Please give a warm welcome to Barbara O’Connor, author of Wish! She’s stopping by A Book and a Latte today for an interview as part of her blog tour. Check out my Q & A with Barbara below, and be sure to enter the giveaway! Isn’t the cover adorable?!
Q & A with Barbara O’Connor
In the length of a tweet (140 characters), tell us about your book.
With the help of a true-blue friend, a big-hearted aunt and uncle, and a stray dog, a girl learns the meaning of family in the least likely of places
(Okay, I cheated. 149)
What is the one book you think everyone should read?
Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood by Alexandra Fuller. I adore memoirs and this one is so unique and interesting.
Okay, I’m cheating again….adding another: The Liar’s Club A Memoir by Mary Karr.
What are your pet peeves?
Rude people, especially those who talk loudly on their cell phones in public places
People who wear short shorts and flip flops on airplanes (I know, I sound like my grandmother.)
People with bad table manners (Uh oh, sounding like grandma again)
Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I’ve been blessed to have had many rewarding experiences but just recently had the ultimate one. I’ve loved Sharon Creech’s work for a long, long time. She’s a writer I really admire and respect. I recently learned that we will be on a panel together at NCTE in November in Atlanta. It feels surreal to be on a panel with someone I’ve admired for so long. Pinch me!
What’s your favorite quote?
I love a quote by Phyllis Fogelman, the editor of Mildred Taylor’s, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.
On the subject of protecting children from the harsh realities of life, Ms. Fogelman says: “It is generally knowledge, not a lack of it, that arms children and helps to prepare them for the world as it is rather than what we would like it to be.”
As a kid, what did you want to be when you “grew up”?
A teacher. But now I know that that is one of the hardest jobs ever. I’m in schools a lot and when I see what a teacher’s day is like, it makes my head spin. But great teachers are such a gift and make a huge difference in the lives of children.
Which authors have influenced you most?
I credit Cynthia Rylant with jump-starting my writing career. I was floundering trying to find my voice when I read Missing May. I loved how that book was written with such a strong sense of place. That’s when I realized I wanted to write with a strong sense of place, too. I began to write stories set in the South of my childhood. Voila! I found my voice.
Two other authors I admire for their distinct writing voices are Linda Urban and Kate DiCamillo.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Cold beer and potato chips for lunch.
What TV show/movie/book is your guilty pleasure?
Judge Judy and Survivor
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
I have no sense of smell.
How did you go about publishing your book?
I had submitted Beethoven in Paradise to quite a few publishers and was gathering an ever-growing collection of rejection letters. Author Leslie Davis Guccione was publishing with Scholastic at the time, working with editor Ann Reit. She graciously asked Ann if she would take a look at the manuscript. As all published authors know, getting out of the slush pile means a lot!
Ann liked the manuscript and worked with me on a few rounds of revisions. She ultimately decided it just wasn’t right for her, but she offered to connect me with literary agent Barbara Markowitz. Barbara sold the book to the late Frances Foster, who had her own imprint at FSG. I worked with Frances for 18 years before she passed away. I’ve been with Barbara for almost 25 years.
Who or what inspired your last book?
My latest book is a middle grade novel titled Wish.
I grew up in South Carolina at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains and have many happy memories of day trips up the winding roads. My adult life adventures took me out of the South and eventually to Boston. But after 26 snowy winters there, I have recently moved back and am happily settled in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. I drive up those winding mountain roads and become ten years old again.
So I knew I wanted my next book to be set in those mountains that are my heart’s home and that the setting would be a vital part of the story.
But, of course, I needed a character to put into that setting. Lucky for me I found her when I was teaching a writing workshop to a class of fifth graders at an elementary school in Massachusetts. The students were given a set of questions to use to interview a relative. The next day, they brought those interview questions back to class and I would work with them on writing a short biography of that person. (Many people don’t know this, but I actually started my career writing biographies for children.)
I asked the students to share with the class one of their favorite questions from the interview. One young boy had interviewed his grandmother and he chose to share the question, “What were some of your favorite activities as a child?” His grandmother had answered, “Soccer, ballet and fighting.”
I now had a character to plunk down into those mountains. Her name is Charlie Reese, a feisty, troubled child with a bad temper.
What drew you to writing this genre?
Contemporary fiction for middle grade comes naturally to me. I tried to write a picture book once. It was titled Four Fine Friends at the Sleepy Time Motel. My editor (Frances Foster) liked it but thought it had some problems. She gave me a few suggestions for revision but I just couldn’t do it. So I turned it into a middle grade novel, which became Greetings from Nowhere.
When it comes to writing, are you a planner or pantser?
Oh, how I’d love to be a planner. I’m ridiculously organized and probably annoy my friends and family due to my need to organize and schedule and plan. One of my favorite possessions is a label maker. But, alas, I am a pantser! My stories just seem to come during the process of writing as opposed to outlining and planning. While on some levels, that’s not a very enjoyable process for me, on another level, it part of the magic of writing – that moment when something totally unplanned shows up on the paper. (Yes, I write long hand on paper.)
About Barbara O’Connor
Many thanks to Barbara for answering my questions, and sharing with us! Readers, follow the tour (schedule below) for more chances to win, and be sure to enter the giveaway!