Jen Carson is a good friend and crit partner -- Her first book, a middle grade fantasy called To Find A Wonder, was released in September 2009 by L & L Dreamspell. To win a copy of To Find A Wonder, click here, and follow the instructions to enter.
Jen is also the guest blogger today on Laura Pauling's blog, Exercising the Write to Ramble. Thanks, Jen for joining me today!
Kris: To Find a Wonder is your first published book. Is it the first book you wrote? Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?
Jen: TFAW is the first book I ever wrote, but it went through many re-“vision”s. When I first wrote it I wanted to write a picture book, but Percival (one of the main characters) wouldn’t let me. He kept telling me more about his story and, really, just wouldn’t shut up. So, I kept writing more. In the first versions, Percival was the main character and Mortimer was the secondary character, and a peddler. Then I was attending an SCBWI conference in New York , and I stayed with my cousin Michael, We were talking about stuff and I remembered he was in the military, and a very smart guy, so I asked him some questions about what people look for in a leader. Which sparked the idea to make Mortimer a knight, instead of a peddler. In all, it took about six years to get to the version that is published, and I worked on other things in between to hone my craft.
Kris: I love it when characters speak to us! What made you start to write seriously?
Jen: I told you, Percival wouldn’t shut up! Ha! No, I’ve always been a creative person and I thought I wanted to tell stories through pictures—through my art work, but the world that came out on the drawing page, wasn’t as rich as the world in my head. So, I switched to words and art dolls, instead of pushing myself into frustration with illustration.
Kris: (Seriously, Jen is a very talented artist!) Can you tell us anything about your current work-in-progress?
Jen: The story, called Edge of the Wedge, is about the littlest Hapenny, which is already a race of little people, discovering her guardian’s plot to let the forest trolls invade their community and what she does about it. It’s also a story about friendship and neighbors sticking together when times get tough. And I can tell you that it is sitting in the office of two major publishing houses and I’m working on the sequel while I
impatiently patiently wait to hear back from those editors! = )
Kris: Congratulations on having EOTW on fabulous editors’ desks!
You chose to go with a small press for Wonder – was that a conscious choice? Can you tell us about it?
Jen: It was a conscious choice. I was impatient to be published, like Mortimer was impatient to become a knight. I had great marketing stuff in mind, a built in audience through my other work, thedragoncharmer.com, and Faerie Magazine (where I’m an editor) behind me all the way. It was a good first step in learning how the book publishing world works, and to teach myself how to market for when I get a larger publisher. And I say when, not if! There were a few little disappointments, but all in all it was a good experience. The best part was the fact that I got to work with a good friend and artist P.A.Lewis, who did the illustrations and let me be a big part of deciding what illustrations were going to be in the book.
Kris: It seems like so many of us in the writerly blog world are focused on getting an agent. Do you have an agent?
Jen: Sadly, no. I think I’ve given up at the moment. No agent seems to be interested in my warm-hearted characters right now. Fortunately I’ve made good contacts in other places.
Kris: Sounds like you’re doing just fine without one! Very inspirational! Where do you find your inspiration?
Jen: Everywhere! The Edge of the Wedge was inspired by a picture book I wrote a long time ago. A friend and crit partner said to me—you know, this could be a picture book, but I also see a synopsis for a middle grade novel. Well, thanks, Deb! Why didn’t I think of that? It took me about 8 months to write, but the story had been there all along. Sometimes I get ideas while driving, in the car, something I read will spark a question, which will lead to a story, which is what happed with the sequel for Edge of the Wedge. And, I’m a movie hound, so I’m constantly inspired by movies.
Kris: Are you a full-time writer? What is your non-writing life like?
Jen: I’m not a full time writer, but my other work feeds my writing, both monetarily and inspiration-wise. I design and publish sewing patterns for fantasy characters, creatures and soft animals as well as make one of a kind, limited edition, and custom order faerie creatures (thedragoncharmer.com). I write and edit for Faerie Magazine and I have a column beginning in the September issue of Soft Dolls & Animals called Bestiary 101 about designing animals. I also have four boys, 8,10,13, and 15 so they keep me busy with lessons, practices, games and performances. I’m the mom carrying a bag of stuffing or toting a laptop! My work just has to fit in with my family schedule. I will say, having a laptop is a dream, but a pen and notebook works too.
There was a man at the last NE-SCBWI conference who was whining about finding time to write—none of his kids were little-bitty (which is the only time you are allowed to whine)—If you are whining about finding time to write—you aren’t using the time you have. Instead of sitting at the doctor’s office twiddling your thumbs, bring your notebook and write. Even if it’s just 15 minutes, it’s 15 minutes more than you had yesterday!
Kris: I know To Find A Wonder is being turned into a live stage production this summer. Congratulations on that! How much have you been involved in that process?
Jen: I’m going to be very involved--- because that’s just my personality = ) I wrote the stage script and I will be making the puppet for the Frog Prince while the real puppeteer, Jay Mead, formerly of Bread and Puppets, will be concentrating on the larger than life puppets—Percival, the dragon and Lady, Mortimer’s horse as well as the phoenix. The puppets will actually have the actors in them—and these are all very hard-working kids ages 11-17. The children will also be learning about puppetry as they will be working alongside Jay and I in the creation of the puppets. I’m very excited! I’ve always wanted to be a part of the Henson Company, and this will be a little taste of what it’s like! Of course, I wouldn’t write a straight play, To Find A Wonder is going to be a musical! No, I’m not writing the music, but two very talented Princeton graduates are—David Holtz and Brandon Lowden.
Kris: That is so cool! I love musicals! What is your biggest challenge with your writing?
Jen: My biggest challenge—internal dialogue. I’m horrible at getting that on the page. Because I’m such a visual person, I think, I go off of visual cues and I kind of expect my readers to do the same thing. I’m working on it! I know you guys aren’t mind readers! In fact one of the manuscripts I’m working on the main character is blind—so I can’t give visual clues. Now that is a challenge!
Kris: What are your favorite books?
Jen: I’ve got lots! Of course = )
For picture books, The Errant Knight, Bigfoot Cinderrrrela, The Magic Hat and Roger the Jolly Pirate are four favorites that come to mind. I love Anne of Green Gables, The Camulod Chronicles by Jack Whyte, Crossed by Nicloe Galland, Goblin Hero by Jim C. Hines, and the dragon books by E.E. Knight. A recent favorite was The Total Tragedy of a Girl named Hamlet by Erin Dionne.
Kris: Do you have a favorite “guilty pleasure” you can share?
Jen: York peppermint patties and dressing up in Renaissance Garb. = )
Kris: And she is adorable in her Renaissance Garb! Thanks Jen for being here today. Good luck with all your endeavors and thanks for sharing your story with us!