Author Interview: Callie Bates

callie batesToday I welcome Callie Bates to my series of author interviews. Callie is the author of the soon-to-be-released The Waking Land, a young adult-crossover fantasy novel. Her book release party will be in Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, on June 27th at the North Lakeland Discovery Center. I was lucky enough to read parts of The Waking Land in a critique group a few years ago and was not at all surprised when Callie sold the book to Del Rey Books. I’m so excited to read the whole story!

Elizabeth: Callie, welcome! Can you tell my readers about The Waking Land?

callie baties bookCallie: Thank you so much for having me! The Waking Land is about a young woman who’s raised as a hostage for her father’s failed rebellion—but when she’s framed for murdering the king, she has to go on the run. Meanwhile, she struggles to understand her repressed, forbidden nature magic. Basically, it has intrigue, romance, revolution and, hopefully, lots of fun!

Elizabeth: How did the first idea of the story come to you?

Callie: I’ve been tinkering with Elanna’s character for years, and she has evolved enormously over that time! I wanted to write a story about a girl forcibly raised away from her home, but who still possesses a deep and undeniable connection to the land and people she comes from—and who, at the same time, is determined to forge her own identity. But, because I didn’t really know what I was doing, it wasn’t until after I wrote a rather long and rather awful multi-point-of-view manuscript that I realized she could have a solo story in her own right. And that I might even be able to figure out how to write an ending for that!

Elizabeth: In what ways is Elanna like you and in what ways is she different?

Callie: We are both stubborn and snarky! However, Elanna is infinitely more hotheaded than I am, has PTSD from childhood trauma, and is much more attached to her perceived truths. (In case anyone wonders: I do not have Stockholm Syndrome!)

Elizabeth: How has living in the Northwoods of Wisconsin influenced this story?

Callie: If I gave Elanna anything of myself, it’s my love of the natural world. I’m deeply rooted in the place where I live. Here, trees outnumber people, and it’s easy to see the land as a character in its own right. I have always been baffled by people who put human needs before the needs of the environment, especially in the era of climate change, instead of seeing us as an interdependent whole. Elanna’s magic is an attempt to unite the experience of being human with the living experience of the land itself.

Elizabeth: How did you get your agent, and how long did it take you to get published?

Callie: Quite simply, I cold queried, and I’m here to tell you that it does work! My agent asked to see a revision of The Waking Land in 2014 and, because I am nothing if not thorough, I took my time and completely rewrote the manuscript in a different voice and tense. Fortunately, she loved it and offered representation. That was in early 2015; we sold the manuscript a few months later. So, it’s been 3 or 4 years since I first wrote this book. However, since I’ve been wanting to publish since I was 11, you could say it’s taken me almost 20 years to get there!

Elizabeth: Congratulations! I am shocked that a cold query worked! Good for you! Can you tell us a little about your writing process?

Callie: I draft by hand in a notebook, then move on to working in Scrivener and Word. My drafts are often too short and skimp on some important moments, so I am often adding word count even in late edits. (Which is not what most writers recommend, but it seems to be how I roll.)

Elizabeth: What are you working on now?

Callie: I’m just finishing up the second book in the trilogy, The Memory of Fire! It jumps to a new narrator—and, for the most part, a new part of the world—though I can’t say too much without giving spoilers for The Waking Land

Elizabeth: What book(s) have you read recently that you feel passionate about?

Callie: I’m currently reading two I love—The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill, which is a wonderful middle grade fantasy, and A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab, which is the culmination of an epic trilogy. I highly recommend both!

Elizabeth: I love The Girl Who Drank the Moon! I’ll put A Conjuring of Light on my TBR list. Tell us more about yourself.

Callie: Aside from writing, I’m also an occasional harpist. I play the folk harp, and I’m also a certified harp therapist, trained to play one-on-one or in group settings at hospitals, nursing homes, and the like, to facilitate the healing process. Unsurprisingly, I’m an outdoor enthusiast. I love to travel, too; many of my better story ideas come to me while I’m ambling around somewhere new. I’ve been writing since I was a kid, studied creative writing in college, and stubbornly persisted until I had a book ready to go out into the world.

We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:

Elizabeth: Pizza or salad?

Callie: Pizza!

Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?

Callie: TEA. Black, milk, no sugar.

Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?

Callie: Both?

Elizabeth: Tree house or doll house?

Callie: Tree house!

Elizabeth: Violin or piano?

Callie: Violin!

Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?

Callie: Darcy…but Heathcliff is more exciting…

Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?

Callie: Loooooove scene!

Learn more about Callie from her social media sites:

Website: calliebates.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/calliebywords

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/calliebywords

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15986018.Callie_Bates

Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/calliebates

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/callie_bates/

You can pre-order / buy a copy of The Waking Land here:

Barnes & Noble

Penguin Random House

Amazon

Amazon UK

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SCBWI WI Fall 2016 Conference

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Green Lake, Wisconsin

Last weekend I was at the fall conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators Wisconsin Chapter, held in beautiful Green Lake, Wisconsin. It was an absolutely gorgeous weekend. My picture doesn’t do justice to the vibrant fall colors and clear blue skies. The weather was amazing: sunny days that were cool and fresh without being cold. Wisconsin at its best!

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The Roger Williams Inn

I stayed at the historic Roger Williams Inn and ate at the Kraft Center. Between the two buildings is this delightful sculpture of children playing. A perfect piece of art for a group of children’s book writers and illustrators!

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Sculpture of children playing

The faculty for the program were amazing and included nationally recognized editors, agents, authors and illustrators.

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Varian Johnson and me

Author Varian Johnson critiqued the first ten pages of The Stepsisters, and had some helpful advice about my prologue. Johnson is the author of The Great Greene Heist middle grade series. (Purchased, signed and now in my TBR pile.)

OK, I know you all are wondering about my costume. I was going to be Mary Poppins and had cobbled together some pieces from the UWSP costume shop. However, the skirt and jacket were uncomfortable, the hat too small, and my umbrella recognizably modern. When a pre-conference email encouraged people to bring masks (MASKS!) and explained that we would have the chance to make masks (MAKE MASKS!) at the conference, I eagerly returned the costume. . .

having forgot that I wear glasses. Glasses and masks don’t work well together. Of course, necessity is the mother of invention (as someone once said.) So, I invented a comfortable, glasses-friendly mask. But what character from children’s literature was I? Sadly, I was without an identity– until a writer suggested that I could be the clock from The Invention of Hugo Cabret. So, here I am, the clock from Hugo Cabret:

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                The clock from The Invention of Hugo Cabret

It was a fun weekend, and now I am inspired and with a clear plan of attack for improving my manuscript. Just in time for NaNoWriMo!

Author Interview: A.M. Bostwick

bostwick 2I am pleased to be able to interview Abigail Bostwick for the second time. Abigail’s first middle grade novel, The Great Cat Nap, was published by Cornerstone Press in 2013. It is the story of Ace, a reporter and a cat, who solves the mystery of a missing show cat. Abigail, who publishes as A. M. Bostwick, talked about writing that novel in our first interview. The Clawed Monet is the sequel to The Great Cat Nap and was released in February of this year.

Elizabeth: Welcome Abigail! Tell us what new adventure Ace, the mystery-solving cat, is up to now.

bostwick monetAbigail: Thank you so much for hosting me, Elizabeth! In The Clawed Monet, we find Ace on the trail of a new mystery following the scandalous opening of a new art exhibit at the historic Rhys Art Museum. When opening night is lights out after a peculiar power failure and a priceless Monet reproduction is clawed beyond repair, all paws point to the new curator’s prim and proper feline – Miss Kitty. Hired by Miss Kitty, Ace and his feline and canine friends are out to find the criminal and restore the reputation of Miss Kitty and her companion before they are fired. Tailing the shadow of a “ghost cat” through the historic district and a cemetery, Ace finds himself interrogating museum guests, local residents and even a so-called psychic cat to try and solve the crime. He’ll have to fend off a pack of Dobermans and contend with a gang of raccoons– all under deadline.

Elizabeth: Sounds like fun! Do you have plans for more books about Ace?

Abigail: In my mind, Ace is always having one adventure or another! While I certainly have ideas for a third novel, I don’t have anything concrete in the works right now.

Elizabeth: You’ve also published a young-adult novel called Break the Spell. Can you tell us about it?

bostwick breakAbigail: When Allison Evans walks out of high school the last day of her senior year, she has no idea that her carefully guarded life is about to unravel. Her classmate, Ethan Knight is on the run. Accused of dealing drugs and armed with nothing but a bad reputation and his motorcycle, he takes refuge for the weekend inside the old high school. Thinking no one will find him and no one does. At least not at first. Allison tracks him down, hoping to get a newspaper story out of him. Panicked and left with no other choice, Ethan takes her captive. It should be a nightmare, but together, both of their lives take an unexpected turn. It’s time for them both to stop running from their problems, and in each other, they find common ground and someone they can trust.

When I wrote this novel, I think I most wanted to explore the secrets we sometimes keep, and how they can become toxic without someone to talk to. I found it especially hard when I was a young adult to confide in other people, especially about the things that scared me, or the things I could not fix or control.

Allison’s particular struggle with coping to accept the possibility of a debilitating, life-changing neurological disease – multiple sclerosis – was rooted in my own experience. While I couldn’t hide my early diagnosis from those around me the way Allison did, I certainly found myself wanting to do everything I possibly could to make it more bearable. Even if readers don’t have MS, I think they’ll be able to relate to Allison’s driven motivation to change her circumstances.

Elizabeth: It’s wonderful that you’ve shared your experiences and written about MS in a way accessible for young people. Do you approach writing for middle-grade readers (ages 8-13) differently than writing for young adult readers (ages 13-18) ?

Abigail: I do. When I’m writing Ace, I’m mostly having fun with the antics of felines and canines while also trying to entertain young readers (though I was reminded this week I have readers of all ages for this cat!) When I’m writing for young adults, I’m a little more candid and raw. Kids, especially teenagers, can see right through a façade or something that isn’t real. A book should be, most of all, fun. Engaging. Something people can see themselves in. If kids can see ordinary teens in literature rising to the occasion and figuring issues in their lives out, I think it’s easier for them to envision themselves doing it as well. And that’s empowering for them.

With both, I do my best to keep readers engaged with suspense and humor.

Elizabeth: What advice would you like to give to my readers who are also writers?

Abigail:I think many of us write because we have something to say, or something we want to be heard. Don’t write for trends, or the market, or what you think will sell. Write because you love it, because it’s your passion, and part of you. Write for you. Make friends who are writers, they’ll understand you better than anyone. Also, feed the cat before you start writing or he’ll lay across your keyboard.

Elizabeth: What have you read recently that you feel passionate about?

Abigail: I recently read All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood, and I absolutely loved it. She writes with this beautiful clarity, and her characters are so well-drawn and heart-wrenching. In middle grade, I read Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo and I’m still smiling about the story. The poetry in it was lovely. I also have to say, two of my great writing friends had books release last week that are incredible – Running for Water and Sky by Sandra Kring and Devil and the Bluebird by Jennifer Mason-Black. These are don’t miss books, and make me want to go on a road trip.

Elizabeth: What do you do when you are not writing?

Abigail: I read – haha! I also enjoy spending time with my cat (who looks a lot like Ace), my husband, and my niece, who is turning 9 next week. I garden a little bit, love to paint and enjoy walking in the woods.

Elizabeth: Thanks so much for joining me today.

Abigail: Thank you for hosting me. Always a pleasure.

Elizabeth: If you’d like to learn more about Abigail Bostwick and her books, visit http://ambostwick.com

You can also follow her on Twitter: @bostwickAM.

She is on Goodreads under A.M. Bostwick and welcomes questions there from readers.

Anyone can email Abigail via her website.

Writers’ Conferences

Writers’ Conferences are a great way to meet others in the industry, talk books, discuss craft, participate in workshops, buy books, sell books and have a good time.

A few weekends ago, I went to the Lakefly Writers Conference in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It is a well-organized, inexpensive and fun conference. I was able to pitch to two editors, learn about a “Books & Beer” book club, get details on creating a “30-Day Promotional Plan” and meet and re-meet some wonderful authors.

Of course, I can’t go to a writers’ conference and not buy books! Here are the books that came home with me: K.W. Penndorf’s Freya and the Dragon Egg (middle grade time-slip fantasy!), REUTS press novels: Melinda Michaels’s Golden (a loose re-telling of Sleeping Beauty) and Valentina Cano’s The Rose Master (a re-working of Beauty and the Beast and Jane Eyre!) I’m so excited to read these books!

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The three other books in the picture came to me via a door prize gift basket that included a bottle of wine, chocolate pretzels, and a deck of cards. Lucky me!

My next conference will be the SCBWI-Wisconsin fall conference in Green Lake, Wisconsin. Next summer, I hope to attend the Historical Novels Society Conference in Portland, Oregon.

Fun times to come!

My Little Free Library

The first Little Free Library was started in 2009 in Wisconsin.  Since that time, more than 15,000 Little Free Libraries have been built.

I am happy to announce that my family has built a Little Free Library:

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Our little library is near the end of our driveway (so the snow plow doesn’t knock it over in the winter).  Books are available to anyone who walks by and wants to borrow one.  The Little Free Library works on the honor system.  Readers can borrow and return a book, or swap books.

People ask: Aren’t you worried that someone will steal the books?  The answer is: a free book cannot be stolen!

My little free library is filled with books for both children and adults representing a variety of genres.  My friend Sally helped paint the library and suggested the text above the door.

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If you are ever in my neighborhood, stop by and borrow a book! To learn more about Little Free Libraries, visit the official website.

Winter, Wisconsin, 2013-14

I try not to complain about the weather.  When Andy and I were deciding where to settle down, we both chose Wisconsin.  So, I’ve chosen to live in a place that has a real winter.  Mostly, I like winter: the clean feel of cold air, the beauty of a fresh snowfall, cross country skiing in a lonely forest.  I grew up with a change of seasons, and I would miss it if I lived in a warmer climate.

Because I live just over one mile (1700 meters) from work, I try to ride my bike in good weather and walk in bad weather.  This winter has been a challenge, as there have been a number of days below 0 Fahrenheit (-18 Celsius), with a wind chill near -40F (-40C).  I’m hardy, but I’m not that hardy.  I’ve had to drive, which I find depressing.

Snow? Yes, we’ve gotten some snow.  Last Monday we received a little over 6 inches (16 cm) of snow.  This was on top of the several feet (about a meter) of snow we’d already gotten. The problem with this much snow is that when you shovel, you have to lift your shovel more than waist high (almost shoulder high) to get it off the driveway.

Note the mailbox (bottom right) to get a perspective on the snow's height.
Note the mailbox (bottom right) to get a perspective on the snow’s height.

This picture was taken on the gorgeous, sunny Tuesday after Monday’s heavy snowfall.  We were predicted to get another 6” to 12” (16 – 32 cm) on Thursday.  I’m happy to report that that storm missed my town, though other parts of Wisconsin did receive heavy snowfall that day.

OK, so why am I writing about the weather on my “reading, writing, no arithmetic” blog?  The cold weather and the snow has made it hard for me to do anything.  I summon the energy to go to work and teach.  I cook meals and clean (sort of).  Our Christmas letter / New Year’s letter has become a Valentine’s letter (mailed today, more than a week after Valentine’s Day).

I was going to include some weather statistics in this blog, but I couldn’t find any in a three-minute search, so I haven’t. Meh.

Writing? Writing is the activity that always gets short shrift in my life, and I haven’t done much since early January. Ech.  I’m blaming the weather.

It has been a harsh winter all over the United States and a dangerously mild winter in Europe (flooding in England).  How has this weird weather affected you?