Tour #2 on the Summer Book Blog Tour presents an Author Interview with Danette Haworth: author of Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightening
Danette Haworth was first published at six-years-old, when she created a comic book series starring Peter Pan. These marvelous adventures usually ended with a defeated Captain Hook raising his sword, shouting, “I’ll get you, Pan!” Her mother still has the first edition, so carefully colored and stapled all those years ago.
Danette’s degree in English landed her a job as a technical writer, which was a fun position because she got to play in tank simulators and explain to scientists that possessive its does not have an apostrophe. She later worked as travel writer and a freelance writer/editor.
Her debut novel, Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning, was published by Walker Books for Young Readers, Fall 2008 and will be followed by The Hotel of Blueberry Goodness (2010) and Me and Jack (2011).
Danette will be popping in throughout the day, so feel free to leave a comment or ask her a question or two!
Interview by Mary Jo Campbell
MJC: I love your “About Me” page on your website. Readers can really get a sense of your good nature and humor. Have you always written light-hearted humorous pieces? What kind of advice can you give those of us who take ourselves (and our writing) too seriously?
DN: Thank you! When I write, I take on the mood of whatever I’m writing, so light-hearted pieces are great to work with. One thing I liked about Violet Raines was being able to be stubborn and feisty through her character. She’s so bold!
On taking one’s self too seriously—I don’t have any advice! I tend to take things seriously myself, especially things I’ve poured my heart into. My mother can let things roll off her back; not me, I feel every bit of it. I really do believe creative people are sensitive—that’s our weakness and our strength. Sure, maybe we take things too seriously, but we also pick up on nuances that others might miss. We’re a bit more raw in that area, but as I said before, it’s actually a strength and a gift. I would never trade it in!
MJC: Good point. I wouldn’t trade my sensitivity for anything, either! The book video produced by Scholastic Books is exciting! Can you tell us how you became involved with Scholastic Books for your book, Violet Raines Almost Got Struck by Lightning?
DN: I received an email from my editor asking me if Scholastic reps could visit and film me for their video. I was like Yeah! Of course! When the crew of three arrived, I felt relaxed, eager. They’d read my book, and I’d read some of the books written by authors they were set to record. The sun shone, birds chirped, and my hair turned out well. Then they turned the cameras on and my mouth went totally dry!
Larry Decker, Scott Bennett, Juan Cruz were professional and nice. They wanted to see the Econlockhatchee River, which was the inspiration for the setting of Violet Raines. I couldn’t wait to take them there. Larry thought it was beautiful, and it is. Oaks and palms hang over the river, forming a canopy in places. Egrets and other fishing birds wade in the shallows for lunch. We didn’t see any alligators that day—I think Scott was hoping for at least one!—but I was relieved, being the smallest and probably the slowest in the bunch.
They filmed for several hours and somehow, in editing, took out all my um, uh, what was the question? They made me look good and I LOVED the lightning effects they added to the sequence. They did a great job!
(Check out the book video here!)
MJC: You said in a recent interview, that Violet just “walked into” your head one day. Did the rest of the story “write itself” or did the characters stump your flow or theme you were trying to follow? What was your novel writing process in regards to outlining; rough draft writing; research for setting/characters; revision, etc?
DN: When I got a hold of Violet, she was so complete, so real, I could have dropped her into any situation and I would have known exactly how she would react. Boy, was she feisty! I wanted to come up with a story that would be a match for her.
I wrote a brief outline before drafting detailed character sketches, which then led to a full outline taking me all the way to the end of the book. Having an outline keeps me immersed in the book. I know what I have to accomplish today, and when I’m done writing, my mind wanders down the path of where I’ll go tomorrow.
Sometimes a character will pop with something not on the outline, and I follow that new direction to see where it goes. Who knows? There might be something exciting down that way! I never feel dictated to by the outline; I look at it as more of a guide.
As far as research, it’s true you should always research, even if you’re writing about your own backyard. For as well as I know the Central Florida area, I still researched things like lovebugs (When do they swarm? Lovebug—is it two words, one word, or hyphenated?); Detroit and its monorail system; alligators; and, of course, lightning!
MJC: Like myself, many writers have full-time day jobs that take us out of the house, but wish to make that leap to full-time writer. Can you tell us what steps you took to make the transition and was there anything you wish you knew then?
DN: The transition for me took place when we started having a family; I always wanted to be home when I had kids. But I still wanted to keep my foot in the door, so I took on freelance editing and writing assignments, doing what I liked (and getting paid for it!) while babies took naps.
The main change for me was giving up work I could count on to taking the risk on my dream: writing a novel. I’m so glad I did!
The only thing I wish I knew then is relax! After I sold Violet Raines and the final draft was accepted, I’d never been through a copyedit before or any of the proofreading rounds. I pored over the pages when these things came through; it seemed as if the entire success of the book depended on if I kept this comma or deleted it! I went through the pages with a red pencil, and when I tried to copy the manuscript, none of my marks were visible! So I sharpened my pencil and pressed hard over all of my marks to make sure they’d show up. By the time I got done, the manuscript looked like a toddler had been through it with a red crayon! How embarrassing!
MJC: I’ve read that you are working on a second novel, The Hotel of Blueberry Goodness (another great title!) Can you tell us a bit about this upcoming novel? Is your writing process with this book similar or different to the process used for Violet Raines?
DN: Thanks for your compliment on the title! The Hotel of Blueberry Goodness is set in north Central Florida, in the hills (Yes! Florida has hills!) near a freshwater spring. In Blueberry Goodness, a girl who lives in a dilapidating, antebellum hotel meets an eclectic group of friends, including a teenage runaway.
My process for this book was different from every other piece of writing I’ve ever approached. I knew the characters; I knew the beginning, I knew the climax, the denouement, but for the life of me, I couldn’t draft the full outline. For weeks, I struggled with trying to format the story arc so I’d have an outline for support. I knew what I wanted to happen in the story, but I was blocked as far as getting it down in outline form, which scared me—I’m used to having that guide.
Finally, I said Forget it! I started writing. Staying on course without the outline was easier than I thought it would be. I still explored new paths when they popped up, but it was easy to recognize directions that were purely tangential. At the end of each writing session, I’d scribble some notes to myself about what I just wrote, what needed to be adjusted, and what needed to happen tomorrow. So instead of having one big outline, I had guidance in bits and pieces, and it worked.
MJC: That is fabulous! You experienced novel success working both with and without an outline. What advice do you have for young writers who aspire to be published in fiction?
DN: My advice to young writers is to look now for opportunities! With the explosion of online magazines, there are more venues now than ever before for young writers. Do your research; don’t worry (at first) about the paycheck, but look at the quality of the stories being published and make sure you’d be proud to have your story there.
Don’t forget about opportunities close to home: class newsletter, community newsletter, contests or columns for young people in the local paper, yearbook, school blog, etc. All these places provide the experience of writing, being edited, meeting deadlines, and the best one—having other people read and enjoy your writing!
MJC: What else is next for Danette Haworth? Please let us know about your tours, appearances, etc!
DN: The biggest thing for me is finishing up Blueberry Goodness and then moving on to revisions for my third book, Me and Jack, which comes out with Walker in 2011.
I recently filmed a short video for Mom’s Homeroom on encouraging and keeping your children interested in reading. Later this year, I’ll be in Philadelphia to speak at the National Council of Teachers of English conference; next April, I fly to Chicago to participate in the 2010 International Reading Association conference.
Thank you so much for having me, Mary Jo! It was fun!
Be sure to check out Danette’s website for dates and places of her continuing blog tour…