Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Author Interview and Giveaway: De Kenyon

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing De Kenyon, author of the middle-grade short story collection, Tales Told Under the Covers: Zombie Girl Invasion & Other Stories (see my review here).  She has also generously offered an ecopy of her book to giveaway to one lucky reader.  To enter, please leave a comment below with your email address so I can contact you.  The giveway is open internationally and ends midnight January 31 and I will announce the winner on February 1.  The winner will have 2 days to respond to my email or another winner will be chosen.

Here is a synopsis of the book from Goodreads:
Ten tales of death, invasions from other realms, bullies, babysitters, liars, and the brave kids who fight back. Zombie girls who have to hide, lest they get eaten by bigger zombies. Food that bites back. Wizards who are scared of their own power. Murdered (and murderous) pets. Secret superpowers. And that last, great voyage into the unknown. Stories to be whispered under the covers, by flashlight. Stories to be read by firelight to the robots who come out of the woods. Stories to be told when the witches are ready to eat you but want to hear just one more story before they shove you in the oven. Creepy Stories. Fantastical Stories. Weird Stories.

And now for the interview:
You have a great balance of humour and suspense in your stories, can you tell us about that?

My theory is that kids who already like to read have a bajillion books out there that they can read. The other kids, the ones who get bored by sitting down and reading a long, descriptive passage with no action in it (for example, the ones in The Hobbit), don't always have a lot of options that aren't comic books. When my daughter was between six and eight, she was in the second category. She read as many Magic Tree House books as she could stand...then turned to comic books, because books were either a) about kids who were a lot older than her, or b) boring. (Comic books were about kids older than her, but at least had pictures.)

If you talk to kids who don't like to read books, you find some crazy kids who like video games, comic books, scary movies, and slapstick. So I wrote stories for my daughter, stories for the kids I knew who hate sitting still, stories about kids in my daughter's class--stuff that I hope those kids think is more fun than watching the same cartoon for the umpteenth time. Those kids are both dramatic and funny. They're my inspiration :)

Where do you look for inspiration for some of the crazy ideas for your stories?

Actual kids contributed a lot of the ideas for the book. I like to ask my daughter and other kids what I should write about. Zombie Girl Invasion came from a six-year-old boy who was trying to think of the worst of all possible punishments and decided that kissing was the worst. The Society of Secret Cats came out of a conversation with a teen. A Picture is Worth 1000 Chomps came from a girl who wanted evil monsters to come out of picture frames. My daughter and I brainstormed the whole plot of Attack of the 50-Foot Sushi Monster while eating sushi at our favorite restaurant. I ask myself, "What is the weirdest way I could possibly handle this story request?" and go from there.

Who or what encouraged (or still encourages) you in your writing?

I was at a wedding where a teen sitting next to me had just found out that I was a writer and started describing one of my own books to me. She finished with, "...and you should read it." She had no idea who I was! The hope that someday that will happen again sustains me. Her mom and I laughed so hard we cried.

What challenges have you faced in your writing and how did you overcome them?

My biggest challenge is distraction. "Oooh, lookit! Lookit that!" I think it's genetic. When my daughter was two, she didn't throw temper tantrums, and she didn't ask "why" all the time (that was in second grade.) Instead, she said, "Lookit! Mama, lookit!"

My second biggest challenge is feeling like everything should happen faster. I write pretty fast, because it bothers me to have to wait and wait and wait...but I can't control the publishing or sales side of things, so I get frustrated and impatient, and feel like I'm not working hard or fast enough, which makes me work faster...

What do you do when you are not writing?

I read books, cook, spend time with my family, play video games (right now it's Star Wars: The Old Republic) but not as obsessively as the other members of my family, and volunteer with our local writer's group, Pikes Peak Writers. I also make witty comments and eat a lot of chocolate.

How do you incorporate writing into your everyday life? How do you fuel your writing?

I'm a freelancer, so when I don't have outside assignments, I work on my own stuff. This arrangement makes me very happy :)

I'm a deadline-driven person, so I keep setting myself deadlines. I sometimes have to remind myself that even if I don't meet some ridiculously over-ambitious deadline, I'm not a failure...I'm just not superwoman. Last year my goal was to write a short story a week (I wrote under my adult pen names, too), and I "only" wrote about 45 stories. Oh, what a failure, right?

Is there one passage in one of your book that you feel gets to the heart of your collection? If so, can you share it?

I had a harder time coming up with one than I thought I would:

What’s your superpower, Seth?” Tony asked.
Lemme guess,” Mike interrupted. “Mind control.”
I closed my mouth and shook my head.
Christine said, “Super speed,” and giggled. I glared at her, on principle; I didn’t know what she was laughing about, but it was about me.
Jack said, “Um, probably not flying.”
I had to laugh at that one. It was probably the first actually kind of funny thing that Jack had said in maybe a year.
I looked in Tony’s eyes, trying not to feel nervous. I was nervous. But I knew I didn’t show it. My heart rate didn’t even speed up.
She didn’t say anything.
What’s your guess, Tony?” Jack said.
Seth doesn’t have a superpower,” she said. “He uses his brains instead.”
I couldn’t help it; one corner of my mouth twitched. She was good.
Then there was a flash of light from the pool. We all turned to see my mother with her point-and-shoot camera pointed toward us.
Smile!” she shouted, even though she’d already taken a picture of us.
I’d tried to explain to her how to turn the flash off when she was taking pictures in bright daylight, but she’d just laughed at me and said that it was too complicated for her to remember. My mother’s superpower was getting through life without knowing anything about how things worked. For example, she could make me fix her computer with the wave of a finger. I gritted my teeth as she took another picture of us. I deliberately blinked to ruin the picture.
You’re blinking, Seth! That means...another picture!”
We groaned. Mike elbowed me. “She’s just going to keep doing it. Come on, let’s get this over with for once.”

I wanted this collection to show kids as smart, tough, and resourceful as they really are...along with a realistic view of adults as not being perfect.

According to adults, kids can't handle a lot of things. But if you look at real kids' lives, they're expected to handle a lot more than adults are. They go through the same divorces, moves, job changes, and family members with alcohol and drug abuse that other people do...but they don't get a say in it, and they're expected to deal with bullies at school and the whole sit-down-shut-up routine of school on top of that. They can't bring aspirin to school without a doctor's note. A ton of things adults take for granted, they can't have or do, because. Just because. It's like living in a Kafka novel. Kids are tough. I wonder how we forget that, as adults.

What new projects are you working on or are excited about right now?

On the kids' side, I just finished another Astra story (The Scaredy Wizard of Theornin), and I have a new kids' series, The Exotics, about a magical virus that can change you into an animal. I just published Book 1 and a short story for the series, and Book 2 is done and just needs to have its shoes tied, as it were, before I can send it out the door to go play. I also recently finished a book about the real Alice from Alice in Wonderland...and zombies. MUAHAHAHA! I have to say that every time I think about that book. But that'll probably be published under my adult name, because Alice is an adult by the end of the book.
Thank you so much for being on my blog and answering my questions.

Thank you! These were some good ones. If you want to read more, see my blog at www.dekenyon.com; if you have questions, email me at dkenyon@wonderlandpress.com. Thanks!

Don't forget to comment for a chance to win an ecopy of this fun book!!!

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