Welcome back to the Author Interview series and middle-grade and children’s author Shaunda Kennedy Wenger! I find I always learn something crucial when I talk to other writers. Never fails! I especially love Shaunda’s unique way of separating her writing time from her office-y business time! Ingenious and practical! I love that about parent-writers! Also a great reminder about social media and keeping track of what’s really important. Thanks for that Shaunda!
Featured Author Snapshot:
Author’s Name: Shaunda Kennedy Wenger
Genres: Middle-Grade Paranormal Fiction, children’s chapter books, & cookbooks
Featured Title: The Ghost in Me
Goodreads: Shaunda Kennedy Wenger
Buy her books here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Ghost-in-Me-ebook/dp/B004GUS88Q/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1334808093&sr=8-1
Publisher: Essemkay Company Productions
Author the Author:
Shaunda Kennedy Wenger is an author of middle-grade paranormal fiction and children’s chapter books living in northern Utah.
MF: Welcome and thanks so much for sharing your work and experiences with us! Can you tell us about your latest project?
SKW: Thanks so much for having me, Michele! Right now I am getting ready to release my next middle grade novel. It’s called Reality Bites, Tales of a Half-Vampire. I’m really looking forward to getting this book out, because there has been such a great response to it. Young readers are still definitely interested in vampires. Even though plenty of vampire books have been published for adults and young adult vampire, there hasn’t been all that much published for younger readers. They are hungry for more in this genre.
MF: Are there themes that come up again and again in your work?
SKW: It seems so. I hope that by the end of my books, readers feel a sense of feeling empowered, knowing that they are capable of anything they put their mind to. Although I do tend to have fun with my plots and characters as I write, I do enjoy seeing how they get out of the predicaments I’ve put them in. Because of that, I want readers to relate with the characters enough to understand that they, too, have the ability to control the direction their lives take through decision and action.
MF: What is it that writing gives you that you can’t get from anything else?
SKW: Confidence. One of my favorite quotes is, “The cave you fear most to enter, holds the treasure you seek.” I’ve come to find that this is true with writing. Inevitably, at some point in a project, something will arise that will cast looming shadows of doubt over whether the book will even get finished. But when I keep working at it, I find the feeling of accomplishment in having met the challenges completely satisfying. That feeling fuels my desire to start new projects all over again from scratch.
MF: Are there experiences from your own life that have worked their way into your work?
SKW: Absolutely! The idea for Reality Bites came on Halloween night many years ago when I opened the door to a trick-or-treater who was dressed up as Minnie Mouse—but not in the usual way. This “Minnie” had experienced the misfortune of “becoming a vampire.” It was the funniest costume I’d ever seen, but the poor girl was not happy about it. Apparently, she had just wanted to dress up as plain, old Minnie; but her parents had different ideas.
For The Ghost in Me, the family of the main character becomes haunted by a “haunted” chair that they bought from eBay. This actually happened to a neighbor of mine. A ghost came by mail with the delivery of used piece of furniture. My neighbors wound up having to get their house (and chair) blessed. Again, a funny story for me to hear about, but the neighbors weren’t necessarily laughing when they were dealing with that issue.
MF: Can you tell us a bit about how you work?
SKW: I write best in my truck (parked, of course!), when I’ve got a snippet of free time between chauffeuring kids from place to place. Because their schedule is fairly regular from season to season, my free time in the driver’s seat goes by a fairly regular schedule. I actually like working in the truck, because once I pull out the lap-top, there’s not much else to focus on, other than what’s on the screen. But I do have an office, and it works well for providing a space to take care of the business and correspondence side of writing.
MF: Do you have your own version of a muse?
SKW: I write best when I feel genuinely happy and settled. Thankfully, I derive a lot of happiness from witnessing the successes of others, whether those sources of inspiration be from my children, my friends, or my students. Sharing smiles with others is completely energizing for me, and I let that fuel my desire to transfer those feelings into my work.
MF: Are there things you think we readers have gained from all the new and social media we have these days?
SKW: Yes. There is definitely more of a connection available between readers and writers that never existed before. Readers have an opportunity to connect with writers via Facebook, blogs, Email or Twitter; whereas in the past, letters had to go first through publishers and agents before they reached writers. Overall, the ability to communicate with each other inspires creativity on all levels in a multitude of ways, both measureable and immeasurable.
MF: Are there things you feel we have lost touch with because of new media?
SKW: Potentially, our desire to see and interact with what’s in the world via the internet can cut us off from what’s immediately around us—children, family, friends, pets, yards that need tending, walks that should be taken, etc. We can’t lose touch with what it truly means to be living and loving human beings.
MF: When you write, do you ever worry about what your kids will think when they read it later?
SKW: Absolutely. I won’t write a story that will embarrass them, or leave them explaining or defending my style of writing to their peers. It’s not necessary. That doesn’t mean my stories aren’t emotionally honest, nor does it mean my characters are perfect. They make mistakes that they end up needing to deal with, just like the rest of us do.
MF: Do you share books that you love with your kids?
SKW: All the time. I have a spending habit when it comes to books. My kids are never short of titles to choose from. Sometimes they like the stories I buy, sometimes they don’t, which is fine. We all have different tastes, and I respect their opinions. Because of that, I like to offer them a diversity of styles to choose from, as well as titles they normally wouldn’t pick up on their own.
MF: Any interesting partnerships happening for you right now?
SKW: My mother and I are working on an historic railroad cookbook, based on the cooking journal that my great-grandmother kept. Her husband managed a machine repair shop for the railroad in Avis, Pennsylvania, in the early 1900s. My great-grandmother took in boarders who worked on the railroad and cooked meals for them. Based on what is in her diary, she was quite an accomplished cook, who liked to present a well-laid table. There are so many interesting facts and details in the journal that help define what life was like at the turn of the 20th century. We can’t wait to share this cookbook with others.
MF: Is there any message you’d like to share with your readers?
SKW: I hope that reading my books actually keeps my readers interested in exploring the world around them. Although my primary purpose as a writer is to tell a story, I do like to weave interesting or unusual facts or ideas into the story through my characters. Hopefully, these details transfer to my readers in getting them to ask, “Is that really true?” and “What if?”
MF: Is there a review or quote that really summed up what your work is all about?
SKW: For The Ghost in Me, Rick Walton, who has written over 80 books for children, said, “This is the kind of book I loved to read when I was a kid—lots of humor, lots of suspense, fun characters, but not too intense. Just the right blend for that kid that wants a fun, exciting read.”
MF: Do you have any projects coming up that you can share with us?
SKW: I have three books coming out in 2012, which I have been working on for a while. Reality Bites, Tales of a Half-Vampire is coming out in Ebook format in May, and paperback in June. The railroad cookbook will be out in August, and another chapter book for younger readers called, The Adventures of Brindle, Bramble, and Bob is coming out in November.
MF: Thanks so much for telling us about what you’re up to!