Friday, March 30, 2007

Enchanted Fridays – Journey of a Novelist

It’s Friday—is this the best day or what?!?

I have the joy of kicking off my new series of interviews with some totally awesome authors. These are some of my favorite writers and I know they will soon become one of yours! Walk, don’t run to your nearest bookstore or library!

Pop open a cold one, grab a hot tea, or break open the bag of chocolate that’s calling to you (yeah, that one right behind you) and sit back and relax.

Whether it’s reading a book that whisks you off into a new world or you’re a writer creating your own, always do one thing: Enjoy the journey . . .

Christine Kole MacLean
flux, an imprint of Llewellyn

New York Public Library has just selected How It’s Done
for its 2007 list of Books for the Teen Age!!!!
(That needs a bunch of exclamation points!)

Q: What led you to write a novel about a girl falling in love with an older man—a college professor no less! I'll admit I had a crush on a teacher in high school while I was working as his aide in a special education class. He didn't wear a wedding ring and I was "crushed" again when I learned he actually was married! Not that I'm looking for your tell-all or *confession*, but did you draw on any kind of personal experience? No pressure here!

CKM: Maybe it was just the community I grew up in (small town, not much to do) or my socially precocious group of friends, but we all dated guys who were older—in some cases a lot older. The summer after graduation, a friend of mine married a guy eight years older than she was. One of the things I’ve thought about a lot was how cool my parents played it when I was dating an older guy. They never tried to tell me what to do. I wondered, “What happens when parents don’t play it cool?” There’s the seed of the idea.

Q: I admired your ability to get inside Grace's head and heart, expressing her feelings and emotions without sentimentality or melodrama. What were some of the challenges in writing this novel? What were the hardest parts to write and which poured out of your fingers onto the keyboard?

CKM: Thanks! I worked on it for about two years, but I was also writing other things during that time. The first draft, which I wrote in third person, took me a year. In the second draft (six months), I switched the story to first person. I spent another three months on the third draft. The hardest part was Grace. I was frustrated with how slow she was to see she was making a mistake. But when the story begins, Grace is 18 and has been somewhat sheltered. I had to remember she doesn’t have the experience to know the things that would help her see the relationship slightly more objectively. (Although, come to think of it, who among us ever sees a lover objectively?) Her relationship with Michael is a “starter relationship.” She’s just learning. The fact that he’s a lot older and ready for different things raises the stakes considerably.

Conversely, Tori, Liv, Will—scenes with them were a blast to write. I have to add, however, that precious little ever “pours out of my fingers onto the keyboard.”

Q: There are some provocative discussion questions at the back of the novel. Did you write those or did your publisher? At the risk of appearing ignorant, what IS the IT'S in HOW IT'S DONE? What is IT for YOU?

CKM: The publisher came up with the questions, and I can’t even answer some of them! I think there’s more than one “it” in the book. “It” refers to sex and seduction, obviously, but also to bigger things, e.g., finding yourself, breaking off a relationship that’s wrong—even if it feels good, and ultimately growing up and being your own person, not whoever your parents want you to be or whoever your boyfriend wants you to be. How *is* it done? One step at a time. There will be missteps along the way. Those are the times we learn the most.

Q: New and published authors love to hear about other writer’s journeys toward publication. Was writing something you always wanted to do? Where were you when you got *the call* that somebody wanted to publish your book?

CKM: I’ve known since I was about eight that I wanted to be a writer and I never looked back. I’ve been a professional writer since college, working at magazines, ad agencies, and corporations. I still do some of that work on a freelance basis to fund my fiction-writing habit. I’ve never felt driven to write—perhaps because I came to writing so young and it has always been integrated into my life. And I confess to being stumped when asked why I write. To me, it feels like being asked why I breathe or sleep. I don’t mean I’d die without it. It’s simply that I can’t imagine not writing, in some form or another.

It was a rainy October day when I got the call at home, just as I was thinking about what to make my sick five-year-old for lunch. The editor made an offer and I asked her if I could get back to her. At the time, I was reading a book about the ins and outs of publishing, and I literally had not yet read the chapter on advances and contracts. That’s how green I was.

Q: Pitfalls? Things you learned along the way? Anything you would do differently?

CKM: I would have written a breakout first novel. LOL!

Q. The most surprising or unexpected thing that’s happened since publishing your books.

CKM: The most surprising thing? I’ve grown into a good public speaker, or so audiences tell me. I recently did a session on how to find the time to write (I still freelance in addition to writing fiction) and got so much positive feedback on it. One person told me my presentation had changed his life. While he was obviously exaggerating, what he meant was that he’d gotten a lot out of my session. Even five years ago I wouldn’t have guessed that I could be an effective public speaker.

Q: I’m sure he was not exaggerating! What are you working on now?

CKM: I just finished a rough draft of the fourth book in my series of Mary Margaret novels for 8- to 12-year-olds. The working title is MERRY MARY MARGARET CHRISTMAS and it’s scheduled for Fall ’08. I’ve been mulling over a picture book idea, so I may get serious about that, but I’m also gearing up to start another YA.

Q. Yay on both the new Mary Margaret novel (great title btw!) and embarking on another YA! Good luck to you, Christine. Last question: What is your own secret wish (goal) for your life or writing?

CKM: I’m thrilled that publishers think my books are worth publishing, but I’m not satisfied with my writing skills. I have a long way to go on that front. My not-so-secret wish is to get better. A lot better.

Thank you, Christine, for being our very first Enchanted Friday guest author! (Hear that thunderous applause from the great blog reaches of the universe?)

I hope, dear reader, that your appetite is whetted to read HOW IT'S DONE. You'll be hooked from the first page!

Don't forget to visit Christine at her website:

Bookmark this blog for the next Enchanted Friday installment!


Anonymous said...

Great interview, Kim!

Sarah Blake Johnson said...

Love to be exposed to new books/authors. Thanks for the interview. Look forward to the next one. Also- checked out your website. Your books look great.

Kimberley Griffiths Little said...

Thanks Susan and Sarah. Hope you do come back for further installments. There's going to be some great Friday authors.
Best Wishes,



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