It’s Author Interview Thursday and it’s my pleasure to introduce you to another author whose passionate about their craft and sharing with the writing community. I’ve been at the London Book Fair this week and I’ve had the privilege to meet various authors writing in different genres with a positive outlook on the future. If there’s anything that I’ve learned from the seminars at LBF, it’s that the publishing industry is evolving all the time and its imperative we keep our ears to the ground. That’s why I love AIT as every featured author has a unique experience which we can all learn from. I got to know today’s special guest after my interview with Sandra Bennett who was on the hot seat a few weeks ago. Her Middle Grade book ‘The Sword of Demelza,’ was awarded Honourable Mention in the Writer’s Digest’s 2013 eBook Awards. If you know her, then you how much she loves animals and this love is expressed in her books as well as most posts on her blog. She has so much to share with us and I know you’ll learn something new today. Without further ado, please join me in welcoming Jeanne E. Rogers.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and the first time someone complemented you on something you had written.
I’m a bit of a late bloomer. Although I have been writing for a long time, I finally decided that I was ready. The new ‘wild west’ of independent publishing gave me all the courage I needed in order to self-publish in 2013 and I was thrilled to do so. As for the personal stuff… I was born in New York City, raised in NJ, moved to Connecticut, graduated from Western Connecticut State University, (take a breath), and worked for 25 years in corporate America, (Ugh! and double Ugh!). I have three wonderful children, Erik, David and Katharine, and a fabulous, very understanding husband named George. My family fills my life, and fuels my muse! Oh, I can’t forget Phoebe, my standard poodle companion! My first compliment came from a beta reader who filled my manuscript with marginalia. Everywhere there was a note about the fascinating characters or the setting, or how quickly the pace was set in motion. There were also suggestions for improvements or brilliant ideas that I hadn’t thought of. It was both inspiring and encouraging.
What can a reader expect when they pick up a book written by Jeanne E. Rogers?
Readers can expect to enter a fantasy world where anthropomorphized animals wander the pages. I put swords and shield in their paws and send them out on a thrilling adventure. Readers will be introduced to animals that they have never met before and something different and exciting will happen in every chapter. The characters are endearing, devoted to each other, and determined in their missions. Beyond the story itself, readers will become aware of the moral lessons subtly placed within the story. Lessons about love, diversity, dedication to one’s family, and to a cause are all woven within the tale. I want my young readers to recognize that we each play an important role in our lives no matter how small or insignificant we feel – we all matter, we all make a difference.
Congratulations on the publication of your first Middle Grade Lit. book – The Sword of Demelza. Can you tell us about the research process that went into writing this book?
Research for my book began three years prior to publication. The genre (fantasy) is pretty broad and there is much that includes talking animals. However, my goal is to teach youngsters about wild animals, specifically endangered animals, as I entertain. This is different from all the other animal books on the market today. The plight of endangered animals is a big subject, and there are many creatures whose lives are threatened. Some are critically endangered to the point that, one day soon, we may never see them again. The culprit is typically habitat deterioration. I decided that I would focus on one place at a time, and my love for Australia became my first focus. Every animal mentioned in the book was researched and if they were endangered I quoted the status of that animal as per the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). In order to make this a reality for my readers, I added a glossary at the back of the book. There are many mentions of flora and fauna that are found only in Australia in this glossary. Children here in the United States will be introduced to much of this information for the first time via my stories.
Your blog has a lot of useful info on Animals some people may never have heard of. Can you tell us where this love of animals stems from and if it’ll be a major theme in your future books?
As a child, animals fascinated me. I was not allowed a dog or cat because my father was highly allergic. My mother was very much aware of my love for animals and when I brought home the garden snake, she allowed it to stay. That was the beginning. After that there were many other unusual animals, including iguanas, fish, even mice and rats – only a little bit of fur there! I just seem to have an affinity for animals and they seem to have the same for me. Since establishing my own home, I have rarely been without a companion dog. I have had four poodles and two Afghan Hounds, which I showed extensively. That was fun, but expensive.
Australia fascinated me from the time I was very young. I mean, what child here in the US doesn’t think koalas or kangaroos are fascinating? Koalas only eat leaves, and they are so adorable, even though they can be a bit grumpy. What about the Kangaroo? How could you not be captivated by the fact that a baby kangaroo, pretty much just an embryo, can crawl up to its mother’s pouch, and develop there over several months? Kangaroos and koalas are odd animals, odd marsupials. Everything in Australia is odd and I want to spread the word, share the fascination. Come on – admit it, Australia is a really strange, and interesting place, but I love it, I truly do.
What role would you say social media plays in building an author’s platform and have you found it helpful in marketing your book?
Social media is crucial in building an author’s platform. I started three years prior to publication. I began with a blog, set up a fan page on Facebook, made inroads with LinkedIn and Google+, dabbled a bit in Twitter, and went completely wild on Pinterest. The Internet has changed the way people communicate and the way people market themselves and their businesses. As an author, you have to face the fact that once your book is published you are now in the business of selling that book. If you are lucky enough to land an agent or publisher it doesn’t mean that you can stand back and let them take the social media reigns and do the marketing for you. As a matter of fact, you can be sure that they will not allow you to do that. They will expect you to be very hands on. So if you haven’t gotten your paws dirty in the devil’s work of marketing prior to publication, you’re already behind the eight ball. You have to be there, be active and be involved.
Any good marketing platform should include some of the following items, if not all; Internet (website/blog, podcasts, YouTube), special appearances and events, Radio and TV.
I loved the classics. I loved The Jungle Books, by Kipling, the A.A. Milne books; Winnie the Pooh was a favourite, and I can’t tell you how many times I read When We Were Very Young. One day my father introduced me to Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. This trilogy was the basis for the hit Will Smith movie, I Robot. Sci-Fi and Fantasy became a favourite and I couldn’t read fast enough. From Asimov, I graduated to Tolkien, Terry Brooks, Gaiman and even Edgar Allen Poe and Kafka, just to mention a few great authors. I am a voracious reader and I love it when I discover a book, especially fantasy, which was published independently. I will write a review on those that I believe are super, publish that review on Amazon, Goodreads, Google+, Facebook, etc. Needless to say, I am very supportive of independent authors.
What three things should writers avoid when writing dialogue?
I think the most important thing NOT to do is use dialogue as an opportunity to dump information on the reader. Information should be giving within the story itself and not provided in a dialogue conversation.
Using words like, replied, interrupted or confirmed can slow the pace of the dialogue. Try to avoid them.
Don’t overuse dialogue tags. You don’t have to say ‘he said’ ‘she said’ every time. Also intersperse your dialogue with a few action tags. A well place action tag will enhance a visual of your character.
Avoid using an action tag as a dialogue tag. For example:
“I can’t stand spinach,” Susie cringed. Cringed is an action or expression not a dialogue tag.
It would be appropriate to write:
Susie cringed. “I can’t stand spinach.”
I think some of the best dialogue I have ever experienced is the dialogue in Game of Thrones, which was inspired by the books A Song of Ice and Fire, by George RR Martin. I admire the screenplay written by David Benioff. David is a genius when it comes to creating interesting dialogue, and if you want to experience his expertise in writing, I highly recommended his book, City of Thieves. Once you read that, you’ll get it. Why is he so good? I would have to say it’s because his dialogue is natural, you become invested in the characters, and it keeps the story moving forward. He also manages to interject humour. What more can I say? When I grow up, I want to write dialogue like David Benioff.
Toy Story or Shrek?
Shrek! It’s an entire world of fantasy and anything goes there. What fun!
What three things should a first time visitor to Connecticut do?
Wow! Since I am animal oriented, I would point people to the Mystic Marine Aquarium and Seaport. It’s fabulous and there’s a lot to see and do nearby. There’s also Yale’s Peabody Museum and the Athenaeum in Hartford has beautiful art work by some of the masters like Dali, Monet, etc. Mark Twain lived in Connecticut, and his house is near Hartford. He lived there from 1874 to 1891. It is now a museum and quite the place to tour. I recommend coming here in the Spring. It’s a beautiful time of year, and the rolling hills are dotted with blossoms of every kind. Since we are at New York City’s doorstep you can’t go wrong.
There’s quite an amusing story about our trip to Australia, but there’s just not enough room here to bore your readers with (big smile)! I landed in Melbourne, where my husband and I have good friends. The first thing I saw after leaving the parking garage was a McDonald’s – I felt right at home. Enough levity.
We were spending three precious weeks in Australia, and we were packing those weeks front to back. We flew with our friends from Melbourne to Adelaide, which I loved, loved, loved. Did I say that I liked Adelaide? OK, good. In Adelaide we boarded the Ghan and headed for the centre. One of my lifelong dreams was to see Uluru at dawn and at dusk, but that wasn’t going to be the lasting impression, although it certainly was one of them. My lasting impression came while I was on the Ghan. The Ghan travels overnight to Alice Springs, and during the middle of the night, while everyone was asleep; the train came to a standstill. This did not bother my husband at all. He continued to snore. However, my sleep pattern was interrupted and I was instantly awake, wondering why we were no longer moving. Visions of train robberies came into my head. I was sure we were we be boarding by a marauding band of Kangaroos? Would we have to turn over our valuables to them? Would they be carrying six-shooters and wearing masks?
The thought that we were stopped to simply change conductors was just too dull a thought to contemplate. I wiggled to the window and looked out. It was blacker than black and there was nothing to be seen on the ground. But the sky! Oh, the sky was a wonder to behold. An Australian friend, and wonderful author, Clancy Tucker, told me about the drover’s blanket, and there it was overhead in all its glory. I will never forget the multitude of stars that came out for me that night. It was a greeting for me; a welcoming that will remain with me always.
Growing up, you had several interesting pets like snakes and mice. Can you tell us about an unforgettable experience with one of your pets?
Let’s see, there was so many. Oh, I know. I had an iguana named Ignats, short for Ignatius. He was about four feet long from tip of nose to tip of tail. I kept him in a terrarium in my bedroom. I was in college at the time, and when I came home from classes, the first thing I would do was check on Ignats. You see, Ignats was very strong, and no matter what I put on the top of the tank he always managed to get that screen off and climb out. I would put books on top and he would push up on the screen, crawl out, and wander about the house. So one day I came home to an empty terrarium and as usual, I began to nonchalantly search the house for my long green fellow. I did this so that I wouldn’t alarm my mother to the fact that he was loose. If I could find him and replace him in the terrarium there would be no trouble. Ignats was not one of Mom’s favourites. A screech from the bedroom area hinted that I may find Ignatius there and I bounded up the stairs to my mother’s room. Ignats was hanging by his back claws to top of mom’s mirror. With his front feet placed securely on the mirror itself, he stared out at my mother as she combed her hair. It’s pretty amazing that mom allowed him to stay after that incident, but she did. She was very tolerant and I loved her dearly for it.
What can we expect from Jeanne E. Rogers in the next 12 months?
I am writing continually and my second book is about fifty per cent complete. This one also takes place in a fantasy world with Australian animals. I’m introducing a few new ones and bringing back a few that readers of The Sword of Demelza will recognize. I have also written a short story that takes place in the outback, and I would love to find a publication that will take that. It has an environmental angle to it and the main characters are kangaroos, dibblers, wedge-tailed eagles and more. It’s a lot of fun and once again, youngsters are the target readers. It’s entitled One Hot Mess. Here’s the opening paragraph for you;
The Australian Outback is an unusual place, and it was even more unusual this season. The land was a bit greener and that’s what was unusual. Countless green, round shrubs dotted the red earth and every so often, a pool of water sparkled on the dusty plain. The Mob of Kangaroos would be enjoying the mid-day sun if it weren’t for the hot mess sitting near the train tracks.
Where can readers and fans connect with you?
I would love to hear from your readers. They can contact me at any one of the following;
Pinterest – http://pinterest.com/warriorechidna
Twitter – http://twitter.com/warriorechidna
I am also on LinkedIn and Google+. Please stop by, say ‘hello’ and share.
My best advice for writers who are just starting out would be to make sure that you research your competition and know your audience. You need to know how your book will compete in the marketplace. If you do land an agent, that agent will want to know that you have done your homework in this respect. An agent can use this type of information when they approach editors and publishers with your book. Next, I would have to say that your manuscript must be perfect before you submit it to an editor, agent or publisher. Make sure you have had beta readers, and that you have had your manuscript professionally edited and that it has been formatted and set up in the corrected manner before making any submissions. Finally, I would say, be tenacious; be open to constructive criticism and suggestions, by beta readers and/or editors. Don’t give up. Keep writing and you will achieve your goals, even if you have to rewrite that manuscript several times in order to get there. Write from your heart and be true to yourself.
Thank you ever so much for being with us today Jeanne. There is such a wealth of information you’ve shared with us today that I’ll definitely be coming back to check out this interview again. I loved what you said about taking the time to make sure our work before publication has undergone a professional scrutiny with regards to the book cover, editing, proofreading etc. As we never get a second chance at a first impression, it’s important the work we put out there can stand the test of time. Do share this interview on your social networks and live a review. I’d like to inform you of other special events happening on this blog. Simply enter your name and email in the top right hand corner.
Grab a copy of Jeanne’s critically acclaimed book on Amazon by clicking this link ====> The Sword of Demelza