Today is a special day. I am lucky to be hosting my friend and talented author, Ann Eisenstein on her blog tour. She is the author of middle grade novel, HIDING CARLY, the first book in her SEAN GRAY, JUNIOR SPECIAL AGENT series. Her second book in the series, FALLEN PREY, was recently released on November 7, 2013.
Hi Ann. Welcome to my blog. I absolutely love the names that you give your characters. They fit them perfectly, especially Sean Gray. First, tell us the story behind the name you gave your imaginary friend Timmy when you were five and then tell us how the names of your characters come about.
The first question is the easiest. I think the name Timmy came about because of a real acquaintance. A couple who were close friends with my parents had several children, including a son, Timmy, who visited with us on occasion. Timmy was around my age and although he had cerebral palsy and some physical challenges, he always followed us around and seemed to enjoy trying to play with all of us. Mostly, though, he would just sit and watch and laugh a lot at us. I think I knew even as a small child that there was something very special about him. I guess I missed him when he wasn’t around, so I created a kind of alter-Timmy!
Where the name Sean Gray came from is much more difficult. I don’t know, really. When I first started Hiding Carly, the name of the book was Badge Boy! That seems so funny to me now. And Sean’s name was “Jamie”. How that all changed, I do not remember. Aside from that fact that Badge Boy was pretty boring – I can’t say when Jamie became Sean. Both are names that I like. I think that Sean just didn’t like the name Jamie!
How long did it take for “Hiding Carly” to go from an idea in your mind to a published book?
On the one hand, Hiding Carly was brewing in the back of my mind for only a little while before I had all of the major components – the FBI, missing children, kidnapping. The actual writing came pretty quickly. The rewriting took a while longer. As it was my first book – there was a lot of that. I started querying publishers and agents as soon as I was finished with the manuscript. That was very time consuming. Sending out all of those manuscripts by snail mail and waiting for the snail responses. Most of which were of the “liked it/its good/but not right for our list” variety. I had several requests for three chapters. More time elapsed. A couple of publishers asked for the full manuscript. One major house moved it “up the chain”. This was about 9 months of waiting on pins and needles. Then, after hearing nothing, I called. The associate editor who had been championing Hiding Carly was laid off! My manuscript had “gotten lost” in some shuffle. So, frustrated, I decided to self-publish. All in all, a few years had gone by.
Then, at the SC Book Festival in 2012, I met my current publisher, Peak City. I told her that I was doing a series. They offered to represent me. Publishing is happening more quickly now.
Did you know when you began Hiding Carly that there would be a second book, Fallen Prey?
Not at all! In fact, I had no intention of writing a series – ever. I wanted to write one children’s book and get back to my adult novel. But that all changed with Hiding Carly. And I am glad that it did, because my involvement with the FBI and law enforcement has been instrumental in the direction of the series. And my life, really. The ability to train with them and interview the agents and officers whenever I need the research, has contributed tremendously to the degree of authenticity in my writing.
At what point do you know what the title of your book will be?
That’s a great question. I generally try to get a title right away. It’s like a need I have – to call it something besides “The Book”. The title for Hiding Carly didn’t happen until the book was finished, though. And maybe that is the best way, after all. Because that title really embraces everything that the book is about. It covers more than one simple plotline. It truly ties all of them together. It is a great title.
The title for Fallen Prey was much more difficult. Again, I wanted to know the title as I was writing. But I had a lot of trouble getting to that phrase, that concept. Part of the reason I think was because of the storyline. It’s quite complicated. And I couldn’t quite capture the core of the entire story in the title. Until later on in the story – there came a moment when I knew exactly what was happening to the characters – all of them. And in some way, without handing out a “spoiler” – Fallen Prey became the essence.
How many hours a day do you devote to writing and set the mood for us when you sit down to write.
I try to duck this question because it has no real answer. I am not certain that I am not always partaking in some form of the process. I read and research constantly. I eavesdrop on conversations. And much to my friend’s consternation, I stare at people continuously. Ideas pop in my head and I interrupt people to search for my iPad or iPhone or tape recorder. I have the beginnings of books scattered all over the place and notes jotted down everywhere. I’m a mess!
But because you asked that second part, I can be more specific. I try to follow a schedule. (Although I am not always successful due to the plans that other people, nature, and my other alters, might have!)
First of all, I do view this as a full time job (though my paycheck is a lot smaller and less frequent than for those other jobs I used to have). That said my plan is to be at my desk around 7:00 in the morning – Monday through Friday. I give myself an hour to check my email, social media, etc. My goal is to be working on some writing project by 8:00. It doesn’t always happen that way. But that is the plan. The writing may be a new work – or revision of a current project. It could be networking, marketing, promotion, etc. I also try to work on my web site/blog. Not as faithfully as I should. That all gets harder when you are trying to finish/write a book.
The mood is important to me. I do like to have a clean desk when I am writing. I am easily distracted by bills, mail, and other random-mess. Including a big Maine Coon named Jesse.) I have a candle, incense or oil burning, and I listen to music – usually environmental or classical. Soft, inspiring background. Ambience is important to me.
Do you know how your book will end when you begin?
I had no idea where Hiding Carly was headed, let alone how it was going to end! And when I was finished with it – I thought the story was over. But other people had questions about how things were going to go on the next book and how it all would end. Implying that I would write a series. Then the FBI suggested I write a series. So – I acquiesced.
Although I knew how Fallen Prey would progress – I didn’t have an exact ending in mind when I began. And, even though it is a stand-alone book and I am satisfied with the ending, it is clear that Sean’s story is not over.
I do know how the third – and final book – ends!
Do you outline or plot?
I do both. I start out plotting in my head. The story rumbles around, spinning out of control. Then I begin the “outlining”. My outline process takes place on notecards on a large whiteboard. A kind of story board – though usually without pictures. I do this so that I can mover the scenes around as they fit best.
What part of the writing process do you like best?
Typing “The End”! No, seriously, I really can’t say which part is the best. I love creating – characters, plot, setting, conflict – I really love conflict! And I love to write. I really do. I could write all day long. But life gets in the way!
And I really love the research. Learning is my true profession, I believe. I am happiest when I am at my computer and jumping from one thing to another, learning, discovering. Some people have dubbed me a lifelong student. There’s nothing wrong with that, for sure. Keeps my head in “the game”.
I can tell you the part I like the least. There are two of them, actually. First – revision. Not the mechanical “dotting the i’s” and “crossing the t’s” part. But the rewriting that comes with making the story stronger. That’s when you might have to cut major chunks of your “beautiful” writing out – like editing film – you chop it off and watch it drop to the floor. That is hard. Sometimes it is painful. You are in love with your dialogue. Your paragraphs. Whatever – and then your editor (or critique group) says it’s gotta go.
The second hardest part for me is the waiting. It’s like the typing of “the End” breaks your water and then there’s the labor. Not hours and hours, but months and months, of the birthing process!
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned so far in your writing career?
I have learned so much, especially in the past couple of years. I would have to say, though, that the most important thing I have learned is a twofold truth.
That is: To listen to the experts (those who have successfully gone before you) and to listen to your heart (no matter what the experts have taught you – write with your own passion).
If you could give one single piece of advice to writers, what would it be?
Read. Read a lot of books in every genre that interests you. Read especially in the genre in which you want to write.
Tell us one of your favorite books related to writing.
My favorite writing book has to be Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. It is written for screenwriting. But everything in it can be applied to all writing.
What’s next for you?
I am working on finishing up several projects right now, young adult and middle grade fiction, picture books and poetry, a biography and an autobiography. And of course, book three in the Sean Gray, Junior Special Agent Mystery series.
Thanks, Karen, for hosting me! I had a great time answering your very stimulating questions.
Thank you, Ann, for stopping by and spending time on my blog.
For more information, please visit Ann’s website and spend some time checking out her other links.
Ann Eisenstein web site: www.anneisenstein.com
FB Character Page: Sean Gray JSA http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sean-Gray-JSA/163101783756931
YouTube: Sean Gray, Junior Special Agent (JSA), Book One: Hiding Carly video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5AoAbG5C84
Purchase Hiding Carly:
All major bookstores and online at:
Purchase Fallen Prey:
Soon to be available at all major bookstores and online at:
Peak City Publishing:
Both books are also available through Follett and Ingram.