March 30, 2012

Author Interview: Joanne Rocklin +GIVEAWAY

I'm so very very excited to welcome Joanne Rocklin author of One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street and The Five Lives of Out Cat Zook.  
I've had the pleasure of reading The Five Lives - review later today!  My daughter read One Day and One Amazing and absolutely loved it.  

A bit about Zook
In this warmhearted middle-grade novel, Oona and her brother, Fred, love their cat Zook (short for Zucchini), but Zook is sick. As they conspire to break him out of the vet’s office, convinced he can only get better at home with them, Oona tells Fred the story of Zook’s previous lives, ranging in style from fairy tale to grand epic to slice of life.
Now welcome welcome Joanne!!!!!

Let us first start with the easy questions

Point of View: 1ST

Is the main character a BOY or GIRL: GIRL

What Genre: Realistic contemporary with fantasy stories told by main character 

Middle Grade or Young Adult: Middle Grade 

More boy or girl book (stereotypically) – which do you think it would appeal to more? 
Perhaps girls, as girls like to read about girls and boys; boys prefer to read about boys. But the plot is about a pet, there are boys featured in the story, and issues relevant to everyone’s life.

The Serious Questions! 

What part/character/event are you most excited/proud about In The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook? 
I am excited about the stories Oona and Fred tell during the course of the novel. My book is mainly about storytelling, and how important that is for everyone—the teller and the reader or listener. Stories help us make sense of this crazy world we live in. Stories help us connect with those around us. Oona and Fred’s beloved cat, Zook, is ill. To make her little brother feel better, Oona tells Fred a big lie, which he believes. She tells him that cats live nine lives, and that Zook has lived five of them, with four more to go. Then Oona tells Fred the stories of Zook’s other lives: about Miraculo, who saved a kingdom, and Jewel the Ghost Cat, and Beau, the Flying Cat., and Mud who solved a big mystery. I loved creating those stories! They are funny and exciting and show how Oona puts pieces of her own life into their creation, just as all storytellers do. The stories help Oona deal with what’s happening to Zook, and also accept all the big changes happening in her own life. 

Tell about your writing process. How long did it take you to write The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook from idea to finish? Please tell about revision is you can! 
It took me about one year to complete The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook, and that includes four or five drafts! Here is what happened, and let me say right off the bat that revision is the most important part of my process, and the most fun for me, while the book “grows.” First I got a Good Idea which started the story flowing, and that’s the way my books always begin. I have always lived with cats, and I’m always wondering where they came from, since all of them were adopted from shelters. For this book, my Good Idea was to write about an ailing cat, and a girl who tells stories about his other lives in order to cheer up her little brother. But then I got an idea that complicated things much more—there’s a Villain in the story who enters Oona’s real life, and that was my second draft. (That’s all I’m telling. . . .) My third draft was simply beginning it again, from start to finish, polishing, adding, switching chapters around, thinking of a tight ending. My fourth draft was in response to my editor’s suggestion to enlarge one character (Oona’s Secret Love, if you really must know!) My fifth and sixth drafts were in response to questions from the copy editor—questions about fact, grammar, spelling and logic. I think there were other drafts, or partial drafts, but I promise you, it was all a lot of fun. The very hardest part is that first initial Good Idea, and also, creating a character to tell the story. A character I’ll want to hang out with every day for a whole year (and more)! So I decided to create someone who made me laugh, and made me experience strong feelings—and that was Oona. 

When you were in middle school kind of student were you? Did you write then? 
I was kind of nerdy--always reading, dreaming and studying. I was terrible in sports, and shy, so I put my effort into excelling in my schoolwork. I wasn’t very well-rounded. That’s why I try to make my characters less shy and more interesting than I used to be. Writers have the power to live other lives, through their characters. I’ve always, always written stories and poems. It felt good to do that. When I was in elementary and middle school I also wrote a lot of letters to my best friend over the summers, hundreds! One day we exchanged some of those letters, so now I have them in a big box in my garage. Sometimes I use them for research! 

And because it's the owl my standard question always is: WHOOO do you admire when it comes to writing? OR WHOOO do you like to read or really enjoyed in HS or middle school?
There are so many, many wonderful writers writing for children today that I can’t possibly pick favorites—it would take up a whole page. But when I was growing up I loved Anne of Green Gables, and every single one of the books written by L.M. Montgomery. That’s because I grew up in Canada, like the author, and most Canadian kids were introduced to her books early. I also read scads of mysteries, and a bit of fantasy as well. But it was the “Anne books” that I often reread, which is what marks a true favorite. My books today always have a main character who is funny, but naive, anxiously questioning, but brave at the end. Like Anne.

The Fun Questions! (based on what 7th graders do!
Do you chew gum? Yes or No If yes favorite kind? 
Yes! I’m chewing gum right now. Trident sugarless, has to be spearmint...
Do you text? 
I do. But only when I’m not near my computer.
Was school lunch just as yucky then as it is now?! 
It probably was, but I’m a big eater so I probably ate everything and loved it. I’m still the same.

Thank you for joining us today! I like how you took your middle school memories to create characters.  I too give my characters traits I wish I had!

Check out the book trailer.  Super cute!

The Giveaway!
I have one copy of The Five Lives of Our Cat Zook to giveaway
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  1. Thank you for reviewing my book with such insight, and for the opportunity to answer your wise questions. They gave me my own insights into my process I didn't know I had!

  2. Thanks for sharing, great insights. I'm still learning how to write for middle grades / YA. The hard part is coming up with the idea and living the character. So i find nonfiction easier than narrative.

  3. I enjoyed Joan's "One Day and One Amazing Morning on Orange Street". I'm looking forward to reading "Zook" as well. :)

  4. I am looking forward to reading this one! And might I add...yay for Anne!! Thanks for the giveaway!

  5. Excellent interview! I'm so excited to read this (cat lover, right here). New follower!

  6. Thanks, everyone. Yes, yay for cats, and Anne, and middle grade kids and books.