together well, but I have, as I think we all do, some devastating moments where believing that what I’m working on matters to anyone else, or that I have the ability to string a sentence together is a long stretch. I don’t write edgy, so it won’t fit in today’s market, or my story isn’t about big issues, but the small ones kids face daily. And usually that’s where I can get myself turned back around. My work does connect with kids and it connects with adults. And I have some concepts for books which scare the tar out of me… I’m not sure that I have the writing chops to take them on, but I know I will and I’ll futz with them until I get them right. And then the world can judge whether I accomplished my goal or not. I’ll continue to write because I have to. The stories keep coming and I need to be able to write faster so I can get them all down.

Twitter is a great way to connect with other writers and potential readers (it’s where I met you) can you tell my readers where they may find you (eg. blog, twitter facebook etc).
Website: http://www.griffieworld.com
Blog: http://blog.griffieworld.com
Book site: http://www.misfitmccabe.com
Twitter: @lkgg (http://www.twitter.com/lkgg)
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/AuthorLKGardnerGriffie
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/MisfitMcCabe
AuthorsDen: http://www.authorsden.com/lkgardnergriffie
I also have LinkedIn & Myspace, but am so rarely there I won’t bother to put the links.

Do you have more planned for Katie?

LK: No Boundaries the third book in the series will be released some time this summer. I’m going through the final revision stage (again and again) and have the cover already done. I am currently working on the fourth book in the series, which is untitled as yet. And have a fifth book planned. For me, that will be the end of the series.

Okay, I have a few personal questions to ask if that’s okay.
1. Do you have a writing spot?

LK: I would LOVE to have a writing spot. At the moment, I tend to do most of my writing in bed because I have three long-haired miniature dachshunds who bang on the door, whine, or will scratch my leg if I write in another room. I have a lap table and a bed stand that I use for my laptop and they lay next to me or on my lap as I write. When we move, I plan to have a specific writing room and will use good ear plugs, so I’m not distracted by pups or my husband. Actually, I did use a writing room when working on the revisions for Misfit McCabe and wound up using a pouch to put our then youngest pup in and had to reach around her to get to the keyboard. She’d go promptly to sleep, but couldn’t stand to be on the floor at my feet.

2. When an idea comes to mind what do you do with it?

LK: Usually when an idea hits me, it’s one of those brain-stopping moments so the first thing I do is try to get beyond the “Whoa!!” stage. Then I try to decelerate the brain because it goes into overdrive. And when I can finally get it settled down and partially coherent, I notate the idea. Ideas for me have to simmer for awhile. Sometimes they start like Misfit McCabe with a dream and are nearly intact, but other times it is the whisper of an idea and I have to let it percolate and mature. Some don’t mature, and others do.

3. Where is the most unusual place you scribbled down something you needed to remember? (mine was on the back of a book of matches).

LK: I’ve used napkins, I think, but they are not that unusual. A drink coaster once or twice, but most of the time I note things in my mind and then put it in the computer when I have a chance. If the idea sticks around, then it’s worth exploring. If it disappears before I can get it notated, then it probably wasn’t the right idea for me.

4. How valuable do you think critique groups are? Can you tell us if you have one?

LK: I think critiques definitely add value to the process. Without gaining feedback on the work at hand, you lose a perspective or multiple perspectives which could aid you in making your work better. Working with a group can be wonderful, and it can also be challenging. A group has members that are at varying levels, and if you have the most experience, you end up being the teacher and don’t grow as much as you could should you be in a group where your abilities are on par with or even below the other members. That’s not to say you can’t gain in both instances, but usually in the first, you’re giving more than you’re taking away. Also, there is the issue of time, whether the group is online or in person, etc. One of the most invaluable experiences I’ve had as a writer was the writing class I took when writing Misfit McCabe. It was run very much like a critique group and each person turned in two pages each class and they were read aloud by the designated reader (who wasn’t a writer). In this way, the same voice read all of the pieces, you were forced to listen for the nuances, and where the reader stumbled (time to rewrite), then the class would comment and the teacher would sum up. Hearing the work read aloud is invaluable—especially by someone who has not read it before. I think it is important to find a group that has the same values you are looking for as well. I have heard horror stories about some groups where the members are vicious about the writing. There isn’t any need for that.
I currently do not have an in person critique group, but belong to one online, although I have not been active with the group of late because of time constraints. I rely heavily on people I trust to read and critique my work, who will give me honest feedback and tell me where the writing needs to be tweaked, what works, and what doesn’t.

5. What is the best thing about writing for you?

LK: The moments. There is so much I love about writing. The creation, the getting to know the characters, figuring out the plot, but the best is the moments. The moments during the creation phase when the story starts moving in a direction you hadn’t thought of, and wouldn’t have taken it. The moments during the revision & editing phases where tightening a sentence or adding two words create an additional layer of meaning for the reader. And finally, the moments when the reader connects to the words on the page (and hopefully tells you) and knows what your character is feeling because they have felt the same.

6. Do you have a ritual when it comes to writing? I know some writers need their chocolate before they sit down or their cup of coffee or glass of wine, how about you?

LK: I used to be a lot more persnickety about my writing habits than I am now. The only thing that I think I can say is mandatory, outside of my characters talking to me, is something to drink by my side, usually hot tea which cools and goes stone cold as I’m in the middle of working through a scene. But I drink it anyway.

Lk, I’d like to sincerely thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. You are extremely talented and an inspiration for me.

LK: You are so kind. Thank you very much for allowing me to participate in this interview.

Is there a piece of advice you’d like to give before you leave?

LK: Believe in yourself and keep writing. Even if what you write is crap, let it pour out on to the page, because bad writing can be fixed, but no writing cannot. And don’t be afraid to stretch yourself. Only by stretching ourselves can we find out what we are capable of and it strengthens our abilities.

LK Gardner-Griffie – Author of Misfit McCabe & Nowhere Feels Like Home
2 Time Pearson Prize Teen Choice Award Winner
Preview Misfit McCabe / Preview Nowhere Feels Like Home

Visit me at Griffie World
Where in the World is Misfit McCabe?
Follow me on Twitter: @lkgg

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My First Literary Interview

Lydias Literary Lowdown with Lydia Aswolf 3/1/2011 – WGGM | Internet Radio | Blog Talk Radio.

 

I recently was interviewed by Lydia Aswolf over at Lydia’s Literary Lowdown. It was my first literary interview. She was fabulous and asked me some great questions. We talked about the journey a writer takes, where my inspiration comes from, finding time to write and the process of shopping my book around (The Graveyard Five). Today, I am posting the interview on my blog. I hope you like what you hear. Happy Writing!

I am trying to build my platform. What are some things that you have done to try and build a platform?

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Writing About Love Giveaway

Happy Valentines Day! Love, aah yes, it’s what makes the world go around. We all look for it, give it, receive it and would have a hard time living without it. Love is a writer’s friend. If you are a writer then chances are you have written about love.

Today is a good day to write. It is a day of observation. Take the time to focus on what emotions are being displayed. Is there a co-worker that is in a terrible mood because her and her significant other called it quits and today she has no valentine?

Did you witness flowers being delivered to an unsuspecting person? How did they respond?

I’m willing to bet that every novel written has some element of love within its pages. It can be materialistic love, sibling love, romantic love, love of power, platonic love or unconditional. Love is not just mushy. It can be the root to violence, insecurities, and betrayal.

Today’s post is a writing exercise. It has two parts.

First Part- Take one of your favorite novels down from the shelf and begin exploring the pages. Where did the author write about love? What type of scene did they create? How did you feel after reading their words? Did anything about their words inspire you?

Second Part- Create your own love scene. Remember it doesn’t have to be sunshine, rainbows, kisses and hugs. It could be storms, rocky roads and sacrifice.

Writing Prompt: Lexie stepped off of the train (What does Lexie stepping off of a train have to do with love? Was she meeting up with the guy she left everything for? Was she returning home to tend to a sick parent? Was she following her dreams?)

You could go anywhere with one sentence. What the heck let me see where you take this and you might win a surprise. I’m in the mood for a giveaway.

Make me feel love in 100 words or less and you may be a winner.

Because this giveaway was spontaneous I do not yet know what the gift will be but I promise it will be well thought out.

Love and Kisses xoxoxoxo

Maribeth

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From the Basement to The Attic: Remembering the Past and Creating the Future

Today a lot of people fix up their basements, but when I was younger most of the basements I entered were dingy and filled with memorabilia, broken appliances, file cabinets, tools, damaged furniture and dirt. It was a storage room for the past.

When we are writing, we have to go to the basements of our mind to retrieve stories, images, characters and settings. We might only use shards of recollections but nonetheless those bits of information are what make our stories unique.

What do you remember about your past that would help the future of one of your stories?

*What experiences do you remember? Can you use any one of those experiences when writing a scene? E.g. I recall being an overweight ten-year old in gymnastics. It was going to be my first time on the parallel bars and I was excited. I imagined myself flipping gracefully. I envisioned the other girls clapping and the instructor beaming with pride. Instead, I got a pat on the belly and a very rude comment from the instructor “You better lay off the snickers if you want to be good at this,” she said.
If I am writing a scene about disappointment, hurt feelings or embarrassment, I might pull up this memory to see what it evokes.

*What do you remember about your first crush? My first crush was on a boy who had his face painted like a clown. I was at a town festival. I was making my way to the leather tent because my father gave me money to buy a leather bracelet that had my name on it. (This was super special to me because I could never find my name on anything cool like barrettes, pencils, etc.) Just as I approached the tent the boy walked out of the adjacent one. My world stopped. Suddenly it wasn’t the bracelet I was thinking about any more. If I am writing a scene about a first crush, I revisit that moment.

*Do you remember an argument with a friend, a parent, a teacher?

*Think back to a day when you were happy, what was it that made you happy?

*Do you remember a time when you were injured?

*Who were the people of your neighborhood?

*What did the “popular kids” wear?

*What mistakes did you make? Did you ever skip school? Sneak a cigarette? Lie about where you were going?

*Where did you hang out?

*What was your first experience with death?

Grab a pen and paper and jot down ten things you remember from your past. (Mix and Match)
• 1. A person
• 2. An event
• 3. An experienced emotion
• 4. A destination
• 5. A situation
• 6. A lie (you told or were told)
• 7. A room
• 8. A piece of clothing
• 9. A scent
• 10. A conversation

Okay now it’s time to move on to attics. Think of the attic as where you are going. Yes you store things here too but they are to be used again. Take for example Holiday decorations, you have used them in the past but you have no idea what will be going on in your life the next time you bring them down so they are also part of your future.

The attic of our stories is the part where you tap into your hopes, dreams and predictions. The beginning of the story is the basement. The journey of the story is the attic.

*Where do you see yourself in ten years? (Can your character be pondering this same question?)

*What events can happen that will change the world? (Is your character a part of these events?)

*What are your worst fears? Can you create a scene that makes you confront these fears?

*What would be your dream come true?

*Who are people you may meet?

*What surprise would you love to receive?

Look at the above questions I listed and then review your answers from the first part of the exercise (Your past memories). Combine your past recollections with your future hopes to see how you might be inspired.

Take a look at any of your stories and try and pick out exact spots where you know you drew on the past (the basement). Do you remember a part of your story where you were stumped and had no idea how to move forward? Did you need to tap into your characters mind (attic) to see what their dreams, hopes, and desires were?

One of the things I find most fun when writing is the fact that I can create a past and a future. I have the ability to ensure the future for my character is exactly what I want it to be. I don’t have this same luxury in real life. In writing, everything could be certain if we choose it to be. If I want my character to become a law student, I could make that happen. I could also make her find the perfect mate, wear the best clothes, be given many awards and die peacefully in her bed.

In writing, there are basements and attics. The basement is where we have been and the attic is where we are heading. You can’t have a future if you never experienced a past. Use your life experiences when writing and you may find you create a future best seller.

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