Welconme to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with YA / children’s author K.G. Wehner. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, K.G. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
K.G.: I’m from upstate New York where I live with my husband and two rambunctious boys. I became serious about writing after my play, Something Blue, became a hit on the college stage. People streamed out of the theatre in tears. After making sure it wasn’t because the play stank like the Dumpster behind Dr. Frankenstein’s lab, I was enthralled to realize I’d affected others. However, I soon learned about the subjective nature of art. Giddy with optimism, I sent my play to contests. Unfortunately, one of the judges informed me Frankenstein’s Dumpster had nothing on me. I learned a valuable lesson: you can’t please everyone. Understanding that helped me get through many a rejection letter later on. (P.S. The play went on to be a finalist in another contest.)
Morgen: You write YA / children’s books, was there a reason to choose this genre?
K.G.: I started out writing for adults. But then I read something from one of my gazillions of “how to write fiction” books that mentioned writing what you love to read. Even though I was an adult, I loved to read young adult and middle grade novels. Christopher Pike was among my favourite authors. I embarked on a new journey: writing young adult novels about murder and mayhem, copying the style of Pike and R.L. Stein. Fun stuff, right? But once I became a strong enough writer to pull it off, both the style and the genre became outdated and impossible to sell. Another lesson learned: trends die out.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
K.G.: My middle grade novels are under K.G. Wehner so that I won’t scare the tarter sauce out of some youngster who might someday accidentally pick up my edgier YA work. My short stories have been published at “Beginnings Magazine,” and the March/April 2012 issue of “Cicada,” the latter one under my YA pseudonym.
Morgen: Do you think it’s easier writing for children than adults?
K.G.: For me, writing for children comes easier. I was painfully aware of this recently when I brought my *cough cough* adult romance to a critique group for opinions and people told me a) there was no romance, b) it was too fast paced for an adult novel, and c) the protagonist sounded like a teen. So now my adult romance has become a YA paranormal mystery. Crisis averted.
Morgen: Do you get a second opinion on your stories before they’re published – if so from adults, children or both?
K.G.: I always ask for feedback from my various critique groups. If plot and conflict are the skeleton of my story, and the characters the flesh, then my critique partners are the muscle. I could not strengthen my work without them. I also had two preteens read an early draft of my first Amy & Tracy book to make sure it kept their interest. It did. Success! So I revised it and made it better. (Revisions and edits are the story’s blood.)
Morgen: Do you have any tips for anyone thinking about writing for children?
K.G.: Yes. Read a lot of it. And not Dick and Jane or Lassie, either. Read what is being published today. As in, right this very moment. Then hurry up and write your vampire book before they die out, literally.
Morgen: If you’re self-published, what led to you going your own way?
K.G.: The road to becoming traditionally published is long and difficult. Imagine travelling along the Pan-American Highway and then you’ll have an idea of what it’s like. I do want to be traditionally published so that I can have the amazing opportunity to work with top-notch editors. But I’ve heard so many wonderful success stories from writer friends about the merits of self-publishing, so I thought I’d give it a go. See if it’s for me.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
K.G.: Right now I’m revising my second Amy & Tracy book. Afterwards, I’ll hit it with major edits, send portions of it to critique groups for feedback, then I’ll give it to my editor and beta readers for final edits. Wow. I’m exhausted just mentioning all this upcoming work. I’m also writing a YA book to send my agent.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
K.G.: I write almost everyday, even if it’s only a simple blog post. I usually only have two hours a day to write, but I also read a lot: magazines, authors’ blogs, online news, books (both fiction and non-fiction), work people ask me to critique, etc. So I do have time to write more, but I choose to use that time to read instead.
I discovered long ago that if I have writer’s block it’s because my story isn’t headed in the right direction. For me, writing is a lot like moving through a maze. Sometimes I end up in a spot where I can’t reach the end. When that happens, I back up to a place where I’m still excited about the story and try a different path.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
K.G.: I have tried outlining and plotting. I have the notes to prove it. But once I know what will happen in my story, I’m already bored with it. I like to discover what will happen as I go along (back to the maze analogy, if you will). The biggest drawback is that I end up with major revisions. But honestly? The journey is worth it.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
K.G.: Always. Since my Amy & Tracy series takes place in the late 50s, I have to be sure not to add modern touches. Obviously they aren’t doing homework on a computer or texting one another, but small details such as what they wear or the verbal expressions people used back then are just as important. Since I was born after the 50s, I have to research everything.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
K.G.: Most of my work will never be read, thank goodness. Once, at a conference, I admitted to an agent that I had written several novels that I never sent to anyone. I was surprised when he asked why I hadn’t. I’d never really thought about it before. But you know what? Those were my practice books. I knew they weren’t good enough for the public to read. I guess I’d always thought that’s what everyone did. Now I know people who send out the first novel they ever write. Maybe that’s the norm? I don’t know. But my previous work would’ve wasted an agent’s precious time, so I’m glad they’re stuffed away in a file folder instead. Never underestimate the usefulness of a file folder. I’ve looked back on my old work and have seen how far I’ve come. It gives me a sense of accomplishment.
Morgen: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
K.G.: This is a great question. I have an agent who is submitting my Contemporary YA work to major publishing houses right now, under my pseudonym. She has taught me so much about the current book market, plus, she’s an editing agent, so she helps me fine-tune my work before it goes out on submission. I feel an agent is invaluable. The only reason why I didn’t submit my Amy & Tracy to her is because I want to test out the indie author waters. Plus, I can keep the price of my book low if it doesn’t go through a traditional publisher. We’ll see what happens.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
K.G.: Wow, this is a difficult question for me. I could give the usual, pat answers: read a lot, hone your craft, be persistent. But I think I will say this: People are going to judge you. A lot. Friends might say insensitive things after hearing about your fiftieth rejection letter, like, “Maybe you’re not good enough.” Your spouse might say, “You’re always on the computer. I never even see you anymore. How can you not be published by now?” Your mother might ask you to stop wasting your time, and why don’t you call her more often? And then there are the professionals. Editors and agents who may tell you (in not these exact words, mind you) that you aren’t quite good enough. But you need to ask yourself one question: are you enjoying what you’re doing? If the answer is no, then this may not be the right career for you. But if the answer is yes, you’d rather write than eat or sleep, then keep going. Writing should not be about “getting published.” It should be about the exhilaration you feel after you satisfactorily solve a character’s dilemma. Or the rush of raw emotion after you type “the end.” Or just the happiness that overwhelms you as you create a person from scratch, and give him or her life on the page. If this is what you love about writing, then ignore the naysayers.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? 🙂
K.G.: I’m big into fitness. I love to run, and I’ll play any kind of sport. Twice I’ve joined softball leagues, and each time I’ve been driven to the hospital after a ball cracked my in the eye socket. Apparently my eye-hand coordination could be better.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
K.G.: I have author pages on Facebook, Amazon.com, Barnesandnoble.com, and Smashwords.com. You can also read my blog: http://kgwehner.wordpress.com
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
K.G.: Yes. Support indie authors.
Morgen: As one myself, we would be grateful. Thank you, K.G.
I then invited K.G. to include an extract of her writing and this is from The Miss-Adventures of Amy & Tracy: Dr. Von Thistle’s Curious Concoction
Amy Cimino shot up from bed, heart slamming against her chest. Her sweat-drenched nightgown clung to her skin. “1…2…3…,” she counted, like Aunt Gertrude taught her. It was no help at all. She could still hear the man’s voice echoing in her head. A voice that had said, “Amy and Tracy Cimino, is it now? Interesting. Amy’s the spitting image of her mother, and certainly as dangerous. Tracy, on the other hand, has her father’s qualities. She will be of great use to us. We must find them, immediately.”
And then her house had burst into laughing, fluttering flames. But it hadn’t really, because here she was, sitting in her bed, moonlight softly filtering through her curtains. No fire. No smoke. No awful voice speaking from a place she couldn’t see.
“I’m safe. Tracy is safe. We’re all safe,” she whispered to the shadowed walls of her bedroom.
She didn’t believe her words, of course. Too many of her dreams had come true. Her mother called it coincidence. Tracy considered it paranormal. Amy knew it was something else altogether.
She pulled the covers over her shaking body and waited in the dark for the hammering in her head to go away.
But it didn’t.
and a synopsis…
It’s 1958. Eleven-year-old cousins Amy and Tracy Cimino are burdened by pounding drums only they can hear. Amy feels it’s linked to her recent nightmare. Although Amy often has dreams that come true, Tracy isn’t worried. She’s much too busy coming up with a talent she can showcase on a popular radio show.
When a well-known scientist shows up at their mothers’ big gala, all their guests are smitten with him. Except Amy, who feels he is the man in her nightmare. Tracy thinks Amy is making a big deal out of nothing. What would a famous scientist want with ordinary ol’ them?
Except Amy and Tracy are anything but ordinary. They can speak with each other telepathically. And while Amy predicts the future through dreams, Tracy has her own amazing talent…one she can’t share with the world. In trying to escape the evil scientist who is intent on kidnapping them, they find time portals that send Amy to the future while Tracy becomes stuck in the past.
Amy’s nightmare is coming true after all. Can they escape the evil scientist once and for all, or might they be trapped in different time periods separated from each other forever?
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