29 December, 2014

#SpecialFeature :: Interview with #Author Linda Lee Schell

*** Special Feature December 2014 ***

An Interview With the Author

When did you first realize that you wanted to be a writer/ a storyteller?
 Looking back to the days of yore, at five years of age I saw a broken typewriter in my aunt’s attic, and wanted to start writing then.  After that day every time I saw a typewriter I wanted to write.  I didn’t have access to a typewriter until I was a junior in high school.  By then I had put my writing ideas aside.  

What inspires you to write?
The thought I hold continuously in my mind is that as a world community we all need to have an appreciation for the history and cultures of those outside our borders.  I hope to point children and their parents to that end through writing fantasy.

How did you come up with the idea for your current story?
An enchanting travel log about the city, St. Petersburg, The Crown Jewel of Russia, inspired me to write my first fantasy adventure book, Come Along With Me.  I wanted to bring an appreciation to American children and their parents for the magical city known for its culture, architecture, tree-lined parks, and its bridges by the hundreds.  The first fantasy book led me to my second, The Palace Buzz, a wacky romp coated in outrageously true history.

Are there some stories tucked away in some drawer that was written before and never saw the light of the day?

Tell us about your writing process.
In school we were taught to start with an outline.  I think that’s a mistake.  How can an author prepare an outline before the author knows how his story will end? In Janet Evanovich’s How I Write: Secrets Of A Best Selling Author, Janet tells her audience that she hates middles. There are authors who start out with a story idea for an end, but have neither beginning nor middle.  
In my case I had no middle or ending. Intuitively I devised a way to address the conundrum. I wrote scenes that I thought were interesting. In the beginning many of the scenes were not related.  As I continued to write I found that I could connect certain scenes to others.  In some cases I threw away the scenes.  Later I read in a magazine article that my intuitive flash for plot solving is an actual method used by some authors.  

What is your favorite scene in the book?  Why?
That’s a hard question.  That’s like asking a parent who is their favorite child. Come Along With Me is packed with adventure and wild, visual scenes.  Pressed for an answer, I’ll say the delightful August evening of the barn dance when Gibson the cat and Gracie ’roo rest on the old stone watering trough in the barn, and look out the fly-specked window at the full moon while they listen to the lovers song, “Some Enchanted Evening”.
The song, the two friends and the cows, the soft smell of manure, and the moon are comforting.

Did any of your characters inherit some of your own quirks?
Gracie is ditzy, and I’m Attention Deficit.

What is your most interesting writing quirk?
There’s nothing interesting or quirky that I can think of.  I feel fortunate that I have a Bose radio in my office, and sometimes I like to listen to radio stations from other countries while I write.  I listen to audio books when I’m driving.  Frequently my mind will zoom away from the audio book, and that’s when I’ll get some good ideas for a book.

What is your usual writing routine?
I used to like in the morning, but since I have committed to the gym, my best time to write is after 7:00 in the evening.

Do you read?  Who are your favorite authors and how have they influenced your writing style?
Since I started writing, I read more, and always have an audio book in the car.  
Kate Di Camillo’s The Tales of Despereaux, and other multigenerational stories gave me confidence to pursue Come Along With Me. The Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder taught valuable life lessons.  Jack Gantos’s Joey Pigza series deals with tough childhood problems in a humorous way. Humor is a very important ingredient in my books.

What is the best piece of advice you have received, as a writer, to date?
A blogger suggested that the best thing a new writer can do for himself is to keep writing, and not expect to see interest in his work until about the fifth book.  In other words, authors shouldn’t write one or two books, and then put all their effort into marketing those books.  Keep writing.

What is the best piece of advice you would give to someone that wants to get into writing?
Have a thick skin, and be glad to have someone who is capable of giving you constructive criticism. The most important advice I can offer is to pay a professional to have your manuscript edited, and not just for typos and grammatical errors.  A house built on sand will never make it.  All the marketing in the world will not save a mediocre or messy manuscript.

What would be the Dream Cast for your book if it was to be turned into a movie?
What a great question.  The mother, Sally Field, the farmer, George Clooney, the grandmother, Mary Tyler Moore, Justice of the Peace Alabaster Armbuster, John Goodman. I have no one in mind for the little girl. In The Palace Buzz, Catherine the Great, Meryl Streep, zany Czar Peter, Robert De Niro, General Orlov, Christopher Walken.  

If you were to be stranded on the famous deserted island, what three things would you carry?
- Since I couldn’t carry water or food, I’d like to have lipstick on when the rescuers find me dead or alive.  
 - Since a radio would be worthless on a deserted island, maybe pencils and lots of paper.  Pencils or paper might keep me busy longer than the few books I could carry with me.  Scratch the pencils and paper. 
 - I’ll need a hat and suntan oil.

How do you spend your free time?  Do you have a favorite place to go and unwind?
I love movies first, and reading second.  I like to eat out, go to plays, and listen to good music. Our Moose Lodge here in Venice, Florida as far as I’m concerned is the “best in the west”.  I work in our yard, and when I’m in the mood I like to clean house.  The gym is a good source of relaxation. Researching historical details for my fantasy adventure stories entertains me.

Can you share with us something off your bucket list?
Writing one book.  Book two is a bonanza.

Tell us three fun facts about yourself.
I’m drawing a blank on this one.  If I ever hit the big time, I’d love to be interviewed by Jon Stewart, although I can’t imagine that he’d have any interest in Gibson and Gracie. That interview will happen in my dreams.  Oh, my husband grew up with Eddie O’Neil on the North Side of Youngstown, and my brother-in-law knew Boom Boom Mancini. 
My (at least 5 greats), uncle, Col. David Espy in Bedford, PA lent his house to President George Washington to use as his headquarters to combat the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794.  That’s my one claim to fame, and the event is certainly fun for me to know.

What do you have in store next for your readers?
I’m working on the third volume in the Gracie Series.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with your readers?
If the readers want to become authors I would suggest finding a writer’s group to learn about social media, marketing, and basic computer advice.  Expect l0l advice; we all have to start somewhere.  If a writer finds himself in a writer’s group that delves on negative personal criticism and the leader of the group is weak, move on.  There are lots of writers’ groups out there.  
Here’s one thing I want to share with everyone everywhere in the world.  Please don’t forward malicious chain letters on to your friends and relatives. With the Internet it is so easy to fact check. The letters fuel unnecessary anger and outrage. If we need anything in this world it is tolerance.  

About the Books

Meet Gracie, a ditzy dwarf kangaroo from the Thirty-sixth Universe--a creature who lives in a perfect realm. Because she is bored, Gracie longs for an adventure to St. Petersburg, Russia, a place she imagines is filled with beauty and enchantment. Much to the tiny ‘roo’s surprise, her ability to transport herself to the land of the czars has failed. She ends up at a dairy farm in St. Clair, Pennsylvania, where she saves the life of Gibson, an abandoned Maine coon cat. 
The unlikely pair become fast friends. While Gracie tries to find her way back home, Gibson carves a life for himself on a farm with his newly adopted mistress, the farmer’s young daughter. There’s one hitch: The overworked farmer demands that Gibson earn his keep. Gibson’s task is thwarted somewhat when he experiences strange visions. But are these visions the result of a thrashing he received from the farmer’s two dogs? Or, maybe Gibson sees parallel universes? 
As outsiders the little kangaroo and the cat from the city negotiate the perils of farm life. They meet two malicious rats who hate anyone who is happy. The two devoted friends must contend with stampeding cows and a barnyard of critters that have little use for newcomers. 

Will Gibson keep his sanity and become the little girl’s pet? Will Gracie ever see the splendor of the Russian Versailles? Will the farmer survive the evil machinations of the rats, Bratwold and Eastman? Drift back to the days of Barbie dolls, hula hoops, and Sputnik to find out. 

Here she goes again! Gracie, a dwarf kangaroo from the thirty-sixth universe, is skipping across the cosmos to her dream destination: St. Petersburg, Russia. She's traveling with Gibson, a Maine coon cat whose life she saved when he was unceremoniously dumped in front of a Pennsylvania corn field. Expectations and reality quickly collide. What she expected to find was a city of wintery white nights, a city dotted with a hundred islands linked by dozens of imposing bridges, all book-ended by majestic sculptures cast in bronze. She expected to feast her eyes on historic buildings splashed with pink, yellow and blue pastels. Instead, she finds herself back in the 18th century, in Russia's Imperial Golden Age. This is not the city I expected, she laments as she stands bewildered near the entrance to the city's center of activity, the perpetually busy post office. Then, when Empress Catherine arrives in her royal carriage and points a bejeweled finger at the ever-so-handsome Gibson, and declares: I want that cat...the fun begins.

Buy the Books from Amazon

About the Author

Linda's favorite children’s genre is fantasy/adventure.  Her goal is to encourage children to think creatively and critically, and to expand their imaginations while simultaneously exposing them to a variety of cultures and histories through fantasy.
Combining childhood innocence with historical verisimilitude and a dash of magical fantasy--that was Linda's impulse behind writing her first book, Come Along With Me.
Linda was born in Youngstown, Ohio and moved in 1977 to St. Clairsville, Ohio, twenty minutes from Wheeling, West Virginia. Linda left her employment to help her husband establish a classic and collectible car business. While in St. Clairsville Linda was active in the Chamber of Commerce and The Merchant’s Association.  Her husband of forty-four years and one son now live in Venice, Florida. 
Linda is the daughter of an Ohio dairy farmer and an elementary school teacher. Her working years were in a competitive sales and business environment.
Active in Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce, she is a Paul Harris Fellow. 

2 sets of the Gracie Series through Amazon’s Kindle (Come Along With Me &The Palace Buzz equals one set)

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