March 28, 2012

Author Interview: Lory Kaufman

Today I welcome Lory Kaufman author of The Looker and the Lens and The Bronze and the Brimstone
Learn about the books and check out my review.  

Lory has agree to answer some questions about his books.  Welcome Lory!

Let's start with the basics.
Point of View: 1st or 3rd:
LORY’S ANSWER: Each Point of View style (POV) has its own strengths and restrictions, and therefore the most appropriate one has to be chosen to suit a particular story. In all three books of the Verona Trilogy, I am working in what is called Third Person Limited. That is, the story is told by an outside narrator, but each ‘scene’ can be told from a different character’s point of view, or, from behind his or her eyes. In limited, the narrator must describe only what this one character is seeing and thinking. (the narrative is limited to one character at a time) You can switch from character to character, but I put certain rules on it, for myself. To fully describe my method, I would have to give the definition of what a scene is in novel writing. The definition is different from TV and movies.  A scene starts, and thus the describing of a scene from a particular character’s POV starts, when the writer makes known that the character wants or needs something. That something can be an object, a goal or some emotional need. I write the scene from that person’s point of view until they either get it or fail to get it. Then the POV may change. The strength of 3rd person limited is that it brings the reader very close to the character and hopefully engages them in the story more.
 What Genre is it?
ANSWER: I actually don’t like to think I am writing Genre fiction. I like to think I’m just writing a story in a way that I hope will appeal to a broad audience. However, over the past twenty-five years bookstores became large and, therefore, needed to be broken up into specific departments. Publishers began asking that books be written specifically for narrower and narrower categories, so they could be put in with a bunch of other similar books. The marketplace is changing again and many books are now bought online as either paper or E-books. Hopefully a writer can now find an audience without fitting a specific formula.
That being said, even the best genre fiction can find an audience outside of its category, if it has two particular attributes. One is that it has to be a great story and two, it has to be written well.

QUESTION; Middle Grade or Young Adult
ANSWER: Similar to above, I am just trying to write a good story well. However, I initially had a very hard time finding a publisher because they said my writing was neither middle grade nor young adult. The truth was I saw myself writing a story about troubled young teens who had to grow up fast, so it crossed over. Personally, I just try to write a good book for readers between the ages from 13 to 113 years-old.
I’ll tell you what I see as the ultimate middle grade book that is also a young adult and an adult book. It’s the book that made me want to be a writer when I was fourteen. (that’s a long time ago) It’s Lord of the Flies, by William Golding. It’s a book about kids, and only kids, stuck on an island. However, it can be read by middle graders, teens or adults.

Do you see your books more for boy’s or girls?
LORY’S ANSWER: When I started, and before I had a book deal, I thought I was writing a book mainly for boys. Then, when I met Lou Aronica, my editor and publisher, he explained how over 70% of books are bought by females and also that the love story and the adventure I was writing would be very appealing to girls. Although I didn’t consciously change my writing style after I heard this, I did notice the way I wrote my female characters changed. But something I heard a long time ago, and I didn’t believe was true at the time, is now true for me. It’s who I really write for. While I do endeavor to write clearly and interestingly, so as many people as possible will relate to what is happening in my stories, the person I am really trying to please when I write . . . is me.

For these two books - what part/character/event are you most excited/proud about?
LORY'S ANSWER: I’m most proud of just finishing them. I didn’t get my first book published till I was sixty years old. And I find it hard to be proud of just one thing, because a book is a compilation of thousands of ideas done in a hopefully seamless way, so if one thing stands out, it may distract from the story.

Tell about your writing process. How long did it take you to write these books from idea to finish? Please tell about revision is you can!
The first two books took about five years to write. That’s because I was getting my writing skills up to professional standards and taking many classes.
As for writing and revision, there’s three parts to writing. The outline, the draft and then editing.
One cannot spend too much time outlining. It includes a one paragraph description of what the kernel of the story is about, then a one page description, an up to five page outline, and then a full outline.  Maybe 5,000 words. This includes character essays. The 5,000 words does not include research, so there’s lots more outside of the outline, especially since part of my stories include detailed historical descriptions.  That’s part one.
Next comes the draft. For the most part, an author’s draft is just to get a sense of the story and all the little inspirations that he or she thinks will make the story unique. The inspiration part is actually what makes writing addictive to me. I get a buzz when I am writing away and all these little ideas emerge. It gives me a rush and I love watching the show in my head. It’s part of being ADD, I guess. So, one works and works for weeks, writing a section, adding scenes and dialogue, experimenting and just having fun. The number one question I am constantly asking myself when I am at this stage is, “Why is this scene here or piece of information here? What does it add to the story?”
There’s an old clique that says “writing is rewriting”. That brings us to the next phase, editing. This usually is much quicker than the rough draft but I find a book goes through 6 or 7 edits. At first I concentrate on just smoothing things out, going paragraph by paragraph, moving lines and ideas around to get the information flow in the right order. You see, sometimes you get a great idea, but when you look back at it, it’s not quite in the right place. Then there’s smoothing the characters out, making them consistent. When you start a book, the character is usually not well formed. As the writer gets to know the character, things change, so when you rewrite, you will be changing the early stuff you’ve written for them. This first edit is where you usually find your plot holes too, the things that don’t make sense. Don’t get me started on plot holes. I could write a whole blog on plot holes, especially since I’m talking about time travel. (hey, that’s a good idea. But another time)
After the first edit, I put the thing away for a week or two, to get some objectivity, and then I do it all over again. Now I can concentrate on making sure there’s a sense of pacing, both in the writing and the story’s flow.
At this point I usually have my line editor, who is my daughter, Jessica Kaufman, do her thing. She is a primary school teacher working in Shanghai, China. She goes over the manuscript and usually cuts down about ten to fifteen percent of the manuscript, suggests ideas be moved here or there, etc. I then make the changes which I accept, usually about 80%.
After this the polishing begins. I go paragraph by paragraph again, trying to ensure a real flow to the words. Cutting back any words I can. If I’ve said something with twelve words and I can say it with ten, I cut it. If I’ve said something with five words and I can say it with three, I cut it. If I can change a seven letter word to a four letter word, I change that.
Then I send it to my editor and publisher, Lou Aronica. Lou reads the whole book, gives me a five to eight page report on EVERYTHING, commenting mostly on story structure.  And then, can you guess what I do? REWRITE it again, polishing, polishing, polishing. Then Lou reads it again and I polish, polish, polish.
And then it’s done!
When you were in middle school, what kind of student were you? Did you write then?
LORY'S ANSWER: I always wrote. In grade three I was writing and organizing school plays, believe it or not. But life, ADD, dyslexia and a whole bunch of other things got in my way and ended up in business till I was in my 50s. And what type of a student was I? A complete failure. Back in those days they had no idea about ADD and dyslexia, so I was categorized as lazy, a day dreamer and someone who wasn’t living up to their potential. This caused huge insecurities which dogged me until I was in my 40s and I learned the facts about these things.  But that’s a whole other story and something for another blog.  So, the answer is YES, I always wrote.

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?
LORY'S ANSWER: Because writing is an art, it’s hard to compare writers, but here’s a few names of people I have learned a lot from, just by reading and thinking about what and why they are doing certain things.
As far as middle grade modern writers, I really like Rick Riordan and Neil Gaiman.
For young adult, right now a few of my favorites are David Benioff, Scott Westerfeld, Neil Shusterman, Suzanne Collins, to name but a few. 
When I was in high school I very most influenced by William Golding, George Orwell, Aldus Huxley, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, William Shakespeare, again, to name but a few.  

The FunQuestions! (based on what 7th graders do!)
Do you chew gum? Yes or No If yes favorite kind?
Not anymore.  When I was a kid I loved Double Bubble. 
Do you text?
Very little. My sons text me all the time, and sometimes I think it’s just faster to phone back. But sometimes it’s nice to text and know that the person can get back to you when they can.
Was school lunch just as yucky then as it is now?
Is it yucky now? I didn’t find it that yucky. When I was in grade 7, it was what was called Junior High, a school just for grades 7, 8 and 9, so in grade 7, when I moved from a public school, K to 6, I thought I was a big shot. So lunch was a time to socialize.
Thank you Lory! And good luck with the 3rd book in the trilogy!!!
If you want to know about the Verona Trilogy check out the History Camp website.  

1 comment:

  1. Great interview! I love that Lory found his way back to writing.