Thursday, January 22, 2015

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: KATIE SPARKS (author of Reality Natalie)

Hello readers: I'm so excited to bring you my interview of Katie Sparks––a wonderful middle-grade author who also happens to be my friend and amazing critique partner! I had the pleasure of reading this book in all stages––from inception to publication. It's soooo super cute, funny, and authentic - just like the author herself!

Where did you get the idea for Reality Natalie?


About 5 or 6 years ago, I was completely enthralled with all of the reality shows that were popping up on TV. They ranged from singing competitions and talent shows to cooking or bake offs and clothing designer contests. The list became endless. But one thing I noticed was that none of them were for little kids. At the time, I believe the youngest person who could audition for American Idol, had to be 16. However, I knew that despite these rules, some of those watching these shows were kids!  From that realization, I thought about a girl who was obsessed with reality television.
 

Thus, Reality Natalie was born!
 

Describe how you created characters that speak and act so authentically.


I combed through my story several times and tried to find areas where I explained something in my voice instead of how an 11-year-old might see it, and tweaked them. For example, every time Natalie notices her parents look at each other in thought, she wonders if it’s some sort mind-reading skill you get when you are get married. 



People always say that kids say the darndest things and it’s true! The hardest part is getting yourself to remember what it was like at that age and to see the world through their eyes. Finding your character’s voice and keeping it consistent throughout helps make your story stronger and more authentic sounding.


What type of revisions did you make after FIREDRAKE acquired it? Were there any you didn't agree with?

My publisher and I went through several rounds of edits looking for various things at each time. The first time around we looked for the global, large-scale edits like red herrings, loose ends or plot points that didn’t work or make sense. Natalie has a blog that she enjoys so I had to make sure the timing for each of her posts were correct and made sense.



At one point in the revision stage, we had a conversation whether or not one of my characters was being too hard or too soft on another. My publisher and I talked it over and I decided to revise it based on some of our talking points. What came out of that is a stronger, well-rounded scene that satisfied both my publisher and myself, and rang true for the characters.


What advice do you have for other middle-grade authors seeking publication?


My advice pertains more to the writing than the act of trying to get published. Middle grade is a tough audience to write for. Your characters are out of the “baby stage” but not quite a young adult. Their main focus is typically their friends and family and the surrounding world around them. It’s also very important to keep in mind the middle grade voice.

What are you working on now?

I always have several projects up my sleeve. It helps me to bounce and back forth between them so I don’t get too stuck on one. Plus, it helps drum up ideas. For me, and I’m sure for many writers, taking a break from one WIP for a bit and then coming back to it later with fresh eyes can really help. Right now, I’m working on a couple new middle grade novels, one possibly with series potential. They are very different concepts; one is serious and the other is more fairy-tale related. I also am trying my hand at a few different picture book ideas. It’s always been a big goal of mine to publish a picture book! 


QUICKFIRE QUESTIONS:

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What do you love most about being published? This might sound cheesy, but I really like seeing my name on a published book. There are a million other exciting things about being published but since I was a little girl I’ve already wanted to experience that moment where I held a book in my hands and this time, my name was it.

Who was your favorite character and why?  I relate a lot to Natalie since I share many of her qualities, but I grew to love Robbie Lovelton, a secondary character in the book. He isn’t quite a class-clown, but nonetheless, is a boy in Natalie’s class that enjoys getting on her nerves. Despite his quirks, he is endearing and even funny at times.  I’ve even begun thinking of writing a story from his perspective, but that’s just a thought right now!

Where and when do you write?  I don’t have a specific time that I write, but I have found that middle of the day works well for me. I also try to carve out time after work at a coffee shop to write. It forces me to focus and there are fewer distractions than home. Otherwise, I enjoy getting up early on the weekend, making coffee and writing before the craziness of the day begins.


Do you have a muse, music, or certain drink you must have while writing? Coffee, coffee, coffee! I wish could listen to music but that ends up being a distraction for me. I’ll start singing the words and totally lose my train of thought!

Katie Sparks and her cat, Moe
Dogs or cats? Why? I love dogs, but I’m going to have to go with cats. I have a very vocal cat, Moe, at home who actually acts more like a dog. She’s crazy, but I love her!

Favorite recent MG books (besides yours of course!) from past three years: I really enjoy reading the books listed on the Rebecca Caudill list each other. I don’t get to all of them but I try! Some that have really stuck out for me recently include Every Soul a Star, Mockingbird and Out of My Mind.


Favorite MG of all time: Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babitt (turned 40 this year!). I read this book when I was younger and just fell in the love with the characters and the story.  Who wouldn’t want to be immortal? 



CHECK OUT KATIE'S WEBSITE HERE!




Thursday, January 1, 2015

"MY GRANDMA IS ONE SMART COOKIE" CONTEST ENTRIES!

Here are the finalists - Who should win? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter or Facebook - thanks!

ENTRY # 1


ENTRY #2


Entry #3


My grandma is a one smart cookie because she is funny and wise. She helps out on holidays and helps even if no one even asks. Therefore I think my grandma is a one smart cookie.              




WIN A KLU COLOR TABLET!
by entering the

MY GRANDMA IS “ONE SMART COOKIE” CONTEST!
              1 Lonely Teen Girl
      +  1 Deal with the Polish Spirit of Love
                  (courtesy of her one smart, spirit-conjuring grandmother, of course)
              2 Tasty Boys (and a whole batch of deception)

16-year-old Sophie Dumbrowski’s grandma is one smart cookie. How about yours?

Is your grandmother (alive or deceased) one smart cookie? Does she do amazing things for her community, your family, or her health?  Does she go out of her way to make your life better? Does she bake the best cookies in the world? Then tell the world about it!

To enter, all you need to do is submit a picture of your grandmother (alone, with you or your family, in actionwhatever works!) and write a one to three sentence caption telling why she’s so smart / wonderful / generous/ (fill in the blank). Winners will be judged on the overall quality of the writing (conventions /word choice), the ability to make a connection to the reader, and having a clear photo that focuses on your grandmother. ENTRANTS AGES 13-21 WELCOME!

Captions should begin with “My grandma (NAME) is one smart cookie because…”

Send your picture and entry electronically to: kymbrunner@comcast.net with the subject: ONE SMART COOKIE CONTEST or enter online at http://kymbrunner.com

Must be received by January 15th – Winner announced January 30th
All entries will be posted at http://www.kymbrunner.com
WIN A COLOR  KLU TABLET* AND
YOU’LL BE ONE SMART COOKIE, TOO!
*donated / no warranty / comes with charger

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Key to Kickass Dialogue

Dialogue Secrets


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Quick! After a person’s appearance, what’s the first thing you notice when you meet someone? If you’re like most of us, it’s what comes out of their mouths. First impressions and all that. But when you read, you can’t see the characters, so your first impressions are made based on what the characters say, not how they look.

Simple concept, right? Not so simple to deliver.

SO…HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR CHARACTER MAKE A GOOD FIRST IMPRESSION?

Give them something to say that is:

·      Believable
·      Fits their personality
·      Consistent, yet unexpected
·      Short and natural

        1)   Believable Dialogue


How do you know if it’s believable or not? Put on your walking shoes and get out your notebook! Head to the spot where the prototype of your character would go. Need to write teens talking together at lunch? Go to a fast-food restaurant near a high school. Want to know what couples say when they’re on a date? Head to a movie theater early and go see latest romantic comedy. You get the idea.

***HINT:  LISTEN AND TAKE GOOD NOTES. I promise you’ll forget the words and how they said them if you don’t.

       2)   Dialogue that fits the character’s personality


There’s a famous writing cliché that says a reader should be able to read a line of dialogue and know who the character is without the identifying dialogue tag.

The key is being the character when you write his or her lines. Imagine YOU are the sensitive butcher who is very observant––seriously! Picture yourself looking out of the eyes of the butcher with your hands on a raw steak and then write his or her lines. A great way for authenticity is to actually observe a butcher talking to his or her customers. Conduct a quick interview if you can, asking his top three concerns about his job. You might be surprised to learn what those things are…and so might your reader.

****HINT: SWITCH INTO THE MINDS of all of your characters (even the minor ones) as you write to create words that only THEY would say.

Source

       3)   Consistent, yet unexpected? Huh?


Your job is to make sure your characters are real, that they speak the truth (or not, depending on who they are). In real life, characters might keep their thoughts to themselves. Not so in fiction. Characters that are pushed to the brink must speak out––to a best friend, to the cabbie, to the offending party, to the police.

Yes, we want dialogue to be authentic, but it IS a story and it does need to intrigue your readers. So let them speak their mind and propel the story ahead by providing interesting thoughts for your readers to mull over.

***HINT:  TO KEEP PACING ON TRACK, use frequent dialogue to break up paragraphs of exposition.


       4)   Short and Natural


Cut to the chase. No one likes listening to boring blow-hards, so don’t let your characters be one of those people. Remember tuning out a boring teacher? That’s what didactic dialogue and info dumps feel like to your readers. Only include information that’s absolutely necessary for the story’s sake and skip the rest. You need to know the backstory, but keep it to yourself if it isn't essential to the plot.

***HINT:  READ ALL DIALOGUE OUT LOUD. Change voices to the way you imagine the characters interacting and it’ll feel more “real.” If you’re bored with the conversation, so is your reader. If it doesn’t sound the way a person really talks, cut it or revise it. Listen to real people and you’ll notice most of us talk in short sentences with breaks for others to add commentary.


So there you have it. Write dialogue that’s believable, fits the characters, necessary, and natural and your readers will come back for more!

*****
Hopefully you’ll find authentic dialogue galore in WANTED:  DEAD OR IN LOVE, which features two alternating POVs––one from Monroe (a modern-day teen who becomes possessed internally by the infamous Bonnie Parker), and the other from Clyde Barrow himself (who works hard to take over the body of Jack Hale, a teen male).

And if cultural humor is more your style, you’ll get a helping of Polish spirits along with a bounty of teen angst in ONE SMART COOKIE, a Polish teen who seeks the help of her spirit-conjuring grandmother to find the perfect boyfriend.

Kym Brunner


Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

Bio:

Kym Brunner's method of creating a manuscript: write, procrastinate, sleep, repeat. She's addicted to Tazo chai tea, going to the movies, and reality TV. When she's not reading or writing, Kym teaches 7th grade full time. She lives in Arlington Heights with her family and two trusty writing companions, a pair of Shih Tzus named Sophie and Kahlua. She's repped by Eric Myers of The Spieler Agency.



 

 













 



Wanted: Dead or In Love Book Trailer:






Saturday, November 15, 2014

Magical Night at Anderson's Bookshop


Have you ever had one of those surreal moments when something BIG is happening and you can feel it in every nerve of your body and you want that feeling to last forever?

Well, that happened to me yesterday when I crossed a line through an item on my bucket list:  appearing at Anderson's Bookshop as an author.  I felt amazingly lucky to be on a panel with some of the friendliest, coolest, nicest, smartest YA authors around. How had we never met before?

Here are the brilliant authors of some super super cool books (all with an original dark element including:  OCD, cults, swamps, body sharing with dead outlaws):


LEFT TO RIGHT: Lindsay Currie (co-author of CREED), Natalie Parker (BEWARE THE WILD), Rachel Wilson (DON'T TOUCH), Me (WANTED: DEAD OR IN LOVE) and the other co-author of CREED, Trisha Leaver.



Here, expert storyteller Natalie is beguiling the crowd with her tale about going to GATOR RANCH in the deep, deep, deep South. Ask her to tell you about it sometime!

Some of our fabulous attendees! Thanks so much for coming out!









Some other fun tidbits: Shared dinner and sweet treats beforehand with the panel at Jimmy's. Delicious food and nonstop conversation that made my author heart happy. Thrilled to see my book on the shelf. Wahoo!







But the BEST PART OF THE WHOLE NIGHT was meeting Nathalie, Stephany, and her father who had driven over an hour to meet me and buy my book. You girls are both awesome and Nathalie, your enthusiasm for writing blew me away. I know I'll be seeing your name on a book cover one day in the future! Thanks for coming out!!
The adorably cute and effervescent Nathalie (left) and her artistic sister, Stephany!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Win A KLU Color Tablet! Enter the "MY GRANDMA IS ONE SMART COOKIE" contest!


WIN A KLU COLOR TABLET!
by entering the

MY GRANDMA IS “ONE SMART COOKIE” CONTEST!
              1 Lonely Teen Girl
      +  1 Deal with the Polish Spirit of Love
                  (courtesy of her one smart, spirit-conjuring grandmother, of course)
_______________________________________________________________________
            2 Tasty Boys (and a whole batch of deception)




16-year-old Sophie Dumbrowski’s grandma is one smart cookie. How about yours?

Is your grandmother (alive or deceased) one smart cookie? Does she do amazing things for her community, your family, or her health?  Does she go out of her way to make your life better? Does she bake the best cookies in the world? Then tell the world about it!

To enter, all you need to do is submit a photo of your grandmother (alone, with you or your family, in actionwhatever works!) and write a one to three sentence caption telling why she’s so smart / wonderful / generous/ (fill in the blank). Winners will be judged on the overall quality of the writing (conventions /word choice), the ability to make a connection to the reader, and having a clear photo that focuses on your grandmother.

Captions should begin with “My grandma (NAME) is one smart cookie because…”

Send your picture and entry electronically to: kymbrunner AT comcast.net with the subject: ONE SMART COOKIE CONTEST or enter online at http://kymbrunner.com

ENTRANTS AGES 13 - 21 WELCOME! TELL YOUR FRIENDS! 
 
Must be received by January 15th – Winner announced January 30th
All entries will be posted at http://www.kymbrunner.com
 

WIN A COLOR  KLU TABLET* AND
YOU’LL BE ONE SMART COOKIE, TOO! 

*donated /  no warranty / comes with charger
10" touchscreen tablet with 4 GB memory

Monday, October 13, 2014

Authors and Reviews - How We REALLY Feel


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HOW DO AUTHORS REALLY FEEL WHEN THEY READ REVIEWS?

Naturally, if every bit of it is glowing, we cheer, nod, and say, "This person is brilliant!"

But what about when part of the review isn't all party cakes and rainbows?

Well for me, I'd say I have a LOVE-LEARN relationship with reviewers and reviews.

Some authors I know stopped reading reviews because it makes them sad/angry/vengeful or (fill in the blank). And ain't nobody got time for that, right?

But not me.

I can't wait to read them. I purposely didn't call it a "love-hate" relationship because that's not usually the way I feel when I read reviews about my novels. (Unless of course it seems like the reviewer has a personal vendetta against me from my high school days, or they only read the first two chapters....then I might not be so forgiving.)

And to be perfectly honest,  maybe I do hate it a little when I read negative things. After all, it did take me two years of writing and revising to finish the book, so it's human nature for some comments to sting a little. But overall, I think of it as a learning experience. Maybe because I've been a teacher my whole life...?

So here's the scoop:

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I LOVE when reviewers read my books, flattered they spent their precious time choosing my book to read. I LOVE when they LOVE it and share their view of it with the world.

So...to that effect, a giant thank you to book reviewers, librarians, and friends who post reviews for my books on Goodreads, Amazon, and/or Barnes & Noble.

What I might not love is when they spot flaws in my characters, world-building, plot, or endings. But there are things I don't love in other books I've read, so why wouldn't others feel the same way about mine? The trick is to try and objectively view the review as if it weren't about my book, and to realize that the different tastes in reading material is what helps keep novels diverse.

Easier said than done.


Here's what I do when I read a review:

1) Look at the final, overall rating to prepare myself whether it will be meh, good, or great.
2) Read it quickly once and react however I'm feeling (but don't share that with anyone).
3) Read it a second time, but this time, I read it as if my editor is giving me advice about things I need to address.
4)  I note the things they liked and/or disliked.
5) If more than one person said the same thing, I'm definitely going to try to make sure that, in the future, those same flaws have been addressed.

If you're a reviewer, do you worry about how you phrase a negative review, or is it more fun to dish it dirty and not think about the author? Is there any sort of etiquette involved?

And if you're an author, do you read your reviews? Why or why not?

Til next time,
KYM

Monday, September 22, 2014

Margo Kelly’s Debut WHO R U REALLY? was Ripped from a Real Life Event


A
After her daughter narrowly survived a man she met in an online role-playing game, Kelly wrote a breathless young adult thriller with the hopes of helping others spot and unmask internet predators.
  
 When a Nampa, Idaho, police detective said to Margo Kelly’s daughter, 
“It is your job to tell others—your real everyday friends that you go to school with—tell them what happened to you, so nothing like this can happen to them.” … she agreed.

“My daughter is my hero,” Kelly said, “for being willing to share her personal choices, conversations, and feelings in order to help others, regardless of the negative judgment she might receive as a result.” Additionally, Kelly realized if she wrote a novel about her daughter’s experience, they could help more people avoid the trappings of internet predators. Who R U Really? is primarily a work of fiction, but the essence of the plot is what happened when Kelly’s daughter was nearly abducted. The fictional elements are based on what has happened to young women across the country on a too frequent basis.

“Inspired by her own daughter's terrifying story, Kelly has painted a realistic picture of how a smart girl can get caught up in something dangerous online,” said the School Library Journal. “Guaranteed to give readers goosebumps—particularly as events heat up toward the end. … A good choice for families to read together.” (http://www.bookverdict.com)

According to the Fall Preview issue of Kirkus Reviews, “Thea’s mistakes, while frustrating to encounter, are frighteningly plausible, and the relationships among characters are well–fleshed out, especially between mother and daughter. Kelly’s first novel is a suspenseful page-turner with multiple suspects, a little bit of romance, and a strong but not overbearing message.” (www.kirkusreviews.com)

Who R U Really? will be published in hardcover and e-book versions by Merit Press (F+W Media) on September 18, 2014.

More about Who R U Really?
When Thea discovers a new role-playing game online, she breaks her parents’ rules to play. And in the world of the game, Thea falls for an older boy named Kit whose smarts and savvy can’t defeat his near-suicidal despair. Soon, he’s texting her, asking her to meet him, and talking in vague ways about how they can be together forever. As much as she suspects that this is wrong, Thea is powerless to resist Kit’s allure, and hurtles toward the very fate her parents feared most. Who R U Really? will excite you and scare you, as Thea’s life spins out of control.

Buy online:

More about Margo Kelly
Margo Kelly is a native of the Northwest and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, she is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Who R U Really? is her first novel. Margo welcomes the opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs.
Follow her online:
Twitter: @MargoWKelly

      Scheduled Appearances:
September 26, 2014 – 5pm – Book Signing at Hastings in Meridian, Idaho
September 27, 2014 – 4pm – Book Signing at Hastings on Overland in Boise, Idaho
October 3, 2014 – 7pm – Book Launch Party at Hyde Park Books in Boise, Idaho
October 11, 2014 – 4pm – Book Signing at Barn