UPDATE: The contest is now closed. Thanks to everyone for your great entries. The winner will be announced by 10:00 PM on October 1st.
To celebrate my leap into blogging, I’m thrilled to post my interview with author R.L LaFevers about her new middle grade adventure, NATHANIEL FLOOD, BEASTOLOGIST: THE FLIGHT OF THE PHOENIX. At the end of the interview are instructions on how to enter the contest to win either a copy of The Flight of the Phoenix or a $15.00 Barnes and Noble gift card.
The interview is in two sections. The first section is for readers and parents of readers, and the second section is for readers who are writers as well. Enjoy!
Your main character, Nathaniel, is not sure he wants adventure. What’s the most frightening adventure you have ever had?
Jumping out of an airplane, hands down. In fact, I like to think I learned everything I need to know about fear from jumping out of that airplane. I’d signed up for one of those one day parachute schools and we’d spent the day training and I thought I was totally ready for it—until we got up in that plane and the instructor told us to jump. Then I pretty much changed my mind. However, I was the only girl in the class and the instructor decided if I went first, all the guys would HAVE to follow or risk being one-upped by a girl. So when I balked, he kind of pushed me out the door. I went kicking and screaming the whole way, and landing was a much harder jolt than I’d ever anticipated. I was so relieved to be in one piece I kind of just sat down. I may have even wept.
From reading your website, I know you love history. What was the most fun part of this book to research?
One of the things I had a lot of fun researching was medieval bestiaries. I’m obsessed with those points where magic and reality meet and often find them in history. When I decided I wanted to write about mythical beasts that maybe weren’t so mythical, I went to the “source” of the accounts of those beasts; medieval bestiaries. The thing is, the ancient philosophers and early scientists thought they were chronicling animals that actually walked the earth. It’s fascinating to read of their accounts and see all these creatures through the eyes of earlier times. It is also surprising both how many details they got right, and how far off they were on others.
I also had a lot of fun researching The Age of Discovery and various explorers, cartographers, and world travelers. What amazing men they were, to have set out into the truly unknown and begin to explore and map our world! Whether vast oceans or endless deserts or frozen wastelands that stretched out as far as the eye could see, these men had extraordinary courage and curiosity and passion.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
The best thing about being a writer is writing! I’ve always loved writing and for so much of my life I had to squeeze it in between other obligations, family, jobs, social commitments, etc. But now, getting to do it eight hours a day? Heaven.
Or maybe the best thing about being a writer is being able to use my imagination so much, something I got in trouble for a lot when I was younger. Now, it’s my job.
Or maybe the best part is being able to read all these amazing cool books and call it research. Or… well, you get the picture. I pretty much love everything about being a writer.
What’s the worst?
The only part I don’t like about writing is getting a negative review. I would love to be able to pretend I am thick skinned enough that they don’t bother me, but sometimes they do. Even though I understand that not everyone is going to be my reader, I always end up feeling like I failed that reader who doesn’t care for the book.
Four important questions
1.What’s the top of your travel wish list (a place you’ve never been)?
Brittany (mostly because I’m working on a book set there and am dying to have a research trip!)
Scotland/Ireland would be a close second.
2. Favorite movie
A tie between GLADIATOR and CHOCOLAT. What can I say, I’m a conflicted person. 🙂
When I was a kid it was FANTASIA and MARY POPPINS.
3. Favorite kind of pizza
Mushroom, olive, and sausage.
4. Favorite non-pet animal
So here are the writerly questions:
What technique do you use to get an authentic middle grade ‘voice’ in your books?
For me it’s two fold. One part of it is being around kids and staying in touch with how they think and feel and process information and their surroundings. Being a parent helped a TON here, watching my sons and nephews and nieces grow, and all that contributed to my intellectual understanding of it. But also, and perhaps more importantly, part of it is being able to crawl back through time, deep inside to when I was that age and remembering in a visceral way what my fears and hopes and worries were. What kept me up late at night? What brought me comfort? When I was feeling timid, what things did I notice, how did that timidity affect how I viewed things. What kinds of things held enough power over me that they would propel me to take action, even though I thought I was far too afraid to do so.
How did your first book get published?
I sent the manuscript for my first book, The Falconmaster, out to an editor at Dutton’s Children’s Books. I waited, biting my nails. Then one day, I got a message on my answering machine saying they’d loved the first three chapters and could I please send the rest of the mss along asap. Needless to say, I was beyond excited. I danced around the house for an entire hour before I got down to business and packaged that puppy up and mailed it off, certain, CERTAIN, I would be hearing back within the week.
Well, I heard nothing. And nothing. Until finally, after about three months I sent a follow up letter asking if they’d received it. They wrote back and said yes, they had, and would be getting back to me shortly. And thus began a long, slow round of me following up and them promising to be in touch. After about a year of this, I gave up and turned my attention elsewhere. I took a bunch more classes and workshops, worked on honing my craft. Then I took all that I’d learned and applied it one last time to this manuscript. When I signed up for SCBWI National that year, I also signed up for their manuscript critique session. Well, the agent who read my manuscript loved it and offered me representation. Needless to say it was my most exciting conference EVER.
She then contacted Dutton, told them she was representing me, sent them the revised mss, and we had an offer within weeks. Things move much faster with an agent!
What is your best single piece of advice for writers wanting to be published?
There are so many things to concentrate on as a new writer; craft, plot, character, structure, and all of those are vitally important and must be mastered. However, I think once you’ve mastered those, it’s critical to take your apprenticeship one step further and spend as much time and energy on developing your own voice and creative vision. That is what will transform competent work into compelling work. As artists the most vital thing we have to offer is our take on the world or human nature or Truth. So be sure to give yourself plenty of time to fully explore and develop that. I think your best, strongest work will come from that place that is uniquely you.
Oh, and be wickedly stubborn. Never give up. It is only when we give up that we lose…
Thanks Robin! To find out more about Robin, check out her website at http://www.rllafevers.com/books.html. Robin has another series of books about a girl whose parents run a Museum of Legends and Antiquities in London. The first book in that series is Theodosia Throckmorton and The Serpents of Chaos.
If you’re a writer, Robin’s blog has many great tips: http://rllafevers.blogspot.com/
Contest!!! To enter you need to be at least thirteen years old, and live in the U.S. or Canada. In Robin’s book, Nathaniel’s aunt has a talking dodo who lives at her house. To enter, answer this question in a comment: If you could have a mythical creature living at your house, what would you choose?
My kids will be choosing the winner, and they have been promised ice cream if they take the contest seriously. The contest is open through Wednesday, September 30th. You don’t have to post your name on the entry, but just give yourself a screen name I can use when I post the winner on October 1st.