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Monday, January 25, 2010

INTERVIEW: BOBBIE PYRON

Aurora is pleased to welcome Bobbie Pyron, whose debut teen novel, The Ring, was launched in September. Bobbie's very proud of The Ring because it's her "first born" and so will always have a special place in her heart. However, she has a new book which is coming out early next year that is also very special to her--A Dog's Way Home-- about a Shetland Sheepdog (Sheltie).

"I was told by numerous critiquers (including editors and agents) it didn't 'work' because it's told in alternating points of view," Bobbie told me. "I'm happy to say my wonderful agent sold it at auction this past summer!"

I asked her to tell us about this new work.


It’s the interwoven stories of ten-year-old Abby and her beloved Shetland Sheepdog, Tam. When Abby and her mother are in a terrible car accident on the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Abby is badly injured and Tam is lost in the mountains. Told in alternating chapters in alternating points of view, the reader follows Abby and Tam’s journeys as they try to find their way back to each other. It’s my personal love letter to all those great dog classics like Lassie Come Home and The Incredible Journey that I loved so very much as a child.


I wondered how much of herself Bobbie puts into her characters.

"I think quite a lot. I was very much an outsider as a kid and as a teen. As a kid, I preferred animals to people, like Abby does in A Dog's Way Home. And as a teen, I was pretty rebellious, like Mardie in The Ring," she told me. "I also find that, at some level, all my books (published and unpublished) deal with loss. I had a great deal of loss in my childhood. I'm sure I'm still trying to work through all that in my writing."

Bobbie enjoys writing for the YA and MG crowd because she loves the honesty and passion in books for that age group, not to mention the honesty in the readers themselves.

"If a ten-year-old or fourteen-year-old reads your book and loves it, they really love it!" she said. "And if they don't, they'll let you know. I also think, for the most part, the subject matter of books for these age groups are much more interesting to me. Themes of loss, one's place in the world, what makes life worth living, friendship, family, questioning the status quo, questioning who you are apart from your family, your peer group, your culture—all these are reasons I love to read and write teen and middle-grade fiction."

"How do you think YA fiction has changed since you were a kid…and who was your favorite author?" I asked.

Bobbie told me she doesn't think she had a favorite author as a teen. She was reading many different things—nonfiction as well as fiction.

"And I was a teen back in the Dark Ages-- the early 1970s. Young adult fiction wasn't even really a genre then. But I do remember loving The Chronicles of Narnia, Lisa Bright and Dark, To Kill a Mockingbird, Black Boy. I think teens today are so lucky to have such a great variety of books to read written by gifted writers who really care about their audience."

"Did you always want to be a writer?" I wondered.

"Well first, I wanted very much to be a mermaid when I grew up. After that, at about age nine, I wanted to be a writer. I had a lot of detours along the way doing other things like being a professional singer, gladiola harvester, bookstore manager, dog trainer, wilderness instructor, and librarian. But I finally got back to my original dream, and it was worth the wait!"

When Bobbie first has an idea for a story, she mulls it over for a long time—until she decides whether or not it's worth pursuing. If, after a couple of weeks, she's still excited about the idea, she writes as much as she knows about the story in a notebook--the plot, the characters, the setting, etc.

"I can’t actually start writing it until the voice of the narrator comes," she continued. "It doesn’t matter if it’s in first person or third, the voice has to start 'talking' to me before I can do a darned thing."

Once she starts writing, however, it's all done on the computer. She tries not to edit as she goes along, although she admits that's very hard for her. When she gets the first draft completed, she lets it sit awhile before she rereads it…trying to do that in one sitting.

She shared with me that she didn't used to believe in outlining—thinking it would cramp her creativity.

"But now, thanks to my agent, I'm a great believer in outlining after I'm done with the first draft," she said. "I go back and list for each chapter the main things that happen. It helps me see how the chapters move the story forward (or don't) and the arc of the story. I like to think there are no 'dead zones' in my stories, but I always find that there are when I outline in this way."

Bobbie has an office in her house—a room she took over after the last of the kids moved out.

"My desk faces a window that looks out on to our back yard," she said. "There's an apple tree just outside the window my step kids gave me for my birthday a couple of years ago. It's a wonderful reminder of how my relationship with them has grown over the last ten years."

"What's the most embarrassing thing your mother ever did to you?" I asked.

"OMG!" Bobbie exclaimed. "When I was in, like, first grade, I forgot to put on underwear. I didn’t realize this until I went up a slide at recess and the little boy behind me said—well, you can guess. The teacher called my mother. As it happened, I’d also forgotten my lunch box. So my mother brought my lunch box to the school, gave it to the principal, who gave it to my teacher, who gave it to me just before we went to the cafeteria. Just imagine my 'surprise' when I opened the lid to my lunch box (of course, with a bunch of other kids around) and there, right on top, lay my lacy underwear. That put me in therapy for years!"

Finally, I asked Bobbie what advice she would give to a young writer.

"Keep your eyes open and your ears alert. Every experience, every person you meet is a story," she said. "And don't just dream of writing, do it! Don't be afraid of not being 'good enough' or 'as good as'. Don't wait for permission to pursue your passion. Sit down and write."

Leave a comment on this interview for a chance to win an autographed copy of The Ring.

Blurb for "The Ring": Plagued by slipping grades and a budding criminal record, Mardie’s heading down a path of self-destruction she can’t seem to avoid. Unlike her perfect older brother Michael, who does everything right according to their father, Mardie can’t meet those high expectations.

But when she discovers a girls’ boxing club at the gym, Mardie’s drawn in by the fighters’ fearlessness and strength. Having already lost her parents’ trust and shunned by her boyfriend and even her best friend, the ring is the only place left where no one judges her. Angry and hurt by the state of her life, Mardie can’t wait to start throwing punches. But her wise and patient trainer, Kitty, a former boxer who’s coached her share of troubled teen girls in the ring, shows Mardie that boxing isn’t just about fighting—it’s also about strategy and mental discipline—the things that make a fighter into a winner.

Mardie begins to apply the lessons she’s learned in the ring to her battles at school and especially at home, where she finds she’s not the only one struggling for acceptance. And, as she trains for her upcoming championship bouts, Mardie hopes to find a way to make her parents proud. Filled with exciting sports action, The Ring is an inspiring story of a girl learning to believe in herself.

Monday, January 18, 2010

INTERVIEW: Dana Davis

Aurora is pleased to welcome Dana Davis, a four time award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction. Dana recently signed multiple book contracts with SynergEbooks Publishing. Her latest YA fantasy, Breach of Worlds is now available.

Dana has always been a sci-fi/fantasy fan, but when she was a kid, there weren't a lot of sci-fi/fantasy books with girls as the main characters.

"I felt cheated that boys got to do all the fun stuff in novels. My young adult books are written from girls’ perspectives. There are, of course, boys and men as strong characters in the books, but I tend to have a girl as the main character," she said.

"If you weren't a writer, what would you be?" I asked.

"Hmm, that's a hard question because I really love my work. But if I had to choose a different career, I would probably be an archaeologist, an astronomer, or perhaps a paranormal researcher. I love the unknown and the quest of finding answers. I think I'm a researcher at heart."

She uses books and the internet quite a bit, but she also travels and takes part in local activities that are relevant to her books.

"My ancestors were Celts from Ireland, Scotland and England, so I sometimes use my own genealogy and family stories in my work. Fictionalized, of course," she said. "And there's nothing like traipsing through a real castle in England or Scotland to get the feel for a fantasy story. Currently, I’m scheduled for a local ghost hunt with a paranormal investigation team and plan to use my experiences in my paranormal books."

She always has a number of projects going. Currently, she's writing an adult paranormal fantasy series for her publisher and will soon be doing a final edit on her young adult sci-fi novel Quest for Freedom for an upcoming deadline.

"The audio book and eBook are scheduled for release this year," she told me. "I'm also planning a series expansion from a previous novel for young adults that I hope to get going on in another year or two. Busy is my middle name these days."

"How much of your writing is based on your own experience?" I asked.

"Actually, more than I like to admit sometimes. I don’t do it on purpose, but I have written entire scenes then realized when I went back over them that some of the stuff I put my characters through actually happened to me as a kid. In Breach of Worlds, for example, my main character, Nara, escapes from an orphanage. In the beginning of the book, she’s scared and trying to keep strangers from noticing her.

"As a young kid, I was walking home from school in the rain when a car pulled up and offered me a ride. My mom was big on teaching about stranger danger and I thought I was going to get nabbed right then and there, so I ran all the way home. Now the woman in the car was probably just concerned that a little kid was out in the rain by herself, but I used those strong feelings when I created that scene and didn’t even realize it until after I had written it."

Dana told me she would drive herself nuts if she didn't have a computer—mostly because she has really bad handwriting.

"Half the time, I can’t even read it," she admitted. "I used to get called down for it in school. And I tried working on an old typewriter once, just to be chic, but gave that up as soon as I had a typo to correct, which was pretty much the first paragraph. I love technology so computers are perfect for me. Otherwise, I might never get any books finished."

Dana and her husband love to travel and, every year, try to take a trip to someplace they've never visited. They plan to go to Egypt for their next big trip. Other hobbies include reading, of course; downtime with a good movie or TV show; or playing computer and video games.

"For physical hobbies, I hike, bike, dance, and swim," she said. "Hubby talks me into tennis now and again but I'm not very good at it."

In Dana's latest YA fantasy, Breach of Worlds, the character of Nara is eleven in the beginning of the novel and fourteen by the fourth chapter. Dana said she can see somebody like Alyssa Shafer or Chloe Moretz playing the younger Nara in a movie with an actress like Dakota Fanning playing her as a teen. She would choose Marcia Cross to play Mirin and a George Cloony or Harrison Ford type playing one of the male leads—Tanith.

She's not sure she would want to be a character in her own books, because "they have to go through some nasty stuff before the end of my books. So, honestly, I don’t think I would want to be any of them for very long. One rule of writing is to create conflict for characters, otherwise no one would want to read about them, so that's what I do. Though if I did become a character, I’d certainly want one with lots of power, like Mirin in Breach of Worlds, so I could defend myself. And it might be fun to be a bad guy for a day."

"What challenges do you think the youth of today face that you didn’t?" I wondered.

"We have a load of technology that tends to create instant gratification, while keeping people physically isolated, and I think the challenge for young people today is to find a balance between the exciting world of technology and the unpredictable world of people. In fact, being a Star Trek and Star Wars fan as a kid, I’m a bit envious of all the technology today’s kids have at their fingertips. When I was young, we had computers, but they were clunky and as slow as mud, and we certainly had no internet. Cell phones were the size of bricks and cost as much as a house. Okay, maybe not that much, but I certainly couldn’t afford one. And I imagine the coverage was pretty bad. Texting was unheard of, cameras used film, and cable had 20 channels on a good day. As a self-proclaimed hermit, if I had access to the technology back then that we have today, I probably wouldn’t have left the house, except at my mother’s insistence."

Finally, I asked her what advice she would give to her readers.

"Whatever you decide to do in your life, be patient and persistent and educate yourself. Even if that means discovering a second career. I started out in the entertainment industry and Hollywood, so writing books is a second career for me. I was always writing something on the side during that time but never thought of doing it full-time. In the mid-90s I decided to leave the entertainment industry and go back to school for a writing degree. I had to do a lot of work and it took me years to get where I am today, but I absolutely love being a writer."

Author Bio: Dana Davis is a four time award-winning author of fantasy and science fiction. She studied with Nebula Award-winner Sheila Finch and received her creative writing degree from California State University, Long Beach. She recently signed multiple book contracts SynergEbooks Publishing and her latest young adult fantasy Breach of Worlds is now available.

When she's not writing, she loves to read and travel. Just try to keep her away from ruins and old cemeteries. Dana lives in the Arizona desert with her husband and two insane birds, where she is currently writing another book. Her website is http://www.danadaviswriting.com

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

INTERVIEW: Kitty Keswick

Aurora is pleased to have Kitty Keswick, the co-president of the Class of 2k10, a group of debut MG and YA authors. Kitty's debut novel, Freaksville, will launch January 17 from Leap Books. The second book in the series, Furry and Freaked, is scheduled to be released later this year.

Freaksville is told through sixteen-year-old Kasey Maxwell's blog. Here's a little about the book and series (and if you're interested, our review of it is here):

High school is hard enough when you’re normal: peer pressure, book reports, yearning to be in the in-crowd, and the enormous zit that has a life of its own. Having a family whose skeletons in the closet lean toward the paranormal is not a topper on anyone’s list. Sophomore Kasey Maxwell is busy juggling typical teen angst. Add visions, ghosts, and hairy four-legged monsters into the mix and you get FREAKSVILLE. It’s a wonder Kasey has survived.

Every woman in the Maxwell family has the gift of sight. A talent sixteen-year-old Kasey would gladly give up. All she wants is a normal life. Shopping and talking about boys with her best friend and long-time sidekick Gillie Godshall consume her days. Until Kasey has a vision about Josh Johnstone, the foreign exchange student from England. The vision leads her into new waters, a lead in a play, a haunted theater…and into the arms of the Josh. Yet both Kasey and Josh have secrets lurking in dark corners. Can Kasey’s new romance survive FREAKSVILLE?

It's not surprising Kitty has a character from England in her debut novel. She's a self-confessed Anglophile (lover of all things British) and has been since she fell head over heels in love with Robin Hood at the age of four.

"Problem was," she said, "he was a cartoon fox. Minor detail, right?"

Kitty has written since she was a kid, but she's had a few detours along the road to publishing. "Rent will do that," she explained. But, she choose to write for kids and teens for one very simple reason.

"I never grew up," she told me. "Peter Pan doesn't have anything on me." She then added, "My voice fits the YA genre, and I find the characters have more energy and are fun to write."

"If you weren't a writer, what would you be?" I wondered.

"Queen?" she said. "Errr, okay, maybe not royalty, but it would be kinda cool. I think I’d want to be a set designer. If we are talking dream job, I’d like to work on location for fantasy movies. Like the LOTR or something along those lines. One of the things I like best about writing is creating the worlds (I love settings almost as much as conflict), so to be able to that with a visual canvas would be pretty darn cool."

Kitty is a fan of series, not only in her own writing, but also is what she reads. She's currently reading Tempted, the sixth book in the House of Night series by PC and Kristen Cast as well as Fade Out from the Morganville Vampire series by Rachel Caine. "Great series," she said.

Kitty feels one of the most important things a writer can do is "read, write, read. Then read." The second most important is be prepared for rejections.

"Everyone gets them and you will too," she declared. "Thicken your skin and keep at it. The publishing game is all about persistence."

She also shared that her high school journalism teacher, Ms. Kingston, told her something that has stuck with her.

"She wrote in my yearbook: 'Welcome to the world of publishing. If you do anything that stands out, people will either love it or hate it."

Normally, Kitty uses a computer for her writing, but does confess to jotting ideas down on… well, anything.

"I jot things down on napkins, scrap paper, notebooks, gum wrappers, magazines, sticky notes, whatever I have that will hold ink. If an idea strikes, I’ve been known to scribble on just about anything. I once wrote dialogue on the tub surround so I wouldn’t forget it. I had conditioner in my hair and—well, ideas come at the most inopportune time sometimes. TMI? Yeah, TMI."

On a more personal note, I asked Kitty if she had any pets.

"Does the spider in the corner of my room count?" she asked in return. "Darn thing’s spun its own condo, and I’m too chicken to swat at it with the broom. I also have two cats. One likes to keep my lap warm while I type."

Along with having her cat in her lap while she types, she also snacks on Peanut M&M's. "They are easy to eat and don't require any thought," she explained.

She realized that, in her writing, she uses the word gingerly a lot and has to watch herself. And, talking about words, I asked her what her least favorite word was.

"No," she said promptly. "Oh, you mean in writing??? One that’s long or hard to spell."

Finally, I asked, "Do you have any book tours or 'Meet the Author' events coming up soon that your readers can meet you at?"

"Check me out on various blogs during Traveling to Teens this January, and the Class of 2K10 has various events throughout the year. One of our big events will be attending BEA in May. You can look for me there along with co-president Judith Graves and also Bonnie Doerr, both fellow Leap authors."

Warning: Dating a werewolf can be dangerous to your...heart.

Every woman in the Maxwell family has the gift of sight. A talent sixteen-year-old Kasey would gladly give up. Until Kasey has a vision about Josh Johnstone, the foreign exchange student from England. The vision leads her into deep waters...a lead in a play and into the arms of Josh. But Josh, too, has a secret. Something that could put them all in danger. To solve a mystery of a supernatural haunting, they must uncover the secrets of the haunted theater when they are trapped on the night of the full moon.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

INTERVIEW: Bonnie J. Doerr


Aurora is pleased to have Bonnie J. Doerr with us. Bonnie is an author with the brand new Young Adult publisher Leap Books, and her book Island Sting will be released on January 6, 2010.

Bonnie has always played with words, ideas, and nature. She's taught students from kindergarten to college. Degrees in reading education, combined with a stint as a science teacher, led her to write ecological mysteries starring caring, involved, "green" teens who take action with attitude, along with a touch of romance. Her work has been recommended by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) for use in environmental education and is also included in Milkweed Editions literary field guides.

She loves creating characters that jump wholeheartedly into a struggle to right a wrong and sees teens as being, as she told me, "uniquely passionate and fearless, often sensing injustice in clear, immediate ways that adults miss."
Growing up, Bonnie was always too active and "out-doorsy" to spend much time thinking about writing.

"In junior high," she said, "about the time I became aware that legs covered with bug bites held no appeal, I became a stay-at-home voracious reader. I was always insatiably curious about places and people. Still am. I love being transported to different towns, states, countries, and crawling around inside other people’s heads. It fascinates me to learn how different people are one from the other and to follow their train of thought. I can safely experience dangerous adventures and hang out with wickedly nasty characters when in real life I wouldn’t dare. As a teen, I’d sit on our front porch devouring books while hoping that the boy of my momentary interest would ride by on his bicycle, and in later years, in his car. I didn’t write much until high school when I learned how much fun it was to create characters I could only dream about—especially guys!"

When Bonnie's working she sits where she can see the woods and gardens from two directions. She admits this is not without its downside, however.
"This position can be inspiring or distracting, depending on what the wild critters are up to outside," she told me. "Sometimes I have reference books and papers scattered all around, but I’ve learned that clutter distracts me. I begin a project, see something that reminds me of another task, attack it instead, then notice something undone on a forgotten list only to take care of that to-do item, all the while feeling guilty because I’m not making progress on the main assignment. Not productive behavior. So I try to keep my desk cleared except for my ceramic turtle hatchling, inspiration for work on Stakeout, my next release, and a fresh flower from my garden. The camellia on my desk now is likely the last bloom for a while."

She loved being outdoors as a kid, as she's said, but most of her childhood "wilderness romping" took place in mountains, streams, and fresh water lakes, while she writes about semi-tropical island environments.

Island Sting is set in a Florida wildlife refuge in the Florida Keys—where Bonnie spends a great deal of her time. She also does research for her books, which she loves since it involves travel, exploring an island environment, and spending time with officials and other professionals who protect and care for animals, like Florida wildlife officers and sea turtle hospital personnel.

"Is my research vacation or work?" she asked me. "You decide."

When she's home, she feels guilty if she's not working on her latest manuscript, but while she's working on the manuscript, she feels guilty that she's not working in her house or in the gardens.

"Those home responsibilities are always staring and waving in my face," she said. "Plus, my husband is retired and hangs around doing as he pleases which is usually READING ! Awesome, right? But reading is what I most wish I had more time to do. Reading books is so-ooo much easier than writing them."

"Do you prefer to write longhand, on a typewriter, or on a computer?" I wondered.
"Please don’t make me think about writing on a typewriter," she begged. "Oh, the nightmare memories of such slow, laborious editing--one draft after another. Do my readers even know what a typewriter is?

"I make notes in longhand, but I compose on my laptop. The irony is the computer makes it so easy to edit these days I don’t know when to stop making changes."

I wondered which authors have influenced Bonnie the most.

"For subject matter, I’d have to say Carl Hiassen and Jean Craighead George, authors whose styles have nothing in common, but who share environmental topics," she told me. "I loved Carl’s adult novels and wanted to write similar stories for kids, but darn if he didn’t beat me to it. If only I could create such quirky, funny characters. My brain isn’t large enough to contain half of Ms. George’s knowledge. But don’t I wish? To the gods of writing I issue this plea: give me Carl’s wit and Ms. George’s wisdom!"

She's currently reading Playing for the Ashes by Elizabeth George, as well as Operation Redwood by S. Terrell French.

As far as a book no writer should be without, for Bonnie it depends.

"Every author should have a book of charms and a book of lottery tickets!" she asserted, to begin with, and then continued, "In all honesty, each author must learn what book the writer within needs at any given time. If I need inspiration, I will refer to one book. If I’m struggling with voice, I may pick up another. I’m concentrating on mysteries these days, so I keep Chris Roerden’s Don’t Murder Your Mystery nearby. One book won’t do it. I need an entire library. What does it say about me that a single book is not help enough? You know that was a rhetorical question, right?"

Island Sting is set in the Florida Keys, so Bonnie is launching it at the Southern Most City. The first and second week of February, she will be at several venues in Key West.

On the first Friday, she will share Island Sting at the Walk on Winn Dixie. Sunday afternoon, February 7, she will be at The Key West Wildlife Center hoping to help raise awareness and funds. February 9, at 5:30 pm, she will be talking with students and the community at Florida Keys Community College. She will meet with patrons of the Key West Public Library on the morning of February 11.

"Don't you want to join me February in Key West?" she asked. "Sun, sand, snorkeling, fishing, blue sky, turquoise water… OK, I’ll shut up now."