Archive for the ‘Kids’ Category

Author Mary Cunningham is excited to announce the release of the 5th and final book in the award-winning series Cynthia’s Attic, “The Legend of Lupin Woods” (as usual, it’s filled with fun, time travels, colorful characters, unexpected twists and… yours truly is in it!).

Cynthia’s Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods (Book 5)

Cynthia and Gus have solved a lot of mysteries across time, but something is seriously wrong and things are beginning to unravel.

Aunt Belle is missing…again! Cynthia’s great-grandfather, Beau, was never found! And now they are wondering if Blackie is still making life miserable for Lilly and Annie.

This time, the twelve-year-old girls journey into a strange woods full of frightening creatures and dark secrets in search of answers.

From Aunt Belle’s cottage to a small village in France, they meet new friends and discover a connection to New Orleans that may lead to the devious source behind these alarming developments. Or bigger trouble.

 

Read an excerpt from Cynthia’s Attic: The Legend of Lupin Woods

My back pressed against a small tree as I peered over one shoulder, then the other. More blackness. I pulled my knees tight to my chest to create as small a target as possible. If I could keep still until morning, this place might be less formidable.

Those eyes … did they just move? Hair stood straight up on my neck as a low growl inched ever closer. I sucked in one last breath and hid my face waiting for a fatal blow or bite.

“Well, well. What do we have here?” My head jerked skyward. Yellow eyes hovered over me. “Cat got your tongue?”

The creature bent down and poked my upper arm with a furry finger. I wanted so badly to run, but sheer terror kept me plastered to the tree.
The hulking figure straightened and chuckled. “I’m not planning to hurt you. What are you doing in Lupin?”

Lupin? I tried to answer, but dryness gripped my throat as if I’d swallowed an entire sandbox. Plus, an ominous word jumped into my brain. I’d heard something that sounded a lot like lupin once before. It was at the movies! Wolfman. Oh, no. Lupine is another name for wolf! Was I in a wolf forest?

My eyes scanned the treetops. I might be saved if the sun rose soon, but light would have to pass through the dense canopy, and from where I sat, that seemed doubtful. The beast must’ve read my mind.

“If you’re waiting for sunrise, you’ll be disappointed.” It smiled–or made a weak attempt–revealing huge, pointy teeth. “Instead of night and day, around here we have night and black.”
I gulped and finally manufactured enough spit to choke out four words. “Why-am-I-here?”

Visit Cynthia’s Attic Blog for a schedule of The Legend of Lupin Woods Blog Tour!
http://cynthiasattic.blogspot.com/2012/05/cynthias-attic-legend-of-lupin-woods.html

 

Mary Cunningham: Like Cynthia and Gus, my childhood best friend, Cynthia and I grew up in a small, Southern Indiana town…the setting for the series. Not one summer day passed that we weren’t playing softball, hide and seek, badminton, or croquet with friends in the vacant lot behind Becky’s house.

In my attempt to grow up, I joined The Georgia Reading Association, and the Carrollton Creative Writers Club. When giving my fingers a day away from the keyboard, I enjoy golf, swimming and exploring the mountains of West Georgia where I live with my husband and adopted furry, four-legged daughter, Lucy. Together we’ve raised three creative children and are thrilled with our 2 granddaughters.

At last count, I’ve moved 9 times to six different states (all after the age of 36), and aside from the packing and unpacking, it’s been a great experience, having made some very dear and lasting friendships. My non-writing time is spent showing power point presentations on gathering ideas and the writing process to schools and libraries.

Mary Cunningham Books
http://www.marycunninghambooks.com

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Cynthia’s Attic Series for ‘Tweens on YouTube

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Pour inaugurer la version française de “Veronika Asks”, Fanny Joly, auteur (entre autres) de “Marion” et “Hotel Bordemer”, a accepté de répondre à mes questions, dans la joie et la bonne humeur… comme à son habitude 🙂
Interview in French, dating back to 2006.

Bonjour Fanny ! Ravie de vous accueillir chez « Veronika Asks » ! Merci d’avoir accepté d’être la première interviewée. Pourriez-vous vous présenter aux lecteurs ?
Bonjour. Merci de m’accueillir ainsi, je suis très honorée. Donc, je suis écrivain, j’ai 51 ans et je gagne ma vie avec ma plume depuis l’âge de 16 ans. Mon 1er livre jeunesse est sorti en 1986 et j’en ai publié beaucoup depuis. Plus de deux cent…

Vous intéressez-vous à l’Astrologie ? De quel signe êtes-vous ? Correspondez vous aux caractéristiques de ce signe ?
Non, je ne m’intéresse pas à l’astrologie. Si un horoscope me tombe sous le nez je le lis parfois mais pas toujours. Je suis sagittaire.

Comment (et surtout quand) avez–vous commencé à écrire ?
D’abord j’ai toujours beaucoup lu, dévoré. Etant jeune, mes vacances commençaient par aller vendre mes livres scolaires chez Gibert et acheter des romans avec l’argent ( privilège que mes parents m’accordaient)… A mes yeux lire et écrire sont un même besoin sous deux formes, comme manger (lire) et cuisiner (écrire). A part ça, j’ai commencé à écrire un peu par hasard. Quand j’avais 16 ans, donc, ma soeur qui a 20 ans de plus que moi et qui s’ennuyait dans le métier d’avocate, m’a confié qu’elle avait envie de faire du theâtre, de faire rire. Je l’ai aidée à écrire des sketches, de façon très naturelle, très joyeuse.

Comment êtes-vous arrivée à publier votre premier livre ?
Mon 1er livre publié (chez Centurion devenu depuis Bayard Edition), MARCEAU BONAPPÉTIT était un album, épuisé aujourd’hui. Je l’avais co-écrit avec une amie médecin. C’est elle qui s’est battue pour convaincre un éditeur après s’être fait jeter par plusieurs. Je n’aurais peut-être pas eu ce courage. J’ai eu de la chance, chez cet éditeur travaillait Jacqueline Kerguenno qui se trouvait être aussi l’une des créatrices de J’Aime Lire. On a sympathisé. Elle m’a poussée : « pourquoi n’essayez-vous pas d’écrire un J’Aime Lire ? » et c’est parti…

Comment travaillez-vous ? Avez-vous parfois le syndrome de la « page blanche » ? Si oui, que faites-vous ?
Je travaille cinq à six heures par jour, tous les jours sans exception… J’aime être bien concentrée. Je n’ai pas peur de la page blanche, jamais. Je fais des brouillons, des monstres, des recherches, des plans, des synopsis, sans me censurer. Je m’attends à ce que les débuts soient nuls. Ils le sont. C’est à force de retravailler que j’arrive à me trouver un peu moins nulle. Je suis habituée. Ce fonctionnement demande du temps. Il ne faut jamais se laisser prendre à la gorge par le délai. Mon angoisse se situe plutôt là…

Auriez-vous un conseil pour ceux qui souhaitent écrire (et se faire publier) ?
Lire. Acheter des cahiers de brouillons. Et ne jamais s’impatienter.

Le feuilleton Marion, qui est publié dans Je Bouquine, a un grand succès auprès des jeunes. Comment est née Marion ?
Un peu par hasard. En tout cas pas comme un personnage de série. C’est l’enthousiasme des lecteurs qui a fait de Marion une « récurrente » (le 11ème tome sort en octobre). En 1994, ayant publié une dizaine de J’Aime Lire, j’ai été contactée par Jacqueline Cohen, qui s’occupait de Je Bouquine à l’époque. « Tu n’aurais pas envie d’essayer d’écrire pour les plus grands ? » Et c’est parti. Rebelote (cf plus haut).

Pouvez-vous nous en dire un peu plus sur les prochaines aventures de Marion (va-t-elle enfin réussir à attirer l’attention de Félix ?) ?
Dans les prochains mois, Marion va… faire des expériences capillaires, jouer du théâtre classique, manger du curry, avoir la fièvre, rire, pleurer, voyager et déclencher pas mal de catastrophes, comme d’habitude… (J’écris en ce moment l’épisode de janvier 2007) Côté Félix, il va se passer des tas de choses bien sûr… Mais pas « eau de rose & prince charmant ». Sinon ce ne serait pas Marion. Ni moi.

Laquelle de vos histoires préférez-vous et avez-vous le plus de plaisir à retrouver ?
Toutes. Mes histoires sont comme mes enfants. J’y mets mon cœur en entier.

Vous dites aussi écrire pour le théâtre (les one woman shows de Sylvie Joly, par exemple) et la télévision. Quelles sont les différences entre l’écriture d’un scénario et d’un roman ?
Dans l’écriture scénaristique, le style compte moins… Seuls les dialogues seront perceptibles par le public. Le reste est utilitaire, transitoire. Péripéties d’abord. Dans un roman, tout compte. Un auteur de talent peut faire dix pages sur un rien. Ou même cent.

Ne voudriez-vous pas essayer d’autres genres ? Écrire pour les adultes, par exemple ?
Vous ne croyez pas si bien dire… Mon 1er roman adulte sort en octobre. Il s’appelle LA VIE COMME EVA. Il m’a été commandé par… une de mes éditrices jeunesse qui est passée « dans la cour des grands » chez Intervista. Ça m’a donné bien du travail, bien des doutes. Catel m’a fait le grand plaisir d’accepter d’illustrer ce texte. 250 pages de texte et 18 dessins Noir et Blanc.

Vos romans sont publiés en 14 langues. Lesquelles ? Suivez-vous toutes les sorties de tous vos livres (dans toutes les langues) ?
Je ne tiens pas la liste mais comme ça de mémoire : anglais, allemand, grec, italien, coréen, espagnol, portugais, polonais, hébreu…

Quels sont vos projets pour cette année ?
Partir en vacances (après-demain)… Des vacances studieuses puisque je dois rendre un épisode de Marion le 15 août, un texte chez Hachette image le 4 septembre, à nouveau Marion le 15 septembre, le 7ème épisode d’une BD historique que je co-écris un mois sur deux dans J’aime Lire : SUZIE et GODEFROY vers le 20 septembre, le 10ème tome de ma série DROLE D’ECOLE chez Pocket le 30 septembre. Après, hé bien je suivrai la sortie de mon roman adulte et puis… on verra.

Et maintenant la-question-qui-n’a-pas-vraiment-de-rapport-avec-les-livres-mais-qu’on-aime-quand-même : vous venez de trouver 100€. Qu’allez vous en faire ? Sans trop réfléchir…
J’achèterai sans doute des livres ou des disques ! C’est mon principal poste de dépense… A moins que mes enfants ne me les piquent avant !

“J’aime…”

Série télé : Je ne regarde pas la télé. Je n’ai jamais regardé une série ni un film en entier.
Livre :
Je dirais plutôt : auteurs. Comment citer tous ceux que j’aime ? Balzac, Maupassant, Zola, Mauriac, Marcel Aymé, Roald Dahl, Alison Lurie, Elisabeth Taylor, Jean Paul Dubois, Jean Echenoz, Weyergans, Ludmilla Oulitskaïa, Anita Brookner, Alice Munro, Magda Szabo… Je m’arrête mais je pourrais continuer…
Film :
Un de mes films préférés : RETOUR A HOWARDS END de James Ivory.
Musique :
Du jazz, piano, saxo, voix…
Ville :
Paris.
Endroit pour écrire :
Un lit et une paire de boules Quiès.
Dicton, mot, proverbe :
« Je m’empresse de rire de tout de peur d’être obligé d’en pleurer » Beaumarchais.

“Pile ou Face?”

Samedi soir. Sortir ou lire un livre ? Lire un livre.
En vacances. Plage ou Montagnes ?
Plage.
Au cinéma. Drame ou Comédie ?
Comédie.
Ville ou campagne ?
Ville.
Timide ou communicative ?
Communicative.
Sérieuse ou rigolote ?
Rigolote, j’espère.
Voyageuse ou pas ?
Voyageuse.

Merci Fanny!
Le site officiel de Fanny Joly: http://www.fannyjoly.com

A few words from author friend Mary Cunningham:

“To kick off the release of Cynthia’s Attic: The Magician’s Castle, I ran a contest to name your favorite character in the Cynthia’s Attic Series. And, guess who won? None other than Veronika! The prize is to be cast as a character in Cynthia’s Attic: Legend of Lupinwold Forest (working title). She’s anxious to read how her character is developing, so here’s a short excerpt. Not too much. Don’t want to give away any of the mystery, but I hope you’ll enjoy a snippet of the latest Cynthia’s Attic adventure with Cynthia, Gus and Veronika.”

* * *

In trying to escape the boring summer of 1964, Cynthia and Gus, adventurous twelve-year-old best friends, discover a trunk in Cynthia’s attic that her family has possessed for three generations. The trunk has magical powers that allows them to travel through time solving mysteries and having adventures with their ancestors.

In the latest story, Cynthia and Gus journey to a small town in France to search for clues as to why all the mysteries solved in previous adventures are unraveling. In the village of Beauvais, they see a woman, Amelia, the girls first spotted making beignets in New Orleans (Curse of the Bayou: Book Three). Amelia runs a small pastry shop in town and her young daughter, Veronika, helps out when she can.

Veronika offers to show Cynthia and Gus an old monastery-school building where they might search for clues to solve this latest mystery.

* * *

Cynthia’s Attic: Legend of Lupinwold Forest – Excerpt: Chapter Five

I couldn’t argue that mother and daughter appeared as different as night and day. Amelia towered over us and her hair and eyes were the same color as the dark chocolate fudge my dad made every Christmas.

Veronika sensed my confusion and explained, “Maman claims I’m the image of my Grand-mère Colette, my papa’s mother. “She was born in the south of France, but claimed Irish ancestry, which must explain my blonde hair and freckles.”

I was quick to point out our common ground. “I take after my grandmother, too. And, Cynthia is the image of her great-aunt, Belle, so we all bear resemblance to one relative or another.”

“Aunt Belle lives in France,” Cynthia added. “In fact, we just came from her cottage.”

Veronika stopped walking and asked, “Really? Does she live close by?”

I held my breath while my friend answered since we never knew for sure where Aunt Belle lived except that her home was somewhere outside Paris.

“She lives in the countryside, outside Paris, but the village is so small I’m not sure it even has a name.”

“That’s quite possible. Many villages have no formal designation, but are known by a landmark or by the name of the original inhabitants,” Veronika said.

I sighed with relief when she continued to lead us past dozens of small shops and didn’t press for more information. Few of the stores contents were distinguishable, but one displayed candles in the window and another had baskets of fresh and fruit at the front entrance. One thing they had in common were “closed” signs displayed in each window. Despite my disappointment at not being able to investigate and sample more delicious food, we had to continue the mission.

Our pace quickened and we soon reached the outskirts of town.

“We’re here,” Veronika announced. “Big and solemn-looking, isn’t it?”

I couldn’t dispute that. The three-story, stone building, complete with bell tower, gave the appearance of a church rather than a school.

“It used to be a monastery,” Veronika answered, as if reading my mind. “I love the creaky wood floors, although it’s harder to sneak into class when I’m late for school. Would you like to go inside? The doors are open all summer.”

“Sure, why not?” It couldn’t look more depressing on the inside than the old elementary school Cynthia and I attended from kindergarten through fifth grade. To reinforce how old, my grandmother, Bess, went to high school there! During school, the janitor had a full-time job keeping wax on the worn wood floors and the principal spent winter months banging on the old furnace coaxing it to heat the three-story building.

Veronika led us through the massive double doors into a marble hallway. While the age of the building was apparent, the sounds from our footsteps echoed off huge wooden beams giving me a strange sense of historical significance and purpose. I could almost see monks in long robes roaming the hallways centuries before.

“This way!” Our new friend ran down the hallway, her laughter contrasting with the somber interior of the school. “There is supposed to be a secret passage somewhere near the tower stairs. I’ve never seen it, but my friend, Bridget swears it’s there, but I’m not sure how much to believe since she also swears her brother is a werewolf.” Veronika laughed. “I don’t think he is, but…he does have unusually long canine teeth.”

Cynthia laughed along with Veronika, but I didn’t find talk of werewolves the least bit funny. Ever since screaming and hiding my eyes through Wolf Man at the Dream Movie Theatre, I’ve imagined hairy, fanged faces staring in through my bedroom window! “She’s kidding, right?”

“Probably.” Veronika grinned. “Her older brother, François, is quiet and a little eccentric, but, other than extra long teeth, he doesn’t appear at all wolf-like.”

I paled and Cynthia snickered. “She’s teasing you, Gus. You’ll fall for anything.”

“Ha! I know she’s kidding.” Or is she? A shadow passed over Veronika’s face, but the moment I blinked it was gone and her sunny smile returned. Still, a shiver moved up my spine.

We ran up the stairs to the second floor and encountered a long hallway of closed doors—classrooms, I presumed. Veronika walked ahead, jiggling doorknobs criss-crossing from right to left, but everything was locked tight.

“Nothing so far.” She called over her shoulder. “I’m afraid Bridget teased about the secret passage, too.”

I didn’t know whether to be relieved or disappointed. All this talk of werewolves had me on edge, but our only recourse is finding clues to fix the mess that’s been created, or many people will to suffer. Aunt Belle, Beau, Cynthia’s whole family! Not to mention the effect on my family, particularly my grandma, Bess and me. One thing certain; we wouldn’t escape unscathed.

I couldn’t determine if my dark mood played tricks on my or if another shadow passed directly above me, but by the time I looked up, I saw nothing but the ornately sculpted ceiling.


Mary Cunningham

Mary Cunningham is the author of award winning ‘Tween fantasy/mystery series, Cynthia’s Attic. Her children’s mystery series is inspired by a recurring dream about a mysterious attic. After realizing that the dream takes place in the home of her childhood friend, Cynthia, the dreams stopped and the writing began.

She is also co-writer of the humor-filled, women’s lifestyle book, “Women Only Over Fifty (WOOF),” along with published stories, “Ghost Light” and “Christmas Daisy,” A Cynthia’s Attic short story.


Official website
http://www.marycunninghambooks.com

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Garden gnomes need love too. Today, I get the chance to interview director, writer and voice actor Kelly Asbury. Kelly answers my questions about his new baby “Gnomeo and Juliet”, movie-making, Ventriloquism…and much more.

On… Kelly Asbury:

Welcome on Veronika Asks, Kelly! Thank you for being my interviewee. You’re a director, writer, voice actor and illustrator. Did you achieve everything you wanted to or is there something else you’d like to try?
I’d like to keep doing it all again and get better with each try!

Which animated movie made you want to become involved in this industry?
I saw Disney’s SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES when I was about 7-years-old and that was that.

Which one of the movies you worked on is your favorite?
I”ve enjoyed them all to a large degree, but, as of now, GNOMEO AND JULIET is my favorite!

In most animated movies, the hero often gets help from a fairy godmother. Do you have a fairy godmother? 🙂
My high school art teacher Mrs. Minnie McMillan is as close to a fairy godmother as I’ve ever come.


On “Gnomeo and Juliet”:

“Gnomeo and Juliet” is “an epic tale on a tiny scale”. The making of the movie too, must have been epic. Could you share your best and “worst” “Gnomeo & Juliet” memories?
My best memories are too many to mention here, but suffice it to say that I loved working with all the brilliantly talented artists and technicians I had the priviledge to be surrounded by. My worst memory is when it was all over and we had to say “goodbye for now.” It was like parting with family.

Fairytales often teach us valuable life lessons. What about “Gnomeo and Juliet”? Is there a moral behind the fun?
Don’t judge a gnome by the color of his hat!

Are there other classics you’d enjoy “gnoming”?
Been there, gnomed that.


On Animation and Movie-Making:

You’ve worked on amazing animated movies such as “The Little Mermaid”, “Shrek”, “Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron”, “Beauty and the Beast”… What do a storyboard artist, assistant art director, story artist and director do exactly?
A storyboard artist works closely with the director to tell the story in still drawings, much like a comic strip. The storyboards serve as the blueprint from which the entire movie is planned. An assistant art director helps the production designer and art director develop and design the look of the movie from the environments to the colors and lighting for a given scene. A director oversees and shepherds all the creative decisions from the start to the finish of production.

What is the difference between a “good story” and a “story worth turning into a movie”?
All stories are worth turning into a movie and all stories are only as good as the teller.

Once an idea is born, how is an animated movie made? Could you briefly describe the movie-making process, taking your new baby “Gnomeo and Juliet” as an example?
Idea + script + storyboards + editing + many revisions + designs + voices + animation + surfacing + color + sound + sound mixing + final print = animated movie. A process of usually no less than 4 years.

I’ve heard it will soon be possible to “revive” dead actors thanks to the new technologies. Does that mean it will soon be possible to see new movies with those long-gone stars? How far do you think special effets may go?
I think the sky is the limit, but the stories have to be good and the characters have to be engaging or none of it’s worth a hill of beans.


On “Dummy Days”:

You wrote a non-fiction book titled “Dummy Days: America’s Favorite Ventriloquists from Radio and Early TV”. How and when did your passion for this incredible art form start? Have you ever considered becoming a ventriloquist yourself?
I was given a toy ventriloquist dummy as a kid and never was very good at actually being a ventriloquist. Still, I’ve always loved puppets and magic and those interests remained into my adulthood. After searching for a good book on the history of ventriloquists, I became frustrated and decided to write one myself.

Who is your favorite ventriloquist? And the greatest dummy of all-time?
My favorite ventriloquist is my good friend Mr. Jimmy Nelson, who’s famous for those old 1960s Nestle’s Quik commercials featuring his dummy Danny O’Day and the singing dog, Farfel. The most famous ventriloquist dummy of all time is Edgar Bergen’s Charlie McCarthy, who, in the 1930s and 40s was as popular as Mickey Mouse.

Do you think there’s room for another Golden Age of Ventriloquism?
There’s room for anything!


My…

Hero: Walt Disney
Favorite Animated Movie:
DUMBO
Favorite Animated Character:
Mickey Mouse
Favorite Actor/Actress:
Marlon Brando/Meryl Streep
Motto:
There’s always something new to learn.
Dream:
I’m living it
Favorite Food:
Fried Chicken
Favorite City:
Los Angeles, CA
Favorite Music:
Anything that makes me want to sing along.
Hobby:
Deep sleep

Bonus Question: You’ve found $100. How will you use that money?
I’d first try hard to find out who lost it, in the hopes of getting it back to them. If that failed I’d throw a KFC block party.

Thank you, Kelly!

You can follow Kelly Asbury on Twitter: http://twitter.com/KellyAsbury
…and discover “Gnomeo and Juliet”: http://www.gnomeoandjuliet.com

Review: “Curse of the Bayou” and “The Magician’s Castle” by Mary Cunningham

Have you ever dreamed of traveling in time, uncovering secrets from the past, taking a ship cruise from Paris to America, enrolling in a colorful circus, fighting dangerous pirates and visiting a magician’s castle? Here’s your chance with Mary Cunningham’s series “Cynthia’s Attic”!

In the third installment of the series “Curse of the Bayou“, tomboy Gus and picture-perfect Cynthia are on they way to dust away the mist wrapping the disappearance of Beau Connor, Cynthia’s great-grandfather. They’ll have to deal with a hungry alligator, awful dumplings, a bunch of colorful pirates and their parrot (keep an eye on your belongings with him) and a very special puma. You’re in 1914 New Orleans!

In “The Magician’s Castle“, Gus, Cynthia and their friend Annie will have to cruise between a chilling castle and a farm, fight a ruthless antique seller and help a century-old love story end with a “happily ever after”. A pretty heavy program, but not heavy enough to scare our sassy and inventive twelve year old.

A light-hearted action-packed comedy adventure that would make a great family movie or miniseries. Gus and Cynthia’s fans won’t be disappointed as they meet old acquaintances and make new friends in a whirlwind of humor, aventure and green and purple lights. A pleasant trip to the past…and the future.

Buy the books: http://www.amazon.com/s?ie=UTF8&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3Amary%20cunningham%20Cynthia’s%20Attic&page=1
Visit Mary Cunningham’s website: http://www.marycunninghambooks.com/

Best-selling and award-winning author Holly Black pays me a visit. She answers my questions about writing, getting published, the Spiderwick series  and tells us more about her upcoming books…

Hi Holly, welcome on “Veronika Asks” and thank you for being here! How would you describe yourself in three words?
I’m Holly Black is three words!

You’re Scorpio, aren’t you? The stars say they’re often determined and intuitive, but at the same time secretive and obstinate. Do you consider yourself a typical Scorpio?
I believe in astrology in a very general way – my father-in-law is an astrologist, so I have to believe a little!  I certainly fit lots of the descriptions of Scorpios

Can you spill a few secrets about those of your books that will be (has been) released in 2009/2010? I’m talking here about “The Wyrm King: Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles”, “The Good Neighbors: Kith”, “Poison Eaters & Other Stories” & “The Good Neighbors: Kind”.
Hrm.  The only secrets I have to share on the Good Neighbors series is that the last book, Kind, comes out Fall 2010.  The whole series was based on certain kinds of betrayals.  Book 1 was about family betrayals, Book 2 is about betrayals in love and Book 3 is about betrayals of self. Muahahaha.
The Poison Eaters and Other Stories is a collection of my short stories.  I wrote two new stories for the collection, one set in the Modern Faerie Tale world.

“Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale”, published in 2002, was your first novel. What gave you inspiration for a faerie tale? Was the road to the publishing house quick and easy or long and tiring?
The longest and most tiring part of my road to publication really was learning how to write a good book.  It took me many years for Tithe to get into any kind of decent shape. I was lucky enough to find an editor who loved the book fairly quickly, but if I hadn’t spent all that time writing and rewriting it, I don’t think I would have had such a positive experience.

How do you work? Do you have some rituals or habits?
I don’t have too many writing habits, but I do a lot of my writing at night and I do a lot of it with headphones on, so I can listen to music and shut everything else out.

If you could give only one advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?
I would advise them to read everything — read books in familiar and unfamiliar genres, read nonfiction, read the backs of shampoo bottles — and to write a ton, and to find a critique partner.  Not only is it great to build up a skill in critiquing another person’s work, but having a trusted reader to tell you when a scene is good and when it isn’t is invaluable.

You write mainly fantasy and horror for teens and children. Why those genres in particular? You have been living in a “decrepit Victorian house” when you were little. Did this influence your writing?
I write the kinds of stories I most love to read – dark fantasy, capers, and urban fantasy.  I don’t know if growing up in an old, decrepit house had a direct influence on the kinds of stories I had to tell, but certainly my childhood did.  I grew up absolutely believing in the fantastical and it is very easy for me to get back into that frame of mind.

A lot of adults read your children books. How do you explain such a success? Are you writing for a certain audience or “just writing for yourself”? Why do you think people are so attracted to fantasy, faeries and magic?
I think that everyone is intrigued by the idea that the world could be bigger and stranger than what we see – that out of the corner of our eye we might be able to glimpse something more.  But I do mostly try to write for my reader-self.  I try to write the stories that I think I would love.  I am really happy that other people — kids, teens, adults — like them too.

You said you’re living in an old house with a secret library. If we’d manage to sneak into the library, what kind of books could we find there?
My library has a big folklore and myth section, a lot of fantasy novels, and a lot of comics.  I think the most surprising thing I have is a ton of true crime.

Why this love for spooky dolls and hats?
Ever since I was a kid, I have loved dolls.  I never stopped.  They are like tiny, very still people. I love hats because they are so dramatic!

You’ve probably been asked if you believed in faeries a hundred times. Let’s ask the question another way: some people say you never invent anything, that everything that comes to your mind as an idea is already existing somewhere. Do you think there’s a Spiderwick somewhere? Would you go there if it really existed?
You mean a Spiderwick estate or an Arthur Spiderwick?  I absolutely think there are researchers like Arthur Spiderwick who look for evidence of faeries.  In fact, quite a lot of faerie folklore has been collected by people, like Robert Kirk or Dermot MacManus or even William Butler Yeats, interested in finding proof that faeries exist.

Do you celebrate Halloween? If you do, how?
In recent years, I haven’t gotten to celebrate Halloween, despite my great love for it.  The World Fantasy Convention is often the same weekend and doesn’t allow costumes.  When I am home, though, we usually throw a party, complete with fog.  Last year we had a dinner party where we served insects and other seasonal delights.

If you had a magic wand or if a genie granted you three wishes, what would you wish for? If you could be turned into a fantasy character, who would you be?
Oh, I would puzzle over three wishes forever – but I would never wish to be a character in a novel.  Their lives are too miserable.  It must be awful to be a protagonist!

Imagine for a second you’re not an author/artist anymore. Which job would you pick?
I’d probably be a librarian.  I was in library school when my books came out and I really loved it.  I never finished.  I wouldn’t mind going back.

What about your projects? What are you working on right now?
My new series is called The Curse Workers and the first book is White Cat.  They are caper mobster fantasies set in a world where one in a thousand people have the ability to cast curses, and magic is illegal.

And of course, I can’t do without the “Nothing-to-do-with-books-question”: you’ve found $100, how will you use your newly acquired money?
Books!


“Favorite…”

Author & Book: I couldn’t possibly choose just one.
Movie & TV show: My recent most favorite film is probably Brick.  And I have been loving True Blood on HBO.
Food: Korean BBQ.
City: New York.
Music: I’ve been listening to a lot of Rufus Wainwright.
Hobby: Reading.
Place to write: My new office!
Quote or Motto: Coffee: you can sleep when you’re dead


“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday night. Disco & Restaurant or Home, Books & DVDs? Books
Going on holidays. Beach or Mountains? Beach
Sleepy Little Town or Crazy Megapolis? Both
Pick a DVD: Comedy or Weepy Drama? Neither
Like To Travel or Hate to Move? Both
Sport Lover or Couch Potato? Couch potato
Leader or Follower? Loner
Shy or Easy-going? Socially anxious
Serious or Funny? Mostly serious.  Mostly.

Thank you, Holly!
You can learn more about Holly Black and her books at http://www.blackholly.com/

“Cynthia’s Attic : The Magic Medallion” by Mary Cunningham

Do you remember Gus and Cynthia, two girls living in the 60’s, who discovered a magic trunk they can use to travel in the past? The two girls are back in a second story, The Magic Medallion. The story takes place about a week after girl’s first travel. Now, they will to deal with “sinister clowns, stalkers on horseback, mystical forests, and the creepy, crawling curse”.

Those who loved The Missing Locket will enjoy the Magic Medallion even better, because it’s is greater and full of adventures, unexpected discoveries and it is also as fun as the Missing Locket. The characters are lovable and the story is never boring. Those who haven’t read the first novel won’t be lost, because Mary explains how it all started.

A great read for children! And, adults, read it with your children, you’ll see you’ll love it!

Veronika asks

Like it? Buy it!

Kevin Scott CollierAuthor and illustrator Kevin Scott Collier talks about his newest title, “Heaven Quest”.

Hi Kevin! Welcome on “Veronika asks”! If you could describe yourself with three words…
Creative, Imaginative and Inspired.

You’re both an author and illustrator. What did you start with?
I drew first at age 5, then learned how to write. Creating characters via art always provokes writing, as characters need identities and adventures!

Let’s talk a bit about your latest book, “Heaven Quest”…
I think it’s the best book I’ve written. It’s co-authored by Kristen Halter, and we worked as a team creating the Heaven Quest Universe featuring teenage alien Izzy Warp and his dog. It was a book I juggled writing with Kris for like 8 months trading chapters and had no idea how it would end up. When you are really busy being pulled in all directions you just work, work, work and rarely have time to sit back and absorb one particular project for its worth. When “Heaven Quest” was finished, Kris and I both went, Whoa!” I had no idea how special it was until I read the final manuscript. It’s an entertaining book, but also very tender and pulls at the heart strings regarding love and faith.

I read on your website that you help young authors by offering, several times a year, free illustrations. That’s great! Why do you do that? How did you get that idea?
Because when I was growing up there were not people there with talents or skills to help me. I feel if there is a talent you can share, it means nothing unless you do.

How do you prefer to work? Does a plot pop in first? Or does it start with characters (and then you see what can happen to him)?
Sometimes a story emerges in my mind, other times characters come to mind that provoke a story. It’s like asking what came first, the chicken or the egg. Sometimes it’s one, sometimes it’s the other.

What theme (genre, things) do you prefer to illustrate?
I love drawing animals and creatures as characters. Children are fun to draw, also. A story has to have a purpose, and possess hope. That interests me and inspires my art.

How do you see your reader? You know, when you say to yourself: “there’s somebody reading my book right now”… who do you picture?
Some youth somewhere curled up with one of my books, and his or her eyes are big with wonder. I write stories that touch the hearts of others. I feel the only way you can reach the mind of a child is to touch his or her heart first.

I noticed many of your books are only available on downloading or on CD, not on paper version. Why? Is there a particular reason?
There are ISBN commercial electronic download books. Two companies I work for, Writers Exchange E-Publishing and Guardian Angel Publishing I have created titles that are for sale online. I have done 10 such commercial e-books. They don’t sell in volume like print books, but they are a way for a writer or illustrator to keep up with the market trends.

How do you see ePublishing in some years?
It continues to grow, so who knows? I want to be along for that ride.

Could you tell us more about your upcoming projects?
I am writing a sequel for my book “Esther’s Channel” for Baker Trittin Press. I am also illustrating several books for other authors, including “Peter Potato and The Quest for Knowledge” and “Ashby the Happy Little Elephant” for New World Publishing, co-illustrating “The New Puppy” with Gisele R. LeBlanc for Writers Exchange, and will begin drawing “A Blessed Bethlehem Birth: As told by Abraham and Anna Mousenstern” written by Walter Lee McElligott for Guardian Angel Publishing soon. Another Guardian Angel title I am completing illustrations for is Sharon Lyle-Soffe’s “Rooter and Snuffle” book about two faithful raccoons. Kristen Halter and I are working on a children’s picture book for Tangerine Sky Productions titled “A Pony Named Promise” that she will write and I will illustrate that will be released next year, and also we are turning in an Izzy Warp Heaven Quest e-book for Writers Exchange around January 2007.

Would you like to add something?
Yes… I need some sleep! lol

And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question. You’ve just found 100 $ in your pocket, how will you use that money?
Spend it on someone else.


“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ?WRITE or DRAW a book!
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ?Beach, always.
Country or City ?CountryWatching a movie.
Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ?Comedy
Shy or Easy-going ?Both!
Serious or Funny ?Both again!
Traveler or not ?Not much a traveler
Sporty or not ?Very athletic, outdoorsy
The leader in the group or not?Leader

“Favorite…”

TV show : Law and Order
Movie : It’s a Wonderful Life
Book : Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel
Music : Steppenwolf
Food : Pizza
City : Grand Haven, MI
Favorite place to write: Outdoors in nature
Quote or motto : Doers never dream enough and dreamers often do nothing at all.

Thank you, Kevin!
You can visit Kevin’s website http://www.kevinscottcollier.com

Mary CunninghamMary Cunningham answers my questions about her time travel series “Cynthia’s Attic” and takes us through Time! Ready for a trip?

Hi Mary! Glad to welcome you on “Veronika asks”! Here we go! Please, introduce yourself to our readers…
Hi Veronika. It’s great to be with you. My husband, Ken, and I, are recent transplants to West Georgia. We have three grown children living in Kentucky, Michigan, and Iowa, and a thirteen-year-old granddaughter in Indiana. My dad was a journalist for many years and his human-interest stories sparked my love for writing.

If you could describe yourself with three words…
Compassionate, funny, insecure

Tell us more about “Cynthia’s Attic”. Especially about “The Missing Locket”.
I’m going to cheat and give this description right off the book.

Best friends, Cynthia and Augusta Lee, or ‘Gus’ as she prefers to be called, are as “different as bubble gum and broccoli.” They are, however, equal in their ability to get into trouble without much effort. In trying to escape the “boring summer” of 1964, the adventurous twelve-year-old girls stumble upon a trunk in Cynthia’s attic that has been in her family for three generations. They discover its mystical qualities when they are swept into the trunk and whisked back to 1914, literally into the lives of their twelve-year-old grandmothers, Clara and Bess. The mystery of a missing family locket is revealed, and Cynthia and Gus are compelled to solve its half-century disappearance. Their quest takes numerous twists and turns, including a life-and-death struggle on a large steamship traveling from England to America. Along with perilous escapades, they make important, sometimes humorous discoveries about their ancestors, and even manage to change history–for the better–along the way.”

The second book of the series, “The Magic Medallion” will be out in December 2006. Could you tell us more about what will happen?
Cynthia, Gus, magic trunk, time travel, more of the same…just kidding! At least in some respects. The girls still take that same magic trunk back to 1914 where an ill-fated trip to the circus leads to Blackie, a sinister hobo clown. Before Blackie can force them to become permanent clown troupe performers, the girls are rescued by Gabriella, a fortune-teller, and are entangled in the theft of her family’s treasure. Much to their dismay, Cynthia and Gus appear to be the family’s only hope of recovering a precious magic medallion. I truly enjoyed writing the Missing Locket, but I think The Magic Medallion is my favorite because a special character…a teenage cave guide…appears, out of nowhere, at an opportune time. My dad was a cave guide as a teenager. Hmmm? Could there be a connection?

How did you get this amazing idea? How (and when) did you start writing?
Interesting story. I’d just finished telling my best friend, Diana, about the recurring dream I’d had for almost 20 years, when I had a “light-bulb” moment. It occurred to me that the dream took place in the attic of my childhood friend, Cynthia. “Hmmm…” Diana thought. “Cynthia’s Attic. What a great title for a book!” The dreams stopped and the writing began. I decided it might be fun to write a “little” story about the dream and my fond memories of playing in Cynthia’s attic as a child. I should write a memoir! No…a picture book…maybe a song! (Good grief) Nothing seemed to strike me, so I just started writing. My four-page memoir eventually turned into a 33,000-word young reader novel, and took more than three years to write.
I began writing non-fiction…memoirs, mostly, but fantasy fiction is my true passion.

Are some characters from “Cynthia’s Attic” real? (Aunt Belle, Gus, Clara, or Bess…)
That’s the fun part! I just mentioned that Cynthia was my real childhood friend. Her character is loosely based, she wasn’t bossy, but was very pretty and petite, and, I don’t believe we ever had a fight. Clara is her real grandmother, and Bess is mine. I use family members in Book Two, “The Magic Medallion,” and also in Book Three (a work in progress),” Curse of the Bayou.”

How many books will the series count?
As many as my imagination can create! Three definitely, but we’ll have to see where the magical trail of Book Three, “Curse of the Bayou,” leads Cynthia and Gus.

If you had a trunk and could travel in Time, where would you go?
I’d go back in time to when my great-great-grandfather disappeared, and see if I could stop him from taking his ill-fated trip down the Mississippi to New Orleans (the basis for Curse of the Bayou). Although…if I stopped him, how would that have changed the life of my great-grandfather who had to take over raising his younger brothers and sisters when his father disappeared. Would he still marry my great-grandmother, or would his life have been altered? Would I even be here, writing books and talking to you??

How do you write in general (how, when, where…)? What do you do when comes the “writer’s block”?
I write exclusively in my office, sitting at my computer (although I will occasionally sit outside and take notes). I’m not as disciplined as most writers. If I don’t feel the words flowing within 5-10 minutes, I get up and do something else. I’ve found that if I force myself to write, it usually isn’t any good, and I have to spend more time rewriting, or end up deleting all. Usually, if I allow myself enough time, I can overcome writer’s block. I also depend on my husband to help me over “the block.” He’s had great ideas for new twists and turns in all three books.

Is “The Missing Locket” your first novel?
Yes. Before, I wrote mostly short, nonfiction, and wasn’t even sure I could write fiction until I began “Cynthia’s Attic.” Now it’s my passion.

Do you already have plans for an after “Cynthia’s Attic”?
I can’t even imagine life without Cynthia, Gus, and their magic attic! I may try another genre, but I don’t know, yet, what that would be.

And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question: You’ve just found 100 $ in your pocket, how will you use that money?
Well, obviously $100.00 would be a nice “find” for any of us, but it would only be a temporary bonus. I’d give it to one of the animal shelters in the area because that money would help many, many, dogs and cats. I have a soft place in my heart for shelters because that’s where we found our dear, sweet, Molly, the smartest little brown dog this side of the Atlantic.

Will you visit me again to talk about the Magic Medallion? 😉
I would love to! When do we start??

Would you like to add something?
I’ve always had regrets that I didn’t talk to my grandparents so that I could find out about their childhoods, and hear stories about their parents and grandparents. One of my reasons for writing “Cynthia’s Attic” was so that I could create adventures that I thought they might enjoy…adventures that we could enjoy, together. It’s been a fun journey; one I hope will continue for a long, long, time. One more thing: Having moved to Georgia, I now live 35 minutes away from Cynthia! We hadn’t seen each other in more than 22 years, but have renewed our life-long friendship. It’s like we’ve never been apart.

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday night. Going out or reading a book ?Going out to eat!
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ?Mountains. I lived in Florida for many years, and got my fill of beaches. I’m now living in the gorgeous mountains of Georgia.
Country or City ?Hmmm. Country, with easy access to the City!
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ?Both! I love to laugh, but I love a good “tear-jerker,” too.
Shy or Easy-going ?Shy. Except when it comes to my books. They’ve given me the motivation to talk to large groups of people because I’m so passionate about them, and about writing.
Serious or Funny ?I’m a combination, although I’d rather laugh than be serious.
Traveler or not ?I think I’m a traveler at heart. I’ve moved 10 times in 22 years, and love the excitement of new people and new places. I do miss the friends I’ve left behind, though.
Sporty or not ?I AM Gus! A true tomboy. I’m a sports fanatic! I love to watch almost any sport on TV. I don’t play softball or basketball anymore, but enjoy golf, bike riding, and swimming.
The leader in the group or not ?Not! I’m a good worker, but not a good boss.

“Favorite…”

TV show: Ghost Whisperer
Movie : To Kill A Mockingbird
Book : Same as above! (To Kill A Mockingbird)
Music : Country
Food : Chocolate cake with chocolate icing (anything chocolate!)
City : New York City
Favorite place to write: my office
Quote or motto : “I live in my own little world, but it’s okay. They know me here.”

Thank you, Mary!
You can visit Mary’s site http://www.marycunninghambooks.com

Colleen WilliamsColleen Williams answers my questions about her life and writing and speaks about her books, My Adventures Series.

What would you like, first, to say to introduce yourself ?
I have an elementary education degree with an art minor from the University of Alaska at Anchorage. I graduated with a 3.89 GPA. I worked very hard to get this degree, then when I was ready to teach was diagnosed with breast cancer! I went through almost a year that was a combination of chemotherapy followed by radiation treatments for this. When I was done, I decided that before I tried teaching, I was going to give writing a shot. It had always been my first love. ( I have written since I was very young.) I started writing in 1999, and now have over a dozen books in print.

Your books (My Adventure Series) are very special, tell us more about them…
I love these books! They have blanks in the text so that the reader can add his/her own words to the story. This allows the child to add sensory details to the adventure, while going on a guided journey. There are blank pages where the illustrations should be, too. That way, the child gets to create the pictures that go along with the text. On the front of the book, there is a space for the child to put his/her name down as the author/illustrator of the adventure. I am listed as the “presenter.” I present the adventure, but the child completes it.

How did you publish your first book?
I answered an internet ad for what turned out to be a book deal with an editor working for Mason Crest Publishing. I sent in my resume with some published writing clips, writing samples, and a letter of interest.

Why did you choose to write for kids?
I wanted to use my education degree and teach, but through my writing. I loved writing lesson plans in college. I loved working on Language Arts and Art activities, but I didn’t like the idea of being tied down to a classroom job on a daily basis. I’m sort of a big kid myself in many ways and I love having time to play.

What was your favorite book as a child?
I loved The Velveteen Rabbit, The Little Prince, and The Lord of the Rings Trilogy ( and the Hobbit, of course!).

How do you work?
I sit down at my computer and brainstorm for a bit. Then, I write for a while. I stop when I run out of ideas, which can sometimes be in a few minutes, or other times be in 6-8 hours! Next, I look over what I have written and ask my son or husband to look at it for me, if they are available. Finally, I rewrite it. When the piece is done, I send it to my editors at Orchard Academy Press, a division of Windstormcreative.com.

Do you have other projects? Will you continue writing for kids?
I will continue to write for kids! I’m working on some Time Traveling Adventure Books and some advanced Regional Adventures for 9-12 year old readers. Also, I am under contract to do a series of Homeschool Lessons for use by parents and students.

Do you have any advice for young writers?
Follow your passion. Write. Submit your writing to places like Chicken Soup for the Soul and Stone Soup. See if your local newspaper will publish your poetry or short stories. Look for safe, educational websites that feature children’s writing and with your parents’ help check them out and then send in your writing to them!

And now (as usual) the nothing-to-do-with-books question : You’ve just found 100 $ in your pocket, how will you use that money? Without thinking too much 🙂
Put some gas in my tank and drive to Anchorage, Alaska. I love going to the big city now and then!

Would you like to say something special to our readers?
I have had many set backs in my life and overcome them by learning to be mentally strong. Never underestimate the power of your own mind. If you think you can do something, like get published, you will. Don’t give up! Rejections are just chances to review your work and make it better! You can achieve your goals, if you remain positive and keep trying!

“Tea or Coffee?”

Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ? Go out, come home, curl up in bed with a book….:)
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ? Beach. I live in Alaska and am surrounded by mountains all the time. It’s beautiful, but the beach does call to me.
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ? Comedy! I love to laugh.
The Leader in the group or not ? Leader or often loner. I do a lot of things on my own. I like to be independent.
Shy or Easy-going ? Easy-going, until I’m not….
Country or city ? Live in the country, visit the city. I love the hustle and bustle of the city, but also like the slow pace of the country. Both suit different sides of me.
Serious or Funny ? Funny…I once demonstrated how to “test drive” a new pillow to my best friend by stretching out on the floor of Walmart and having her hand me pillows, until I found the one I liked. The pillows were plastic wrapped, of course! People looked at me like I was crazy. My friend and I just laughed.
Traveler or not ? Traveler. I love going new places and learning new things.
Sporty or not ? I love to bike. I exercise a lot, too.

“Favorite…”

TV show: House…he’s grumpy, but I like him anyway because he is so smart!
Movie : 50 First Dates and anything Adam Sandler does, he cracks me up!
Book : probably The Little Prince
City : Buffalo, NY, because I was born there and when I was ill with cancer, people there treated me with such love
Music : Anything from Aerosmith to Black Eyed Peas to Brahms to Cher to Kanye West to Pink or …HeavyMetal/ HipHop/Blues/Jazz, etc. I love all kinds of music!
Place to write: My office with its view of Kachemak Bay, mountains, glaciers, and wildlife like eagles flying by the window, or moose out on the lawn!
Quote or motto: Mental strength can help you overcome whatever obstacles you face. Believe in yourself. Believe in your dreams. Believe in your own abilities to succeed and be the best that you can be! Your mind is your greatest gift. Use it!

Thank you, Colleen!
Visit Colleen’s website http://www.geocities.com/colleenmfwilliams/mybooks.html