This is the blog of children's book author and elementary school teacher, Stacy Barnett Mozer. I blog about my own writing journey, the journey of other kidlit authors, my classroom, and talk about books. Thanks for stopping by. Your thoughts are always welcome (and encouraged).

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Interview with YA Author, Annie Douglass Lima

Today I am joined by Annie Douglass Lima. 

Here's a little bit about Annie: Annie Douglass Lima spent most of her childhood in Kenya and later graduated from Biola University in Southern California. She and her husband Floyd currently live in Taiwan, where she teaches fifth grade at Morrison Academy. She has been writing poetry, short stories, and novels since her childhood, and to date has published twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of her students’ poetry). Besides writing, her hobbies include reading (especially fantasy and science fiction), scrap booking, and international travel.

When did you decide to become an author?
I’ve been writing for as long as I can recall.  When I was seven years old, I had a sudden inspiration for what I thought was an amazing story and decided then and there that I was going to write a book and be the world's youngest published author.  I ran to my room in great excitement, found an old notebook and a pencil, and started in.  Well, that first novel was never actually finished, let alone published, but it got me started.  After that, I can't remember a time that I wasn't working on at least one book. 

Tell us about your journey. How did you get your first book published?
Prince of Alasia, which I started in college, was the first book I finished that I thought was worth trying to get published.  I looked into traditional publishing and spent a long time trying to get an agent, but to no avail.  Finally I learned about Kindle Direct Publishing and did it myself the indie way, eleven years after I first started writing the book.  A few months later I added the paperback edition.  It was quite a thrill for me to finally fulfill my childhood dream! Now I’ve published a total of twelve books (two YA action and adventure novels, four fantasies, a puppet script, and five anthologies of my students’ poetry).

Was there ever a point when you felt like giving up?
I got discouraged when my quest for an agent didn’t pan out. But learning about the accessibility of KDP changed everything for me!

Is there anything about being a published author that has surprised you?
Yes, the fact that marketing is harder than writing!

Any advice you would give to a writer just starting out?
Don’t try to write a scene perfectly the first time or get frustrated if it doesn’t turn out as well as you hoped.  Just get your ideas on paper in whatever rough form you need to, and never mind selecting just the right words or fixing any mistakes.  Leave the scene alone for a few days, and when you come back to it, read through it and smooth out the obvious errors.  Repeat several times.  If possible, read it aloud to someone; that will help you hear errors or issues you may not notice otherwise.  I’ve found that it usually takes lots of passes before I’m satisfied with something I’ve written. Trying to make it perfect the first time is stressful and next to impossible, at least for me.

Is there anything else about you or your books you would like to tell us?
I’d love to tell you about my most recent series and the world it’s set in!

The Gladiator and the Guard is the second book in the Krillonian Chronicles, the first one being The Collar and the Cavvarach. The stories take place in a world almost exactly like our own.  Although most aspects of the culture are just about what they are currently on Earth, a few sports are different, such as the martial art known as cavvara shil.  The main difference, however, is that slavery is legal there. 

The prevalence of slavery is probably what would stand out the most to visitors from Earth.  There are nearly as many slaves in the city of Jarreon, where both books take place, as free people, and they are easily identified by the steel collars they are required to wear locked around their necks.  From each collar hangs a tag inscribed with the slave’s name, their owner’s name, and a copy of their owner’s signature.  On the back of the tag is their owner’s phone number and a bar code that can be scanned to access additional information.

To read more about the culture of the Krillonian Empire, take a look at this post on my blog.

Here’s the back-cover blurb for The Collar and the Cavvarach :
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is desperate to see his little sister freed. But only victory in the Krillonian Empire's most prestigious tournament will allow him to secretly arrange for Ellie's escape. Dangerous people are closing in on her, however, and Bensin is running out of time.  With his one hope fading quickly away, how can Bensin save Ellie from a life of slavery and abuse?

And the blurb for The Gladiator and the Guard :
Bensin, a teenage slave and martial artist, is just one victory away from freedom. But after he is accused of a crime he didn’t commit, he is condemned to the violent life and early death of a gladiator. While his loved ones seek desperately for a way to rescue him, Bensin struggles to stay alive and forge an identity in an environment designed to strip it from him. When he infuriates the authorities with his choices, he knows he is running out of time. Can he stand against the cruelty of the arena system and seize his freedom before that system crushes him?

Thanks for visiting my blog, Annie. Good luck with the books!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Interview with Middle Grade Author, Sam Bond

Today I am excited to have Sam Bond, a fellow Spellbound River Press author. The first book of Sam’s Cousin in Action series releases from Spellbound tomorrow! What I love about the books is that each of the cousins is so unique and kids can explore the world on adventures with the cousins and their not so typical grandmother. 

When did you decide to become an author?

I’ve always liked writing. I used to make up stories for a news leaflet twice a year for my operatic society and then in my thirties I decided to write murder mysteries, except I didn’t want to kill anyone! It wasn’t until my children reached reading age and I was having difficulty finding books that represented them, that it all fell into place and writing children’s adventure books became my passion.

Tell us about your journey. How did you get your first book published?

My first book, CIA, Operation Golden Llama, was released three years ago. I originally tried to go the traditional route with an agent and editor, but it turned out their vision of my book was at total odds with my own. I seriously considered re-writing the book, but decided I would prefer my books to remain true to how I envisioned them and have a smaller audience, than change them and enjoy larger sales.

Was there ever a point when you felt like giving up?

Not really because I enjoy writing so much that it doesn’t seem like work. Time literally flies when I write, I can look up and three hours will have passed when it seems like just twenty minutes. Sometimes it’s hard when you don’t see many sales, but I get fan mail and parents approaching me in the street telling me how their children love my series and that makes me remember why I am doing this.

Each of the books in the Cousin in Action series has a setting around the world. How do you decide where your book will take place and how do you learn about your settings?

I traveled around the world twice in my twenties and understand the importance of experiencing different cultures. I wanted to bring these different worlds and experiences to readers that may never have traveled outside their state/county, let alone the US or Britain.

I started off with Peru and Machu Picchu because these were the next two countries on my bucket list. I figured if I couldn’t visit myself, I could at least have fun submerging myself in research. England for book three was a no-brainer and by that time I had decided to set each book in a different continent, doubling back to Asia at the end, when the cousins will visit China.

For both Peru and India I read a lot of children’s non-fiction books on each country, watched documentaries, spoke with people who were either from the country or had visited, and finally asked beta readers who knew the countries intimately to read each book and make sure there were no glaring errors and that the books rang true.

My fourth book is set in Egypt and I have indulged myself by re-reading for the third time my favorite series of books set in Egypt. There are about fifteen books in the series and I have thoroughly enjoyed becoming immersed in all things Egyptian.

Your Cousin in Action series will release tomorrow 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?

I’m very excited about becoming part of the Spellbound River family and readers will be happy to know there are no changes to the books, other than a few formatting edits. My hopes for the CIA series is what I think all authors strive for - to have their books read and enjoyed by as large an audience as possible.

Is there anything about being a published author that has surprised you?

I had no idea how wonderful it was going to feel to have children tell me how much they enjoy my books. I had a parent write to me recently and tell me that I am THAT writer for their child. I am the author that made their child a reader. What greater joy could one have than knowing this?

Any advice you would give to a writer just starting out?

Network with other writers in your area and make sure you have a critique group. I would also say be prepared to make changes, but at the same time know when to be true to your vision.

For more about Sam and her books, you can visit her at Spellbound River Press. You can also follow the adventures of the cousins on Sam’s blog, which is written from the point of view of her characters.