Janice Clark first appeared on Page Readers to talk about her book Mountains of the Moon. Today she joins us to discuss her latest book, The Door in the Sky.
First Janice, tell us a little about you.
I grew up in a house full of books; I was reading before I started kindergarten. I savored the sounds of words and their wonderful shades of meaning. When a teacher told me I was a poet, I gladly accepted that label. I’ve written, or attempted to write, most of my life. Of course, the necessity of earning a living led to many jobs, most of which involved numbers more than words. I did a lot of data processing, was a draftsman, and spent nearly thirty years detailing and estimating rebar (reinforcing steel). Now that I’m retired, I have more time to play with words, when I’m not baking cookies, playing with grandchildren, or chasing deer out of the garden.
What is your story about?
The Door in the Sky is the second book in my Hall of Doors fantasy series for children. Sammy returns up the moonbeam path, where she’s off on a roller-coaster dragon ride, then has to summon all her courage help Princess Selena open a spellbound treasure box. Solving Selena’s problem gives Sammy the key to dealing with her own situation.
How did this story come to you?
In book one (The Mountains of the Moon), Sammy followed her cat, Princess Buttermilk Biscuit, up a moonbeam to a magical world. In Princess Selena’s castle she encountered the hall of doors—magical portals that connect to many places. I was so delighted with artist JW Kalin’s painting for the cover of book one, that I had to send Sammy and Selena out that door in book two. So how do you get down from a door in the sky? By dragon, of course. The rest of the story just grew. I tend to start in the middle, then ask myself “how did we get to this point, and what happens next?”
What compelled you to write it?
Besides the magical adventure, this is a story about dealing with fear. I think we all have hidden fears, and sometimes the fear of being embarrassed or exposed to ridicule is worse than any fear of physical danger. There’s a lot of me in Sammy, and I wanted to share what I have learned. Courage isn’t absence of fear; it’s doing what has to be done in spite of fear. There are coping mechanisms that help, but sometimes you just have to grit your teeth and “do it scared.”
Who is your favorite character?
Sammy’s always my favorite, but I really liked Kalindra the dragon in this story. She doesn’t have much to say in the main story, but I gave her a bigger part in the “extra scene” which, like all the extra features, will be posted on my website.
What was your favorite scene to write?
That’s a difficult question. I think maybe the part with the spell-bound box, because there’s a bit of suspense there, plus I tried to make the box really scary.
How long did it take you to write the story?
I don’t keep track, and I’m usually working on several things at once. It was sort of simmering in the back of my mind as we went through the process of moving, buying a house, moving again, and all the complications that went with that. Actual writing time, including getting critiques and rewriting, was probably a few months.
When was it released?
Orchard House Press says the book was released in April 2010, a year after they initially planned to release it. However, they haven’t yet updated the pre-release information on Amazon or on their own website. I first received books in September 2010.
How is it available?
The book is in print. It’s an early reader chapter book, a transition between the picture book and regular chapter books. It has short, easy-to-read chapters, with a black and white illustration for each chapter.
Where can we find it online, or if print, where?
At the moment, it’s only available from me. The publisher tells me they’ll be doing Amazon updates soon, and their website is going offline for a couple of weeks for a major overhaul. I’ve put purchasing information on my website. I’ll probably donate a few copies to local schools and libraries, as I did with The Mountains of the Moon.
Tell us about your Publishing experience.
This series has not been a text-book experience. I sold the first book to Orchard House Press (then called Windstorm Creative) at a “pitch-it” session at a science fiction convention. Out of that came a contractual obligation to give them first chance at subsequent books in the series. So the four books I’ve completed so far have never been submitted anywhere else. I have made lots of submittals of other writing to various agents and publishers and continue to do so.
With OHP, like most small presses, suffering heavily in the economic downturn, it’s been difficult to get books in a timely fashion. I like my publishers and admire their vision, but I’m considering self-publishing (POD) for a picture book that JW Kalin and I just finished.
Where we can we find you online, include your website, facebook, twitter or anywhere else you reside online.
I’m also on My Space and Live Journal, and probably several other places I’ve forgotten, but almost never go there. Too much social networking eats into writing time.
Any words of wisdom for our readers?
Read a lot, write a lot, and find a writers’ group where you can get unbiased feedback. Local face-to-face groups are great. Critters (www.critique.org) is a wonderful online workshop with lots of writing resources. They’ve mainly focused on fantasy, science fiction and horror, but they’re adding other genres now. I’ve learned a lot from dissecting other people’s writing to determine what worked and what didn’t. Don’t be afraid to have your own work critiqued. There are no bad critiques, even if you totally disagree with what’s said. It still tells you how one person reacted to your work, and that’s valuable information. Be tactful in critiquing others.
Research before you submit. Be sure to follow all the publisher’s guidelines. Then tell yourself it’s just practice. Rejections are part of the business. It’s not a personal thing. It just means they didn’t need this piece of writing at the moment, for a great many reasons that may have nothing to do with the quality of the work. Put on your clerk’s hat and send it out again.
Some fun/exciting things about being an author:
…Handing out bookmarks and talking to kids in restaurants and stores (with parent’s permission of course) and having people get excited because they met a “real author”
…Signing books at craft sales and other sales venues
…Getting to talk to kids (and sometimes adults) about writing and encouraging them to be creative
…Having someone tell you that something you wrote touched them personally.
Thank you Janice for stopping by Page Readers again!