Interview and Giveaway: SEARCHING FOR SILVERHEELS by Jeannie Mobley!

Colorado is for writersToday I am so pleased to welcome my friend and fellow author Jeannie Mobley back to the blog!

Jeannie was the very first interviewee in my Colorado is for Writers series, when her debut middle-grade novel, Katerina’s Wish, was released. Now we’re just days away from the release of her second book, Searching for Silverheels. I got to read an advance copy, and I loved it just as much as I loved Katerina. You can read my review of the book at the end of this post.

Here’s the blurb about Silverheels, then you can read on to my interview with Jeannie and enter to win a signed copy!


Searching for Silverheels by Jeannie MobleyA girl’s search for the truth about a legendary woman teaches her a lot about what bravery and loyalty really mean in this gorgeous novel from the author of Katerina’s Wish.

In her small Colorado town Pearl spends the summers helping her mother run the family café and entertaining tourists with the legend of Silverheels, a beautiful dancer who nursed miners through a smallpox epidemic in 1861 and then mysteriously disappeared. According to lore, the miners loved her so much they named their mountain after her.

Pearl believes the tale is true, but she is mocked by her neighbor, Josie, a suffragette campaigning for women’s right to vote. Josie says that Silverheels was a crook, not a savior, and she challenges Pearl to a bet: prove that Silverheels was the kindhearted angel of legend, or help Josie pass out the suffragist pamphlets that Pearl thinks drive away the tourists. Not to mention driving away handsome George Crawford.

As Pearl looks for the truth, darker forces are at work in her small town. The United States’s entry into World War I casts suspicion on German immigrants, and also on anyone who criticizes the president during wartime—including Josie. How do you choose what’s right when it could cost you everything you have?

Interview with Jeannie Mobley

Tara Dairman: I love how the relationship between Josie and Pearl is so layered, and continues to develop throughout the book. Did their dynamic come to you easily, or did it take a few drafts to get right?

Jeannie MobleyJeannie Mobley: The relationship between the two characters was the very first thing that came to me about this story, so I’m glad you loved it! This book was born when I was driving across the state of Colorado. I had driven from my home in Longmont, in the northeastern part of the state, to Cortez, in the extreme southwest corner. The trip was a bittersweet one, joining old friends who I hadn’t seen in some time, in order to scatter the ashes of another old friend. So, close, complicated, enduring relationships were on my mind. And on the way home, I was listening to an audiobook, Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas (one of my favorite historical fiction authors). In the book, a character briefly retells the legend of Silverheels. I had known the legend since childhood, having grown up in Colorado, and as a kid I had a very romantic view of it, but hearing it again as an adult, I had a more cynical take on it. It hit me like a bolt of lightning–what an interesting story to have an old cynic and a young romantic debating the truth behind the legend. By the time I got home from that trip, the characters and their relationship had taken shape in my mind. It developed so quickly, so naturally, and so solidly that I knew I had something, so I started building a setting, time period, and story around them. Their relationship was spot on from the first draft. It was elements of plot, secondary plot, and the shape the legend took that shifted through various drafts.

TD: Of course, I have questions about food. 🙂 Between the cafe where Pearl works and the big picnic, there is so much scrumptious food in Searching for Silverheels! How did you learn what kinds of foods were popular in 1917? And do you have a favorite dish from the book?

JM: I must admit, I gained weight writing this book. For months while working on it, I craved pancakes, which I hardly ever eat. On several occasions I snuck away from my writing desk at lunchtime and went to the nearby Perkins Restaurant for pancakes. So while it’s not necessarily my favorite dish, it is something I associate strongly with this book. Plus, I love all the colloquial words for pancakes–like hotcakes and flapjacks. Somehow, they taste better when you call them flapjacks.

I actually didn’t do much research on 1917 foods. Instead, I drew on my own memories, from having grown up in the country and traveled a lot of back roads in my childhood. My dad loved to stop in for a cup of coffee and pie at small town cafes when we traveled, and I acquired my love of that setting from him. In small, agricultural towns, the café is often the gathering place, and there is almost always that table in the corner full of old timers, talking at length about nothing in particular. So that was the setting I tried to create in my book. It’s a setting I like to think of as perpetual and timeless in rural America, not just a feature of the early 20th century. I think of the food in those places as timeless too: pie and coffee, eggs, hash, pancakes, fried potatoes for breakfasts, sandwiches and stews and soups for lunch.

That said, I have looked at menus from the early 20th century to get a sense of some of the types of sandwiches, for example. Unlike today, where sandwiches are made out of processed lunch meats, then sandwiches were made from a big ham or roast or other chunk of meat, cooked and sliced on the premises. Cold tongue was a common sandwich meat in the early 20th century that you don’t see much on menus anymore. That one doesn’t show up in Searching for Silverheels, but I’m saving it for some book in the future. I figure that has a great gross-out factor for today’s kids that I should take advantage of at some point.  (I’m calling dibs on the cold tongue sandwich here, fellow authors!)

(Note from Tara: I actually love cold tongue! I grew up eating it at kosher delis in New York.)

What I had to do to put the café into 1917 was to think about differences in supply connections and in equipment. In a small mountain town in 1917, chances are Pearl’s mom would have been cooking on a wood-burning stove. Coffee pots would have been percolators on the stove top, not electric drip brewers, and hotplates/heat lamps wouldn’t have been an option. I can’t quite imagine feeding crowds of people cooking like that, but then Pearl’s mom is a pretty strong woman.

Mmm, cherry pie!

Mmm, cherry pie!

Also, in 1917, food would have had to come in and out of the area by train, and so seasonality of foods would be much more relevant–no fresh strawberries in December or apples in June. Anything out of season would have to be canned–no good frozen transport, at least not in rural Colorado.  I used the seasonality to my advantage–making it a big event when Colorado cherries arrive and Mrs. Barnell bakes cherry pies. The whole town turns out for a slice of those pies!

I also made use of what I knew would be local resources–trout out of the mountain streams and wild game like rabbits and deer (although I think my rabbit stew and venison might have gotten edited out of the book). Because it was a small, somewhat isolated town, I figured people would have used more neighborly barter to pay their bills, like bringing game to the café when they could. That is something that I think is more true to 1917 than to today. 

TD: Thank you for all this food insight, Jeannie! I love it!


Katerina's Wish by Jeannie MobleySearching for Silverheels,
like your first book, Katerina’s Wish, is set here in Colorado. Are there other parts of the state–or other periods in the state’s history–that you hope to explore in future books?

JM: I am working on a book now that is set in Denver in the 1930’s, but I don’t pick Colorado locations for their own sake. I tend to think of the premise of a story first, and then look for the time and place that best suits it. In both of my books so far, the time and place that suited happened to be in Colorado. Having grown up here, I know a lot of the local history, and that makes these settings easy for me to recreate. Silverheels had to be set where it was because it had to connect to a local legend, and I picked the time period (World War I) because I wanted to build a powerful theme around what gave women strength, so the First World War was an obvious choice because of the conflict between women’s suffragists and the war effort, and also the ways women had to step up and fill in for men on the home front.  However, if my next idea connects best to a time and place far from Colorado, I would certainly not hesitate to set the story elsewhere.  One of my current projects is set on a train running from New Orleans to Chicago, for example. For me, setting has to serve the story, not the other way around.

Thank you so much, Jeannie, for all this behind-the-scenes insight into your wonderful new book!

Tara’s review of Searching for Silverheels 

Searching for SilverheelsSearching for Silverheels by Jeannie Mobley

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This fantastic sophomore outing confirms Jeannie Mobley as one of my favorite middle-grade authors. This book has the perfect mix of mystery, history, politics, and romance, with a good dose of humor thrown in for good measure.

The story, set during WWI, focuses on the relationship between 13-year-old Pearl and 70-something Josie. Josie wants all American women to have the vote; Pearl wants Josie to stop bothering the tourists at her mother’s cafe with her political rants and suffragist handbills. And maybe she’d like a little romance on the side at the Fourth of July picnic, too.

Pearl’s and Josie’s brushes with each other lead to a bet regarding the truth behind a local legend: the dancer Silverheels, for whom Mount Silverheels is named. I could say more, but the twisty-turny plot is really so delicious that the less you know going in, the better.

I give this book two huge thumbs up–I fell in love with the characters, learned a lot about a specific corner of Colorado and a specific time in history, and was smiling the whole time. Can’t ask for a better reading experience than that!

GIVEAWAY ALERT! You can enter to win a signed and personalized hardcover copy of Searching for Silverheels by leaving a comment on this post! You can also earn up to two extra entries by posting about this giveaway on Twitter and/or Facebook–please mention or link your extra posts in your comment. 

Sample Tweet:
Win a signed copy of ‘s SEARCHING FOR SILVERHEELS at ‘s blog!

Sample FB status:
Win a signed copy of SEARCHING FOR SILVERHEELS, the new book by KATERINA’S WISH author Jeannie Mobley! 

I‘ll announce a winner on 8/28. Good luck!

Author panel tomorrow!

Colorado is for writersHello, folks! If you’re in Colorado and are free tomorrow night (4/12), I’ll be on a teen author panel at the Longmont Public Library at 7pm along with fellow fabulous local authors Jeannie Mobley, Melanie Crowder, Jenny Goebel, and Todd Mitchell. There will be pizza, too!

Hoping to meet lots of teens and tweens and talk about writing and books in my very first official event as an author. 🙂

Here’s the flyer–click for larger version. Maybe I’ll see you there?

Longmont Library flyer

Interview with Colorado author Renee Collins!

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’m happy to welcome young adult author Renee Collins to the blog!

Renee’s debut YA novel, Relic, was published by Entangled Teen in 2013. Welcome, Renee!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Renee CollinsI’m a transplant. We moved here for my husband’s job four years ago and I think we’re here to stay.






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

Relic, by Renee CollinsMy debut novel, RELIC, came out this last August with Entangled Teen. It’s a YA fantasy set in Old West Colorado. The red rock cliff near my house actually helped inspire the setting in the book. It’s a world where miners don’t dig for gold, but instead the magical relics of ancient fantasy creatures like the dragon, mermaid, and unicorn. Maggie Davis loses her family in a terrible, magic-created fire, and she has to relocate to the tough town of Burning Mesa in the hopes of finding out who’s responsible.


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

I live in Western Colorado, less than 5 miles from the Colorado National Monument. I can see the red rock cliffs from my bedroom window! The view is truly beautiful, and part of the reason we picked this area to live.

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

I love doing outdoorsy things to get my creative juices flowing. Mountain biking and hiking always helps to clear my head and stir my imagination. And there’s no better place to hike or mountain bike than Colorado, in my opinion.

I’ve heard that about the mountain biking here (though I’m too chicken to try it myself). Thanks so much, Renee–Relic sounds amazing, and like the perfect Colorado-set read!

Interview with Colorado author Emily Hainsworth!

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’m happy to welcome young adult author Emily Hainsworth to the blog!

Emily’s debut YA novel, Through to You, was published in 2012 by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins and is a totally compulsive read. Let’s get to know Emily!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Emily Hainsworth Transplant! But I’ve lived here longer than where I grew up (Central NY)–does that win me points?

I was drawn to Colorado by a boy. It was the mid-90s, it was an online relationship, I was a teenager and (at the time) it was scandalous. 😉 I had secretly always wanted to live in Colorado, so I took off with the first guy I met from this glorious state (I suppose the happily ever after is that he’s still stuck with me–I mean we’re happily married–more than a decade later).

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

Through to You by Emily HainsworthTHROUGH TO YOU is the story of 17-year-old Camden Pike, who has been grief-stricken since his girlfriend, Viv, died. He’d give anything to have just one more glimpse of her. But when Cam visits the site of Viv’s deadly car accident, he sees an apparition. Her name is Nina, and she’s a girl from a parallel world. When Cam follows her there and makes an unbelievable discovery, it’s as if all his wildest dreams have come true. But things are very different in this other world. Nina is hiding a secret, and the window between the worlds is shrinking every day. As Cam comes to terms with the truth, he’s forced to make a choice that will change his life forever.

I’m currently working on a second YA novel, TAKE THE FALL, which is a contemporary murder mystery. While there’s no sci-fi element this time, the story is similarly dark and emotional and should appeal to readers who enjoyed my first book. The title could still change, but the book should be available in 2015!

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

View From Emily's writing spaceEvery one of my books has been written (at least in part) on an old black couch in my living room. It’s one of the first pieces of furniture my husband and I ever bought, and while it isn’t terribly attractive, it’s the most comfortable place I have found to write. Of course, a couple other members of my household think it’s pretty great too (if you can’t tell from the picture, that’s our cat, Dagny, squeezed in on top of our standard poodle, Basil), so we might end up needing a bigger couch because right now it’s a little cramped for leg room.

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

The best thing about being a writer in Colorado is being able to get outside throughout the year. I know that doesn’t sound very conducive to writing, but I’m someone who needs to get out and think before putting words on a page. I’m not a big fan of freezing my butt off on the ski slopes, but I LOVE the 50-degree winter days in Denver. Those temperatures were unfathomable when I was growing up in Central New York, and they’re perfect for replenishing the writing well. If I’m stuck on a particular scene or character, I get outside where I can think better. It’s not something you can do every day throughout the winter, but the sunshine and mild temperatures are something I try never to take for granted. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

I adore those 50-degree days, too! Thanks so much, Emily, and good luck with TAKE THE FALL–I’m looking forward to it!

Interview with Colorado author Jennifer Duddy Gill!

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’m happy to welcome Jennifer Duddy Gill to the blog!

Jennifer’s debut middle-grade novel, The Secret of Ferrell Savage, is being published TODAY by Atheneum/Simon & Schuster! (Hoorah! Confetti!!) It sounds adorable and hilarious–read on to get to know Jennifer and find out more about her book!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Jennifer Duddy GillI’m a two-time transplant. Like you, Tara, I’ve traveled and lived all over the world. When I got married we settled down in Virginia. But that didn’t last long. My husband got a job here in Denver so we moved and fell in love with Colorado. Five years later, we both got the itch to live overseas with our two daughters, so we sold everything we owned and bought a little piece of jungle in Costa Rica. Two years later, when we decided to return to the U.S., we knew we wanted to come back to Denver. We’re likely to live overseas again, but we’ll always keep a taproot here.

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

The Secret of Ferrell Savage by Jennifer Duddy GillMy debut novel is called The Secret of Ferrell Savage. It begins with Ferrell entering a sled race to impress a girl he likes and, for reasons that go beyond his control, he gets her attention and becomes a celebrity in his town. A jealous racing competitor threatens to reveal a secret about Ferrell that even he, Ferrell, didn’t know: he’s a descendant of the infamous Colorado cannibal, Alferd Packer. But it’s actually not a gruesome story at all. The main thing that Ferrell has in common with his great, great, great uncle is that they both became unexpected legends.

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

The window by my writing desk looks out onto our balcony which calls to me on warm days, but is lonely and often snowy during the winter months. Beyond the rooftops I can see the tip of the Denver skyline, including the “cash register” building.

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

Diversity. I love living in a big city filled with people from all over the world; plus, we have great museums, a wonderful zoo, and big city parks. In about an hour we can be in the mountains hiking or skiing. Oh, another best thing is our libraries. When we were in Costa Rica my children and I actually sent letters to our old library telling them how much we missed them.

Agreed, Jennifer–the libraries here are incredible! Thank you for the interview, and congratulations on the publication of The Secret of Ferrell Savage! I can’t wait to pick up my copy.

Interview with Colorado author Todd Mitchell!

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’m happy to welcome Todd Mitchell to the blog!

Todd is the author of several extremely-cool-sounding novels for young adults, including one Colorado Book Award winner and another finalist. Welcome, Todd!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

ToddMitchellHeadShot1I’m a transplant (been here 15 years). I grew up in Illinois (someone has to get the short straw). I first came to Colorado when I was 10 and fell in love. An aunt and uncle of mine lived in Fort Collins, so I came back and visited them on my own as soon as I could. The first time was when I was seventeen, and drove out West with my closest friend. Then I drove out here again when I was in college in a car I bought for $400. Both times, I got in a car accident in Fort Collins, which I guess is fate’s way of telling me to stay here.

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

Backwards by Todd MitchellMost recent book: 

BACKWARDS (Candlewick Press, 2013, for ages 12 & up)

This is an odd book. It’s a bit of a mystery, a psychological thriller, and a romance told from the point of view of a character called the Rider who’s trapped in the body of a suicidal teen. Not only that, he’s stuck traveling backwards in time. So he needs to figure out what he’s doing there, and what his purpose his, and ultimately how to take over and make this life his own.

Other books:

THE SECRET TO LYING (Candlewick Press, 2010, for ages 14 & up, Winner of the Colorado Book Award)

The Secret to Lying by Todd MitchellThe story of James, a high school sophomore, who gets into a school where no one knows him and decides to reinvent himself as the person he always wished he could be. This book explores what happens when your life becomes a lie.

 

THE TRAITOR KING (Scholastic Press, 2007, for ages 8 & up, Finalist for the Colorado Book Award)

Part fantasy, part reality. While searching for their missing Uncle Will, Darren and Jackie discover a secret family history that pulls them into a fantastical Otherworld. (It’s kindof like The Lightning Thief, but with figures from Celtic mythology instead of Greek.)

 A Flight of AngelsA FLIGHT OF ANGELS (Vertigo, 2011, for ages 14 & up)

This is a graphic novel that I co-authored, working with four other writers (Holly Black, Bill Willingham, Alisa Kwitney, and Louise Hawes). Basically, a bunch of supernatural beings find a fallen angel in the woods and each tell stories to determine what they should do with it. Definitely for more mature audiences. The art, by Rebecca Guay, is incredible.

 

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

TMitchellIrelandHere’s a picture (it’s in Ireland). Hey, you asked for my favorite spot. In all seriousness, my best writing happens outdoors. By which I mean, I write every day in my basement (which has a decent view of a pond), but when I get stuck I go for a run, and my best lines, insights, and ideas usually come to me while I’m running. So I run daily. And I run everywhere.

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

See above. Having so many beautiful open spaces to run in. Also, the weather here is incredible. I love all four seasons (though fall is my favorite). But running in fresh snow and making tracks is pure bliss. In Colorado, there’s a culture of healthy living, which is essential for a writer (otherwise, I get lost in my own head). One other thing I love about being a writer in Colorado is that there’s a surprisingly vibrant and talented YA and Children’s Book community here. Within just a few blocks of my house, I know five other extremely well-published and best-selling YA and Children’s book authors. That’s pretty amazing.

Thank you, Todd, and congratulations on the publication of Backwards, which sounds amazing! (And fall is my favorite season, too–good call there. 🙂 )

Interview with Colorado author Stephanie Blake!

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’m happy to welcome middle-grade and picture book author Stephanie Blake to the blog!

Stephanie is the author of the middle-grade historical novel The Marble Queenwhich was a finalist for the 2013 Colorado Book Award. Welcome, Stephanie!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Stephanie BlakeI was born in Hawarden, Iowa. My parents moved the family to Colorado when I was five. I’ve lived all over this beautiful state.









The Marble Queen by Stephanie BlakeTell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

My first middle grade novel came out from Two Lions in late December 2012. It’s called THE MARBLE QUEEN. I just sold a picture book to Albert Whitman called MY ROTTEN FRIEND. It will be out in March 2015 (tentatively). It’s about elementary school zombies. [<–Interviewer’s note: AWESOME.]




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

I live in gorgeous Castle Rock. I can see the rock from my backyard and my kids and husband like to hike it. I’m scared of heights, so I have never been up there.

What’s the best thing about being a writer in Colorado?
I’m always inspired by the other Colorado writers I know. It’s fun to see everyone at the RMC-SCBWI Conference each year.

Thank you, Stephanie, and congratulations on the new picture book sale! (Also, I didn’t even know that you could climb Castle Rock–too cool!)

Interview with Colorado author Claudia Mills!

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’m happy to welcome chapter book and middle-grade author Claudia Mills to the blog!

Claudia Mills, Philosophyclaudia.mills@colorado.eduphoto by: Larry HarwoodClaudia is the author of a very long list of children’s books (seriously, check it out–it is impressive), and Kirkus reviews recently called her “a master of the school story” (also very impressive!) Welcome, Claudia!

First things first: Colorado native or transplant?

I’m a transplant, directly from Maryland, originally from New Jersey. I came to Colorado for my day job (professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado in Boulder) and for my husband’s dream (he was raised in Golden, and once we had our boys, he had his heart set on raising them in the West).

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

My two most recent books are Kelsey Green, Reading Queen and Zero Tolerance, both published this past June by Farrar, Straus & Giroux/Macmillan.

Kelsey coverKelsey Green is a third-grade-level chapter book, first in a series called Franklin School Friends. Kelsey, a passionate reader, is determined to read the most books for her grade in a school-wide reading contest, but there’s only one problem: Simon Ellis is reading even more books than she is. Or at least, Simon Ellis says he is reading more books than she is. She and her two best friends, Annika Riz (who is a math whiz) and Izzy Barr (who is a running star), decide to make a top-secret cheater-catcher plan to see if Simon has earned his status as Kelsey’s chief rival, or not. This book is my valentine to readers and book lovers everywhere.

Zero-Tolerance-CoverIn Zero Tolerance, Sierra Shepard is a seventh-grade honor student and “perfect” girl who has never been in trouble in her life – until the day she brings her mother’s lunch to school by mistake. In the lunch is a knife to cut her mother’s apple. Sierra, good girl that she is, turns the knife in immediately, and finds she is now facing mandatory expulsion under her middle school’s “zero tolerance” policies for drugs and weapons. Of all my books, this is the only one I’ve written where I myself didn’t know how it would all turn out until the very end. I kept on writing to see: would Sierra get expelled or not? And if she did, by that point, would she even care?

photo couchWhat’s the view like from your favorite writing space?

I write curled up on a little couch with a blanket, clipboard, pad of paper, pen – and mug of hot chocolate. So no view. But very cozy!

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

For me, the best thing is being part of my terrific writing group. I’ve been a member of this group for twenty years, and together we have published over a hundred books during that time, everything from children’s books to adult mysteries, science fiction, literary fiction, and nonfiction about Colorado history. The best Colorado thing about my writing group is that we have a retreat every summer up at Lake Dillon. We spend a whole weekend writing, reading, talking about writing, talking about reading, walking by the lake, and sitting in a hot tub under the Colorado stars. That’s when I most think what a sweet thing it is to be a writer in Colorado.

Thank you, Claudia–and may I just say that both of your new books sound completely fabulous? (As does that retreat at the lake!) 

Interview with Colorado author Melanie Crowder!

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’m happy to welcome debut middle-grade author Melanie Crowder to the blog!

Melanie is the author of Parched, a brutal and beautiful survival story published earlier in 2013 by Harcourt Children’s books. Parched is a Junior Library Guild selection and the recent recipient of a starred review from the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

Melanie Crowder authorFirst things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Transplant.

I’m a west coast girl—still not sure how I ended up landlocked and living in the high desert. But I’ve fallen in love with the blue sky and the wide open spaces and those big grey mountains.

PARCHED by Melanie Crowder

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

My first book for young readers is a survival story called Parched. It released in June, and it has been so fun to see the reaction of kids and teachers and librarians and even adult readers as they discover Musa and Sarel and Nandi. No matter how long and varied your career, you only get one chance at your debut, and I’m really proud of mine.

With writers though, it’s always on to the next project, and for the past six months I’ve been completely immersed in my next book. This time, it’s a poetic historical novel for teenagers—a huge challenge, and a lot of fun!

my [snowy] writing cave

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

It depends on the season. In the summer, I write outside any chance I get. In the winter, I hunker down in my office with a whole pot of tea and a fuzzy blanket. In the in between times, I like to work on the couch, with the morning light coming in through the bay window, classical music on the TV and my dog curled up on the chair opposite me.

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

We have a real work hard, play hard mentality here. I really do work really hard, so I love that there are so many ways to get out and play in this state. I love that a mountain writing retreat is just a short drive west. And I love that if you go just another hour off the beaten path, you can unplug completely. 

Thank you so much, Melanie, and I can’t wait to read your upcoming verse novel! (Well, read it again–I got a sneak peak at an early draft, and it was amazing. Get ready, world!)

Interview with Colorado Author Suzanne Nieman Brown!

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’m happy to welcome debut picture-book author Suzanne Nieman Brown to the blog!

Suzanne Nieman BrownFirst things first: Colorado native or transplant?

Transplant. My boyfriend and I road tripped up here to ski and snowboard with friends way back in the early 90’s. (Wasn’t that just a few years ago…?!) That boy and I married, realized our hearts belonged to the mountains, and moved here as fast as our careers would allow. We left once for grad school but returned a few years later. That was 14 years ago! Since then, we welcomed our daughter and son, adopted many animals to join our family, and turned native. *WINK* Even though I’ve lived in six states and explored 17 countries, Colorado is my home. My treasure always waiting for my return.

The Night Before Christmas in Ski Country by Suzanne Nieman BrownTell us a bit about your book(s), published and/or in progress!

My first book, THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS IN SKI COUNTRY, was just released! *YAY!* I wrote a version of this story when our daughter was born. I wanted her to have a Christmas book that reflected where we lived. With snow and elk and a Santa that loves to ride! Every Christmas our family read it. Every Christmas my son asked when I was getting it published. And every Christmas I tweaked it just a little bit more.

spreads-lowres7Last summer, I was talking to a publisher about another project when she mentioned they were looking for a Christmas book. I sent mine to her. She loved it and wanted it! And then I had a wonderful opportunity. My publisher asked me to find my own illustrator! I found Dana Schlingman through SCBWI. She and I worked closely together on every page to make my words and her watercolor pictures (by HAND, not digital!) blend seamlessly into a beautifully illustrated storybook.

Here’s the press release description:

spreads2There’s a new Santa in Ski Country and he has magic up his…well, ski vest! Santa rides a snowboard, crashes his resort-named elk into a hot tub, and wants to bring fresh powder for Christmas Day. But oh, no! Santa’s magical Icicle Star is melted! So Little Andy and Santa’s dog, Cocoa, bravely trek past frozen waterfalls, mountain animals, and sleeping aspens on a beautifully illustrated adventure to find a new Icicle Star. Will they find it in time to give Ski Country a white Christmas? Check out a sneak peek at sbrownbooks.com

I am also working on a middle grade novel that ties in with my other job as a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist. More to come soon!

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

IMG_5470In two words? Nature. Animals.

In many words? Fluffy horses snoozing in the warm sun. Ribbons of mountains: dark green in the summer, speckled gold in the fall, and icy white in the winter. Our sweet dog, Lulu, upside down and fast asleep under my feet or zealously barking at the wild elk, turkeys, coyotes, deer, and bears that wander through our property. Smiling photos of my hubbie and kids on our many adventures. And my cold mug of minty green tea.

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

IMG_9440The views! The seasons! The animals! I can’t pick just one thing. *SMILE* If I’m stuck in my writing, I take Lulu for a hike. In the quiet forest or stark mountaintops, my mind opens wide and the ideas flow.

Suzanne, congratulations on your debut, and thank you so much for sharing a peak inside the book and a peak at your views (which, I must say are spectacular)! Good luck with your middle grade project!

Readers: Keep an eye out for THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS IN SKI COUNTRY in bookstores all over ski country…and in the meantime, why not follow Suzanne on Twitter? 🙂