Today I am interviewing fellow Spellbound River Press author, Chris Eboch. Chris is the author of over 30 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her Haunted series features a brother and sister who travel with their parents’ ghost hunter TV show and try to help the ghosts, while keeping their activities secret from meddling grownups. The fourth book, Ghost Miner's Treasure, released from Spellbound River Press last week.
When did you decide to become an author?
I originally went to college to study photography. I discovered I did not want to be a professional photographer, but I got a great education in creativity and critiquing. I also wrote for the school paper, which got me thinking about writing magazine nonfiction as a career. After a couple of years trying to do that on my own, I went back to college and got a degree in Professional Writing and Publishing. I worked for a couple of magazines briefly before selling my first middle grade novel, The Well of Sacrifice. From then on, I was a children’s book writer!
Tell us about your journey. How did you get your first book published?
I had spent a summer traveling in Mexico and Central America with a friend. That inspired The Well of Sacrifice, a novel set in ninth century Mayan Guatemala. I started writing it while I was looking for work, because I needed something fun to do in between temp jobs and sending out resumes. I’d always loved middle grade fiction and had continued reading it into adulthood. It seemed like a fun place to explore, and shorter than writing an adult novel. It turns out my style, which tends to be fast-paced and tight because of my journalism training, works well for kid lit.
Was there ever a point when you felt like giving up?
I sold my first novel, which in retrospect is astonishing. But I couldn’t sell the next half-dozen novels I wrote. I did manage to get some educational work for hire. That kept me active in the children’s book industry. Otherwise, I don’t know if I would have had the stamina to keep going after so many rejections. I estimate I’ve had at least a thousand rejection letters, if you count all the short stories, articles, novels, and queries to work for hire companies. But the only way to succeed is not to give up.
Is there anything about being a published author that has surprised you?
I’ve been published since 1999, so I have had many surprises, but I suppose I have adapted by now. The publishing business is wacky and outdated, which becomes very clear when you try to explain it to an outsider. It’s slow to update, but fortunately, today we have many different options. And most of the people working in it, from authors and illustrators to agents and editors, are fabulous.
Your Haunted Series was just released from Spellbound River Press. Will there be any changes to the series that we can look forward to? What are your hopes for the series now that it’s part of this new press?
Aladdin/Simon & Schuster first acquired the series, but they dropped it when my editor left. That was disappointing, because I’d hoped to have at least 8 to 12 titles in the series. If The Ghost Miner’s Treasure does well, I’d love to continue writing these adventures. I had plans to set the next one at the Alamo, which has several associated ghost stories, and I have notes for possible future books. Someday, I could even take the kids to other countries!
I love how your character, Tania, interacts with the ghosts in your book. Is it hard to write for an invisible character?
I initially envisioned older brother Jon telling the story, even though he can’t see ghosts. That does make it more difficult to describe the scenes with the ghosts, since he only hears about them secondhand. Then I debated whether Tania should really be the main character/narrator, since she can see the ghosts and she drives much of the action. But I like the complications that arise for Jon because he can’t see what’s happening, and Tania isn’t always great about describing the situation, which can add humor.
I also think the conflict becomes more subtle and realistic this way. Tania’s goal is to help the ghosts deal with whatever is keeping them in this world, so they can move on. Most kids won’t face anything like that. Jon has to figure out when and how to believe things he can’t see. He struggles with doing the right thing. On the one hand, he has loyalty to his sister and helps keep her secrets. But he also has a responsibility to keep her safe and a desire to be honest with others. He has to figure out his role in all of this, in life. So I think kids will identify with him more.
Any advice you would give to a writer just starting out?
Don’t be in too much of a rush to get published. It takes a long time to learn your craft, so take classes, read books and magazines about writing, study other books, and find a great critique group. Eventually you might want to hire a professional editor to give you personalized feedback.
You’ll definitely face rejections, bad reviews, and more at some point in your career, so try to put aside the concept of “failing” and instead focus on “learning.” Maybe your manuscript was rejected by 50 agents. Are you a better writer now than you were before you wrote it? Do you know more about querying? Have you developed a new resistance to rejection? If you’ve made progress as a writer or as a person, then that process was a success.
Also, it’s important to remember that people have different obligations, training, financial resources, and family support. All those things can affect your career path, and so can luck. Do the best you can with what you have, but honor and celebrate your whole self. You are more than just a writer.
Is there anything else about you or your books you would like to tell us?
I’ve written several other novels for ages nine and up. The Eyes of Pharaoh is an action-packed mystery set in ancient Egypt. The Genie’s Gift draws on the mythology of 1001 Arabian Nights to take readers on a fantasy adventure. In The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan girl in ninth-century Guatemala rebels against the High Priest who sacrifices anyone challenging his power. In Bandits Peak, a teenage boy meets strangers hiding on the mountains and gets drawn into their crimes, until he risks his life to expose them. Learn more at www.chriseboch.com, visit my Amazon page, or sign up for my newsletter.
I also have two books on the craft of writing, You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, and Advanced Plotting. Check out my writing tips at my Write Like a Pro! blog. You can also sign up for my workshop newsletter for classes and critique offers.
I also write for adults under the name Kris Bock. I write novels of suspense and romance involving outdoor adventures and Southwestern landscapes. The Mad Monk’s Treasure follows the hunt for a long-lost treasure in the New Mexico desert. What We Found is a mystery with romantic elements about a young woman who finds a murder victim in the woods. Whispers in the Dark involves intrigue among ancient Southwest ruins. Read excerpts at www.krisbock.com or visit my Amazon page.
Thanks so much for having me!
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