Posts Tagged ‘parenting’

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It has been a perilous and wonderful journey, co-writing a fantasy novel with my 13-year-old daughter. The wonderful parts include the bonding and the delight in each other’s imaginations, and those magical moments when we think exactly alike.

The perilous parts started the moment we decided to cast ourselves as the main characters.

I’ve written here before about how I took some creative liberties with my daughter’s personality and attributes to round out her fictional alter-ego, Cat, in an effort to give the fictional heroine some quirks and flaws to grow out of, and how when my daughter read the first draft of the first chapter, she was less than amused. Still 12 at the time, she did not immediately understand that in fiction you sometimes have to exaggerate things and make them larger-than-life. That the girl in the story was based on her, not what I thought of her.

The exaggeration of character was certainly not exclusive to her fictional self. My fictional self is clumsy, overweight, with unruly hair and a large nose (this is where my daughter pipes up with, “And the exaggerated parts are…?). My character is, in fact, a troll. Well, in fiction, really.

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But as with any book that you pour your heart and soul into (and in this case quite a bit of my actual personality), you begin to think of the characters as actual living and breathing people. And when that spark ignites and they become real, they start to take on a life of their own, independent of your plans. They start to take the story in directions you never anticipated. Strong, living fictional characters demand to be heard, and they will not do something that goes against their true selves ‒ no matter how important it is for your story or how thoroughly you’ve laid it down in your notes.

When that happens, it’s best to hold your breath and pray they don’t stop. Because it’s kind of like catching a soap bubble, and if you can keep it going, those parts of the story will read as absolutely authentic.

I’ve been working on this story for awhile, now, and by this point I pretty much let Dad write his own parts in the story. Dad and Cat’s relationship goes through the ringer over the course of our story, and gets seriously tested, but through it all, Dad’s love remains true, and his support and admiration for his daughter never falter, even when hers for him do. He passes his tests.

The thing is, I have begun to notice my own behavior, and I have found myself more than once asking, “What would Dad do?” Because while Dad has all of my most troll-like qualities in spades, he also represents the best parts of me. And in the fictional world, he can always do the right thing. In my actual world, I do not always have the luxury of crafting my responses or rewriting them if I don’t like how they sound once I’ve spoken them out loud.

Basically, Dad is smarter than I am. And wiser. And a better communicator.

And as weird as it may sound … I want to be more like him.

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So I’ve taken a rather unique approach to parenting, as you may have read here before.  I’m not especially good at relating to my children – or at least not as good as I wish I was.  However I have tried to latch onto those interests I share with each of my children and emphasize them.

With my oldest son it was paintball and basketball and lately the things he’s studying in college.  With my daughter it has been fantasy and superheroes.  She and I have seen all of the Avengers films together as well as Spiderman, Superman, X-Men, and such.  And we never miss an episode of Once Upon a Time.  Until she stopped letting me read to her we shared a deep mutual interest in The Sisters Grimm books, the Narnia books, the Disney Fairies, Harry Potter of course, and so on.  So now we’re writing a book together aimed at her age group (she was 12 when we started), and all about heroes and fairytale creatures, using ourselves as models for the main characters.  And we’re having a wonderful time.  She has even started writing her own novel, in collaboration with her best friend.  I couldn’t be more proud.

My younger son, on the other hand (who also appears in our book) has broader interests.  Superheroes, of course.  But also anything that flies, anything that goes in the water, anything that has wheels, anything that transforms, and anything built out of Legos or Lincoln Logs.  Or pretty much anything.  Oh, and pirates.  We make paper airplanes together, play with wooden trains, and fight with invisible light sabres almost every day.

So I got to thinking….

Part of the idea behind The Last Princess was to earn college money for my daughter, plus if she ever wanted to pursue a career as a writer she would have her foot in the door and representation before she even wrote her first book.  And now we’re thinking series because middle grade publishers are buying more series than individual books these days, and … because I like to plan ahead.

Steampunk boySo why not write a series for my son?  He’s only five, now, and his particular market is not one I feel comfortable writing for.  I would need an illustrator, for one.  And I tend to write long.  I can’t even imagine writing a book with only a few score of words – I need tens of thousands of the damn things for the stories I want to tell.  So – thinking ahead like I like – what if in a few years I write a spin-off series from The Last Princess, but about the younger brother?  This time for a more male audience. About an 8-9 year old boy who builds all kinds of amazing gadgets that fly and shoot and transform, for fighting bad guys because he lacks the faerie magic his older sister has.  I’ve wanted to delve into steampunk for awhile now, and here’s the perfect vehicle but for an audience to which steampunk is mostly brand new.

The idea has lurked in the back of my mind these past several months, but suddenly stood up and started doing jumping jacks when I read a listing in Writer’s Market for a publisher who was looking for steampunk stories not set in the Victorian time period.  I swear the clouds parted and rays of sunlight beamed down upon my head.

Obviously, it’s going to be several years before this idea comes to fruition, but that just gives me time to plan it.  And to start reading every steampunk novel I can get my hands on.

Any suggestions?

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This is an odd kind of cry for help.

Those of you who are regular readers of this blog, or even occasional readers, should be familiar with my situation and the book I am co-writing with my daughter. If you are new here (welcome!) this should get you started.

We’ve reached a very critical part of the story, the part where everything looks bleakest and our young heroine, 12-year-old Cat, is on the brink of giving up her dream and letting the bad guy win. And it all stems from her discovery that her fae (fairy-tale creature) heritage that has made her special and started this whole adventure turns out to be this: Her dad is a troll.

Not a slob who farts during dinner and butts into private conversations, but a descendent of actual trolls. He has a big nose, a pot belly, he’s kind of clumsy, and he likes to make things out of clay. Interbred with humans and a few generations removed from his club-wielding ancestors, but a troll nevertheless. He happens to be out of town when Cat has this revelation and her world falls apart, so she has a few days to really wallow in the new tragedy her life has become by the time Dad comes home.

And this is where I need your help.

In The Last Princess, Cat and her dad are very close. She has always wanted to be just like him, and in fact likes most of the same things he does. And she’s a little tomboyish because of it. Her dream is to be chosen as the princess of all the hidden fae still living in our world, and the fact that it turns out she is troll-born utterly ruins her chances and her dream. And she hates her father for that.

These characters are loosely based on my own daughter and myself, however she and I don’t have quite the same relationship. My daughter takes after her mother much more than me (thank God), and although we like many of the same things, we disagree on just as many. Strongly. The thing is, as far as I know I have never ruined her dreams and she has never hated me. So neither of us really have the life experience to draw from in order to write this aspect of the story.

How do I phrase this, delicately? I need to hear from any of you who are the victims of bad parenting, or who are themselves parents who have done something – real or imagined – that has caused your child to hate you, if only briefly (hopefully only briefly!). I’m not talking about abuse or neglect, but that moment that happens in a tween’s life when his or her parents’ mere existence breaks their fragile heart. A betrayal of trust, a moment of tragic uncoolness, the “I can’t believe I’m related to you” phase.

I want to get inside Cat’s head, and I want the reader to really experience it when she tells her dad, “I hate you!”  What does that feel like?  Bonus question: What does it feel like to be the dad in this situation, who has no idea what he’s done?

Go ahead, pile it on; I can take it. And I promise to keep it on the down-low.

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I think I have this under control. Really.

See, I spent a lot of money to buy my iPhone because I needed the 64G model*, so now I feel I should use it as much as possible to justify the expense. I mean, it cost me as much as a cheap laptop, so shouldn’t I use it as much as I would a laptop?

And that’s the thing. I keep it with me everywhere I go because, hey, who doesn’t like instant gratification? The problem with instant gratification is that you tend to get used to it and miss it when it’s gone. My laptop takes too long to boot up (#1stworldproblems). So I reach for my iPhone.

A lot.

What does this have to do with being a husband and father of three holding down two jobs, and an aspiring author with a half-finished middle-grade novel? Everything, actually.

Successful writers and writers who teach (not always the same thing) will tell you that the first rule of writing is that you need to carve out at least two or three hours every day for uninterrupted writing. I first heard that in college, before I had two jobs, a wife or any number of children. I couldn’t manage it then, either. Now, I typically work at least part of the day seven days a week, and when I do have any time off on the weekends we do things together as a family. My kids don’t see me as much as any of us would like, so when I get home from work on any day I am typically claimed by one or the other of my children for Dad-time. On those rare occasions when they are otherwise occupied my wife can always use a hand around the house until dinner. The point is that I cannot carve any number of hours out of my day for writing without sacraficing family time, which I will not do. So I have to nab writing time where I can find it, on lunch breaks or after everyone else has gone to bed. Sometimes I can only manage 20 minutes between bites of lunch at a place where I do not have access to my laptop.

But I do have my iPhone. And it boots up in a fraction of a second.

The second rule they will tell you is that you need to establish a space that is conducive to your particular writing habits. Arrange for good lighting, an inspiring view or music to get the creative juices flowing, and privacy from intrusion. Have everything you might need at hand so you will never have the excuse of having to get up and interrupt your writing to go get it.

Some day, maybe. Right now I manage much of my writing in the break room at my local Barnes & Noble, while others are eating or while a shift meeting is going on. But even with just my iPhone I do have some of the above: I have music, I have all of my notes, and I have instant access to a dictionary, a thesaurus, Wikipedia, and all of the rest of the Internet.

But how can you type a whole novel on that tiny touchscreen keyboard? I hear you cry.

I don’t. Instead I use this nifty full-size bluetooth keyboard I bought from Apple over a year ago. It still has the original 2 AA batteries in it, too. And I found a lovely hard case for the keyboard that opens and folds back in such a way that it becomes a perfect stand to prop up my iPhone.

But the iPhone doesn’t have Microsoft Office on it, or any way to store documents! I hear you cry.

I have an app called Docs2Go that lets me open, edit or create Office documents, including Word, and lets me store them in my free Dropbox account. So when I do get home to my laptop or have some time during lunch at my office, I can open the latest version of my WIP and instantly pick up where I left off.

But … rules! I hear you cry. You can’t be a successful writer without rules!

You mind keeping it down? My kids are asleep. In fact I’m writing this on my iPhone in bed. In a minute I’m going to post it using the WordPress app, just as soon as I locate a suitable image using the Thinkstock app.

Then if I’m still awake I might watch something with the Netflix app, or read my favorite book in iBooks, or work on the video from our day at Six Flags that I’m editing with the Pinnacle Studio app. Or maybe I’ll just play Words with Friends.

Rules, shmules. I’ve got this under control. Really.

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*Because I actually need 286 applications and 1200+ songs.

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Stop me if you’ve heard this.

My daughter and I are writing an urban fantasy with half-breed fairy-tale creatures that only our 12-year-old female hero can see.

OgreOne of the first people she meets on her quest is a nasty ogre-born man in her neighborhood. According to her ancient guidebook: “The ogre is brutish and strong and always hungry, but easy enough to trick. They especially like to kidnap children, who are less clever and less likely to fight back than adults.” The drawing shows a large hunched man with a hook nose, sharp teeth, and a bulging belly, covered from head to foot in scruffy hair. He has extra-long arms, and he clutches a terrified child in one hand and a huge cooking pot in the other. Armed with this delightful knowledge, she knocks on her neighbor’s door….

The door jerked open, and the awful smell hit me like a punch in the stomach. Standing in the shadows of his dark doorway, Mr. Perrault towered over me, glowering. It took every bit of my strength to keep from screaming. He wore a blood-stained apron and had bare arms covered in black, curly hair. In one greasy fist he gripped a huge butcher knife with bits of red meat clinging to it. His nostrils flared as he sniffed me.

Cat, our hero, soon learns that he makes sausages (out of whom what she does not care to guess), and he is in fact the head chef at La Maison d’Entrailles. At this point I was essentially done with this character. He had served his purpose of introducing our innocent hero to the dangerous hidden world to which she is an unwitting guest.

Cut to present. In the chapter we’re working on now we’ve decided that Cat and her family are going out to dinner. So it occurred to me, why not have them go to La Maison d’Entrailles? After all, only Cat knows Mr. Perrault is the chef there, and that he is part ogre.

Have you ever looked at the ingredients of some of the more … interesting French dishes? I did as part of my research for this chapter, and what I discovered delighted me beyond all expectation. You few loyal fans of this modest blog will be the only people to know that I did not plan this utterly brilliant turn of events, but that I stumbled upon them quite by accident. Imagine a home-schooled and slightly sheltered 12-year-old girl sitting down in her first French restaurant, faced with ordering food prepared by her sausage-making, ogre-born neighbor. The menu is filled with beautiful studio pictures of the exotic meals, and the names of the dishes are all printed in French, with small English translations beneath:

Escargots (snails)

Foie gras (fat liver)

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Tripes à la mode de Caen (stomach cooked in cider)

Andouillettes (intestine sausage)

Canard à la presse (crushed duck in blood sauce)

Pieds paquets (feet and stomach dumplings)

Cuisses de grenouille (frogs’ legs)

Ris à la Gusteau (pancreas with anchovy licorice sauce)

Chevreau rôti au vin (roast kid with wine)

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Norman Tart

Crêpe Suzette

Her little brother happily orders Mac and Cheese from the kid’s menu, and Cat sincerely hopes it isn’t pieces of some poor slob named Mac covered with cheese. After all, they’re serving tarts made out of some guy named Norman. And they are roasting kids and serving them with wine!

If you’ve ever taken a young person to a fancy restaurant for the first time, you’ve no doubt heard the plaintive request for a plain cheeseburger and some ordinary fries. You may have said to them, “Just give it a try! You might like it.”

Perhaps now you’ll see their squeamishness from a slightly different perspective.

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NEWSFLASH: We’re getting close to finishing the first draft of The Last Princess.  If you would like to sign up to be a beta reader, please use the “Beta Reader Sign-Ups” tab at the top of this page.

 

I’m devoting this week’s blog to a re-post of Rachel Carrera’s author interview with me, from a few weeks ago. Thanks again, Rachel! Please take a moment to visit her blog at Rachel Carrera, Novelist, and read her beautiful poetry, invaluable insights on writing, and interviews of many other fascinating authors.

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Recently, I posted a Call to Writers, asking my fellow author bloggers to allow me to interview them for guest-spots on my blog.  (If you are interested in participating, please contact me.)  I asked everyone thirty-five questions, some were basic, and others were multi-part inquiries, and I asked them to answer only what they wanted to or what was applicable. My friend and fellow-blogger, John Berkowitz, had some very captivating responses which I’m sure will enchant you, as well.  After you read his interview, please be sure to hop on over to his blog and follow him for a regular dose of his charisma and wit.  And now, I turn the microphone over to John…

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ABOUT YOU::

john berkowitz1. Please tell us your name (or pen name) and a little bit about yourself:

“John Berkowitz is a husband and father of three who thinks he can squeeze in a writing career between family, two jobs, playing Battleship with his 5-year-old son, doing the dishes, and sleep.  Follow along as he and his co-writer/daughter embark on a quest every bit as magical and fraught with peril as the one they write about in their tween novel, The Last Princess.”

2. Please provide the link to your blog (and website, Facebook fan page, Twitter, etc.):

Blog: www.johnrberkowitz.wordpress.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/John_Berkowitz

3. How many books have you written?

I finished my “epic fantasy” novel, Mentor, about 10 years ago.  I started it in high school while eyeballs-deep in Dungeons and Dragons.  I’m old, so this was before computers.  Also, apparently before I had talent.  It ended up being about 250,000 words long and I think I’m the only person who has ever finished reading it.

I spent most of last year debating with myself if I wanted to attempt to rewrite that book and make it marketable, or start a whole new project with my daughter.  I finally decided to start the new novel and we haven’t looked back.  It’s a great adventure, for both of us.

4. Has any of your work been published yet?  If so, please share the link(s) to purchase it:

I had a short story published in a college literary publication.  It was actually put in as a last-minute substitute for a piece that got pulled for some reason.

My only other writing experience of note is a spec script I wrote for Star Trek – Deep Space Nine while it was in its second season.  That submission earned me a pitch meeting with the show’s producers, and a few follow-up meetings.  But sadly, no sale.

5. If you have been published, did you self-publish or use traditional publishing?  Why?  If you have not been published yet, what are your plans for the future?

We have our sights set on traditional publishing.  I certainly don’t have the time or resources to personally promote a book the way I see some authors, traveling around the country, signing books at local Barnes & Noble stores.  We hope to secure an agent who knows much better than we do what sells and who’s buying, and guide us to that sale.

6. How old were you when you started writing?  When did you know you wanted to be an author?

I started writing in high school.  At the time I was mostly interested in film-making, and a good friend and I (a fellow D&D player) wanted to make a short film that featured a wizard’s duel.  I wrote the script.  But even then I felt you could not simply show two strangers walk on from opposite ends of some random field and start heaving fireballs at one another – there needed to be a back story and two compelling characters, and probably some henchmen.  The script ended up being a half an hour long, with only about 3 minutes of actual dueling at the end.  We never made than movie, but that script was the basis for my first novel, Mentor.

7. What would you say motivates you to keep writing?

I’m doing this as much for my daughter as I am for myself.  So I think it really stems from a deep sense of commitment.  I said I was going to write a book with her, and I will finish it to the best of my ability, even if it never eventually sells.  It will always be our book.

But I also am deeply motivated by the overwhelming positive response I have gotten from nearly everyone who has read it, of all ages.  None of them are agents or editors (as far as I know), so I’m not fooling myself into believing I have an instant hit on my hands, but these responses have given me tremendous confidence.

8. Who are some of your favorite authors?  What are you currently reading (or what is the last book you read)?

For me it’s a long list.  Almost anything by Heinlein, Niven, McAffrey, Pratchett, Jim Butcher, or Dan Brown.  My daughter and I both fell instantly in love with Michael Buckley’s Sisters Grimm series, and we’ve both read it all the way through several times.  My daughter is fond of Tui Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series, Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series, Erin Hunters’ Warriors series, and the Spirit Animals books.  She likes both the Kingdom Keepers and Peter and the Starcatchers series by Ridley Pearson, and of course Rowlings’ Harry Potter series. Probably a half-dozen others I don’t know about.

Right now I’m re-reading Kim Harrison’s Hollows series.  I’m on book 4, A Fistful of Charms.

9. What is your preferred reading method?  (i.e., Kindle, Nook, paperback, hardback, etc.)  Why?

My daughter reads physical books.  Really anything she can get her hands on.  Mostly hardbacks, because she wants them as soon as they come out.  I read almost exclusively on my iPhone using the iBooks app.  I have amassed a pretty extensive ebook library.  I prefer this because I always have whatever I want to read in my pocket, wherever I go.

10. Do you write in first or third person, past or present tense, and why?

I wrote Mentor in third person past tense, with multiple POVs.  Why?  Because everyone was doing it.  The Last Princess is first person.  Because I only wanted one voice for this, and I wanted the reader to experience this story from inside Cat’s head.  Also, most of my favorite books are written in first person.

11. Do you “always read” or do you take breaks between reading books? 

I usually am always in the middle of one or two books.  However, it is my weakness.  I have very limited time to write and I have made a commitment to not let it detract from family time and my other obligations.  So I have to write late a night, or whenever I can squeeze in some time at random moments.  If I am in the middle of a favorite book, I will fill those same moments reading and not writing.  Until a few weeks ago I had sworn off recreational reading until I finished The Last Princess.  However I finally succumbed, and I think I’m handling it pretty well.

12. How many books would you say you read in a year?  How many at any one time?

When I am not writing, I probably go through a dozen or more books a year.  I usually have two going at once.  If I had recreational time and, say, no children, I would get a lot more reading done.

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ABOUT YOUR CURRENT BOOK::

john berkowitz213. What is the title of your current work in progress of the most recent manuscript you’ve completed?

My current WIP, which I am co-writing with my 13-year-old daughter, is called The Last Princess.

14. What is your novel’s genre?  Would you say there is a sub-genre?  What makes yours different than other books in the same genre?

The Last Princess is a middle grade or tween urban fantasy.  Ours is different because none of the others were inspired by my daughter.  Actually, the premise not unlike many other popular urban fantasy novels; Cat discovers there are faeries and goblins and dwarves living among us, and only she can see them.  The difference in this book is that they look just like regular people, for the most part, because those races have interbred with humans for hundreds of years, and all that’s left are these fae-born.  They’re not in disguise or hiding in a secret realm, they’re us, and some of them don’t even know it.  Yet.

15. What inspired the current or most recent story you’ve completed?

It’s all explained in this post.

16. What is your target audience’s age, gender, etc.?

Our hero, Cat Brökkenwier, is 12.  I understand most readers like a hero that’s a little older than themselves, so that puts in in middle grade territory.  However, the language and the emotions are a little more mature than most middle grade books, and it will be longer than most, at about 65,000 words.  There is no romance, so it’s not properly young adult.  So I think that makes it tween.

17. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your story?

The elevator pitch is: Cat Brökkenwier has a secret — the ability to see that faeries and elves and ogres still walk among us. With the help of an ancient diary she learns she may be the last princess of all the fae. Now Cat must learn all there is to know about the secret world of the fae-born and earn the crown before another, more sinister candidate beats her to it. Or worse, before her mother finds out. It is a quest story, but it is really about a young girl learning who she really is and what she’s really capable of, and discovering they are not what other people think she is or wish her to be.

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ABOUT HOW YOU WRITE::

18. How often do you write?

I do a lot of thinking before I actually write, because I hate rewriting.  So I want to know ahead of time what needs to go on the page.  I still consider my self a seat-of-the-pants writer, I just do it in my head first.  So it comes out to a few sessions per week if I’m motivated, fewer if I’m thinking.

19. Approximately how many words do you write at each sitting?

Usually around 500 words in a sitting.  A lot of times I’ll write on my lunch hour, and that’s about as much as I can get done in under an hour.

20. Do you do your own editing or send it to someone else?

I run everything I do through the queues on CritiqueCircle.com. So far the rewrites have been pretty modest, so I tend to edit the chapters before I move on to the next one.

21. What is your method of writing?  (i.e., Do you write the entire manuscript, then go back and make changes?  Do you plan chapters as you go along or write the story then go back and add chapters?  Do you re-read as you go along or after you are done with the first draft?)

I started The Last Princess almost entirely by the seat of my pants. I had a vague idea of the main characters (my family), and the premise, but beyond introducing Cat and her situation and setting up the conflict, I had almost nothing planned out. After three or four chapters I started to see my way ahead, and I researched and created the story along Cat’s quest and the people she would meet along the way, and a basic outline evolved. I do a lot of thinking between writing sessions, so I reread what I’ve written pretty often. This also helps get back in the groove after a week or more not writing. I find polishing the last page or two I’ve written to be an excellent warm-up for writing the next few pages.

22. Do you have a muse?  If so, please elaborate. If not, what inspires you?

My daughter inspires me every day, there’s so much of her in Cat. But I meet people every day who add a little piece to one character or another. I’m re-reading Kim Harrison right now especially because she is so good at letting you inside the head of a young woman with chutzpah and plenty of problems. I’ve also borrowed some notions from TV shows like Grimm and Once Upon a Time.

23. How long does it take you to write a full manuscript?

It took me most of 20 years off and on to finish Mentor. We’ve been actively writing The Last Princess for less than a year and we’re halfway finished. We’re hoping to have a complete draft ready for beta readers before the end of this year.

24. Do you give yourself a word limit for each day or a time limit to finish your novel?  If so, please elaborate.

I try to keep on pace to write a chapter a month.

25. How do you come up with your character names and geographic location / business names?

I want this book to be timeless and not dated. Plus even those businesses and institutions I use I want to have the flexibility of changing certain details to suit the story. Plus, since this is for kids I think a certain amount of whimsy is called for. So I try to make the names as close as possible. Mary Kay Cosmetics became Carrie Mae. Girl Scouts became Squirrel Scouts. We live near a town called Rocklin, so I changed it slightly and put Cat and her family in the city of Rockford.

26. How long (or how detailed) are the notes you take before you start writing?

That depends on what the notes are about. I had pretty extensive notes about each if the fae races Cat will encounter, and developed quite a cast of characters to represent them. But my chapter outlines are fairly general. I have my key plot points and major action bullet-pointed, but beyond that I’m still “pantsing” my way through the chapters.

27. Do you have any “must haves” to help you write?  (i.e., a full cup of coffee, a view of the ocean, etc.)

Not really. My busy lifestyle means I’ve had to learn to write in much the same way a soldier learns to power-nap. You prepare yourself to do it whenever the opportunity arises. I keep my novel on Dropbox and have an app on my iPhone for working on standard Word documents, and I carry a bluetooth keyboard around with me. Or access the current chapter on my office computer on my lunch hour.

28. Do you only write during a certain time of day or in a certain location?  If so, do you make yourself stop after a certain time?

No and no. I can’t afford to.

29. Does your real life ever neglected because of your writing?  If so, how do you feel about that?

Absolutely not. This is the Prime Directive. If this book sells and I’m asked to write another, then I will feel justified in devoting a certain number of hours per week to writing, but until I’m actually contributing to the family income, I will not take away time I spend with my wife and children or helping around the house. With two jobs, I’m home rarely enough as it is.

30.What is the quirkiest thing you do or have ever done when writing?

I’m sure I couldn’t say.  But many people have certainly found it odd to see me attempting (and succeeding) to write a novel on my smart phone, propped up against my lunch box, with a half-eaten sandwich at my elbow in the company break room.

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ABOUT YOUR WORK::

31. If you have written more than one novel, which is your favorite and why?

Mentor was a huge part of my life, but it is not very good except to me. But The Last Princess is a labor of love and a collaboration with my amazing daughter, so it will always be incredibly special to both of us.

32. If you could be one of your own characters for a day, who would it be and why?

Are you kidding?  I am Richard Brökkenwier, Cat’s rather troll-like dad.

33. If one of your books became a movie, who would you choose for the “perfect cast” of main characters?

Honestly, I haven’t thought that much about it, because the story and the characters aren’t fully cooked, yet. But if I had to cast it today, I think I would probably have to cast Bailee Madison as Cat. And maybe Gerard Depardieu as Dad.

34. What is the oddest thing you have ever researched for one of your books?

I recently needed to learn about the Sami, the indigenous peoples of Scandinavia who hunted reindeer with bows and arrows and wore shoes with pointed, curled up toes, as a basis for the elf-born archery instructor Cat meets at camp.

35. What is the most difficult thing you have ever researched for one your books and why?

I probably spent the most time researching how a girl’s soccer practice might look, as neither my daughter nor I have ever seen a soccer game, let alone played. I needed terminology, drills, the name of the equipment, etc., and then I had to write it so it sounded authentic without injecting in too much useless information just for the sake of showing I knew what I was talking about.

*.*.*

Thank you, John, for allowing me to interview you.  I hope everyone else has enjoyed learning about you and your work as much as I have.

~Rachel

Am I Doing This Right?

Posted: February 26, 2014 in Writing
Tags: , , , ,

Last Princess Cover 3

I never studied (or learned, according to my wife) basic child-rearing skills. It’s just as well; she’s outstanding at it. We have three amazing children as evidence. But, being a man I am cursed with the hubris to think I can contribute from time to time, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

So, when my 12-year-old daughter seemed to have an unhealthy obsession with fairy tales, how did I handle it? I decided to write a tween fantasy novel about a girl who sees faeries everywhere using my daughter as inspiration, and invited her to be my co-author. See? This parenting thing ain’t so hard.

I think I may have sailed off the map, here.

Let me tell you, there are no How to Write a Semi-autobiographical Urban Fantasy Novel Using Your Own Family as a Model, for Dummies books out there. I’ve been told, “Write what you know.” Check. I’ve also heard, “Truth is stranger than fiction.” Can’t argue with that; if I wrote about my actual family … well, I’m not sure there’s a section for that in the book store.

That’s okay. I still had a lot of left over hubris to convince myself I could create an amusing fictional family with all of the wonderful quirks and qualities of my real family, that would be just right for a middle grade audience. And the characters just came alive on the page — practically wrote themselves — because I already knew them so well. I felt like a freaking parenting genius.

I realized my navigational error about the time the typhoon hit. My daughter read the first draft of chapter one.

How to Alienate Your Family For Fun and Profit doesn’t say how to explain that the quirky girl in the story is only based on your daughter — she isn’t what you think of your daughter. I wasn’t prepared for the tears.

But I think I managed some actual parenting, somehow. After a long talk in which I told her how beautiful and smart and talented I knew her to be, the two of us made it out of the storm and back in sight of dry land.

Our book is going to be great. Even if it doesn’t sell, my daughter loves the story and her fictional twin, now. And we’ve bonded in a way that is special and magical and totally our own. Plus I’m now clear why I should leave most of the parenting to my loving and infinitely more savvy wife.

I should probably tell her that before she reads our book.