Interview with Colorado author Donna Cooner!

Colorado is for writersWelcome back to the Colorado is for Writers interview series! Every other Tuesday, I talk to different Colorado-based authors about their work and their connections to this beautiful state. Today, I am thrilled to welcome young adult author Donna Cooner!

Donna’s widely praised debut YA novel SKINNY was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award, and she has another novel on the way. Let’s get to know her!

Donna CoonerFirst things first: Colorado native or transplant? 

I was born and raised in Texas.  I moved to Colorado about fifteen years ago and feel very fortunate to be able to live where Texans go to vacation! Most of my family is still in Texas, but I don’t think I’ll ever move back. I love Colorado.

Skinny coverTell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

My debut novel, SKINNY, was published by Scholastic last October and in the UK (Egmont) in February, 2013. It’s a contemporary story set in my home state of Texas about a girl who dreams of being a singer, but is held back by her negative, self-critical inner voice she calls “Skinny.” I’m currently working on my second book, SENSATIONAL, a contemporary set in the same Texas town. It will be published by Scholastic and Egmont in 2014.

Donna's officeWhat’s the view like from your favorite writing space?

I recently remodeled my study to better fit my writing needs. One of the coolest additions was a movable scene board (see picture). I can slide scene cards up into the tracks, much like an order rack at a restaurant, and rearrange them as needed. I’m usually have great company sharing my writing space–like Stu, my cat and the star of SENSATIONAL, and Roxanne, the Goat Dog, who is featured in SKINNY. And, of course, there are lots and lots of books.

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado?

The best thing about being a Colorado writer is right outside my window. There is always an opportunity to get outside and breathe in the inspiration. When I’m stuck, I head to the open spaces, look to the foothills, and walk away my story issues. Sometimes with music, sometimes without. The Colorado views never fail to deliver what I need to replenish my writing drive.

Thank you so much, Donna! I’m with you 100% about the views, and I love your new scene board!

Fellow writers: Have any of your pets snuck into your stories the way Donna’s have? Let us know in the comments!

Interview with Colorado author Kristi Helvig!

Colorado is for writersWelcome back to the Colorado is for Writers interview series! Every other Tuesday, I talk to different Colorado-based authors about their work and their connections to this beautiful state. Today, I am thrilled to welcome young adult (and fellow 2014 debut) author Kristi Helvig!

Kristi is a Ph.D. clinical psychologist turned sci-fi/fantasy author. She can be found musing about space monkeys, Star Trek, and various other topics on her blog. Kristi resides in sunny Colorado with her hubby, two kiddos, and two behaviorally-challenged dogs. Find out more about Kristi at www.kristihelvig.com; she can also be found on Goodreads/Twitter/Facebook.

On to the questions!

Kristi Helvig

First things first: Colorado native or transplant? 

Transplant. My hubby and I came out here from the East Coast to do internships for our Ph.D. program. We loved it so much that we never left, and have been here 14 years and counting. Does that make us semi-native? 😉

 

 

BURN OUT Cover

Tell us a bit about your book.

BURN OUT is my debut YA sci-fi novel. It will be published by EgmontUSA on April 8, 2014. Here is the official blurb from Goodreads:

Most people want to save the world; seventeen-year-old Tora Reynolds just wants to get the hell off of it. One of the last survivors in Earth’s final years, Tora yearns to escape the wasteland her planet has become after the sun turns “red giant,” but discovers her fellow survivors are even deadlier than the hostile environment.

 
Kristi's writing habitat

What’s the view like from your favorite writing space?
Even though I have a desk, I do all my best writing right in this spot surrounded by my dogs. My hubby says I’m a little like Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory because that spot on the couch is “mine.” I twitch a little if someone else sits there, but don’t we all have a little Sheldon in us?

 

 

 

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado?

Meeting all the other awesome Colorado writers. Plus, the scenery here can’t be beat and is great for creativity. My writer friends and I are going to do a weekend writing retreat in the mountains in a few weeks, and I love just being in nature and writing. It’s probably the only place I like to write besides my couch!

Thank you so much, Kristi! Fellow writers and scenery also regularly duke it out for the top spot in my list of reasons to love Colorado.

Readers: Do you think Kristi should get “semi-native” status? And do you have a little Sheldon in you? Let us know what you think in the comments! 🙂


Also, BURN OUT is already available for preorder! Find it at B&N * Amazon * BAM * Powell’s * Indigo

Interview with Colorado author Natasha Wing!

Colorado is for writersWelcome back to the Colorado is for Writers interview series! Every other Tuesday, I talk to different Colorado-based authors about their work and their connections to this beautiful state. Today, I am thrilled to welcome prolific picture-book author Natasha Wing!

Natasha is the author of the “Night Before” series of picture books, which include several titles (like THE NIGHT BEFORE PRESCHOOL,THE NIGHT BEFORE KINDERGARTEN, and THE NIGHT BEFORE FIRST GRADE) that are perfect back-to-school reads. You can learn about these books and more at her website. Let’s get to know Natasha!

Natasha WingFirst things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Transplant. I moved here three years ago with my husband from northern California. He retired early and I can write anywhere, so we were looking for a place that was sunnier than the foggy California coast. He’s a mountain bike rider and I like to hike, so we chose Fort Collins.

 

 

The Night Before Preschool

Tell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

I have a series of books based on the beloved The Night Before Christmas story. It’s a paperback series with holiday and school-themed stories. With school about to start up, there are three titles about preschool, Kindergarten and first grade.

The Night Before KindergartenParents have e-mailed me that the books have been conversation starters for them and their kids, prompting to talk about what to expect on the first day of school. And since the stories rhyme, kids love them! There are schools that use my Night Before books as a welcome present for kids, which I think is such a great idea. It’s cool to think little Kindergartners across the country are reading my book and are excited about going to school.

 

Wing office

What’s the view like from your favorite writing space?

I write in a spare bedroom upstairs that’s been converted into my office. I overlook open fields, which (until a new subdivision goes in someday) are peaceful to view. To the left in the distance is the Anheuser-Busch plant. To the right is a glimpse of Richard’s Lake and a peak of the Rockies.

 

Wing view

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado?

There are many things! I love that I live where the library is open seven days a week. Plus, the library has many programs for writers. It’s wonderful that we have a city-wide Fort Collins Reads event where citizens are encouraged to read one book and discuss it. This year, it’s In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson. He wrote one of my all-time favorite books, The Devil in the White City, so I’m excited to go see him when he comes in November.

Kindergarten giftsetAlso, I’m glad to have a regional chapter of the professional children’s writers organization I belong to, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, right here in Fort Collins. Then there’s Rocky Mountain National Park in the fall, with its liquid yellow aspens that have inspired me to write some haiku (not published, though). People here are friendly, too, so I feel like I’ve met a lot of writers who are kind and generous with their advice and support. That’s a lot of best things!

Thank you, Natasha! How wonderful to know that your books are helping kids get ready for their first days at school.

Readers: Can you remember a book from your childhood that helped you prepare for a big life event, like a first day at school? Please share in the comments!

Interview with Colorado author Jessica Lawson!

Colorado is for writersWelcome back to the Colorado is for Writers interview series! Every other Tuesday, I talk to different Colorado-based authors about their work and their connections to this beautiful state. Today, I am over the moon to be welcoming my good friend Jessica Lawson!

You might already know Jessica through her fantastic blog, Falling Leaflets, which educates aspiring writers about craft and agent-querying (the sidebar links alone are worth their weight in gold).

Or maybe you’ve heard great things about her debut middle-grade novel, THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER, which is coming in summer 2014 from Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. (I might have been the one who told you those great things. I adore this book!)

Or maybe you don’t know Jessica at all yet. Let’s fix that right now!

Jessica Lawson

The lovely Jessica!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

I’m a transplant, via a suburb of Chicago and Indiana. I went to college here because I thought Colorado/the mountains sounded like a beautiful change, but headed back to the Midwest for grad school. Turns out I couldn’t stay away from the mountain air and 300-plus days of sunshine. The view from my small-town home is the best I’ve had in my 30-some years—the mountain silhouette around twilight has a way of making every evening magical. The stars are pretty spectacular as well. 🙂

Please tell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

THE ACTUAL & TRUTHFUL ADVENTURES OF BECKY THATCHER is part origin story, part retelling of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, written from Becky’s point of view. Though much of the plot is fun/adventure/cherry-spitting/bacon-eating based, there is an internal plot thread that deals with grieving and loss. The publisher is Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers and the publication date is set for Summer 2014.

The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher - cover

The gorgeous cover for Jessica’s book, by Iacopo Bruno!

What’s the view like from your favorite writing space?

The view from my writing space faces one of my favorite places in the house: the kitchen. The kitchen table (or “the office,” as I now call it) allows me to look right at my daughter’s rotating list of reading words stuck on the refrigerator: Who, What, Why, When are the ones I’m looking at right now. And a butterfly decorated at the library. Inspiration indeed. 🙂

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado?

For me, it’s living closer to a natural landscape and having mountains always on the horizon—my family has a national forest trail right down the road and we’ve got wildlife fiddling around the neighborhood on a regular basis…okay, so I could do without the black bears attacking my trash bin, but the daily possibility of seeing foxes and deer right outside my door provides a sense of wonder that meshes well with the journey of writing for children. And taking hikes with my little ones reminds me of the very unique, very cool way that those younger than us see the world.

Thank you so much, Jessica! I, too, moved to Colorado to live closer to nature, so I’m definitely with you on that. 

Jessica and me earlier this year. Critique partner love!

Jessica and me earlier this year. Critique partner love!

Also, how great does Jessica’s book sound?! 2014 can’t come fast enough. 🙂

Readers: Do you have a favorite retelling of a classic piece of literature? Or if you were going to retell a classic story yourself, which one would you choose, and whose perspective would you tell it from? Please share in the comments!

Interview with Colorado Author Amy Kathleen Ryan!

Colorado is for writersWelcome back to the Colorado is for Writers interview series! Every other Tuesday, I talk to different Colorado-based authors about their work and their connections to this beautiful state. Last time, we kicked things off with Jeannie Mobley, and today I’m thrilled to welcome Amy Kathleen Ryan to the blog!

Amy is the author of several young adult novels, including  ZEN AND XANDER UNDONEVIBES, and the Sky Chasers Trilogy (more on that series in a bit). Her books have received multiple starred reviews and appeared on more than one best-of list. Let’s get to know Amy!

Amy Kathleen RyanFirst things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Transplant, from Wyoming via New York City. I grew up in Jackson Hole, just south of Yellowstone National Park, and it was the perfect place to be a kid, but the town started to feel very small to me, and I decided I wanted to see other parts of the country. After college, I lived in Vermont for six years where I went to graduate school for an MA in English Literature, then I went on for an MFA in creative writing in New York City. I met all kinds of different people in New York, and I met my husband there too. He’s a born and bred New Yorker, but I somehow convinced him to come out west with me. I wanted to be near my family again, and Colorado seemed the right mix for us, with the mountains nearby, but lots of technical jobs for him. It’s been a great choice for us.

Book One in the Sky Chasers Trilogy

Book One in the Sky Chasers Trilogy

Please tell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

My next book coming out is called FLAME, and it’s the third in my space saga, the Sky Chasers Trilogy. I’m terrible at describing my own books, so here’s the copy my publisher is putting in the catalog:

Waverly and the other members of the Empyrean have been scattered. Their mission to rescue their parents didn’t go quite as planned, and now they’re at an even greater disadvantage: trapped with their enemies on the New Horizon, trying to find a way to survive. Kieran has been pulled under Anne Mather’s wing, but is she actually trying to make peace, or just using Kieran to build her own power? Meanwhile, Waverly is taken in by one of the adults who wants to work with her to bring Anne Mather down—but the more Waverly cooperates with him, the more dangerous her position is, and the more at odds with Kieran she becomes.After setting out from the Empyrean on his own, with only a vague strategy to guide him, Seth is a fugitive aboard the New Horizon. He’s doing what he can to challenge the power of Anne Mather, but is badly hurt, and getting sicker. And all the while, unknown to him, the terrorist Jacob is making plans of his own…

Will Seth ever be able to see Waverly again? Will his health hold out long enough to help her topple their enemy? And will Waverly find a way to unite her friends before they fall? Nothing is sure and every moment is a risk in this explosive finale of the Sky Chasers series.

I wish I had a cover for FLAME to show you, but it hasn’t been finalized yet.

Book Two in the Sky Chasers Trilogy

Book Two in the Sky Chasers Trilogy

What’s the view like from your favorite writing space?

Since I had children, I can’t work at home. It’s too loud and there’s too much to do! So instead I go to various coffee shops where I’m surrounded by people and noise. Somehow all the chaos around me helps me focus inward, and I can get a lot done in the short amount of time I have. I don’t have a favorite place; rather I enjoy the variety of going to different settings, especially now that I’m moonlighting as a housewife, and I don’t get out much otherwise!

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado?

The other writers in Colorado! I was sad when I left New York City, which has such a vibrant literary community. There were always wonderful readings I could go to, but even better, I had made lots of very talented and wonderful friends in New York, and I thought I’d go back to being an isolated writer again when I moved out west again.  I had no idea how many writers there would be in Colorado! I’ve met some absolutely lovely people, and have cultivated some nice friendships with them.

The people here are really great. Thank you so much, Amy! A New York writer transplanting to Colorado and writing in coffee shops–I heartily approve. 🙂

Readers: Have you ever relocated and found yourself to be less isolated in your new community than you expected? Please share your story in the comments!

And the winner of KATERINA’S WISH is…

PENNY KLOSTERMANN!

Congrats, Penny, and thanks to everyone who commented on last week’s interview of Colorado Book Award-winner Jeannie Mobley. If you haven’t already read Katerina’s Wish, you may want to add it to your to-read list right now. 🙂

The Colorado is for Writers series will be continuing every other Tuesday right here. Make sure to join us next week, when Amy Kathleen Ryan stops by!

Colorado is for writers

Interview with Colorado author Jeannie Mobley!

Colorado is for writersWelcome to the inaugural interview in my new series, Colorado is for Writers! Every other Tuesday, I’ll be talking to different Colorado-based authors about their work and their connections to this beautiful state. And this week we have a giveaway, too! See the end of the post for details.

Now, who better to kick things off than (spoiler alert!) Colorado native—and newly-minted winner of the prestigious Colorado Book AwardJeannie Mobley? Welcome, Jeannie!Author Jeannie Mobley

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Native, born and bred. In fact, my mother was also born in Colorado, as were both of her parents, in 1910 and 1912 respectively, so our family has some pretty deep roots here. That doesn’t mean, however, that we are a bunch of homebodies that never get out. We’ve explored pretty much every inch of the state in our summer camping and hiking adventures over the years, as well as traveling around much of the West. It was all that daydreaming in the car, on the trail, or at night under the stars that honed my writer’s imagination as a kid. That’s why Colorado/Western history features prominently in much of my writing.

Katerina's Wish by Jeannie MobleyPlease tell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

My first book, KATERINA’S WISH, was published in fall of 2012, and just won the 2013 Colorado Book Award for juvenile fiction! (Which I hope means books for juveniles, rather than being a reflection on my own personality.) It is the story of an immigrant family in the coal mining communities of southern Colorado at the beginning of the 20th century. Trina’s family came to America for a farm, but end up barely scraping by in the coal mines. Then Trina sees a fish that reminds her of a folk tale about a fish that grants wishes. She wishes for her family’s dream of a farm, and lucky things begin to happen. But is it magic, or is something else behind their success? It is the story of one family’s American dream, and the risks they must take to make a dream come true.

Jeannie's teenage grandmother and her friends at the family cabin in Silverplume, Colorado, during prohibition (which, you can see, they weren't exactly in accordance with)

Jeannie’s teenage grandmother and her friends at the family cabin in Silverplume, Colorado, during prohibition (which, you can see, they weren’t exactly in accordance with)

My second book, SEARCHING FOR SILVERHEELS, will be published in fall 2014. It is the story of 13-year-old Pearl Rose Barnell, a romantic girl who waits tables in the Silverheels Café and delights in telling tourists a local legend of the dancehall girl Silverheels. But, as the summer of 1917 heats up, so too does the First World War, along with accusations of un-American behavior and the outrageous fanaticism of a local suffragist, with whom Pearl has taken a potentially dangerous bet.

Beyond those, I have a variety of other projects in the works, ranging from contemporary humor to historical fiction. I seem to get new ideas for stories much faster than I can turn them into books.

What’s the view like from your favorite writing space?

I like to write either outside or where I can see the outside. When the weather is conducive, I write at my picnic table on the back patio. When it is either too hot or too cold for that, I work in the sunroom on the back of my house that looks out onto our back yard. It’s not a big back yard, but the trees and bushes make it feel peaceful and somewhat secluded (even though it really isn’t). And even though my room is called a “sunroom” I love working out here in the winter when the snow is falling outside the windows. Very peaceful.

Jeannie's family setting off on a camp trip, circa 1978. (That's Jeannie and her malamute in the backseat.)

Jeannie’s family setting off on a camping trip, circa 1978 (that’s Jeannie and her malamute in the backseat)

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado?

I love Colorado because of the scenery, the outdoor lifestyle, and because my family and my memories are here. I used to love it for the weather, too, although this year I’m not so sure. I could be a writer anywhere, but at heart, I am a mountain person. Mountains feed my soul better than any other kind of landscape. I listen to the mountains—there are stories in the silences of the high elevations and the old ghost towns. There are places where stopping and doing nothing is very productive. Where the stillness, the vastness, the timelessness bring my senses to hyper-awareness. The Colorado Rockies* awaken a sense of wonder in me that I try to keep at the heart of my writing life. I could work in another environment, but why would I want to?

*This refers to the mountains, not the baseball team. Although the MLB Colorado Rockies also awaken a sense of wonder—as in, I wonder why they can’t ever get a decent bullpen???

Thank you so much, Jeannie! 

Giveaway: Would you like to win a signed copy of KATERINA’S WISH (complete with a shiny gold “Colorado Book Award Winner” sticker on the cover)? Just leave a comment that answers this question: What kind of landscape leaves you with a sense of wonder? The winner will be announced next Tuesday, July 23.

A new interview series: Colorado is for writers!

Ever since I moved here a year and a half ago, I’ve been wondering what, exactly, it is that makes Colorado such a wonderful place to be a writer.Could it be the near-constant sunshine? Is there something in the (mountain-spring-fresh) water or the (clean, not-humid) air? Or is it perhaps the mountain scenery all around that makes me feel like I’m living in a writers’ retreat?

I’m still not sure what the answer is, so I’ve turned to my fellow Colorado writers to help me figure it out.

Coming soon–as in, tomorrow!–I’m starting a new interview series on this blog that highlights the amazing community of kidlit writers we have here in my adopted home state and asks them about their connections to Colorado. I’ve even put my questionable Microsoft Paint skills to use to create a snazzy logo for it. 🙂

Colorado is for writersWe’ll be kicking things off tomorrow with Jeannie Mobley, whose debut novel Katerina’s Wish just won the Colorado Book Award (hooray!). Then the series will continue with a new interview every other Tuesday.

I hope that you’ll stop by!