Thursday, May 28, 2009

Introducing Magickeepers - an interview with Erica Kirov

Besides having one of the coolest covers I’ve ever seen, Magickeepers: The Eternal Hourglass can also boast a fantastic story. Nick’s a kid we all might know – one who slacks a little here and there and is looking forward to a summer filled with nothing but junk food, sleeping in, and skateboarding.

Instead, he’s whisked away to live with relatives he didn’t know he had who perform the most successful magic act in Vegas – and Nick will be on stage with them, except the magic will be more than an act. The story itself is fun and fast paced, with enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing. The characters are people you’d love to get to know in real life, including some names in history you may have heard tales of already – like Houdini and Rasputin.

I want to thank Erica Kirov, for taking the time to allow us to interview her, and for volunteering to stop in at the comments to talk with all of our readers. Feel free to ask any questions you’d like about the book, or about writing and publishing in general.

To find out more about the books, stop by the Magickeepers Website or visit Erica’s Magickeeper’s blog, which are also moderated and kid-friendly.

My eleven year old daughter, Gracie, wanted to ask some of the questions, so I’ll turn it over to her to start us out:

Grace: Were you always interested in magicians or was it something new to you for the story?

Erica: I actually LOVE magic acts, and I am always trying to figure out the tricks. (Not very successfully, I might add. I can never figure them out!) So then I had an idea for a book--and like nearly every book idea it started with two words: What if? What if magic was real?

Grace: How did you get the inspiration to write the book?

Erica: Once I had my "what if" question, I let that sort of rest inside me for a bit. Then little by little a world where magicians had to hide their true identities emerged. And then I came up with the idea of a diaspora (a big SAT word meaning when a people scatter) out of ancient Egypt of magicians to places all over the world. And my clan--the Russians--came to me. My father's family is Russian, so that part was kind of easy to come up with.

Grace: If you were Nick Rostov, would you have done anything different? Are you like the main character and what ways are you alike or different?

Erica: That is a really good question. I don't know that I would have been as brave as Nick or have come up with the ending (don't want to spoil it for anyone). I actually am very different from Nick in that I LOVED school and like to read and study--and he obviously doesn't. But he is VERY patient with the Grand Duchess, and I am like that with older people. I love that they have these wonderful stories they can pass along to the next generation. And I also remember not liking the food my grandmother cooked--so I would be like him there. Russian food is definitely an acquired taste. And I guess finally that he gets frustrated easily . . . that is me through and through.

Grace: When you turned the book in to your publisher, did they ask you to change things - and what kind of things do you have to change?

Erica: You will be very surprised, perhaps, to hear the book originally was ONLY about a girl. But before I officially started it, my editor asked if I would make it about a boy. We compromised . . . and so we have Nick and Isabella. They each have gifts unique to them--Nick cannot control animals ever. Once I turned the entire book in, I was asked to add more history (my editor LOVES that part of the story). And the ending changed a lot--my editor wanted more danger!

And now, for some questions of my own:

Merry: This is your first middle grade novel - did you decide you'd like to write to that age bracket and then the idea for the story came to you - or did the idea for the story come first and it was a perfect fit for middle grade?

Erica: I actually wanted to write a middle grade book. I have four children . . . one is a grown-up already (well, she's 19, and I consider her a grown-up). One is 14, one is 11, and my little guy is a VERY mischievous 4 year old. And pretty much, though I have been a novelist for years, it was always very separate from them. A book would come out, and they would sort of shrug or say "Congratulations." But since the books were adult novels, they didn't get to read them and didn't feel part of my writing world. This has been something we got to do together--especially the 14- and 11-year-old. So I did want to write one and I had a couple of ideas, but none felt right. And then out of the blue, I got my "what if magic was real" idea . . . and it grew from there.

Merry: Russian history and heritage is a large part of the story of Magickeepers - did your own Russian heritage play a role in your life and did some of your own traditions make it into the novel?

Erica: My mother's side of the family is Slavic, and actually, they have more traditions. My father's side is very small--but it is a very small family since so many of them were murdered during the Russian Revolution. Very few survived. So that history was always a part of my life, knowing that they experienced this very dark tragedy and it colored the survivors’ lives.

Merry: This is the first series you've created - did you approach the plotting or writing of this novel differently than you have approached your previously published stand alone novels? In what ways does writing a series differ from writing a single title?

Erica: For me, it was like night and day and a LOT harder. I had to have a very clear idea of the battle between the Shadowkeepers and Magickeepers over many years of the story. I had to see well ahead at least two books . . . I had to hold some secrets back. And now that I am in the middle of the second one, I can say that I have to make sure there's enough background for people who didn't read the first--without boring those who DID read the first. A very tricky thing. What I have done differently, too, is create a story bible, so I can keep things straight over a period of years (this first book was a three-year-process, just about). And now I am in the middle of creating a historical timeline because matching historical dates to make sure characters could really have met each other in time has been super difficult.

Okay, guys, it’s your turn. What questions or comments would you like to add?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Author Interview on May 28th- The Amazing Erica Kirov

I am beyond excited to announce that on Thursday, May 28th, I’ll be interviewing the very awesome Erica Kirov on my blog, and you’re all invited!!!

Erica is multi-published, under several pen names (my regular blog readers already know most of them, I’m sure), and on the 28th we’ll be discussing her latest release – the first in her middle grade series:

Magickeepers: The Eternal Hourglass

Erica will be hanging around in the comments section, and the entire discussion will be moderated and kid-friendly. It’s a great opportunity to learn about a fabulous new novel and talk with the author.

If you’re a reader or writer, a fan of middle grade or a parent who might like to introduce their kids to the author – I’d love to see you there.

About the Book:

From the back cover: The one and only Harry Houdini was killed for it, the most powerful magicians have battled for centuries to retrieve it, and even the Ancient Pharaohs feared its power.... What would you do for an hourglass that stopped time?

If you’re not intrigued yet... wait until you meet Nick Rostov.

About comment moderation :

There will be a slight delay between when you leave your comment and when I get it posted. I’ll stop in frequently to make sure there’s not too much lag time...

My blogs are pretty pg to begin with, but I want to welcome any and all young readers to comment, and I want to make sure that they don’t accidentally post too much information in an online forum. So, for you parents out there, your child is safe to participate and I won’t let any full names, towns, schools, etc go up in comments... They can ask any questions they’d like about the book or writing, though.

Of course, I’d also love to welcome all writers, and adult readers who enjoy a good middle grade novel.

To learn more about the books and author, the website is : Magickeepers

The book is available in all of your favorite bookstores, or to order your very own copy from the publisher:

drop by Sourcebooks

Hope to see you all there!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

What Are You Worth?

So, I just found an article that asks what a mother’s work is really worth. These people are pretty funny. According to them, what I do is worth six figures a year. That’s not the funny part. Any mom out there can tell you that what they do is worth more money than there is to pay. The funny part is that the only time society in general sees fit to find worth in motherhood is on a hallmark greeting card holiday.

Any other day of the year, when mingling at a social gathering with new people, the question invariably comes up – What do you do? I don’t often tell them I’m a writer. I usually tell them I’m a mother. It’s my litmus test. If their smile freezes over and they find a quick reason to talk to someone ‘more interesting’ I know they’re not worth my time. Twice it’s happened that someone else in the room outed me as a writer and they came back, thinking I’d have something more interesting to say. I do – just not to them...

The thing is, I don’t need someone I just met to validate my worth. I don’t need an article with a built in calculator to give me a monetary figure that’s supposed to boost my esteem. But then, I don’t define success and money interchangeably. My bank account doesn’t tell you any of the important things. It can’t give a history of the time I’ve spent teaching my own kids, or other peoples’ kids. It can’t tell you how many times I’ve been late, but still let someone into my lane in traffic, or how many times I’ve put in my own time without pay, to help someone else out or further a cause. I don’t even keep track of those things, and they’re certainly not measured in dollars.

My kids are the best indication of my worth:

They are better, faster, stronger, funnier, more compassionate, and infinitely more important than any work I have or will create. My characters are important to me, and I hope that they will find the world and the reader and speak to them – but my writing, no matter how far I take it, will never be my greatest accomplishment... The best things I’ve ever been a part of, I owe more thanks to than I can take credit for.

And my Mother’s Day gifts:

The flowers are from my daughter. She hand-painted the pot and arranged the flowers herself. The frames are from my boys – oldest painted the blue and green one and littlest guy painted the red one. I’m hunting for pictures so I can put them out for tomorrow.

How are you spending your mother’s day? Did you give your mom a call yet? Did your kids delight you with something special? (And for the dads, did you do something for the Mrs?) And moms out there – how do you define your worth?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Playing Ball

I’m almost reticent to admit this in public, but I’m not one of those parents that agree with the whole ideal that children’s sports should be non-competitive. Everybody wins, everyone gets a trophy, and everyone feels good. Nope, I think you learn by working with your team really hard, and trying your best... and then when you win it means something and you also learn that there are worse things than losing. I know, I suck.

And it’s not that I want to see kids feeling bad. I have kids. It rips my heart out when they get thrown out at a base or can’t hit the ball, especially when they get upset enough to cry over it. Here’s the thing, those little lessons and disappointments in childhood help strengthen us for the bigger ones down the road. We learn to cope by experience – we learn more than that, but I’m simplifying for the moment.

Littlest guy plays baseball. This is his third year playing and he was really looking forward to it. He loved tee-ball and the league he was in last year, and when it came time to get him new cleats and a big guy mitt... well, man, he was pumped. My older son plays football, and all fall the football dads were asking littlest guy if he’d be playing football next year. He always said, “Nope. I play baseball!” That’s his game, the one he likes and the one he picked.

Well, this year it’s kid pitch. Slightly different from last year, where the coach lobbed meatballs over the plate, and if you couldn’t hit one of those, they let you hit off a tee. This year, there’s another seven year old on the pitching mound, and he may just be seven but he’s throwing as hard as he can... and seven year olds don’t always have good aim.

Littlest guy got beaned his first time up. I know, I gasped, too. He wasn’t really hurt just startled... but startled turned into scared. For the next two practices and one game, he was so afraid of getting hit again that he struck out every he was up – and every time he struck out he was so upset that he cried. His dad took him out to the backyard and taught him how to jump out of the way using wiffle balls, so he wasn’t afraid of the drill... but still, for those first two weeks, he didn’t like baseball so much anymore. And it wasn’t that he didn’t like the sport. It was that he didn’t like striking out. It was the failure, not the game.

We talked about it before his next practice, and I told him I didn’t care if he got a hit or not as long as he did his best. But I also told him not to think about the parts he doesn’t like, think instead about the parts he does... He likes fielding – he loves playing any of the base positions and he likes catching and knowing which base to throw the ball to.

So what happened? As he explained to anyone in ear-shot, “I caught not one but four balls! In the air! Without them even touching the ground!”

I love the way he explains it.... in the same tone he might use to say he saved twelve people from a runaway train. But suddenly he was having fun... and of course, in his next game, he got a hit.

You should have seen him. He got to first base, realized he was safe, and jumped up and down on the base, clapping his hands like mad. Then, after about three minutes of cheering for himself, he found me in the stands, yelled “Mom!!!!” and gave me two thumbs up.

That one hit was enough to get him over the fear... it’s fun again.

So this brings me to writing, because I think underneath, we’re not so different from our seven year old selves. Writing means striking out a hell of a lot. But I think for me, I’ve been concentrating on the fielding – okay, enough baseball metaphors. I’ve been working on the end of things I can control – the writing. Playing with my voice and the way I use it. Working on a new wip and working with a few beta readers... well, a lot of things, but it’s the stuff I enjoy as much as it is the stuff I’m improving. For me, the hard part is the query letters and rejections. It hasn’t made me cry yet, but it has made me take a long break from submissions. Because I’m still writing, it doesn’t feel so much like caving... but let’s get real here, if I’m not submitting, all that writing doesn’t amount to a hell of a lot, does it?

How about you guys? How do you get over the parts that are hard and keep pushing?