Wednesday, August 25, 2010

How I Write: Interview with Children's Author John Lance

Anyone feel like this summer has flown by? I'm still trying to figure out what to do for fun this summer, and school starts next week. This week brings us to our last installment of the How I Write series, brainchild of Ansha Kotyk.  A group of writers posted about how we write on Wednesdays from mid-June through August.  If you're interested in participating next year, email Ansha. And click here for the list of all the writers participating and links to their blogs.

This last week we have a free post so I thought I'd interview my friend, John Lance, author of CHARLOTTE CAULDRON AND THE PRINCE OF NEVERMORE and PRISCILLA HOLMES, ACE DETECTIVE.

John Lance lives in New England with his beautiful wife and daughters. His picture book PRISCILLA HOLMES, ACE DETECTIVE and his middle reader novel CHARLOTTE CAULDRON AND THE PRINCE OF NEVERMORE were both published in 2009. He has also authored a collection of short stories, BOBBY'S TROLL AND OTHER STORIES, and has appeared in a number of anthologies, most recently ALL ABOUT EVE in 2010.

CHARLOTTE CAULDRON (see my review here), published by Sam's Dot Publishing in 2009, is available here.  PRISCILLA HOLMES, published by 4RV Publishing in 2009, is available here.  Join me in welcoming John to my blog for the first time.

KA:     Thanks for being here, John.  The first book of yours that I read was CHARLOTTE CAULDRON AND THE PRINCE OF NEVERMORE. Was that the first book you wrote?  Can you tell us a bit about your journey to publication?

JL:       I suppose we should distinguish between "wrote" and "successfully published." Prior to CHARLOTTE CAULDRON AND THE PRINCE OF NEVERMORE I wrote two full blown fantasy novels. Neither found a home, but I did get just enough positive feedback to keep me going.  I then dabbled in short stories, having some success with some small magazines and anthologies before my next book HOME IS WHERE THE DRAGON IS was published. After that I was fortunate enough to have a collection of short stories BOBBY'S TROLL AND OTHER STORIES published by a small publisher Yard Dog Press. Then CHARLOTTE CAULDRON AND THE PRINCE OF NEVERMORE was published. Since Charlotte has come out I have had some additional success, appearing in several anthologies and, more significantly, having my picture book PRISCILLA HOLMES, ACE DETECTIVE published in late 2009 by 4RV Publishing. A sequel, PRISCILLA HOLMES AND THE CASE OF THE GLASS SLIPPER, is slated to come out in late 2010.

KA: Getting that positive feedback is such an incentive! What made you start to write seriously?
JL: I always loved to write. A bit cliche, I know, but there it is. All through grade school I wrote stories, even attempting an "epic poem" in 7th grade. In college, I took all the creative writing courses I could and started the first of my unpublished fantasy novels, even taking a lighter class load the last semester of my senior year to focus on it. That manuscript was the first thing I really tried to get published, so I suppose that is my first "serious" work.

KA: I love hearing about that first “a-ha” moment.  Can you tell us anything about your current work-in-progress?

JL: Currently I'm working on another Priscilla Holmes book. I'm trying something a little different with this installment. The other books have been written from Priscilla's point of view. This one has a different narrator, and I'm still trying to figure out if its going to work or not. I think I'm on the 58th draft.

KA: Ha! I think we can all relate to the endless revision process. You chose to go with a small press for CHARLOTTE – was that a conscious choice? Can you tell us about it?

JL: Charlotte is an interesting case of "right time/right place." I had just placed a short story in a magazine that Sam's Dot publishes called Beyond Centauri and was corresponding with the editor. I mentioned that I had Charlotte and asked if he was interested in giving it a look over. He said yes, and the rest is history. Interestingly enough I had a similar experience with Bobby's Troll and Other Stories. In that case I had contributed to several of Yard Dog Press's anthologies before approaching the editor. So I think that is an advantage of working with small presses, the editors/publishers are more accessible.

KA: So much of what we do is “right time, right place”—great that it worked out for you. A lot of the readers of my blog are looking for agents. Do you have an agent?

JL: Not yet.

KA: Where do you find your inspiration?

JL: Whenever someone asks me this question I always feel like I should respond with "in the beat of a butterfly's wing" or something else that sounds suitably deep. Sadly the truth is more mundane. My story ideas come from my family, or quirky things on the news, or while listening to music, or while I'm mowing the lawn, or driving to the mall, or, well, you get the idea. The one thing I have found is that I can't force ideas to come. The other thing I've found is that sometimes ideas are initially incomplete and you've got to leave them on the shelf to mature.

KA: I think your inspiration is fabulous! Are you a full-time writer? What is your non-writing life like?

JL: I have not yet achieved enough success to write full time. So my non-writing life is like that vast majority of folks out there as I struggle with "work/life balance" only with the added twist of trying to shoe-horn in a little writing on the side. 

KA: I think most writers out there can relate to that. What is your biggest challenge with your writing?
JL: Finding time and keeping motivated. After a long day at the office it's hard to sit down at the computer and write. I have found that when I can get into a regular rhythm that will help, but a lot of time "real-life" intrudes.

KA: It’s always interesting to me to know what writer’s like to read. What are your favorite books?
JL: I have always enjoyed reading fantasy the most, though I also enjoy science fiction and history. Early on I fell in love with THE HOBBIT. I think my favorite author of all time is Terry Pratchett, whose humorous Discworld novels are fantastic. Most recently I have started reading Naomi Novik's Temeraire series, which is one of the most exciting series I've read in a long time.

KA: And lastly, just for fun, do you have a favorite “guilty pleasure” you can share?

JL: I thoroughly enjoy zombie and monster movies, the cheesier the monster the better. I'm holding out hopes that someday there will be a mutant-flying-zombie-anaconda movie.

I hear zombies are the new vampires in the publishing world, so you may get your wish!  Thanks, John, for joining me today.  I hope everyone will check out CHARLOTTE CAULDRON and PRISCILLA HOLMES.  I can’t wait to see the new Priscilla book this winter!


Tina Laurel Lee said...

Thanks for the interview and the heads up on these books. They look fantastic. What a great idea for your last post. It is so fun to read about how others do it!

Kris said...

Glad you liked the interview, Tina! You should definitely check out John's books. They are great!

Ansha said...

Great interview!! I love hearing how other authors do it.:) And John's books look like FUN!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

I went to elementary school with a boy whose dad was a magician. Every year, I'd check to see if Damian was in my class, knowing his dad would do a show and let us watch Godzilla.

Thanks for the follow!

Kris said...

Ansha and Caroline - thanks for stopping by!

lionmother said...

Hi Kris,
I came over because of a heads up on 4RV Bulletin Board. I always love to learn about new writers and should probably know John.:) I will definitely try to read this book. It was a great interview and I liked your questions a lot.

I interview writers too and it's interesting how everyone has their own style. :) I wish I knew about the thing you guys did before the end of the summer. If I'm still doing this next year I would love to be included in the group.

Here is my blog, Barbara's Meanderings:

I also have a show, Red River Writers Live Tales from the Pages that is on today, Thursday, August 26th at 3Pm Central time. Come over and check it out.


Kris said...

Thanks for stopping by Barbara! We're not sure if we'll do it again next year, but I hope we do!

Vivian Zabel said...

Since I'm not able to "live" at my computer since surgery, I'm behind on reading emails. Glad I found the one announcing John's interview.

So I'm here to support, even if late. The Priscilla series is cute and enjoyable.

Kris said...

Welcome, Vivian! Glad you found me--Priscilla is great and John is talented. Thanks for stopping by.