Monday, July 30, 2018

An Interview with Myself to Celebrate Wonderland

Author Cynthia Surrisi has hijacked my blog today and is forcing me to answer hard questions. Because she has promised me many fish tacos, penny candy, and trinkets, I am going along with this crazy scheme.

Cynthia, take it away.

Cynthia: Ah, such POWER!!! I am delighted to be commandeering Barbara’s blog for the issue leading up to the publication of her newest middle grade novel, Wonderland

For those of you who are her fans and followers, I promise you will adore this new book. I wondered whether this adorable author could pull off yet another super winner, and sure enough, she has. See, this is why I am doing this. Barbara is useless at tooting her own horn. 

So, let's get started.

On sale 8/28/18

Cynthia: Here's an easy one: What five words best describe Wonderland?

Barbara: Friendship, confidence, dog-love, funny, heartfelt

Cynthia: What is one question you’ve never been asked at a school visit that you would like to be asked, and what is the answer to that question?

Barbara: What do you want young readers to learn from your books?

The answer: I write books to entertain young readers, not to teach them. But, I'd like to think that readers either come away with a better understanding of a character or situation they weren't familiar with - or - relate to a character or situation and find some degree of comfort or hope. 

Cynthia: Which of your books do you most like to read aloud? What part and why?

Barbara: The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis, especially the scenes with Starletta and Elvis. Starletta is so strange and funny and who wouldn't want to hear about Elvis's Spit and Swear Club? 

Cynthia: What is your writing process? Do you write every day?

Barbara: Call me weird, but every story starts with a title. From there, I spend a lot of time thinking about and getting to know my characters. When I have a hazy idea about the story, I just jump on in. I wish I could outline. I'd love that. But I rarely know where the story is going until the act of writing, which can feel like torture sometimes. I write by hand. I love the freedom of that. I revise constantly as I go along, never leaving anything too messy behind me.

I don't write every day unless I'm on a deadline. Some days I'd rather be walking my dogs. But that gives me good thinking time, which is an important part of any writer's process. 

Cynthia: What were the best and worst moments of your publishing journey so far?

Barbara: The best moments have been the times I've won a state book award voted on by children. That's the best validation there is for a children's writer. 

Another moment was when I found myself on a panel at a conference with Sharon Creech. I had adored her books for many years and felt so honored to actually be on that panel with her. A "pinch me" moment.

As for the worst moments, I'll fill you in over a glass of wine some time.

Sharon Creech (left) and me

Cynthia: Tell us about a book you wrote a long, long time ago that was so bad that it didn't get published.

Barbara: I wrote a book called Surf's Up, Nicky Weaver. It was my first attempt at writing for children - long before I discovered my voice. So, of course, it had no voice. It was bland and blah. The only good thing any editor had to say about it came from editor Richard Jackson, who liked that the dog in the story was named Jackson.

Cynthia: Show us a picture of your dogs and tell us what each one would say about the other: something positive and something gripe-y.

Barbara: Here are Ruby and Rocket.

Ruby (left) and Rocket

Ruby would say that Rocket annoys her by wanting to play all the time but also that she loves playing with Rocket (just not all the time).

Rocket would say that Ruby gets more attention than he does and won't play with her all the time.

Cynthia: I heard that an artist made a sculpture of one of the characters in one of your books. Can you tell us about it and show us a picture?

Barbara: A fabulous artist named Karen Hawkins made this amazing sculpture of Bird from Fame and Glory in Freedom, Georgia. I love it.

Cynthia: What's your favorite herb and how do you use it?

Barbara: Ha! I have no sense of smell so not a very sharp sense of taste. Herbs are just useless little specks of green to me.


Cynthia: Well, there you have it, friends. We’ve gotten the inside scoop from Barbara O’Connor. 

I hope it encourages you to get a copy of Wonderland from your favorite bookstore. I guarantee you’ll love it. 


Cynthia Surrisi is the author of a fabulous series of middle grade mysteries set in Maine: The Quinnie Boyd Mysteries (The Maypop Kidnapping, Vampires on the Run, and A Side of Sabotage) - as well as the hilarious picture book, The Best Mother, illustrated by Diane Goode.  You can learn more about her at her website.