May 20, 2011

Author Interview Julie Crabtree - The Crepe Makers' Bond

I'm very excited today to welcome Julie Crabtree the author of The Crepe Makers' Bond.  

A Bit About the Book
Ariel is the head chef in her family kitchen. Cucumber salads, fettuccine carbonara, fish tacos, and peanut butter pie are just a few of the dishes she crafts when she’s feeling frustrated by the world. And it’s turning into a frustrating year. Ariel, Nicki, and Mattie have been inseparable friends since they were little kids, but now Mattie’s mom has decided to move away. It’s the girls’ last year in middle school, and they can’t fathom being separated. The friends concoct a plan that will keep Mattie in the Bay area — she’ll move in with Ariel and her family. But before you can say "bff," the party is over. Everything Mattie does gets on Ariel’s nerves, and it’s not long before the girls are avoiding each other. This was supposed to be their best year ever, but some painful lessons are threatening to tear their friendship apart. Can the girls scramble to make things right before the bond crumbles?
Watch for my review of it tomorrow.

Now for the interview!
Welcome Julie Crabtree!
Thanks for visiting The O.W.L.!!!!!

For your most current book - what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?

The Crepe Makers' Bond features a young teen, Ariel, who wants to be a chef. Her character makes me proud. She is passionate, dedicated, and unwavering in her quest. Ariel is who I wanted to be when I was that age, but certainly not who I was. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life when I was in eighth grade. I already loved to cook and write, but I never pursued either of those “hobbies” because I didn’t see them as possible life paths. I felt fearful that such pursuits could not sustain me in the real world. I know now that I was wrong. I dismissed my own abilities and passions. I didn’t have the bravery to stand up and follow what I love to do until years after college. Unlike me at that age, Ariel is fiercely committed to becoming a chef because it is what she truly loves to do. She is aggressive and unapologetic about her goals. Ariel makes me proud because, through her, I hope kids that dream of becoming an artist, writer, musician, game designer, athlete, or anything else that seems scarily unattainable might lean into it their passions rather than run away from them.  

Tell about your writing process. How long did it take you to write your current book from idea to finish?  Please tell about revision is you can!

It took me about a year to write The Crepe Makers’ Bond. It is a sequel (to 2008’s Discovering Pig Magic), so the characters already existed, and I just continued their story. I write in the mornings, when my kids are at school and it is quiet and peaceful. I don’t outline or plan ahead; I just sit down and plunge into the story. I feel as if the characters are real and I am merely an observer who writes down what they say and do. It is a peculiar sensation, hard to describe, and I often wonder at this process myself.

The revision process has been similar for both the books I have published, and I will describe it to the best of my ability. Once the book is finished, I put it aside for about a month and don’t think about it. After that, I go back to it with fresh eyes and do my best to revise and polish it before sending it to Milkweed Editions, my publisher. My editor then reads the story. He combs through the manuscript (that’s what a book is called when it is still a story on unbound pages that hasn’t been made into a real book yet) and suggests ways to improve it. These suggestions range from large chunks that need to be rewritten or deleted to small tweaks that might help make a character more believable or improve the flow of the plot. The editor and I work on this first revision together, and it can take a couple of months and a lot of revising to make the original manuscript satisfactory to both of us. But that’s not the end of the revision process!

After this “macro” edit comes a “micro” edit called the copy edit. A copy edit is like the math of the English world. It doesn’t focus on big issues with the story that involve characters or plot, that has already been revised, but rather it focuses on the grammar, punctuation and structure of the story. Facts are checked. It is a more technical, less creative, rule-driven type of revision. So…yep, lots of revising goes on, and it adds many months to the process of publishing a book.

Is the story and/or characters based on anything/anyone in your real life?

The story and characters aren’t intentionally based on any real life people. But! I have two girls who are in sixth and eighth grades, and a lot of their experiences slip into my stories. Sometimes I don’t even realize I am “borrowing” characteristics or events from my children or their friends until I read it later or one of them points it out. I also believe it is impossible, at least for me, not to put some of my real life and my past into the stories I create. I think of my writing like a patchwork quilt made from scraps of everything I have ever worn. That pink square might have been the dress I wore to my birthday party when I was five, and that purple fuzzy patch may have been my favorite coat when I was in high school, but now they are parts of the quilt. They are old and familiar, but put together they form a completely new thing. Likewise, the year I got bullied (sixth grade), my love of cucumbers, or the friend I had that loved sailing might contribute to the story as pieces of it, but the story as a whole and each character are unique creations. 

How much say did you have in the cover of this book? What is the process for creating a cover (my students are always curious about this!)

Whoever said a book isn’t judged by a cover knew nothing of the book industry! Covers are so important—a potential reader makes all sorts of instant judgments about a book based on the cover. For this reason, the publisher goes to great lengths to find a cover that will fit the story and appeal to its readership. As the author, I have very little say-so about the cover. Perhaps more established authors might assert creative control over what cover is chosen for their books, I don’t know, but in my experience, it is best left in the hands of the publisher. What I do well is write stories. I know my place! I do not design or intelligently analyze cover art. For this reason, I am happy to have my publisher control the cover design. They have deeper knowledge of the book industry than I do, access to feedback from readers and other industry professionals, and lots of experience choosing covers designs for books. We all desire the same thing, to see the book well-received, so I try to write the best story I can and trust them to choose the best cover.

I cannot speak to the specific process within the publishing company of creating the cover. I know there are graphic artists and cover designers who submit suggestions. Perhaps you might consider interviewing an editor about this? (mine might be willing, please let me know if you are interested in approaching him about this, and I’d be happy to pass it along)

Interestingly, The Crepe Makers’ Bond had a different cover originally. I loved the first cover, but it was not well-received. My publisher swapped it out for a cover that better reflects the themes and tone of the book. I later heard criticism, both on line and from kids directly, that the first cover seemed cold and made them think of “their mom’s book club.” Ouch! Not exactly what we had in mind. The new cover has been embraced and I believe it has contributed to the early success of this book. If I had chosen, it would still have the first cover, which illustrates my original point: I am a writer, not a cover designer!

What kind of student were you?  Was English your favorite subject in school and did you always write?

 I was a high achieving student. My parents were both educators, so not getting good grades was never an option for me. In elementary school I loved English, history, and all the “word” subjects. I struggled constantly with math and felt a lot of disappointment in myself about that. I worked very hard to please my teachers and parents, and sometimes I felt like I was “tricking” everyone who thought I was smart because I didn’t really feel smart. I just knew how to work hard. By high school I realized that working hard could get me where I wanted to go, and I learned to stop trying to figure out the “smart” question. The hard work led me to a good college. I still struggled with math and the sciences in college, but I majored in English and found joy and success in that department.

I have written in school and for myself for as long as I can remember. It’s how I process the world, through writing. I may not be good at math, but I can write about how it feels to be frustrated by it!

A funny sidebar: my first little stories and poems, around second grade, are written right to left. I am left-handed, and perhaps had some early dyslexia. I can still write in mirror image fairly effortlessly. It is my only interesting “party trick.” Oh, and I can do the Vulcan hand sign and speak Pig Latin too!

And because it's the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? Whoooo are your favorite authors now and when you were growing up?

I have such a hard time choosing favorites because there are so many! As a kid, I loved Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Roald Dahl, Madeline L’Engle, and about a bazillion others. Right now, I read all the stuff my kids read, and some of it is absolutely amazing. The Hunger Games books are fantastic (I am team Gale if you are wondering). The Percy Jackson books are brilliant, and right now I am reading the Gregor the Overlander series. Such imagination! I read the Twilight series, and found them quite compelling. I could go on for days about books and authors, there are so many that inspire me. I love reading as much as I love writing.

Thanks for “talking” to me. Happy Reading!

Thanks for spending some time with us Julie (and secretly I'm amazed by the pig latin. I can't speak it at all!!!)

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