Sunday, November 2, 2008

And Another Awesome Author Visit: Stacy Nyikos

Yet another fabulous interview with a 2k8'r. Stacy's debut MG book Dragon Wishes just came out and it is absolutely wonderful. I should have a review up next week sometime (depending on how much time I get in between studying for exams!!).

Without further ado though I present to you a fabulous interview with none other than Stacy!!


1. When did you realize you wanted to become an author?

Now, I did my very first short, short story - one page of very large words - at the tender age of four. Not immediately discovered, I went off an tried out all other assortment of things like modeling, irish-dancing, drawing, kickball, playing violin, you name it. I first started dabbling with writing when I went to college. I loved writing poetry, but I knew better than to try and swing it past my business-minded parents that I wanted to change my major from psychology (already dubious in a household full of accountants) to literature. I tried to be a high-functioning writer, getting a PhD in poli sci and teaching, but as soon as I'd find a spare minute, I'd write. And now, I write full time.

2. What sparked the beginning of Dragon Wishes?

The spark for Dragon Wishes came from tragedy, really. My daughters were in a near fatal sledding accident about five years ago. When they crashed into the back of a parked horse trailer, my world came to a crashing halt. I stopped writing. I stopped living. I just...stopped. Yet, it was writing that brought me back out of the darkness that had fallen over my life. I suddenly asked myself one day, what would happen if a family lost its parents? How would the children cope? What I was going through was really hard and my girls didn't die. But what if the tables were reversed? What does a child that loses its parents through? How hard is it for them? How do they do it? I really wanted to know, and finding out was the journey that became Dragon Wishes. The Chinese dragon legend in the story keeps the topic from weighing too heavily on the reader, buoying them up - and at times even whisking them away - over the stumbles and false starts that the main characters in the modern day story go through.

3. Which character do you see the most of yourself in?

You know, it's Alex, the main character. When her parents die and she and her sister are sent to live with their aunt and uncle in California, everything changes. She fumbles through trying to figure out how to fit in to a new school, a new family, new friends, a new life, and she doesn't do that great of a job in the beginning. She walls herself off, hoping somehow to just muddle through. When she does open up, she really blossoms as a character. You just have to root for her. She really redeems herself, and has found a permanent spot deep in my heart.
4. What experiences have shaped your writing style?

That's a tough question. I can't see the forest for the trees. But I'd have to say, reading and observing, even emulating the writings styles of other authors until I found my own style, one that reflects my personality and my understanding of language and storytelling best.

5. What are you top three favorite books?

Only three????.......Hmmmmmm......Lord of the Rings, A Wrinkle in Time, Bram Stoker's Dracula. It's kinda funny because they all fit into the burgeoning field of fantasy/scifi that really blossomed in kidlit - more so than even adult literature - during the late 19th and most of the 20th century. C.S. Lewis remarked that if you wanted to write fantasy, you almost had to write kidlit. That's not true today, but the worlds these writers created seem so timeless. I get lost in them anew each time I read them, and I work to be that good of a writer.

6. What's one crazy fact about you that you want to share?

I'm glad I only have to share one!

Here it is. Don't laugh, but I didn't have any imaginary friends as a child. They just didn't work out for me. That's not the crazy fact. The crazy fact is that as an adult, I spend most of my days with multiple imaginary characters that I create, make talk and take through all sorts of adventures. So maybe if you don't have imaginary friends as a kid, they come back to take over in your adult years, I don't know, but I love having them. Wish I'd met a lot of them much sooner. Who knows the mischief we could have gotten into when I was a kid.

7. What can we expect from you in the future? What are you working on?

I am actually leaving on November 1 for the wilds of New Zealand to research the book I'm currently working on. It's called Pelorus Jack and is the story of a crippled boy, George, living on a sheep station in New Zealand during the country's pioneering years, the late 1800s. George's father, a gold miner who made enough money to buy a station, falls on hard times. George begins searching for a way to help. His adventure starts with a boat - Prospect - that leads to befriending a dolphin - Pelorus Jack - who really did exist - and ends up far removed from where things start out. It's been an adventure to research and write, and I'm looking forward to going to New Zealand to follow on the trails that George and Jack have taken. I can hardly wait!

8. What is one of the hardest things about being a writer? The best?

The hardest thing for me is being alone for much of my day. I really do like real live people, and I miss their company, but email helps.

The best part about being a writer is related. I love school visits. I love listening, sharing, and watching children take in my writing and talk about it. They're who I write for, and it is so rewarding to see their reactions.

9. Why did you choose a middle grade audience?

For Dragon Wishes, I felt like a twelve year old was just the right age, right on the cusp of adolescence/puberty/adulthood. Her reaction would be a mix of both that of a child and of an adult, so I thought this age the most challenging and most rewarding to use for my story.

10. What's your ideal writing environment?

Well, I really like to write in a big, overstuffed chair in my bedroom with a great view of the backyard. The only problem is that I enjoy staring out the window a lot more than staring at my screen. So, I usually have to chain myself to my desk - minimal distractions, maximum story time. I just wish I had a more comfortable chair. Then again, I might fall asleep over my keyboard. I guess the slight discomfort my chair offers keeps me focused. Sigh.

11. Are there any questions you wished I'd asked?
Um........(long pause as author thinks frantically) yes. Did you always want to be a writer?

When I first started writing for kids, I often felt like there was something wrong with me because I hadn't always wanted to be a writer. I thought, maybe I'm trying to go somewhere I shouldn't. You see, when I was younger, I wanted to be a scientist of space exploration. I don't think they actually have that major in college. They have physics and astrophysics. But really, I want to go where no one has gone before. So maybe, actually, I wanted to be a writer and I didn't know it? Maybe not. But I like to let kids know, it's okay if you don't start out wanting to be a writer from a really young age. There are so many neat things to want to be and to try out. Go for it. Chances are, if you do become a writer at some point, doing all of those other things won't hurt you at all. They'll give you more material for your stories!


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