A few weeks back, Susan Olson, the blogger of Time Travel Times Two, reviewed Seven Stitches and asked me four questions. And so now here’s where I get to do the questioning and Susan does the answering. She’s got a soon-to-be-published children’s book that combines historical fiction and time travel. Yes!
Susan, about three years ago, you gave us ten reasons why blogging is like gardening. If you were writing that post now, what, if anything, would you change?
Aargh—don’t you know how painful it can be to read one’s old blog posts? 😉 (Yup, Susan’s got a point there!) Since writing that post I’ve finished four online courses in editing, and I now feel that gardening is more like editing than it is like writing. At least editing is like the kind the kind of gardening that I do which is about 90% weeding and pruning, and another 5% moving things around. I no longer feel gardening very closely parallels the phase of writing when you are planning your story and trying to get ideas down on paper.
How has your work as a speech/language pathologist in an elementary school influenced what you write, or how you write?
Many people think speech-language pathologists in schools mostly help kids who can’t say the “r” sound, but in reality SLP’s work with kids who experience a broad range of challenges in communicating. Usually the challenges are more serious than being unable to say a couple sounds. Often the students have weak language skills. It was not unusual for me to work with students whose language skills were three or four years behind their peers’. Almost always, if kids have trouble understanding spoken language, they also have trouble understanding written language. There are so many things that interfere with such kids’ understanding, and thus enjoyment of a book: difficult vocabulary, figures of speech, and unfamiliar cultural references. However, in my opinion an oft-overlooked and greater barrier than these is sentence length and complexity. Often when I write I think of students with weak language skills. I can’t bear the idea of them scratching their head over my book, so I have a tendency to use mostly short simple sentences. Thus, I have to guard against my writing being too choppy.
Second, working in an elementary school in general helped my ear for kids’ dialogue. If I can’t always think of what a kid character would say, at least I am confident about what a kid would never say.
Finally, I worked with about a dozen kids that had high-functioning autism or Asperger’s. I drew on characteristics of several of them in forming the character of Eli.
By now you’ve read and reviewed about 150 time travel books for your blog. What got you started? Why?
I wanted to publish my own time travel novel and someone told me I should have a platform. So, I started the blog. Because I am the world’s best procrastinator, I put aside my own almost-finished book for a long time! But I found that I really enjoyed reviewing other authors’ stories. And because I have now read so many time travel books, I’m pretty sure if I write a second book it will be better than the one I wrote before reading all those stories!
I am eager to read your book, Time Jump Coins. What intrigued you about this narrative? Please describe the story in 25 words or less.
You are tough–twenty-five words is not many words! But here goes: Time Jump Coins is about two kids who travel back in time via magic pennies. It’s also about being friends with someone with autism.
I am intrigued by old coins. I think an old coin makes a perfect time travel “portal” because people actually used them in the past, and of course because every coin has a date stamped on it. I like to imagine the chain of people who might have used a particular coin. The main characters in my book, Joey (short for Johanna) and Eli, learn some really interesting facts about the history of coins. I like time travel books in which kids go to any period in the past, and then return to the present, because when they come back to their present they can no longer take everything for granted.
I liked the idea of having a main character with autism who is not a tragic figure in any way. We need more diversity of main characters in middle grade books. People with autism may experience the world in a different way from people without autism. Although my story is written in first person from the point of view of Joey who is trying to be friends with Eli, I hope I manage to show something of how the world looks through Eli’s eyes.
Thanks, Susan! Good luck with Time Jump Coins.