Friday, May 09, 2008

Cynsational News & Links

This month the readergirlz welcome Newbery author Shannon Hale with her latest novel, Book of a Thousand Days (Bloomsbury, 2007). You can chat with Shannon and the readergirlz May 22 at 6 p.m. PST, 9 p.m. EST. Learn more! See also Fusion Stories: New Novels for Young Readers to Celebrate Asian Pacific American Month and Children's and YA Books with Asian and Asian American Themes, compiled by Greg Leitich Smith, from my site.

Little Brown editor Alvina Ling blogs about the recent Austin SCBWI conference at Bloomabilities. Peek: "Follow your compass, not your clock. ...this advice holds true in all of your careers as well. many of us are rushing, anxious, constantly comparing our own careers with everyone around us. We all need to make sure we remember the things that are really important to us." Note: post includes many photos of Texas cuisine!

Writing Dialogue: Class Differences by Carrie Jones at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "At one end of the table my truck-driver dad would be saying, 'Then the motor? Just kaput.' At the other end of the table, my sort-of-uncle would be saying, 'The proliferation of HIV-positive women in Africa promises to be a problem of epidemic proportions. I'm really tremendously concerned.' Two different speech worlds collided over turkey every year." See also her interviews on dialogue with YA author Rita Williams-Garcia and Flux editor Andrew Karre. Read Cynsations interviews with Carrie, Rita, and Andrew.

Presenting...Sarah Dessen! at Journey of an Inquiring Mind. Peek: "I think I was actually more productive when I was juggling writing with a second job, in a lot of ways. Now that I'm a new mom, though, I'm back to fitting writing in around the edges, and I'm finding it works better for me. When I had all day to worry about writing, the actual work was much harder for me. Now when I sit down, I know I only have so long, and that makes me get right to work."

Interview with Jason Wells (part 1 of 2) from Just One More Book! Note: "Mark speaks with Jason Wells, Director of Marketing and Publicity for Harry N. Abrams Inc. in the first of a two-part series. In this part, Mark and Jason speak about the role and career path of the publicist, the high turnover rate in the industry and the evolution of book marketing and publicity in the digital age." Also listen to recent podcasts with authors Kelly Bennett, Toni Buzzeo, and Kyra Hicks.

Presenting...Robin Stevenson! at Journey of an Inquiring Mind. Peek [on launch parties]: "As the author, you'll be pretty busy and possibly too euphoric to be useful during the launch itself, so it's a good idea to recruit a few friends to help out. You might want to ask a friend to take photographs of the event. If your publisher isn't taking care of sales, you should bring books and ask a friend or two to sell books for you. And make sure you have a pen to sign them. Oh, and one thing I wish I'd done ahead of time—think of some things to write when you sign them. I kept wishing I had something more profound to say than 'Hope you enjoy it,' or 'Thanks for coming out tonight.'"

Gaby Triana is blogging at LiveJournal again after a two-year hiatus. Gaby's new book is The Temptress Four (HarperCollins, 2008). From the promotional copy: "Four best friends, one graduation cruise, a week of partying.Eight days of strife and storms... It's supposed to be the best eight days of their lives. Bonds will be broken... But when a fortune-teller predicts trouble the night before their trip, One of you will not come home... Fiona, Killian, Alma, and Yoli are left on edge, wondering what it could all mean. Gaby Triana gets right to the heart of that thrilling, nerve-wracking, exhilarating, terrifying, amazing time that comes right after graduation, when the big question is: Where do we go from here?"

Who's Moving Where? News and Editorial Changes at Children's Book Publishers by Harold Underdown from The Purple Crayon. Harold says: "Harcourt's children's imprint will be maintained as a separate imprint, and will be moving into the same office building as Clarion. Jeannette Larson has been promoted to Editorial Director, Picture Books, and Kathy Dawson has been promoted to Editorial Director, Fiction. ...Betsy Groban is now the Senior Vice President and Publisher." Read a Cynsations interview with Harold.

Query Shark: " You can send a query letter to the Shark. It might get posted and critiqued. It might not. You'll know either way. You can send a revised query letter after the critique. It will be posted and critiqued as well."

Killing Me Softly: No Child Left Behind by Jordan Sonnenblick from School Library Journal. Peek: "Our kids come to us needing more of everything that is joyous about the life of the mind. They need nature walks, field trips, poetry, recess. What they're getting is workbooks." Read a Cynsations interview with Jordan. Source: The Longstockings.

Help! from Tami Lewis Brown at Through the Tollbooth. Peek: "The very best way to kick your writing up a notch in every respect is to find a very experienced mentor and be coached on your writing. Even if you have experience yourself. Even if you already know it all. Even Tiger Woods has a swing coach. And he knows a thing or two about the game of golf." Note: includes a question-and-answer interview with Katie Gustafson, program director of the Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Pythons Attack! from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: "I feel that this author stole my idea. What should I do? How do I prove that the idea was mine first?"

is giving away about 75 books and audio books in May! Surf over to enter!

If I Had a Hammer, I'd Hammer This Message Into You from Editorial Anonymous. Peek: "People (of any age) do not appreciate the funnel-to-gullet method of learning a lesson."

Subscribe to Alice's CWIM email newsletter; each issue features a debut author of the month. "Other recurring features include exclusive interviews with authors and agents, updates of market listings, conference news, book mentions," etc.

There Are No Rules: a new blog from Writer's Digest Editorial Director Jane Friedman. Note: "to deliver valuable advice to aspiring and established authors through frank commentary on publishing trends, live reports from conferences/events, and brief interviews with agents/editors/authors." Source: Alice's CWIM Blog.

Diving in with a Smile by Jan Fields from The Institute of Children's Literature. Peek: " need to know what you can expect to gain from a conference so you can prepare for all it has to offer."

Lee & Low Books, an award-winning publisher of multicultural books for children, has announced its ninth annual New Voices Award competition. The Award will be given for a children's fiction or nonfiction picture book story by a writer of color. The Award winner will receive a cash grant of $1000 and our standard publication contract, including our basic advance and royalties for a first time author. An Honor Award winner will receive a cash grant of $500. Manuscripts will be accepted from May 1 through Oct. 31 and must be postmarked within that period. Read a Cynsations interview with Lee & Low editor Louise May. Source: Austin SCBWI.

Question of the Week Thursday: Robin Friedman asks Ellen Wittlinger: Have you seen changes in the industry since you first started out? Peek: "...there’s also a sense now that a YA author should be a sort of rock star, which makes it tough for those of us with gray hair and sensible shoes." Read Cynsations interviews with Robin and Ellen.

Rowling Keeps Company With Seuss, Blume and Steinbeck from The Washington Post. Source: Donna Gephart. Note: I'm pleased to see so many of my own favorites featured, but fret what this says about the embracing (or lack thereof) of diverse voices and characters in youth literature.

Build Your Clip Collection with Regional Magazines by Beth Bence Reinke from the Institute of Children's Literature. Peek: "Even though the breastfeeding article was written for adults, it showed that I could interview experts and organize the information in an interesting manner. This was my first query to Odyssey and it was accepted! The resulting article, entitled 'Your Skeleton is Not Dead Bones!' was published in the September 2007 issue."

Author David Lubar is now on MySpace! Read a Cynsations interview with David.

Championing Children: Yohannes Gebregeorgis from CNN Heroes: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Impact. Peek: "Moved by the lack of children's books and literacy in his native Ethiopia, Yohannes Gebregeorgis established Ethiopia Reads, bringing free public libraries and literacy programs to thousands of Ethiopian children." See also Jane Kurtz on Ethiopia Reads and Jane Kurtz on the Ethiopian Books for Children and Educational Foundation, both from Cynsations.

Dr. Seuss and Dr. Einstein by Chet Raymo from Science Musings. Peek: "Dr. Seuss was a botanist and zoologist of the first rank. Never mind that the flora and fauna he described were imaginary. Any kid headed for a career in science could do no better than to start with the plants and animals that populate the books of the madcap master of biology." Note: Originally published in The Horn Book.


The Cynsations grand-prize May giveaway is an autographed paperback set of all three of Lauren Myracle's New York Times bestselling Internet Girls novels (in chat-room-style writing)--ttyl, l8rg8r, and ttfn, all published by Amulet!

Read a Cynsations interview with Lauren. Read Lauren's blog, and visit her at MySpace!

To enter the giveaway, email me with your name and snail/street mail address by 10 p.m. CST May 31! Please also type "Internet Girls" in the subject line. Note: one autographed set will be awarded to any Cynsations YA reader.

Take a sneak peek at the trailer for Alive and Well in Prague, New York by Daphne Grab (HarperTeen, June 2008). It's available for order now! Learn more about the Class of 2k8! Source: Melissa at Poised at the Edge.

Here's The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (Atheneum, 2008)!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Author Interview: S. A. Bodeen on The Compound

S. A. Bodeen on S. A. Bodeen: "S.A. Bodeen is the author of several acclaimed picture books, and a winner of the Ezra Jack Keats Award. A native of Wisconsin and former Peace Corps volunteer, she most recently lived in the Pacific Northwest where she wrote The Compound and taught creative writing."

How would you describe yourself as a teenager?

Sheltered. I went to a small school with 49 kids in my grade, most of whom I had known since kindergarten. Nothing ever changed. I was very into sports, was in band, drama, and choir, and only did enough schoolwork to keep myself in A's and B's. I loved to read, thrived on Stephen King and John Saul novels which I had to sneak into the house.

Could you tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer?

I kind of lucked into it. My first few picture books were totally written on my own, the only instruction was from books I found at the local library.

What helped you the most?

Getting my MFA was very helpful, but I learned so much about the actual writing process while working on this novel. It was hands-on, trial-by-fire writing you can't learn in a classroom.

What might you do differently, given the opportunity?

Definitely go to conferences. I'm amazed the connections people make there and the wonderful workshops and lectures. Now I run workshops and give lectures myself, but I still love to hear the other authors and I learn so much.

What is it about young people as fictional heroes and/or as an audience that especially appeals to you?

That time of life, to me, was so formative. I had no clue who I was or wanted to be at that age, and my persona shifted with the wind. I loved reading about people my age who knew what they wanted or their personal journey to discover that. And I've never grown out of that.

My husband says I'm stuck in high school. I don't agree, but I still love to read YA.

Could you tell us about your path to publication?

I just decided to do it one day, so I wrote my first story, Elizabeti's Doll, illustrated by Christy Hale, which was based on my Peace Corps experience. I was very naïve and sent it to three huge publishers in NYC.

Crazily enough, I got a personal letter within three weeks. The editor suggested a few things, and I revised and sent it back to her. I never heard back, and after waiting a year, I sent it to three more places. Lee & Low called two months later with an offer.

Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

Definitely some slow times, where I went a year or two with no sales. Also long stretches where I didn't even write. One of which led up to me writing this novel. I had sent my agent a few novels, then spent a year, when people asked what I was working on, saying "Oh, I’m just waiting for my agent to get back to me with revision notes." And I began to believe it myself. I didn't write at all for over a year.

Then, August 2005, he sent them all back to me in a box, told me in a nice way that that they were unsellable, and that he would be there when I did have something sellable.

For three months I pouted, then told myself "Either you are a writer or you aren't."

It was do or die. So I signed up for National Novel Writing Month that Nov. 1.

Could you please update us on your recent back-list and/or current titles, highlighting as you see fit?

Forthcoming in 2009 from Little, Brown for Young Readers: a picture book: A Small Brown Dog with a Wet Pink Nose. Also, a second novel from Feiwel & Friends.

How have you grown as a writer over time?

I've gotten better at it, but I still have a long way to go. I've learned, somewhat, how to develop the characters.

What do you see as your strengths?

I have a wild imagination and get some pretty cool ideas. And usually I tend to write a decent ending.

In what areas do you feel as though you must still push yourself?

Voice and pacing, some days I feel like I'll never have a handle on those. (As I'm sure my agent would concur!)

Congratulations on the release of your debut novel, The Compound (Feiwel & Friends, May 2008)(excerpt)! Could you tell us a bit about it?

For the past six years, fifteen-year-old Eli has been living in an underground compound with his family after a nuclear attack. And it goes downhill from there…

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

Some dinosaur show my husband was watching on the Discovery Channel. Not to give it away, but there was a dinosaur with this odd habit of raising offspring and I wondered "what if a human did that?"

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

I was three days into National Novel Writing Month 2005 when I went upstairs and saw the dinosaur show. Lightning struck, and I switched to this story.

By Nov. 30, I had a draft. I worked on it until January, when I sent it to my agent. He gave it to a reader, and I revised again, based on her comments, then sent it back to my agent in March.

He sent me back a laundry list. Plot is implausible, setting doesn't work, etc. etc. So, I threw away 240 pages of the 250 page manuscript, kept my premise and most of the characters, and started over, my agent's checklist in my hand the whole time. (My family can attest I was fairly ornery that week)

By early May, I had a good draft and sent it to him again. (Yes, I should be the Poster Girl for revision) One more quick set of revisions, and he deemed it ready to be sent out.

First week of July, Feiwel & Friends took it in a pre-empt. (I thanked my agent profusely for sticking with me, and he told me that he knew I had a great idea and that eventually I would find the story.)

Then the real work started. My editor and I revised for a solid nine months. There were times when I was like "There, it's done." And my editor would say "Just one more little thing…"

And it would be some huge thing, like "We really don't know the father that well." And I'm thinking to myself "Well, I certainly don’t know him, who can I call that knows him?" But then I'd sit down and get to know the father better…

My editor was so great. Thank heavens she wasn't one of those who wrote large missives covering the whole book, or I would have been paralyzed. Instead, she wrote questions on every page of the manuscript, so I could deal with just one page at a time. Even up to about two weeks before the ARC’s went to print, we were still tinkering. She emailed and said that the epilogue needed something.

So I was just loopy from it all, sent in a revision of the Epilogue with an element that I really kind of meant as a joke, thinking it was just so dumb. She emailed back and said "Perfect!"

The entire revision process was like taking an intensive novel-writing course. I learned so much that I can apply to future projects.

The book is riveting! Without giving too much away, how did you frame the psychology of your main characters?

I owe a lot to my editor. One of my favorite quotes about revision (and I am probably mangling it): "Revision is not about correction; it is about discovery." My editor would ask questions that totally caused me to go way deeper than I ever thought I could. Somehow, she brought things out of me that needed to be brought out, but I never could have done on my own. My characters changed a lot once the two of us started working on them.

Do you do a lot of pre-writing?

Absolutely none. This was NaNoWriMo, and I just jumped into it, no clue where I was headed.

The novel stands out as an example of a story with both a strong internal and external arc. Do you outline first?

I should, but I don't.

Do you just begin writing and see where it goes? Or, put another way, are you a plotter or a plunger and why?

Totally a plunger, probably because I'm totally disorganized and doing an outline would be the death of me , I fear. I don't deal well with the big picture, totally stresses me out, and just telling myself "Hey, you just have to get through 1000 words today" is much easier than an insurmountable "Hey, you eventually have to write this whole book." It's the same way I clean house, one room at a time, trying to deny that the entire house is involved.

It seems that a common challenge among writers is fighting their instinct to protect your characters. After all, the bigger the obstacle,the stronger the conflict and, often, the protagonist's growth. Did you ever have to push yourself to push the characters?

We actually had to eliminate some of the stuff I threw at my main character! I guess I was pretty brutal to the poor guy.

How did you deal with these dynamics?

I think he had to have a lot to deal with or he wouldn't have grown as a character. And the dude seriously needed to grow. All the decisions helped him do that, I think.

If you could go back and talk to yourself when you were beginning writer, what advice would you offer?

Be persistent and develop a thick skin ASAP.

What advice do you have for YA novelists?

Absolutely none. I have so much to learn myself that I'm in no position to offer coherent advice. I still feel totally young and dumb about the genre.

How about those writing suspense?

I did learn this. Suspense is not the ticking bomb in the corner. Suspense is what makes the reader want to keep turning the page.

You write for different age levels. Do you have many inner children?

Yes, some are all goodness and light, while some are a tad more demented.

What are the creative and professional pros and cons?

Sometimes I think it's easy to get caught up in being an author and forget to be a writer. I've been there and don't plan to ever go there again. They are two different animals, I think, and I'm trying to focus on being a writer. You're only as good as your next book…

You are well published in the picture book! How did you make the jump to novel writing?

It's funny, people are like, "Oh, you wrote your first novel!" and I'm like, "This is my ninth novel, it's just the first one I've gotten right." I've been writing novels since 1997, the year I sold my first picture book. So it's something I’ve been attempting for a while.


For me, it's all about the ideas. Some, like a rock for a doll, are picture-book ideas. Some, like a dystopian underground world, are not. And when I get an idea, I have to run with it, whatever genre that may be. Some of my ideas are successful. Others, not so much.

What was the biggest challenge?

Getting The Compound past my agent. He's very astute, and I knew the day he started submitting that it was just a matter of time before it would sell.

The greatest delight or opportunity?

Absolutely has to be when my editor acquired it. She was also my very first editor, the one that picked Elizabeti's Doll out of the slush pile back in 1997, so doing this novel with her has been a dream come true. Together, I think we've created a fabulous read.

Do you like to speak to groups? What sorts of programs do you offer?

I do school visits, programs at conferences, etc. I like to stress my personal 3 R's: Reading, Writing, and Revision. My most recent was a guest author stint at the international school in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. And now I have a new keynote about this entire YA journey.

How can planners get in touch with you and/or find out more?

My website, or email me through it.

As a reader, so far what is your favorite YA novel of 2008?

I'm in a rural area with a small library and am on the wait list for a lot of 2008 YAs, but, sad to say, haven't actually had a chance to read one with a 2008 copyright yet.

I recently caught up on some from last year, a couple I really liked were Zen and The Art of Faking It [by Jordan Sonnenblick (Scholastic, 2007)] and Lessons from a Dead Girl by Jo Knowles (Candlewick, 2007)(author interview). I was totally enthralled by Life as We Knew It [by Susan Beth Pfeffer (Harcourt, 2006)], so I'm really looking forward to the companion book, The Dead and the Gone (Harcourt, 2008), this year. [Read a Cynsations interview with Susan.]

What do you do when you're not in the book world?

I spend a lot of time in the bleachers, watching my kids at sporting events. This spring I'm coaching 8th grade volleyball, a true test of patience. I read a lot, but I'm also a TV junkie on certain days. I'm addicted to "Lost." I also Netflix way way too much.

What can your fans look forward to next?

A second novel from Feiwel & Friends.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Publisher Interview: Kira Lynn on Kane/Miller

Kira Lynn is the publisher at Kane/Miller, "a very small, very specialized, very independent publishing company." Read the company's blog, Kane/Miller Kidlit!

What kind of young reader were you?

I read all the time, from the moment I could. I still do. The only difficult thing was that while my comprehension was terrific, I read much, much more than I spoke (or listened, really), so there were frequent--and always embarrassing--incidents of mispronunciation.

What inspired you to make children's literature your career focus?

I was lucky enough to get a job at The White Rabbit--a phenomenal children's bookstore--right before I was supposed to start graduate school. I was surrounded, immersed in, and consumed by a passion for children's literature that's not left me since.

How about publishing specifically?

I've always admired people who can just...write. It's one of those things I wish I could do. Since I can't, being involved somehow in the creative process is wonderful.

How did you prepare for this career?

Reading. Reading. Reading. Really, that's the best preparation there is. I've taken classes in children's literature and children's writing, in education (theory and practice) and in publishing, but the best preparation is reading--everything and anything and all the time.

How did you break into the business?

While I was working at The White Rabbit, one of the owners was offered a job at a major publishing house. She very kindly took me with her.

How did you get from day one to your current position?

Kane/Miller was started as a family business. My mother and my uncle began the publishing house in 1984. They ran it as a very small company (four-to-six books a year, no employees) until they retired in 2000. We've changed many things since then, but it was a wonderful place to start building.

What makes Kane/Miller special? How is it different from other houses?

I think the fact that we are so, so small allows us to make everything more personal. We all get to know our publishing partners, we all speak to our authors and illustrators, we all take orders, speak to customers, attend conferences, and decide upon (and argue about) the books we publish.

Would you please describe the list?

Kane/Miller specializes in award-winning children's books from around the world. We publish picture books and short fiction with the aim of bringing the children of the world closer to each other through sharing stories and ideas, while exploring cultural differences and similarities.

How are your books acquired?

We find many of our titles at the Bologna and Frankfurt book fairs. Others are sent to us by publishers, authors, and/or illustrators. Recently, we've published our first original work from an unsolicited manuscript.

Why is international/multicultural publishing important to you? To young readers?

The simple answer is because our world is international and multicultural. Books can be the bridge between cultures--a shared history, a common denominator, a the very least, something to talk about.

And of course, the more you know about other people and other cultures, well, the more you know. They become real. And it's hard to dismiss or ignore or fight with real people.

In what ways does the house work with and/or reach out to teachers and librarians?

We have a special affection for teachers and librarians, as many of us at Kane/Miller have an education background. We offer free Teacher Tips and Play Pages on our website, which can be used in the classroom, the home or the library, and provide additional ways in which the book can be used beyond a standard story time.

What new directions should we know about?

In the past, the bulk of our list was purchased directly from foreign publishers. Now though, we are seeking fiction and nonfiction manuscripts (from the U.S. too!) evocative of another country or culture.

What new books are you especially excited about in 2008?

It's hard to pick just a few...Snake and Lizard, a work of short fiction by Joy Crowley is one of the best books I've read in years. I think it has enormous potential. Vivian French's Singing to the Sun, an original fairy tale with illustrations by Jackie Morris has the most fabulous, unexpected ending ever...and of course, No! That's Wrong!, our first original work from China. Red underpants, rabbits...what's not to love?

How have you seen publishing change for the better since you began your career? What are the new challenges?

There have been enormous changes since I began my career, and it's ongoing. Technology has made our particular kind of publishing--working with foreign authors, illustrators and publishers--much easier and more efficient.

And while the business of publishing is more challenging than ever before, the challenges themselves remain the same--how do you find the best possible books and get them into the hands of the children who need them?

What do you do outside your editorial/publishing life?

I’m at that stage in a working-mom’s life where when I'm not working I'm driving my children somewhere (soccer practice, karate, ballet or music lessons.) In between the working and the driving--and occasionally the sleeping--I read, jog, walk my dog, and leave lists for my husband!

Is there anything you would like to add?

Just that I can't imagine a better professional community to be a part of than this one.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Arturo O. Martinez, Naomi Shihab Nye Win Texas Institute of Letters Awards

Texas Institute of Letters Awards

Arturo O. Martinez won the $500 Friends of the Austin Public Library Award for Best Children's Book for Pedrito's World (Texas Tech University Press). The finalist was Rodeo by Roxie Munro (Bright Sky).

Naomi Shihab Nye's I'll Ask You Three Times, Are You OK?: Tales of Driving and Being Driven (Greenwillow), won the $500 Friends of the Austin Public Library Award for Best Young Adult Book. The finalists were Throwing Like a Girl by Weezie Kerr Mackey (Marshall Cavendish) and Wonders of the World by Brian Yansky (Flux). Read a Cynsations interview with Brian.

Note: the awards recognize books published in 2007; see also winners in the literature-for-adults categories.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Author Interview: Mary Hooper on Newes from the Dead

Mary Hooper on Mary Hooper: "I've been writing books for children and young adults for about twenty years. I'm happily (re)married with two grown children and live about forty miles outside London."

What kind of teenager were you?

I was an only child and not born until my mum and dad were forty, so I think my teenage years were a bit of a shock to them. I hit my teens in the sixties and was lucky enough to come from West London, where I saw the Rolling Stones every Sunday (then later, Eric Clapton and the Yardbirds) at the local athletic ground. I had some great times.

Could you tell us about your apprenticeship as a writer? What helped you the most? What might you do differently, given the opportunity?

What helped me was not starting off with any great expectations. Had I begun writing today, in the shadow of J. K. Rowling, I might have felt too intimidated to even try.

I started off by writing short stories for magazines, which was a great way in and not too daunting. You learn what works and what doesn't, and if no one takes your stuff, at least you haven't wasted too much time over it.

Gradually, my stories got longer and longer until they reached book size, and there I was, a writer.

What is it about young people as fictional heroes and/or as an audience that especially appeals to you?

I don't consciously think of the age of my audience or my main character, but write the sort of things that I like to read. The main reason I began to write books for children, rather than adults, is that they were shorter.

Could you tell us about your path to publication? Any sprints or stumbles along the way?

I was at home, rather bored, with two small children, read a short story in a magazine and thought, I can do that!

When I'd written and sold lots of stories I sent some tear sheets from the magazines to a publisher of teen books saying I'd like to write a book, so how about it? (It's different and far more difficult now!)

About six years ago, I ran out of ideas for modern teen novels (and also got a bit baffled with all the new technology business: mobile phones, texting, blackberries, ipods, etc., knowing that if I was going to write credible books for teens, I'd have to have them in there). It was then I decided to write historical fiction.

Could you please update us on your recent back-list and/or current titles, highlighting as you see fit?

A book I particularly love is The Remarkable Life and Times of Eliza Rose (Bloomsbury, 2006), about two babies who are exchanged at birth. This is set around the Court of the Merry Monarch, Charles II.

Before this, came a book about London's Great Plague: At the Sign of the Sugared Plum, and its follow-up about the Great Fire of London: Petals in the Ashes (also published by Bloomsbury, 2003/4).

At the moment, I'm writing a third book about Dr. Dee, who was a magician at the Court of Elizabeth I (the first two in this series books are At the House of the Magician and By Royal Command, published in the U.K. by Bloomsbury but not yet sold to the U.S.).

How have you grown as a writer over time? What do you see as your strengths? In what areas do you feel as though you must still push yourself?

Early on I realized the importance of moving with the market. When animal books were popular, these were what I wrote, ditto diary books, issue books, funny books, etc.

The only thing I haven't attempted is fantasy, because I know I wouldn't be any good at it, and also because I like my books rooted in reality. My historicals contain real people (Nell Gwyn, The naughty Earl of Rochester, gorgeous highwayman Claude Duval, Dr Dee, Aphra Benn, etc.) As to pushing myself, well, I should really test my skills by seeing if I can manage to write a book with multi-viewpoints, but I much prefer writing in the first person.

Congratulations on the release of Newes from the Dead (Roaring Brook, May 2008)! Could you tell us a bit about it?

It's the true story of Anne Green, a maidservant, who in 1650 was seduced by the grandson of her employer. She found herself pregnant, miscarried the child and was taken to be hung for infanticide.

After hanging for half an hour, her body was cut down and taken to the dissectionist at an Oxford college. When the physicians gathered and lifted the coffin lid to begin the procedure, they heard a rattle in her throat...

What was your initial inspiration for writing this book?

I heard Anne Green's story on the car radio and thought, Wow! I was supposed to be taking the car in for a service but, sitting there listening, I missed my time slot.

What was the timeline between spark and publication, and what were the major events along the way?

At the time, there was a major competition going on in the U.K. to write the first chapter of an adult novel, so I did a little research, then sat down and wrote a few thousand words about Anne Green.

Seeing as I'd written lots of YA novels, I thought I might be in with a chance, but I didn't even get a mention.

I sent the start of the book and a synopsis to my agent, Rosemary Canter, who said I'd have to write the whole thing before she could send it out, so I took six months off writing my commissioned books to do just that.

The more I found out, the more fascinated I became; it seemed that this was the story idea I'd been waiting for (and how come no one had found it before?) When I'd finished it Rosemary sold it to Random House, who then sold it on, after a bidding war, to Roaring Brook Press. It's now been three years since the "spark."
What were the challenges (literary, research, psychological, and logistical) in bringing it to life?

There is not much written about Anne herself, rather more about the doctors who saved her, so it was just a case of putting down the facts, what was actually recorded at the time, and then fitting the other bits (customs, dress, housing, food, servant/master relationship, medical practice, etc) around what I knew for sure.

Finding out that Christopher Wren was present was a bonus, as was discovering that Charles I had visited the house where Anne was a servant, and then that Sir Thomas Reade had died within a few days of Anne's ordeal.

As I wrote, it all seemed to come together. I found it easier having a template to follow instead of writing a pure fiction story where you find yourself having to decide between with ten possible endings.

The language is mesmerizing! It's a beautifully evocative read. Did you read texts of the era? Jump into a time machine?

I had been reading Pepys Diary for gossip and information, and--like one finds themselves speaking in mock-Shakespearian after seeing a couple of his plays (well, I do!)--I found myself thinking in Olde Englishe. It's just a matter of rearranging words and altering the rhythm of people's sentences rather than lots of "prithees" and "unhand me, knaves!"

What advice do you have for writers of historical fiction?

People are the same whatever century they're living in--but they will already know this.

What do you do when you're not in the book world?

Potter about, read a lot, visit interesting places (old graveyards a special favorite), walk, be curious about things.

What can your fans look forward to next?

I am hoping to write another book about Anne Green and find out what happened to her afterwards.
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