Blog Archive

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Illuminating a LIfe Through Research: Author Interiew with Kathleen Krull

You’ve published a variety of books in your career from fiction to non-fiction. What was the first book that got published – fiction or non-fiction?
Before I became a full-time writer, I worked for eleven years for four companies as a children’s book editor. While on the job, I wrote mysteries in the Trixie Belden series, a Little Golden Book, a collection of Christmas carols, and a 24-book concept series. My very first published book was THE BUGS BUNNY BOOK (fiction), an auspicious debut to be sure.

You say you wrote for the Trixie Belden series. I see this was a series which was written by Julie Campbell Tatham. How do you pick up and write someone else's series? 
Julie wrote the first 6 books, but after that they were written by freelancers under the house pseudonym Kathryn Kenny.  As editor on the series, I revised many of the manuscripts extensively, & wrote my own -  Trixie Belden and the Hudson River Mystery.

During those11 years as an editor, you also said you wrote a 24-book concept series. Did you edit those books yourself?
I never thought of it that way, but yes I did edit myself. This was the "Beginning to Learn About" Series with Richard L. Allington. They covered the topics of colors, shapes, numbers, hearing etc.

You’ve always been an avid reader. Is there any book you’ve ever read that you wished you had written? If so, what book was that?
 Harry Potter, naturally, and many many others.  I think being an avid reader has always inspired me--striving to be in the company of all the great writers out there.

Most of your books tend to be non-fiction based. How did you get your start in writing non-fiction books? Did you start with a packager?
My mind does gravitate toward organizing large amounts of interesting information into the form of a story. Have never worked with a packager, but my first success, LIVES OF THE MUSICIANS, was pitched as a joint endeavor with the artist, the amazing Kathryn Hewitt. I minored in music in college, it’s one of my passions, and when I looked at the musical biographies that were out then, I wanted to do something fresh and more relevant to contemporary kids.  Its success has led to seven more LIVES OF books, and inspired many of my other books as well.  

How do you decide on the facet of the person’s life that you want to cover? How do you go about doing your research?
I think of myself as a large (5 foot, 2 inch) flashlight, illuminating any avenue of information I can find. Most often, that road takes me to the library, of which I am a heavy user. For real research, detailed information that’s been digested by scholars and carefully edited—you need books. The Internet—not so much. I also have learned not to pay too much attention to diaries and autobiographies, because many people tend to, um, lie about their lives for various reasons.

Instead, I seek what the best scholars have done with this material. I see my role as taking the valuable work of scholars and distilling it into a form that I hope will make children love, or at least like, history. I take a mountain of notes on what is most interesting, and then revise, tinker, revise, edit, whittle, and then revise some more. If there is a key to what I do, it’s that I don’t use most of my information. As Voltaire said, “The best way to be boring is to leave nothing out.” I list my sources and suggested reading at the end, as I think one of the goals of a biography is to direct readers outward to learn more.

Did you ever find something that surprised you in doing research on a topic or person?
 My research constantly jolts me, for better or for worse—one of the perks of the job. 

Is there anyone in particular that you would like to write a book about that you have not yet done?
 I have lots of people I want to write about-- especially women, because I think they’re still underrepresented in the historical record.  Maybe Lady Gaga????

Your husband is an illustrator, but sometimes your writing credits show him as a co-author? How do you decide who does what?
With the books co-written with Paul Brewer-- FARTISTE, LINCOLN TELLS A JOKE, and new THE BEATLES WERE FAB-- he has generally come up with the idea and done the bulk of the research. We do the writing together, passing the manuscript back and forth many times until neither one of us has a quibble.   

How do you handle it when he is your illustrator? 
With the books he illustrates, I never tell him what to illustrate; I’m available for consultation in my office next to his, but even then I find that he and other artists that have illustrated my books come up with ideas a million times better than mine.

Does writing a story come easier now that you’ve written so many books?
 I WISH it came easier, but it really doesn’t--I still go through just as many revisions as I did in the beginning. I do have more confidence that I will eventually have something publishable, while in the beginning I was more in the dark.   

Is there one book you’ve enjoyed writing than any others? 
I enjoy writing all my books--I pick topics I’m passionate about--and how long they take varies wildly, from a few weeks to several years.

What is your favorite part of the writing process?
 I like all parts of the writing process, but my very favorite is getting what seems like a good idea. Pure exhilaration.   

What’s one of the best pieces of writing advice you’ve ever been given?
As for advice, I believe this comes from Hemingway, who said he stopped writing for the day when the writing was going well, not when he was blocked.  He said this makes it easier to get back on the saddle the next day, and I’ve found this to be true.

For those who want to learn more about Kathleen's work, you can visit her author page 
f you would like to have her visit your school to talk about writing, nonfiction or biographies, you can reach her by email  

To see all her "LIVES" series of books, each accompanied by its own downloadable Activity & Discussion Guide, click here

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Creating Meaningful Story Elements: An Interview with award-winning author, Susan May Warren

Today I am pleased to welcome to my blog Susan May Warren. She is a bestselling author of more than forty novels. Her books have been chosen as Top Picks by Romantic Times, won the RWA's Inspirational Reader's Choice contest and the American Christian Fiction Writers Book of the Year award. She also runs a writing community for authors. Yet somehow she found time to do this interview and I thank her for it.

I am in awe at the number of books you have written and how you can easily move from different fiction styles. When did you publish your first book? Did you have an agent?

I published my first novel while living and working as a missionary in Russia.  I did not have an agent – I looked for publishers who would take unagented authors and worked with them.  My first novel was published because I won a contest Tyndale was having to discover new authors.

As a writer, do you think the requirements in producing a novel have changed since your first book?

No. I think a great story is a great story.  You need to understand storytelling elements and how to put together a novel that brings the reader through an emotional experience with the character. This is the crux of all novels, throughout time.

Your writing covers the romance spectrum from contemporary to historical and suspense. Do you have one genre that you feel more comfortable writing?

I love writing contemporary because I enjoy bringing into the story elements that I see in my everyday life.  But I love the challenge of writing historicals because of the research. I’m a research junkie.

One of your early pieces was for Pockets Magazine for children. Was that a non-fiction story? Is this something you’d like to go back and do some more?
I had an epiphany for a children’s story based on something that happened to my son, and wrote the story with Pockets in mind.  I am not necessarily a children’s writer, so it hasn’t been something I’ve pursued. But, if I get another epiphany….!

Since you write historical fiction, do you do your own research or do you have an assistant who does that for you? Is there one particular piece of research that surprised you?

No, I do my own research. I remember thinking, as I researched and wrote DUCHESS, that I didn’t realize that actors and actresses signed onto a studio like employees, and were paid a weekly sum, regardless of how much the movie made. (this was in the 1930s).  They felt a little like cattle, and the studios put them in whatever movies they wanted.  This was why United Artists (studio) was formed.  Interesting!

In your bibliography, it shows you publish multiple books each year. How do you find the time to be so prolific with raising a family? 
I write a book in about 3-4 months, including research and edits. I usually write a very rough draft, then do rewrites, then edit it, then proof it before I hand it into my publisher.  As for the kids – I write when they are at school, and am with them when they come home. But I have been known to take my computer to basketball games!

Have there been any books that you’ve felt strongly about writing that haven’t passed the editorial stage?

I have one series that I’m hanging onto, trying to decide what to do about it.  I haven’t really put it out into the marketplace yet, waiting for the right timing. But no, for the most part, my publishers have been on board with my ideas – and me, theirs! That’s important – you both want to love the story ideas.

You’ve received numerous awards for your writing over the years. Is there one that stands out with special meaning for you?

Probably the Christy, which I won this year.  I’ve been up for it six times, so it was very special to me to win.

You’ve also published books on writing and have several writing courses. What made you decide to go that route? What has been the most rewarding aspect you’ve had in helping others improve their writing craft?

I am a teacher at heart, so I loved helping people write their novels. But I was also fed up with all the different writing methods out there – it seemed so confusing to so many.  My method is very organic and intuitive, so I began to teach it and it caught on.  I teach based on my methods, so I really enjoy it, and I learn something every time I teach. I love it when I see someone’s eyes light up and they say, “for the first time, I finally get it!”  Cool!! 

What is some of the best writing advice that you’ve received or could give?

Keep writing.  Seriously – don’t just finish a book and sit on it.  Find another story and write that. Dee Henderson gave me that advice. 

What is the next book that will be coming out? Can you give me a short synopsis?

It Had to Be You.  It’s the 2nd in the Christiansen Family series, and it’s a Good Samaritan story about two strangers who find a John Doe and decide to look for his family.  When they do, they discover not only each other, but they end up saving lives.  It’s a story about looking more closely at the people in our world instead of walking by them.

If you would like to book this book or learn about her other ones, here's the link to her website. if you would like to improve your writing, here's a link to her writing courses.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Writing for Fun and Profit: An Author Interview with Lisa Lutz

In your bio it says that after you wrote your first screenplay you decided not to do another one. What made you decide that screenplays weren’t for you?
I think it was more of a matter of Hollywood rejecting me than me rejecting Hollywood. I wrote a script that was eventually made into a film (Plan B) and it bombed. Then no one would read my screenplays anymore. 

From there you started your first novel in 2004. How long did it take to write your first draft?
It took about eighteen months. Then more revisions. I didn't start looking for an agent until the end of 2005. 

Who encouraged you along the way? 
I was not encouraged. I was repeatedly discouraged and told to get a regular job and a regular life. 

Prior to writing your screenplay and this first novel, what other published writing did you have? 
I had one essay in Salon "Confessions of a Hollywood Sellout." [link:]

What drew you to writing a mystery? What mystery writer gave you the inspiration that this was something you could do as well?
I never thought I was writing mysteries. I always thought I was writing comedic novels. I've never been a writer with influences. I just write what I need to write. I'm much more inspired by comedians and film than other novelist. Not that I'm not a huge fan of many novelists, but I've never tried to emulate anyone.

What was your process in finding an agent?
I bought a book on how to get an agent and followed the instructions. Many query letters. 

From the time you were signed by your agent how long did it take to get the publishing contract?
I was signed in November and we sold the book in January. I don't know if that is a normal timeline. 

Will there be more books in this series?
There will be more Spellman books, but I think the series will take a turn (which will seem obvious if you read The Last Word.)

How much time daily do you have for writing?
It just depends on where I am at in terms of my deadline. 

You wrote another book, Heads You Lose with David Hayward. How do you jointly write a book? How did that collaboration come about?
I had the idea for a meta mystery novel and I knew Dave was the only person who I could write it with. I'd always been fascinated by how writers collaborate on a book. It seemed impossible that their egos wouldn't get in the way. So I wanted to essentially expose the beams in a collaboration process. 

You also have another book called, How to Negotiate Everything which is co-authored by David Spellman and you. Spellman is the family name in your series. Is it a serious guide or more tongue in cheek?
David Spellman is a fictional character. I'm sure there are David Spellmans, but I don't know any. The picture book is a story point in the fifth Spellman novel where we discover that David wrote a book, essentially a business book for children that he tested on his baby sister. The book had some unfortunate side effects on Rae's character. It is most definitely tongue in cheek. There's no one more difficult to negotiate with than a child. It's really intended for adults. 

What advice would you give someone who thinks they have the great novel in them just waiting to be told?
Write it. 

What is the best advice you’ve been given from either an editor or your agent?
When you're done with one project, don't waste your time fretting about the publication, reviews, etc. Just start working on the next book. 

Are there any other books in the works that you would like to tell my readers about?
You Were Here is my next book after The Last Word. It's a complete departure from anything I've ever written. That's about all I'm comfortable saying now. 

If  you would like to learn more about Lisa and her books, here’s two links to do just that…
Website                        Facebook

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Real Science & Suspense Meeting in a Novel: An Author Interview with Ransom Stephens

Your professional background is in particle physics research and tech development. How do you go from a likely technical field that it only understandable to a few to writing a novel for the masses?
I’ve been writing since I could write. School newspapers, stories, lots of essays and so forth. It’s how I sort my thoughts. Over the years, documenting my work has accounted for whatever success I’ve experienced in every career I’ve pursued. Over the years, I never stopped writing stories and poems as well as explanatory essays on science and technology. So there wasn’t so much a transition as an altering of priorities.

How you do break down the scientific jargon to laymen’s terms?
The transition from writing dry technical stuff to writing suspense fiction was more of a refinement. The tools are the same, the techniques differ. Adverbs, for example, are strangely useful in conveying complex topics while being annoyingly useless, yet easy to abuse, in fiction. Over the years, people who read my narrative work provided enough positive reinforcement that I figured I could do it and being a novelist was third on my list of life goals; behind being a scientist and playing linebacker for the Oakland Raiders (I still haven’t given up on that).

Popular science writing is a wonderful challenge. There are two primary guiding rules. The first, use as little jargon as possible. Trying to understand complicated concepts is hard enough without being asked to learn a new language; a lesson that I ODed on when I moved from physics research at national labs and universities to tech development in the private sector. I had no idea what the engineers were talking about until I realized that they just used different jargon. The second rule is to milk metaphors like you work at a science-writing dairy. But use better ones than that.

Are any of the characters in your book based on people you know?
Most of my characters are an amalgamation of people I know and my own alter-egos. So far, none of my characters are autobiographical. The closest is Chopper, the villain in The Sensory Deception. My characters have quite different religious and political opinions than mine. For example, Foster Reed, the evangelical physicist in The God Patent is based on a combination of a childhood friend who is Mormon and the only devoutly religious physicist I’ve ever known. From that starting point, over several revisions, Foster evolved into that character. He took a lot of work, probably because we had so little in common.

What inspired you to come up with the concept of The God Patent? One night, while walking around in a Florida swamp with a beer buzz, I thought of the model of the soul that forms the premise for The God Patent. I was a post doctoral research associate at the time, which means that my understanding of quantum physics and relativity and all that stuff was at a pinnacle. I explained the model to a few people and decided that it would be more interesting if I could wrap it in a plot so that people could discover it as Ryan and Katarina do in The God Patent. It took another ten years to come up with that plot.

The thing I like about this model of the soul, and I won’t tell you whether I believe it or not, has to do with faith. You see, I am very curious about why people take leaps of faith. Horoscopes, for example. Why would anyone think that the position of stars and planets could affect them? It’s a leap of faith. Science involves faith, too, but at a different scale: steps of faith, not leaps. You can’t perform every experiment, so believing other people’s results requires an element of faith, but not a leap.

The cool thing about the model of the soul in The God Patent, for me anyway, is that its believability is reduced to a single yes/no question. A single, well-defined step of faith. No great leap, just a yes/no question. A question which, evidently, requires about 400 pages of build-up. If you answer the question “yes” then you believe that model of the soul. And lots of people do answer “yes” which I find at once redeeming and kind of scary. I have no desire to lead a cult.

How long did it take you to write the first book? How many rewrites did you do on it? The first draft took four months, the second six months, the 3rd and 4th took three months each, the 5th and 6th each took a few weeks. A total of about 18 months and, by that, I mean an average of 2-3 hours each day.

For that first book, you have 85 reviews on Amazon. How did you manage to get so many people to be motivated to write a review for a less than well-known name?
The God Patent got terrific buzz right from the start. First, when I uploaded it to Scribd, it was in their top 5 most-read novels for the better part of a year and then when Numina Press published the print version, the San Francisco Chronicle did a big feature article. Plus, I promoted it relentlessly through speeches, articles, YouTube videos and literary events. I used four different speeches for promotion, two covering the science, one for writers groups, and an unrelated career development speech. The point being, that I got The God Patent in a lot of hands. I think I gave almost 50 speeches to different groups in about 18 months.

At the end of the book, there’s a message “From the author” where I ask people to send me an email of their thoughts. Lots of readers send me notes and I ask them to write a review; about half of them do so. Asking for favors runs contrary to my grain, I’m kinda shy with strangers, so it’s personally painful to ask for those reviews, but I force myself and people are pretty happy to do it. As far as I know, no one’s ever been offended.

You also wrote Your Pursuit of Greatness - a workbook which you say evolved from a speech you’ve been giving for years. How did you get started in doing inspirational speaking?
Here’s the story. Back in the mid-90s, when I was an Assistant Professor of Physics, i.e., junior faculty, the dean came to my office and said, “We need more science majors so I’m asking someone from each department to give an hour speech to the incoming freshman class. If our enrollment increases by 10% your chances for tenure will increase at least that much.”

When I gave the first version of that speech, originally called How I avoided Growing Up, the students gushed over it. The dean’s admin told me that to this day, students still tell her the effect that speech had on their career choices. The message is pretty simple: you might as well try to do what you really want to do because the world is a big place and life is short. You either succeed or you die trying, but you’re going to die anyway.

I kept giving that speech to incoming freshman every year. I got tenure and left academia, but kept going back to give some version of that speech. Then, when The God Patent came out, right during the great recession, I figured with all those unemployed people that I had a captive audience so I booked a bunch of speeches at employment development centers, networking events and so forth and handed out bookmarks and sold books. It got the word out, but marketing to people who are broke might have been a dubious concept.

Your second novel, The Sensory Deception, is coming out in August. Are there any similarities between that book and your first novel? They are similar in the sense that their premises are built around cutting edge science. I think the science is better integrated in The Sensory Deception.
The idea for The Sensory Deception came from a newspaper article about a polar bear that swam from ice floes off of Greenland to Iceland. Two weeks of swimming, looking for ice and not finding any. Finally the bear washes up on shore and the police shoot it. Here’s a link to the story:
It occurred to me that if people could experience that first hand, it might alter their politics, might turn them into environmentalists. So I started thinking about nature-based immersive virtual reality and came up with the idea for “sensory saturation,” did a little research and discovered that the effect had been verified by neuro-scientists.

What inspired you to consider writing what it would feel like to be an animal?
The idea is that if you’re inundated with sensory information, your brain doesn’t have time to reflect, to think, and your time horizon reduces from what you experience now, hours, weeks, years, decades, to a window of about ten seconds—the reality of most animals. Developing characters and a plot for that premise led me to Gloria, the brilliant, beautiful Iranian Jew venture capitalist, Farley Rutherford, the naive natural born leader, Chopper Vittori, the migraine-tortured badass neurologist, and Ringo Hayes, the uber-geek engineer.

From a writer’s standpoint, the idea of writing from an animal’s point of view is a wonderful challenge. Animals process information differently, whales, for example, visualize through sonar and bears are more attuned to scent and taste than sight. So those POV passages are detail heavy. I usually hate excessive details, but they’re necessary here so I had to balance my loathing of irrelevant details with conveying the sense of an animal’s reality. From the twenty or so people who’ve read the manuscript and the response at readings, the polar bear and sperm whale POV pieces come off pretty well.

How do you write? Did you do an outline first? Did you do individual character development before doing the full plot?
I develop an outline as far as my own impatience allows, usually, 3-4 pages of initial ideas for how the story unfolds. For The God Patent, The Sensory Deception, and the novel I’m working on now, The Time Prisoner, the plots come to me in the middle of the night. I get up and run into another room and lay down the essential story. It takes a few weeks to eek out the other details and, during that time, I start building characters.
I need to know my characters pretty well before I can start drafting. To nail down their attributes and get an idea of their quirks, I use specially modified dungeons and dragons character sheets. Yes, I played DnD in high school, thoroughly baked most of the time. If you want a copy of my character sheet, send me a note: .

Tell me how you got involved with 47North for your publishing? 
The Sensory Deception was ready to go in January of 2012 and I was shopping it around to agents and publishers. I got about 40 rejections—every writer knows how it works—as well as two offers from small publishers including Numina Press, who published The God Patent. Since The Sensory Deception is more blockbuster-y and less “literary,” I wanted a bigger house to get behind it so, with all voices of self-doubt in my head telling me I was crazy, I turned down both of the publishers. 

A few months later, in July of 2012, with that growing stack of rejections, I started looking for a developmental editor to help me fix it up. I’d gotten great feedback and encouragement from the San Francisco Writers Workshop and the handful of writers, including some authors of bestsellers, so I believed it was a good project, a full-speed techno-eco-science thriller, if you will.

One morning in the middle of July, I was at hotel in Silicon Valley getting dressed before heading to a high-tech development conference, “The PCIe SIG-DevCon” (see what I mean about engineering jargon?), and checked my email. There was a note from someone who had read The God Patent—as I already told you, I get these notes now and them. The note went on about how he loved the story and characters, premise and so forth. So I’m patting myself on the back, “Yes isn’t this nice, another love letter from my adoring—“ and the letter concluded with “…by the way, I’m an acquisition editor with 47North and I’d like to talk to you about your writing career. Do you have any other manuscripts we could consider?”

What happened next?
I talked to him the next day and sent him The Sensory Deception manuscript. Then I sweated for a month, waiting. During that time, I wrote a note to myself promising that no matter what their response, I would not alter my pursuit of this goal.

The lesson for other writers, as well as myself, is that this sort of good fortune (who are we kidding, it’s luck) that he read my book—results from years of effort. Writing fiction had been my top priority every day for seven years when this opportunity found me. That it found me was a result of uploading The God Patent and doing everything I could to get word out.

In scientific terms, I made a big cross section, a big target that made it possible for good fortune to find. In the current state of the publishing industry writers have to expose themselves. For many of us, putting our work, our metaphorical necks, on the line runs counter to our every instinct, but it’s the only way to reach that point where someday, maybe, if we keep pushing long enough, we’ll be allowed to sit in a favorite chair, in the dark corner of a favorite room, with a couple of dogs at our feet and be left alone to write fiction for living.

What is the best advice you’ve been given about writing you would like to pass along?
I can’t think of a single piece of advice. I’m a craft junkie and so the best advice I’ve been given is a long list of lessons about how to write compelling stories with interesting characters. I put most of them on my website for anyone to check out:

If you would like to learn more about this author and his books, here's a link to his website and Amazon
The Sensory Deception won't be out until August but can be pre-ordered as ebook, audio, or print with guaranteed best price.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Telling the Story for Children: Author Interview with Marissa Burt

You write middle grade fantasies where the fantasy character gets intertwined with real-life characters. What drew you to this concept?
I’ve always been a voracious reader, and I love the sensation of getting so drawn into a good story that the characters feel very real.  For me, the mark of a good book is one where I feel a sense of loss when I turn the final page, because I hate saying goodbye to favorite worlds and characters.  This general love for book-worlds sparked the idea of characters in books having separate lives of their own, carrying on about their business and training for their plot lines, which grew into the initial idea for Storybound.

When did you actually start writing your first book? How long did it take to write your first draft?
I began writing Storybound, then titled The Tale of Una Fairchild, the summer of 2007.  My first son was about a year old, and the transition to parenthood taught me many things, one being the value of discretionary time.  I began to see that if I ever wanted to write anything, I would need to budget my time wisely.  So I took an afternoon every other week and wrote.  This added up, and about nine months later I had a very rough first draft.  I like to include this part of my story to encourage other writers who feel overwhelmed at the lack of time.  Every little bit makes a difference!

Who encouraged you along the way? 
I did have some early readers, most notably my husband, a good friend Casey, and another writer-friend Emerson who was in high school at the time, and they all offered valuable initial input.  Later on in the process, other family members and friends read for me, whom I greatly appreciated, and I especially valued input from several young readers who were in my target audience. 

Prior to writing these fantasy books, what other published writing did you have? 
Storybound is the first novel I’ve written.  (Not counting the almost-novel I wrote in high school during chemistry class – so sorry Ms. Greene!)  I’ve always journaled, and I’ve found that to be a helpful discipline for shaping my voice and recording everyday incidents in written form.  Back when I first wrote Storybound, I did attend a few sessions of a local writer’s critique group, but I found that challenging because we all were working on such different projects at very different stages. 

Are you active with any writer’s critique groups?
I’ve found the online writing community to be of great help in my writing journey.  I’ll forever be grateful to the Absolute Write forums for helping me with my query letter and giving general writing advice.  Through forums like that, I’ve also “met” other writers, which has been a gift as writing can often be a lonely endeavor.  Not only has it provided support and encouragement, but it’s helped me join forces with other like-minded authors.  Friendships made on online forums eventually led to my participating in the Project Mayhem blog and joining up with The Apocalypsies, a group of debut 2012 authors, for local author appearances and the like. 

How did you go about finding an agent?
My road to publication process is pretty by the book, actually.  Once I had a completed draft that was in decent shape (or so I thought at the time!), I drafted a query letter. In the fall of 2008, researches agents and queried those who represented MG fiction and might be a good fit. 

In the first round of about twenty queries, I heard back from Laura Langlie, who is now my wonderful agent.  She took me through a few revisions before we went out on submission at the end of 2008. 

From the time you were signed by your agent how long did it take to get the publishing contract?
In spring of 2009 I heard from my now-editor Erica Sussman, who asked me if I’d be willing to work on an exclusive revision with her.  I jumped at the chance to have someone in the industry invest in my work and will forever appreciate both Laura and Erica’s encouragement and insights.  Erica took me through three or four revisions before the manuscript actually went to an acquisitions meeting in early 2010. Once Harper Collins Children’s acquired Storybound, publication was set for winter 2012, so, as you can see, it was about a five year process from writing the manuscript to seeing it on the shelves.

What has surprised you the most about getting published other than the joy of seeing your book in print?
It sounds a bit ridiculous, but I still am astonished that there are people out there actually reading my book and entering in to my imaginary world.  Of course as a writer, your goal is for others to read your work, but it’s still quite amazing to hear from readers who have loved Una or Peter or write to tell me their thoughts on plot points.  

What advice would you give someone who thinks they have the great novel in them just waiting to be told?
My advice is to not be afraid to give it a shot.  I think the two greatest hindrances to writing (and probably a lot of other endeavors) are fear and laziness.  Writing can be vulnerable, and I think it’s less scary to dream about the great novel than actually put yourself out there.  And it takes a lot of work and discipline to carve out the time to do it. 

When other writers ask me for writing advice I usually tell them to READ as much as they can and as widely as they can and to WRITE as often as they can.  Any books you read – especially those outside your own genre – will help inform your writing, and any writing you can do – journaling, short stories, character sketches – will develop your craft.

What is the best advice you’ve been given from either an editor or your agent?
What comes to mind is some advice my agent gave me early on about online presence.  Back then I was toying with the idea of blogging, and she told me to do it if only if I had something unique to say.  She said something along the lines of, “Find your niche.”  This has proved invaluable advice for across the board social networking.  For writers I think there can be a long list of ways we ought to be present online, and we can feel obligated and end up doing a lot of them poorly.  Laura’s advice has helped me be selective in where I invest my online time.

Did you have any input at all into the beautiful cover designs?

Aren’t they gorgeous?  Alison Klapthor and the wonderful design team at Harper Collins worked in tandem with the very talented Brandon Dorman to create these covers.  I saw early drafts of them and absolutely loved them, but I had really nothing to do with them.  I am very thankful and think I hit the cover jackpot.  :)

I see your books are going to be published in Chinese and Italian. Will anything be changed in the story telling to work more culturally?
That’s a great question!  And I don’t really know the answer.  As far as I know, translators work with the original text.  I did wonder if they would change Una’s name in the Italian version (since una is an article in Italian), but they kept it.  Maybe a reader fluent in Italian or Mandarin will stop by and let me know.? :)

How do you manage to raise three children and still find time to write? How much time daily do you have for writing?
Ha-ha!  Well, that has changed a great deal over the years.  As I mentioned earlier, I wrote Storybound when my first son was a year old.  Then I had two more babies in the years between querying the book and seeing it on the shelves.  Needless to say, a lot of my creative energy went in to making people and not books – ha!

How much time daily do you have for writing?
I’ve found each writing project to be fluid and my approach to finding work time changes with the rhythm of our family life.  I wrote Story’s End when I had three boys four-and-under, and it was very stressful and intense.  I wrote a draft in two months to meet my deadline, and I promised myself I’d never do that again. 

Now, my children are a little older, and on this newest project, I try and write 3K one day a week.  That seems to work well for now.

Your next book, There Was a Crooked Man, which will be out in early 2015 is it a continuation of the first two books?
There Was a Crooked Man, is the beginning of a new story.  Una’s Tale comes to a conclusion in Story’s End, and, while I’d love to revisit the Land of Story some day in the future, this new book will be set in an entirely different fantasy world. In fact, it’s turning out to be a bit more of a sci-fi fantasy blend, which has been really fun.

Could you give me some details of that book?
A little bit about There Was a Crooked Man: Eleven-year-old Wren Matthews has always known she’s weird.  Unschooled, happily solitary, and obsessed with astronomy, the only place Wren fits in is the regional home school conference.  When a mysterious visitor appears and invites Wren and her long-time science-rival Simon Barker to join the ancient guild of magicians known as the Fiddlers, things get a whole lot weirder.  As apprentice Fiddlers, Wren and Simon have a lot to learn, but their ordinary alchemy lessons are soon overshadowed by tainted legends of Mother Goose, battling alchemists, and dreams of the dangerous otherworld, the Land of Nod.

What message would you like parents and children to take away from your books?
Well, I kind of shy away from messages-in-books, perhaps because I think adults, forgetting what it’s like to be a child, inevitably try to teach children something in books.

I will say that I absolutely love to hear from readers, especially when they tell me that they’ve stayed up way too late reading my books.  I was forever doing that as a girl, and I get a secret thrill knowing that my books are giving readers that delightful experience.

That’s all for today’s interview. I hope you are encouraged to learn more about Marissa’s writing. Here’s some options to do so.  website         Project Mayhem            Facebook