Becky reads to some cowpokes

You’re in for a treat this Monday morning folks: author Rebecca Janni has returned to The Writing Cave to talk about her new picture book EVERY COWGIRL NEEDS DANCING BOOTS.

How did the experience differ with your second book? Anything surprise you?

Well, just like the first book, I was a wreck handing over that manuscript . . . what would my agent and editor think? Would Nellie Sue’s adventures continue? I held my breath, crossed my fingers, and said a prayer.

And again, when that yes came, there was still plenty of revising and editing to do. This time around, there was a little more interaction with illustrator Lynne Avril during the process. I adore her. She has a great sense of humor, amazing creativity, and a lovely spirit.

I guess what surprises me most of all . . . each time . . . is the magic, like artwork that captures the character of my dreams or the mysterious timing of it all. My father was battling brain cancer when I saw Lynne’s final artwork. There is a page where Nellie Sue’s dad scoops her up to dance with him. That image took my breath away, reminded me of twirling in his arms or dancing on his shoes. I knew then and there that the book would be dedicated to my dad, and I had the chance to tell him before he passed away.

I was so sorry to hear about that; I’m glad you got to tell him. What’s next for Nellie Sue and her trusty Beauty?

I’m glad you asked! EVERY COWGIRL LOVES A RODEO is scheduled for release in May of 2012. The story is done, and I’ve already seen first sketches. Lynne might be painting final art right this minute! It’s set at the county fair, and Nellie Sue is hoping for first place at the bicycle rodeo. But competition is tough, and she’ll have to beat the reigning rodeo king, AJ Pickett. My editor calls this story “a love letter to county fairs” – and I just love that!

It is county fair season, which makes me crave a funnel cake! Anyway, now that you’ve done some author events, is there a story or memory that stands out?

Well, I had a blast at the University Book and Supply store in Cedar Falls, IA recently. The event organizers built a campfire out of jumbo blocks and we added flames made of red and orange tissue paper. We roasted marshmallows on pretzel sticks and sang songs around the campfire. The big surprise came at the end, when four girls from the Cedar Falls HS dance team showed up to teach us all a new line dance. So much fun!

That does sound like fun! I’m guessing the fun will continue with your upcoming picture book JAMMY DANCE?

Your timing is perfect, Sarah! Just today, a friend told me that JAMMY DANCE is posted on for pre-order. It’s scheduled to launch on Valentine’s Day, and I predict a pajama party!

I wrote JAMMY DANCE when my oldest two were just toddlers, one and three years old. After baths, they would run around the house all naked and slippery doing what they called “the Di-dee dance!” Well, boy, were they hard to catch. It took parental teamwork to wrestle tangles out of hair and wiggly bodies into jammies. For me, this story is a slice of life. I love Tracy Dockray’s illustrations. I’m amazed at the movement in them. Her pictures dance! Oh, and the dog. I LOVE this dog! Everything he does makes me laugh, from swiping the kids’ dolls to slurping out of the toilet. He’s fantastic!

That sounds delightfully chaotic 🙂 Since we talked cheese last time, do you have a favorite flavor of ice cream?

I LOVE ice cream. Period. Really, pick a favorite? Okay, wait, I know. My all time favorite ice cream is Dad’s homemade. No skimping on vanilla, cream and sugar. Licking it off the ladle and catching a hint of salt. Mmmm, the best!

That sounds delicious! (July is National Ice Cream Month by the way, everyone go eat lots) Thanks so much for stopping by, Becky, and we’re looking forward to more of Nellie Sue’s adventures and dances with jammies. For more information, visit Becky at her website.


Today The Writing Cave has a very special visitor, young adult author and fellow Iowa SCBWI member Jan Blazanin. Her latest novel, A & L DO SUMMER is now available from Egmont USA. Welcome Jan!

What’s your writing process? Do you plan or plunge?

I’m a planner. Before I start writing I develop character sketches for each of the important characters. It’s a good thing I do because if I get halfway through the story and forget a character’s hair color or last name I can refer to the sketch. Another thing I do is put together a detailed outline of the plot with several paragraphs explaining each scene. Although I never follow the outline exactly, it keeps me from having that sinking feeling of having nowhere to go in the middle of story. It’s not a perfect system, but it helps preserve most of my sanity.

Preserving sanity is always a good thing. Speaking of, the A&L summary hints at troublesome triplet pigs. Any hints on what happens there?

Sunflower, Daisy, and Rose don’t mean to be troublesome, and they certainly don’t want to be pig-napped and trapped on the second floor of Cottonwood Creek High. But there they are, and somebody has to deal with it. What happens next is not the way I’d choose to spend my Sunday night.

Wow, who can resist that teaser?! After I read about the piglets, I’ll need some new suggestions. What are your three favorite reads so far in 2011?

There are so many amazing books to choose from that I could spend all my time reading. Although I enjoy the occasional novel written for an adult audience, most of my reading selections are for young adults. Three that stand out are Mockingbird by Kathyrn Erskine, Libba Bray’s Going Bovine, and The Hunger Games trilogy written by Suzanne Collins. Mockingbird is the sweet, sad, and funny story of a girl with Asperger’s Syndrome. Going Bovine had me laughing out loud from beginning to end. And The Hunger Games kept me up at night wondering what would happen next. Those women are talented writers!

No joke! I could read the Acknowledgments section of GOING BOVINE all day 🙂 What are you working on next?

I recently finished the first draft of a young adult paranormal novel in which two teenage girls from different worlds and times must complete a quest to save the people they love. It has a long way to go before my agent sees it, but it’s a great feeling to have that first draft under my belt. 

Ooo a time element, nice! What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Read in your genre, write as often as humanly possible, study your craft, listen to knowledgeable critiquers and follow their advice, develop a tough skin, and never give up. 

If you could switch lives with any character in any book, who would it be and why?

That’s a tough one. Characters lead hazardous lives because authors like me are always throwing problems at them. Look at how poor Katniss suffered in The Hunger Games. Suzanne Collins gives her characters no slack at all! Thanks for the offer, but I’ll take my chances being my boring self.

I’m not sure how Katniss would do at our book club, so we’d appreciate you being yourself too 🙂 Being my cheese-freak self, I have to ask: what’s your favorite cheese and why?

I love Brie! It’s moist and squishy and has a fragrance that makes my mouth water. Brie is fantastic with apples and nuts and berries and crackers and wine and—thanks for interviewing me, Sarah! I’m off to the store for some Brie!

Can’t blame you there! Thanks so much for stopping by, Jan. Learn more about Jan Blazanin and her books at her website and on Twitter. Also check out Jan’s interview with the lovely Pat Zietlow Miller at Read, Write, Repeat.

Wendy Delsol is the debut author of Stork, which was just named to the ALA’s list of “Best Fiction for Young Adult Nominations.” Congrats and thanks for stopping by The Writing Cave, Wendy!

Tell us about your journey to publication.

Following a medical scare, I decided to pursue my dream job: writing novels. Once I’d made that decision, I put my butt in the chair and wrote one. It was awful. Truly horrible. But the important thing was I loved the process. We were living in L.A. at the time, so I was lucky to have access to the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. While taking a year of writing courses, I learned craft, met other aspiring writers, gained confidence, and wrote my second novel. Still not good enough, but better. My husband’s job then moved us to Des Moines, where I attended the University of Iowa’s Summer Writing Festival, joined a critique group, and wrote my third novel in the women’s fiction genre.

All along, I’d been querying agents, even after that first monstrosity. Ugh. For my fourth book, I tried my hand at young adult, because, inevitably, my adult fiction had a teen character who was—well—a page hog. I wrote a first draft for Stork in five months. I queried my agent, Jamie Brenner, on a Tuesday. She asked for a full the same day and signed me on Friday. She sold the manuscript to Candlewick three months later.

What a great story of perseverance! Stork incorporates Norse mythology, which sounds awesome. Was that included from the beginning or was it added later? What was the research process like?

In order to heighten my main character’s emotional unease, I made her the new kid in town. I brought her from the beaches of L.A. to something drastically different: Northern Minnesota. Knowing that there are pockets of Scandinavian communities in Minnesota, I went with an Icelandic heritage for Katla, because even its name evokes a cold and foreboding place. Once my (entirely fictional) town of Norse Falls had been created, the pre-Christian cosmology of Norse lore lent itself perfectly to my world of human Storks, deliverers of souls. The research was fun. I’ve always been fascinated with other cultures and their history. I do, however, want to stress that Stork is a work of fiction. I take liberties, big-time liberties.

Any hints on Stork sequels or related projects?

About halfway through Stork, I knew I had more than one book in Katla and Jack’s story. By the end of that first manuscript, I had decided on a trilogy. Book two, Frost, is written and in the editorial phase. Book three, as yet untitled, is still nothing more than a very rough outline. If all goes well, this will be my third winter hunkering down and pounding out a manuscript.

You’ve put in years of work, and since you sold Stork, you’ve inked two additional book deals. Were you working on all three projects at one time? Are you superwoman in disguise? 🙂

The chronology of events is a little confusing but it went like this: I wrote my third adult novel, The McCloud Home for Wayward Girls, during the period of November 2007-September 2008. I wrote Stork from October 2008-February 2009, a time during which I was actively shopping Wayward. One agent, in fact, had had my full in her hands for several months. When Stork was finished, I began sending that out to agents, too.

Jamie was the first agent to offer representation and was so enthusiastic about Stork that I knew she was the right partner for me. Stork sold in May of 2009. During the summer and fall of 09 and winter of 09-10, I revised Wayward for Jamie (twice), edited Stork with Candlewick, and wrote Frost. Wayward sold to Penguin in April and Frost sold to Candlewick in May (of 2010). So, while I technically sold three manuscripts in one calendar year, they were all written at different times. Not superwoman, by any stretch, but incredibly motivated. Beware the writer scorned by years of rejection!

Wow, that really shows what butt-in-chair can do! Any additional words of advice for aspiring authors?

Tell everyone you know about your publishing dreams. That way, on those long, dark, blocked days, you won’t give up. Verbalizing the goal and making it public just makes it that much harder to abandon.

I know you’re looking forward to this question: what’s your favorite cheese and why?

My sister in Chicago has turned me on to a cheese called Explorateur. It’s a triple-cream made from cow’s milk. OK, so I had to google it to provide that information. Anyway, it’s white and silky and utterly decadent with a fat content rivaling only the butter-sculpted Elvis at the Iowa State Fair.

This was a serious first: a favorite cheese I hadn’t heard of! Now frantically searching the Internet to find…

Lastly, who are your picks to win the U.S. Open?

I love this question because you’ve obviously done your homework about my little tennis obsession. And now I’m rethinking the advice I gave to aspiring writers. Here’s an addendum, anyway: On those really frustrating writing days, find something you can take a really good whack at (note the operative word is something). Now back to your question. At the start of the Open, I had Murray and Federer in the finals with Murray taking the title. Oops. Murray went out in the early rounds. Looking at today’s standings (as I’m typing this it’s Wednesday, September 8th at 11:30 pm), I’m predicting a Federer-Nadal finals with Federer winning his 17th grand slam tournament. Go Roger. You’re the best, ever! [Sarah’s update: Federer ousted, boo] And thanks, Sarah, for indulging me.

Thank you, Wendy, for taking time out of your super busy schedule! Stork is released on October 12 and Wendy will be making appearances all over Iowa. Check out her website and Twitter for more information.

Matt Myklusch is the debut author of Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation, a wild adventure with superheros, ninjas, robots, and much more. Thanks for visiting The Writing Cave, Matt!

Tell us about your journey to publication.

I started out writing screenplays because A.) I am a big movie buff, and B.) I foolishly thought that it would be easier than novels.  The standard movie script is about 120 pages, and I said to myself, “That’s way better than writing a book that could literally be ANY length. 120 pages is realistic!”  I didn’t realize at the time that it was actually harder to do more with less words and pages.

I wrote my first screenplay in college, and it was terrible.  A good idea poorly executed.  Mainly because I didn’t know much about writing.  But, I learned from it and kept going.  I wrote two more screenplays once I got out of school, each of them a little better, but I was overly descriptive and used way too much scene direction in all of them.  I always ended up needing more than those 120 pages that I was so focused on.  My wife helped me realize that the weaknesses in my screenwriting would be strengths in a novel, and I shifted gears.  I partnered up with a friend and wrote a book.  We weren’t able to sell it, but that experience gave me the confidence to write JACK BLANK by myself, and that’s the one I finally broke through with. 

All in all, a little over a 10 year journey from the first time I sat down to write that truly terrible screenplay back in college.

Well, this is one reader who’s glad you turned to novels! What was the spark that started Jack’s story in your mind?

It really comes from a love of comic books.  I was a huge comic book fan growing up, and I still am.  With JACK BLANK, what I wanted to do was showcase the comic book world that fired my imagine nation as a kid, and show it to an audience that hasn’t seen it before. 

In the comics, you have hundreds of heroes all running around the same city fighting an endless supply of bad guys.  It’s normal for people there to see super powered battles in the middle of the street on a random Tuesday.  That fully-developed super hero world really doesn’t exist outside of comic books.  In this novel, I wanted to create my own super hero world, and show people who might otherwise never pick up a comic book how much fun it could be.  That became the Imagine Nation, and the best way I could think of to introduce this place to readers was through Jack Blank’s eyes.

You’re working on the second book of Jack’s adventures, and you envision it being a trilogy. Any hints on what readers can look forward to in the future?

At the end of Book One, Jack still has some work to do if he’s going to become the hero he wants to be.  In Book Two, we’re going to follow him as he goes at it, trying to head off some very real Rüstov threats (without letting the rest of the Imagine Nation in on the secret).  I can promise more twists and turns along the way, as well as a deeper look inside the Imagine Nation as Jack learns more about the island and how it interacts with the Real World.

I can’t wait! You said on the Simon & Schuster website that you’d pick Indiana Jones over Han Solo for top fictional hero. Convince me 🙂

Here’s the thing…  With enough hard work, study, and whip practice, I could BE Indiana Jones.  Anyone could.  It’s possible.  Han Solo is cool, but no matter how hard I try, it’s highly unlikely that I will ever grow up to be a starship captain/space-smuggler (even one who dumps his cargo at the first sight of an Imperial transport).

Please note this is not a defeatist attitude on my part, as I clearly think that A.) it’s possible that I could still become a daring archeologist that fights Nazi’s, and B.) that I have yet to grow up.

Hmm, OK, I’ll buy the logic. Though I’d still rather have Chewbacca next to me as a sidekick.

Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

There is so much that can be said on this subject, but the big one, I think, is don’t give up.  You only fail at something when you give up.  If you’re still trying and you haven’t quit, then you haven’t failed, no matter how long you’ve been at it.  A screenwriter named Josh Olson wrote, “You can’t discourage a writer. If I can talk you out of being a writer, then you’re not a writer.”  I like that.  Life is going to present you with no shortage of excuses for giving up… the important thing to remember is that they are excuses.  Not reasons. 

Also, write for YOU.  Write the story that you want to read.  The one that you’ll have fun writing.  It takes a long time to write a novel, and if nothing ever happens with whatever you are working on right now, you better at least have fun writing it.  That’s what I did with JACK BLANK, and I think it made a huge difference in how the story came out. 

Very good advice. Finally, I’m a cheese freak, so I have to ask: what’s your favorite cheese and why?

I like melted cheese.  Because it’s gooey.

Thanks so much for taking the time to answer questions, Matt! Find out more at the Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation website and facebook page, and follow Matt on Twitter.

Fellow SCBWI member Peg Finley is visiting The Writing Cave today to discuss social media and writing.

Peg, thanks for stopping by! You are very active online, with Twitter and JacketFlap accounts and a blog. How do you balance keeping these accounts active and writing?

Honestly, it can be a challenge. There are days when I am a little crazy, like when I have two sick kids, two submissions due and two critiques plus a commitment to someone on Twitter to finish up an interview. But, with a little patience it is do-able. It’s a matter of keeping my priorities straight. I have a huge calendar where dates and times go to keep it all straight.

As luck would have it I am not someone who needs a lot of sleep. I never have been. No kidding, I just have more “awake” time. As an insomniac who deals with chronic pain I do a lot of writing when I am in pain. It helps me keep my mind off the pain, at least some days. LOL.

The other thing is that I am constantly scribbling things down all day long … sometimes in the strangest places. For instance when I got tired during shopping with a friend, I sat down on the bench and waited for her to finish her shopping. While I sat, I wrote. Once when an idea came to me and I had no paper, just a marker, I wrote the gist of the idea on the side of a gallon milk jug so I wouldn’t forget it. 🙂 I start probably three quarters of my writing that way. Then on my weekend with no kids, I write most of the weekend. (I’m helping my brother raise his two boys.)

Hear that writers? Make sure you always have gallons of milk on hand 🙂 Do you have any advice for writers getting started with social media?

Getting started with the “social medias” is a lot like any other aspect of writing. I recommend doing your research. There are so many different social medias that a writer can use. It’s a tad daunting to say the least. I use Twitter, Facebook, and Jacketflap and my blog primarily, though am open to others if I can find a way to be more disciplined.

First ask yourself what is it that you as a writer want the social media to help you with? Will you be using it to chat? Networking?  Book Promotion? Build a writer’s platform? I use them for all of the above.

Once you’ve determined the purpose you want to use it for, then you need to determine which ones suit you and your writing life. Research the ones that you find appealing. Then, select one or more that you know that you will use regularly. It’s in investment in your career for you to become a part of a community. Many of the people I know and have interviewed have come from the contacts I’ve made through these media sites. I also use the various media sites for research for articles to include as links to on my blog and to send to my three critique groups. I send my Twitter comments on my blog as well.

If you chose to participate in more than one media, I’d suggest writing your passwords and info down somewhere safe. I also keep a daily work-list which I schedule in my times to visit the various sites. It can be easy to spend a lot of time online if you are not disciplined.

There are so many other things that I could do, should do and may someday will do.

Great advice Peg. It’s like getting a dog: research, and find the ones that fit your time, location, and lifestyle 🙂 What are some lessons you’ve learned since starting your blog and other online accounts?

I am not a computer geek at all so there are all kinds of things I needed to learn before I got my blog up and running. I’m still working on that. I like to stretch myself as a writer so this has been great for me.

I am fairly shy in a lot of ways and have been working my way through that. Social medias have helped me expand my horizons. There are so many people that I would never have gotten the chance to know if it was not for the internet.

Perhaps the biggest lesson I’ve learned in regards to blogging and my participation on the sites like Twitter etc. has been to be totally open to unexpected opportunities. I’ve found if I am willing to invest in others and help them by sharing my thoughts and ideas as well as my time, people return that back to me. I genuinely like and respect the people I have contact with. Besides, other writers know what it is like being a writer in ways that no one else does. We support one another.

Industry trends are often discussed on the various chats. It is not uncommon for editors, agents and others in the writing fields to participate in a chat. It gives me a feel for what they are wanting in submission, etc.

I recently got on Skype with family and figure some day I just might use it for author visits.

I agree about the chats; anyone on Twitter should check out #kidlitchat on Tuesdays and #yalitchat on Wednesdays. On a more personal level, Peg, you’ve recently had some articles accepted for publication, congratulations! What are you working on now?

Thank you. I’m slowly but surely pursuing my goal.

What am I working on? I just finished a guest blog for Becky Levine’s blog and well. Let’s see, it’s 4:50 am and the grocery shopping list is finished. My five emails in boxes are cleaned out. (a personal one for family, 3 for crit groups and the other is for newsletters and notifications from Twitter/Facebook/Jacketflap and my blog so I don’t miss the opportunity to reply to someone. I separate things so my inboxes don’t get too crazy) A to-do list is ready for the two nephews for after school. Still, on my plate for today is this for you, three crits, and a blog entry on picture books. I just checked out New Frontier Publishing to see if they are some place I might want to submit to in the future. I have an idea about a picture book that I want to explore. Last but not least, I’m getting ready for NaPiWriWee with Paula Yoo in May. 

In case you haven’t guessed, I multi-task a lot. I wish I could clone me. You know, one for writing and one for all the other things I have to do.

Oh, clones would be nice! Finally, what is your favorite kind of cheese and why?

I like most types of cheese but plain old cheddar is my most favorite. I like simple foods. My life is complicated enough.

True story. Some days you just can’t beat cheddar. Thanks so much for visiting, Peg, and good luck with your many different hats 🙂 Visit Peg on her blog, JacketFlap profile, Facebook, and Twitter account and check out her recently published article for Guardian Angel Kids.

Visiting The Writing Cave today is Pat Zietlow Miller, who has a great feature on her blog Read, Write, Repeat (good advice by the way) called Kid Reviews.

The kid reviews are such a good idea. How do you find the kids for your book reviews?

I wanted to let kids do the book reviews for three reasons. First, because they’re the ultimate consumer for books. Second, because I wanted to spotlight kids who love reading. And third, because they’re a lot cuter and funnier than I am.

At first, I thought I might have trouble finding kids to review the books, but that hasn’t been the case. After I recruited family members and friends who couldn’t really say “no,” I had lots of volunteers from children of my coworkers, people I go to church with or my writing buddies. I also worked out an agreement with my youngest daughter’s second-grade class where they review a book when they’re the “Star of the Week.” I’ve had lots of fun working with the kids in her class and getting to know them better.

I wish they had a “Star of the Week” when I was in second grade! Do the kids pick the books or do you?

Usually I pick the books, although I try to offer the kids a choice so they’re not forced to read something they don’t like. My goal is to review recent releases, so I have a list of titles and actual books I keep on hand. And, I especially try to choose new releases from authors I know. For the second-grade class I work with, I donated a supply of books for the class to keep.

Sometimes, a child wants to review a specific book, and I usually let them as long as it’s not too old.

What’s the funniest response you’ve gotten from a reviewer?

One little girl told me her nickname was “Princess Reads-a-Lot.” Another boy had obviously studied the book he reviewed very carefully. He pointed out small details in the illustrations I had never noticed. And, I always enjoy the question, “What did this book teach you?” The kids are very literal. They say things like, “Don’t go near the edge of high places.” or “Don’t go outside in your underwear.”

It amazes me how attentive kids are to illustrations. Do you anticipate expanding the reviews to middle grade and YA books in the future?

Yes! I’ve had some middle-grade and YA book reviews and author interviews, but I’d love to do more. I’m trying to track down willing volunteers. Suggestions are welcome!

See that, readers? Suggestions welcome 🙂 What are you working on writing-wise right now?

I have a chapter book I’m continually polishing and an array of picture book manuscripts I’m creating, refining and submitting. I’ve gotten a nice collection of form rejections and a few editorial letters and requests to resubmit, but I haven’t gotten the final offer. Luckily, I find the whole process fun and know there’s always more to learn.

You recently featured a book review from your cat, Vince (which was fantastic, read it here). Are there any more special guest reviews upcoming?

Vince might be a tough act to follow. He really enjoyed his moment in the spotlight, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he made a return appearance down the road. When I took him to the vet after his post appeared, the vet asked, “Is this the blogging kitty?” Vince is still living off that moment.

By now, everyone knows how I feel about cheese. What’s your favorite kind of cheese and why? 🙂

Well, I do live in Wisconsin, so cheese is an integral part of my life. In fact, a town about an hour from where I live has a high school whose nickname is the Cheesemakers. I always thought that might make for interesting cheers at sports events. You know:

Cheddar, Muenster, Mozzarella, Swiss!
We’re the team that just can’t miss!
Go-oo-oo Cheese!


My favorites are provolone and Monterey Jack. And I have a manuscript about a cow named Colby Longhorn that is full of cheese-related humor.

Wow, so much awesomeness in that answer. First, I want to read the book about Colby Longhorn. Second, I want a picture with the Cheesemakers mascot. Third, maybe there will be an occasion to use that cheer at the next SCBWI conference…*wiggles eyebrows*

You used to be a sports journalist. Do you fill out NCAA basketball tournament brackets? Any predictions for this year’s tournaments?

I was a sportswriter for several years, but I covered high school and community sports, not Division I basketball. Even so, my family has a big online bracket competition every year and I’m in a contest with work friends, too. I never do well in the brackets, though. I vote with my heart too often. I sometimes pick schools because they have cool names like Gonzaga or the under-dog factor like Wofford or because I like where they’re located, like Vermont. But this year, I chose Syracuse to win the whole thing in one tournament and Kansas in the other.

Good picks; I went Kansas as well. Thanks so much, Pat! Be sure to check out Pat Zietlow Miller’s blog and enjoy her fantastic reader reviews.

Dori Hillestad Butler is the author of over twenty picture and chapter books. Her new series, The Buddy Files, follows the adventures of a mystery-solving dog. Dori, thank you so much for visiting The Writing Cave.

I love the premise of your new series. Does your real life dog, Mouse, have hidden abilities?

Thank you…yes, my real life dog definitely has hidden abilities. In fact, I think he might be a superhero in disguise.

What’s it like to have three books coming out at one time? Was the process different than with your previous books?

It’s exciting! And yes, the process was different with these books than it’s been with previous books. We’ve had very short lead time on these books, so I’ve worked much closer with my editor. We worked on all three books at the same time. I was reading page proofs of book 1 at the same time I was revising book 2 and writing the first draft of book 3. I actually liked working this way because I was able to go back and plant things in earlier books.

How does your writing process usually work?

I turn in a detailed outline. There’s some back and forth on the outline with my editor. This is the stage where we might make big structural changes to the story. Then I write the first draft. If there’s time, I give it to my critique groups (I have two); if not, I turn it in with a note that says, “you realize this is a FIRST draft, right? That means I still get to make lots of changes.” Then I go through and mark things I want to look at again, but I don’t actually make the changes yet at this point. Not until I hear from my editor. Once I get comments from my editor, the real work begins. I LOVE revision…revision is much easier for me than facing the blank screen. In fact, I love revision so much I never want to stop revising. I drive my editor a little bit crazy because I always want to make “just five more changes.”

I can certainly relate to that taunting blank screen! What things do you do to promote your books?

I do signings and school visits. I blog (though not as regularly as I used to). I’m going to be working with my publisher to start an e-newsletter about Buddy. Basically I do whatever my publisher asks me to do. Promotion is not one of my strengths…but I know I can’t expect my publisher to do everything, so I’m trying to be better.

Looking back on 2009, what were your three favorite reads last year?

I started reading Kathryn Stockett’s The Help in 2009, so I think I can list that, even though I finished it in 2010. That was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. The voices were incredible. It was hard to believe I was reading fiction. And I’m pretty sure I read Savvy by Ingrid Law in 2009. That was my favorite children’s book from last year. I’m not sure I can choose just one more, so I’ll choose three: Paper Towns by John Green, Al Capone Shines My Shoes by Gennifer Choldenko and When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.

I loved Savvy 🙂 Do you own an electronic reader? Do you have an opinion on ebooks?

I do! I never thought I wanted one…I’m one of those people who likes the feel and smell of a physical book. But my husband and older son love their Kindles. And they bought me one for Mother’s Day last year. I liked it a lot better than I expected to. I like having access to so many books at once, I like being able to change the size of the type, I like being able to take notes on what I’m reading (I never wrote in my books), and it’s much easier to prop up my Kindle and read while I’m on the exercise bike or treadmill or while I’m eating my lunch than it is to prop up an actual book.

If I was buying an e-reader today, though, I don’t think I’d get the Kindle. I’d get the Nook. Our library has e-books that you can check out…but it doesn’t work with Kindle.

That’s a great Mother’s Day gift! Kudos to your family. What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

Never give up!

What are you working on next?

The next Buddy Files book.

I’m a cheese freak, so I have to ask: what’s your favorite cheese and why?

You’re a woman after my own heart! I love cheese, too. When I’m in an Italian restaurant, I’d rather the waiter just let me grate my own cheese…they either stop before I say okay or the amount of time it takes for them to grate as much cheese as I’d actually like gets uncomfortable for both of us.

Once again, I don’t think I can name just one favorite. I like fresh cheese curds that squeak, fresh mozzarella balls, smoked cheddar, brie…anything except blue cheese.

Maybe there’s a portable cheese grater that can travel in purses for such occasions 🙂 Thanks so much, Dori. Learn more about Dori Hillestad Butler on her website and blog and be sure to check out The Buddy Files for lots of mystery-solving doggie fun!

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