Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with children’s author Judy Pierce. 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, Judy. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Judy: I live in the mountains of western North Carolina and have always loved to write. I wrote a number of feature articles when I worked in environmental education and then as a free-lance writer while I taught college. Ozette’s Destiny started as little stories I wrote online about a white squirrel I had met in Brevard, NC. Friends loved the stories and urged me to write a book. So I did, not really knowing what I was getting into!
Morgen: What genre do you generally write and what have you had published to-date? What do you think of eBooks?
Judy: My first children’s book, Tales from Farlandia: Ozette’s Destiny, was published by Pants on Fire Press this spring. Personally, I prefer the feel of a book in my hands, but I have to say my Kindle comes in handy. I tend to wake up during the night, and it is great to be able to turn on my Kindle with its built-in light and read without disturbing my hubby or the dogs. We travel a lot in a small RV, and it’s nice not lugging heavy books around, but when I buy books for kids, I buy print.
Morgen: Have you self-published? If so, what lead to you going your own way?
Judy: I considered self-publishing, and Pants on Fire Press was the only publisher I approached. When they wanted to publish my book, I decided this was the way I wanted to go. They have been good to work with and gave me input into many of the major decisions about the book as we went through the process.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your stories or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Judy: Well, Ozette, the white squirrel, is my favourite. I volunteered for a wildlife rehabber for a number of years and raised a number of orphaned baby squirrels, so she was a natural as the main character. I also love the Divine Miss Piddlewinks who was modelled after the first orphaned squirrel I ever raised and the elf Oliver who is Ozette’s dear friend, and, of course, the fairy Ariel. I love her attitude, and Wanda Sykes would have to play her in a movie. As to Ozette, hmmm. Not sure who I would pick.
Morgen: Which authors did you read when you were younger and did they shape you as a writer?
Judy: I loved the usual animal stories and fairy tales when I was very young, Winnie the Pooh, Velveteen Rabbit, Beautiful Joe. As I got a little older, I loved the Judy Bolton and Nancy Drew mysteries. I have always been a voracious reader. I once wrote to Margaret Sutton who wrote the Judy Bolton series and was thrilled when she wrote me back.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day, and do you plot your stories or just get an idea and run with it?
Judy: I wish I were that disciplined! I have to force myself to sit down to write some every week. I do best when I think about where the story is going for days, sometimes longer, and get a general idea of what I want to do, but I do not plot it out that much. Ozette is my “muse” and often when I sit down to write, I find the story going in a much different direction than I thought it would go. I have an iphone and use the record memo feature a lot. I get some of my best ideas when I am walking or riding my bike, and when inspiration hits, it is an easy way to record my thoughts and ideas for later use.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or research?
Judy: I had to do a little research for Ozette’s Destiny – checking out fine points on squirrels, fairies, elves, but then pretty much went my own way. As to editing – I was a journalism professor for many years and had done a lot of feature writing and editing of students’ work. I was shocked at how many errors crept into the manuscripts even after many readings. I used to tell my students that every editor needs an editor, and that is so true. I swear that little evil gremlins hid in the final proof copies, as I still found some errors on the final proofing before it went back to my publisher for printing. Most humbling! And, of course, before I ever sent it out to POFP I had done a number of revisions and rewrites. I also hired a professional editor to go over it, and she made some great suggestions. Sometimes just tweaking a word can make a big difference.
Morgen: What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Judy: I write in third person, but I think it might be interesting to experiment with first and second. Have not tried it yet and will stick with third person for the second book in the series.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Judy: Scheduling time to write is a real challenge for me. I am a lot like a squirrel in how I structure – or don’t structure – my day. I loved writing Ozette’s Destiny – it was a real joy for me. I already had a good following which has helped with the selling of the book, but I need to branch out and am baffled by marketing! It is so confusing to know which the best marketing paths to follow are, and it eats up a lot of time. I would say marketing is my least favourite part of the process, but I think that is true of many writers.
Morgen: If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Judy: Three people I admire greatly are John Muir, Thomas Berry and Mary Oliver – all for their writing about nature and putting into words what I often feel but may not be able to express. I would fix everything from scratch and choose healthy, local and organically grown food as much as I could. There’s a recipe section at the end of Ozette’s Destiny, and I would pick something from there – Garden Bouquet salad and perhaps Lemonette Linguini or Quichettes with jumbledberry scones. For dessert either a maple cake I love to make or something chocolate.
Morgen: Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Judy: I am a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, and I belong to an online critique group, although I am not very active with them right now. There just are not enough hours in the day!
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Judy: There are many websites out there and many good books on writing. For books I still love Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. Gosh, there are so many websites with great writing tips. A lot of folks with SCBWI have blogs and publish writing tips, and I sometimes visit those if there is an article of interest. I like Random Writing Rants, as young writers are often interviewed on there, and they have some fantastic writing insights. http://randomwritingrants.com Michelle interviewed me awhile back, and I think she does a good job. http://randomwritingrants.com/2013/03/26/a-white-squirrel-named-ozette-in-farlandia-by-judy-pierce
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Judy: I just joined the BBT Café. Have not been on it long enough to tell, but I think it will be good.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Judy: I am working on the second book in the series which is more complicated to write. One of the difficult aspects of a series – especially when you have created a fantasy world – is that you have to work within the structure you have created. I keep telling Ozette not to write us into a corner she can’t chew her way out of!
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Judy: I have an author page on FB, Ozette has a FB page and Tales from Farlandia has one also. The book also has a webpage www.talesfromfarlandia.com. Here are the links for the FB pages:
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Judy: I hope that my books help children develop self-confidence, to not feel badly about themselves if they are different and to realize how important loyalty, kindness and compassion are in this troubled world in which we live. Each child is on a journey, and if reading Ozette’s Destiny makes them realize their own self-worth then that is success to me. You can read the first pages of Ozette’s Destiny on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Ozettes-Destiny-Tales-Farlandia-1/dp/0982727194
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Judy: I have read some about you, and I am amazed at all you have going on. What is your secret to getting so much done? Do you have fairies in your house to keep everything running smoothly? If so, send them over!
Morgen: <laughs> I wish. I have two Monday to Friday lodgers (paying housemates) so I have to make sure it’s neat and tidy (although they do clear / clean up after themselves when they’re here) but I’m usually doing the vacuuming just before they arrive. 🙂 As for the blog, it’s a full-time (and then some) job but I love doing it (and it does include a short story a day for the 5pm Fiction slot, although it’s on hold for a month while I do Story a Day May which I also post at 5pm UK time. Thank you, Judy.
I then invited Judy to include a synopsis of her book…
Judy: Ozette, a rare and beautiful white squirrel, must flee Earth World when she is wrongly blamed for the destruction of their sacred forest simply because she is different. Clutching only a golden acorn, which was gifted to her by her beloved grandmother, Ozette escapes to Farlandia, a magical kingdom where her grandmother has said the young squirrel will find her destiny. With innate innocence and sweetness, Ozette quickly forms close friendships with the residents of Farlandia including zany elves, fairies and animals, and soon finds herself tapped to be the caretaker of this old-growth forest. Forging strong alliances through the challenges of life, Ozette and her magical friends will have you laughing and crying as you follow them through adventures that will warm your heart with gentle lessons of kindness, loyalty and self-acceptance.
Originally from Washington State, Judy lives in the mountains of North Carolina with her husband Jim and three rescued Bichons.
After earning her master’s degree from the School of Journalism at Southern Illinois University, Judy moved to the SE and taught mass communication courses at the university level.
She also taught adult education classes on using herbs in adult education programs.
She was instrumental in expanding a conservation education program for the island of Guam and has published numerous articles on the environment.
Judy’s writing is influenced by her love of nature and work with Bichon Frise rescue. When she lived in Georgia, she was a volunteer with a wildlife rehabilitator where she developed a deep love and appreciation for squirrels.
Judy met her first white squirrels in Brevard while on a camping trip and has been a frequent visitor ever since.
When she’s not writing, she loves to garden, bicycle, hike, camp, photograph white squirrels and visit family on the West Coast.
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