I'm so pleased to be a part of Fran Cannon Slayton's blog tour for her lovely (oh-so-authentic) novel When The Whistle Blows.
Tell us a little about yourself and your road to publication.
I am a wife and mother, a former child sex abuse prosecutor, a former legal publisher and now a children’s book author! My road to publication is a happy tale: I applied for and received a scholarship to the Highlights Foundation’s week-long children’s writers workshop at the Chautauqua Institute in July 2006. There I met Patricia Lee Gauch of Philomel Books who read the first twelve pages of my manuscript and loved them! She asked for an exclusive on the rest of my then halfway-finished manuscript, and read it while she was on vacation. Three weeks later she offered to work with me as I completed my novel. A little over a year later she offered me a contract!
What inspired you to write When the Whistle Blows?
Stories that my father told me about growing up in a small Appalachian town in West Virginia in the 1940s as the son of the foreman of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
How long did it take to write and see through to the finished product? Were there any surprises along the way?
It took me about two and half years to write When the Whistle Blows. And another two years until it came out. It has been a good lesson in patience; in learning to love where I am at the moment and not to wish the present away for what might be coming down the pike in the future. I hope it is a lesson I’ll remember for life.
Do you have a favorite character, a favorite scene, a favorite quote?
That’s sort of like asking a mother to name her favorite child! I love all my characters, but I think I am most proud of Thaddeus Ore. He is a minor, but very important character in the book, and he really tugs at my heartstrings. I wanted to take care of him as I was writing but his story turned out very different from what I – as a person, not as an author - would have liked it to.
I have to say I like the final scene in the book very much. I carried it around in my heart for a long, long time and was happy I could find words to bring it forth.
As far as quotes are concerned, I really can’t pick a favorite. One I like pretty well is “Dad says they got all kinds of sense in New York City excepting the common kind.”
What do you love about writing? What do you find the easiest? What do you find the hardest?
I love getting to think hard about things a lot and call it a career. The easiest thing about writing? Revising. I love revising. The hardest? Writing something down so I can revise it.
Growing up, what were some of your favorite books? Your favorite authors? Your favorite series? Did you have a favorite time and/or place to read?
The formative books for me were Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, Mildred Taylor’s Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry and William Armstrong’s Sounder. I did not have a favorite series and I don’t really remember having a favorite time or place to read.
How do you find time—do you find time—to keep reading? Do you have any favorites of the year?
I can answer this in three different ways. The first is that I read all the time, but then I would have to confess that my reading is mostly emails, internet articles and book review magazines. The second answer is that as the mother of a five year old, I am constantly reading picture books, easy readers and younger chapter books. The third answer is that I have a really hard time finding time to read all of (or even some of) the middle grade and YA books I would like to. I am lucky if I get in a couple of chapters a night before bed. I’m constantly striving for balance in my reading life. It’s a moving target.
I am a big fan of the Class of 2k9 books – but then again, I’m a little biased because I’m a member of the Class of 2k9!
If you had twenty-four hours, a time machine, and a limitless supply of money, what would you want to do?
I might consider figuring out a way to buy more time!
The first thought is that I’d go back to about 1970 or ’71 to Rowlesburg, West Virginia when my maternal grandparents still owned the Riverside Beach Bar and swim in the Cheat River again with my cousins. But I have a hunch that reliving childhood memories from an adult perspective would change them, and I’m not sure I’d be willing to do that because they are pretty beautiful as they are.
My second thought is to ditch the time machine, make sure I had enough money to be able to afford health insurance for the rest of my life, and give the rest of the unlimited funds to Jeffrey Sach’s Millennium Villages Project in the hopes of ending poverty. Yeah, yeah, I’m a Pollyanna, but hey – you asked!
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews
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