Monday, January 15, 2018

Interview Your Characters to Gain a Better Understanding of Their Story

As an exercise to strengthen your YA protagonist, interview them as if they are sitting on a late night talk show. Ask them questions about their backstory, their problem, or the way they deal with their antagonist. At the end of this writing exercise, you’ll see how the protagonist’s choices influence the plot.  
I’ll use my own characters from my YA urban fantasy, RATGIRL: Song of the Viper to demonstrate.

My name is Gayle C. Krause and this is Jax Stone, aka RATGIRL.”
Jax nods. “Hi.”

“So, Jax, I’m sure readers would like to know more about you and the RATGIRL: Song of the Viper story. Could you tell us something about yourself?”

“Well, when the story starts, the only thing I hate more than my life is the rats. They’ve taken over the streets and buildings, and they’re even in my bed. I guess it’s to be expected since I live in an abandoned city sewer. But they make my job raising Andy even harder. At five, my brother can’t take care of himself yet, not in this hellhole.”

“So your life circumstance is not ideal.”

Jax shakes her head and sighs. “Not by a long shot. Global warming has practically devastated the earth, and the sun’s deadly rays make it impossible for us to spend more than two hours on the surface. And, there’s not enough food, thanks to him.” Jax tilts her head toward the last chair on the stage.

Culpepper, the tyrannical mayor, leans forward in his seat, his beady eyes narrowed.

“Let’s not exaggerate the facts, girl. The sniveling crybabies left in my city make me sick. They act like they’re the only ones who have suffered from the sun’s attack on the Earth. If they had any gumption they’d pick themselves up and start working to make a better life for themselves. I did.”

Jax answers. “I tried, but you made it difficult. Thanks to Nonna’s teachings, I’m the only one in Metro City who forages for wild edibles, while others starve.  We eat our main meal in the morning, just before sun-up. Once it rises we descend into our hidey-holes until it’s safe to come out again in the evening.

Bah! I should have known you were one of those insufferable ECOS.”

“Next to Jax, is the most heart-stopping, swoonworthy male character in YA novels, today. He’s got a body like the statue of David, and a heart filled with love, not only for Jax but for all mankind. He’s a true ECO.”

Jax clasps his hand and a crimson haze blossoms on his cheeks.

“You’re embarrassing me, Gayle. I just workout and eat right.”

Jax grins. “Easy for you, since you live in Antarctica in 2511. It’s the only sustainable continent left on earth. Jax’s cheeks blush, too. I’m only kidding. I’m sure the readers would love to know him as well as I do. His name is Colt. Colt Conrad.”

 “Colt, what do you have to say? You’re seated between these two. Is that on purpose?”

“Yes. Syl, here, employed me, and my Air Caravan to bring food to Metro City, but he took it all for himself and his cronies. The homeless only got what The Altar Boys could smuggle to them. Every time I pulled into the old station I noticed Jax observing me bartering with the desperate people, who traded whatever family heirlooms they had left, for food. Eventually, our paths crossed, and the rest is history.”

“Bah! History! I’m the one who had a plan to return Metro City to its glory days, with my new underground city.  But first, I needed to rid the city of the vile rodents that killed my wife and son. “

Jax bolts to her feet.

“But you couldn’t do that without my help. And once I rid the city of rats, you reneged on our agreement.

“You did that all alone? Can you tell us more?”

“My one goal was to get Andy to the New Continent, where he could live a normal life but when Culpepper kidnapped him, along with the city’s homeless children, it made my goal a daunting one. Desperate to get Andy back I formulated a plan and used my hypnotic singing voice to carry it out. He left me no choice. I took all the children of the dying city to safety. But I couldn’t do it without my friends and Colt.

“Thanks, Jax. Colt, I remember something about the secret tattoo on your bicep. Could you tell us a bit about the ECO’s?”

“Sure. The ECOS were a group of environmentalists, who tried to preserve the Earth’s resources when severe global warming first started to affect our lives. They imported trees that would survive in warmer temperatures and moved to the country to grow their own root vegetables. Their numbers included scientists, agriculturists, horticulturists and anyone environmentally minded. Jax’s grandmother and my grandfather were two of the founders. They passed their knowledge of sustainable living on to us.”

 So Sylvanis Culpepper, you’ve taken on the role of villain. How are you?”

His gruff and selfish nature pours out with his words. “That depends on whether you’re at the beginning of the book or the end.

“I can still see the tumult in your relationships, even now that the story is over. And that’s a good thing to have a story stay with a reader long after the book cover is closed.

Happy interviewing!

Friday, December 1, 2017

A MERRY, NOT SO SCARY JERRY - Interview with Shelley Kinder

Today, in a continuing series of interviews with Spork children's authors, I'd like to introduce you to Shelley Kinder, author of NOT SO SCARY JERRY!

1. How long have you been writing?

I've been writing for three to four years, but dabbled in it a little before that. I had a childhood dream of writing a children's book someday, but it took me a long time to actually do it.

2. Do you work on different picture book manuscripts concurrently or do you stick with one until it’s completed?

Once I start a story, I tend to stick with it until the first draft is done. After that, it will inevitably need revisions, but at least I feel freed up to work on other stories at the same time.

3. How many hours a day do you write? 

There are many days I don't write at all, but I'm always doing something writing related: Reading, critique groups, formulating thoughts in my head, etc. My actual writing, if it's going to happen in a given day, usually doesn't take place until my kids are in bed. My brain works better in that environment. I think as my kids get older, I'll probably fall into a more regular writing schedule. For now, I write when I can't hold it inside any longer.

4. Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

I just read Not So Scary Jerry again and realized I'm actually a lot like Jerry in that it took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I always knew I wanted to be a mom, but other than that, I wasn't exactly sure. There's a line in the story where the boy says, "What were you born to do, Jerry?" Jerry scratches his head and lists some things he enjoys. In the end, he discovers his true passion. It took me several college experiences, getting married, and having kids to finally realize that writing was my true passion.

5. How long from the point of your idea, until the book was completed?

I believe it was about three years from idea to published book (two years from idea to acceptance of publication). Not So Scary Jerry went through several revisions before I submitted the story to Clear Fork Publishing (Spork). While working with illustrator Caryn Schafer on the book, we agreed on some small changes as well, including deleting a handful of dialogue tags. Caryn added the word "Oooof" to one of the last pages of the story, and it's one of my favorite lines in the whole book. It's been such a great experience working with a smaller publisher and being able to collaborate with Caryn.

6. What are your organizational affiliations for writing and do you believe they strengthened your writing skills?

I'm a member of SCBWI, which has been helpful, but unfortunately, I have never attended one of their conferences. I hear the conferences are amazing, and writers learn a lot from them, so I hope to go to one in the future.  

7. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?

I recently joined which has a modest monthly fee, and I'm loving it so far! I was just a part of an Inked Voices group with ten of us who all critiqued each others' picture book stories, and then at the end, an editor from Roaring Brook Press gave us all written feedback on our stories. The finale was a live 2-hour chat with all of us, including the editor. It was so helpful to have all of that feedback on one story! There was a fee to join that specific group, outside of the monthly fee, but I found the cost to be very reasonable and probably the best money I've ever spent as a writer. I'll also mention that I paid for a Kirkus review for Not So Scary Jerry, but the review won't be complete until mid-December. If Jerry gets a glowing review (or even a starred review!), I think that will also be money extremely well spent because it could open a lot of doors for the book.

8. What’s next for you?

My second book, titled The Masterpiece, is set for release in the spring (also published by Spork). It's a story about God painting the sunrise into the sky. I have the privilege of working with my mom on the book since she's illustrating it. Her talent amazes me. I know the art is going to be beautiful, and I can't wait to see the final product! 
Other than that, I'm just working on learning more each day, writing as much as I can, and getting my manuscripts into the right hands. After my agent, Vicki Selvaggio, submits a manuscript to editors, I basically just pray that someone gives it a chance.

If you would like to purchase Not So Scary Jerry, here are the links.

Amazon link:

If you'd like to get in touch with Shelley, visit her website at

Thank you, Shelley, for sharing your writing journey with us. Looking forward to many books from you. 

Thank you, Gayle, for inviting me to share my thoughts and experiences on your blog. I hope you have a wonderful holiday season!


Wednesday, November 29, 2017



It’s hard to believe that Rock Star Santa is celebrating his tenth birthday this year. Children delight in his lyrical beat and Will Terry’s fun illustrations. Just as Santa travels the world, so has my picture book, Rock Star Santa.  

He has a following in the West Indies, England, Australia, and just this year he made did a concert in Asia. He made visits to schools in New York, Pennsylvania even had a ROCK STAR SANTA Christmas tree in a school in Utah.

To celebrate his tenth birthday, I am giving away a signed copy of ROCK STAR SANTA, a rhyming picture book critique and assorted goodies from Santa’s bag.

It’s Christmas Eve. The tree is lit and children await Santa’s arrival, only they’re not tucked snuggly in their beds dreaming of sugarplums. They’re stomping and clapping at a Christmas rock concert where Santa is the “star.” Santa’s snow-white hair is in a ponytail and he’s ready to rock. The rowdy reindeer band includes Donner on electric bass, eerily resembling Keith Richard. Blitzen has a Paul Stanley-like star painted on his eye as he plays the drums, and you can’t help but notice the resemblance of Comet to Slash, as he shoots across the stage.

But Santa is “THE MAN.” ROCK STAR SANTA is an original, modern day retelling of a Christmas classic, but what happens on this night before Christmas is ROCKIN’.

If you'd like ROCK STAR SANTA to perform in your home Christmas Eve, or receive one of the other Christmas treats in Santa’s bag, leave a comment below stating what you love MOST about Christmas! Or you can email me for more information at

I’ll start the Christmas ball rolling. What I love most about Christmas is –

The smells of the season!
·      The balsam tree fragrance when the lights are on.
·      The molasses crinkle cookies baking in the oven.
·      The cinnamon candles burning on the mantle.

Winners will be announced December 26th. Follow the Storyteller’s Scroll to find out if it’s you!

Rock on! Rhyme on! Ho! Ho! Ho!

Interview Your Characters to Gain a Better Understanding of Their Story

As an exercise to strengthen your YA protagonist, interview them as if they are sitting on a late night talk show. Ask them questions about...