Tamara Ellis Smith asked me to participate in the Writing Process Blog Tour. Here's Tamara's post on Kiss the Earth , a blog she shares with author Sharry Phelan Wright. How can you not love a writing blog that is named after a line in a poem written by the poet and zen master Thich Nhat Hanh?
I met Tamara in a unusual way. When Neil Armstong is My Uncle and Other Lies Muscle Man McGinty Told Me first came out I found a commercial on YouTube from a boy who had read the book. It was amazing. As an author, there is nothing better than watching a commercial about your book that was written and acted by a fifth-grader. The boy had long curly hair that bounced when he spoke. At the time I was starting Hiding Out at the Pancake Palace. I was so inspired by the boy in the YouTube commercial that I gave the main character, Elvis Ruby, the same long curly hair. It became Elvis's trademark. I wrote to the teacher to thank her and got a lovely email back from the boy's mom, who also just happened to be a middle grade book author. So that's how we met. Talk about a small world. Recently Tamara announced that she had received a two book deal with the publisher Schwartz & Wade! Her first book, The Marble Boys, comes out in August 2015.
Here are the questions from the blog tour.
What am I currently working on?
I'm working on a middle grade novel. The main character is a girl who believes she has a certain psychic power and she doesn't want it at all. The girl has a very strong relationship with her grandparents and I'm really enjoying writing about that part of the story. She is twelve. There is a fourteen year old boy who seems to like her. This is my first story where there may be a little bit of a romance.
How does my work differ from others of its genre?
That's a difficult question. When I'm working on a story, I'm not thinking about genre. My first book was historical fiction. The next one had a tiny bit of magical realism. This one seems to be somewhere between a fantasy and magical realism. One thing they all have in common is that there is always a misfit, a character who clearly doesn't belong. My stories always involve them navigating relationships and having them trying to find their way.
Why do I write what I write?
I never intentionally set out to write middle grade, but I have noticed that most of my characters are somewhere between the ages of ten to fourteen. I love reading middle grade books. They are fun, often philosophical and always filled with hope and promise. It is such an important time of growth, where kids are taking their first steps into an adult world yet they haven't lost their childhood abilities to imagine and to wonder.
How does my individual writing process work?
I wish my process was more of a process. I'm in awe of writers who say they can write outlines or that they always start a certain way. For me, every book is different. It usually starts when I think of a character and then think about how the character would interact with other people. I try to get to know my characters before I even begin to write. Normally I start thinking about them while I'm finishing up a book.
Each book comes out a different way. Neil Armstrong is My Uncle was all about this angry girl. Once I had her voice down, I was able to write. She was loud and determined -- so it was easy to let her run with the story.
For Hiding Out at The Pancake Palace, I had to write pages of back story before I could understand what was happening. In this current book, I'm writing out of order. When I see a scene, I write it. I'm trying to make sure I understand what the main character is really after. The good thing about writing out of order is that I already have how the story will end.
One thing I know for certain is that I hate first drafts. I love revision.
Next up on the tour:
Katia writes poetry and novels for young adults, while pursuing an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. I met Katia when she asked to interview me for her blog after my first book came out. By the time the evening was over, we were friends. When it comes to writing, she is fearless. I've learned so much from her.
Katia has already posted her answers to hop on over to her wonderful blog and see her reply.