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Interview: Deanna K. Klingel, Author of ‘Beth’s Birds’

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Deanna Klingel Picture for BlogsWhen Deanna Klingel decided being a homemaker and mother would be her full time job, she was totally committed to it. In fact, whatever her current project is, she totally commits to it. When her husband Dave retired and the nest was empty, she turned to writing, something she’d always done and enjoyed. Moving to the mountains, she says was inspiration for her writing.

Congratulations on the release of your latest book, Beth’s Birds. When did you start writing and what got you into children’s books?

I’ve actually been a writer all my life. As a child I crafted all kinds of books. In high school I worked on school newspapers and year books. In college I was put in honors writing classes. When I had children of my own I wrote stories for them, and eventually my grandkids. My mother gave me a love for children’s books.

Did you have a mentor who encouraged you?

All my teachers throughout the years were encouraging. But, professionally, a wonderful editor, Robbie Butler White, even though we’ve never met face to face and she was in London, spent unimaginable time and effort to teach me so many things about writing, about editing, and using the computer tools. She always had confidence that I would succeed. Her time and effort meant everything to me and gave me a huge shove in the right direction. 

Did you have any struggles or difficulties when you started writing?

Oh dear, don’t we all? Probably for me the two biggest struggles were wanting to say too much with too many words, believing that was good writing. The second was technology. I didn’t grow up with computers and buttons and beeps and the strange vernacular. I had to learn it as I went. I’m still learning.

What was your inspiration for Beth’s Birds?

My inspiration for this book and the others in the series (this is the first in the Little Beth Series) came from little Beth herself. I wrote this for my youngest daughter when she was four. She is Beth. The illustrations were made from the photographs I took of her with the birds to make the little book for her. 

Do you plot in advance or do you write by the seat of your pants?

This question always tickles me because I’m not sure I even know the answer. I spend a lot of “head” time before I start writing a story. I listen to conversations, I play with their language. I imagine scenes with my characters in them. I dress them up, change their appearance, try it again. I do most of that in my head. When I see and hear something I can work with, I begin to write. I have an idea of where the plot will eventually take me, but it shifts as I write. My characters often begin to tell the story for me. It isn’t until the rewrite that I have a solid plan. I guess the answer depends on where I am in the story process.

What do you hope readers will get from your book?

I hope the preschoolers who will enjoy the books will get curious about what is outside, hiding in bushes, lurking in the branches. I hope they will want to dance in the dirt with Beth and the Towhee. The backyard is one of the earliest science labs children have. Learning to enjoy the outdoors early can set a pattern of enjoyment for life. 

Beth's Birds Cover for BlogsDid your book require a lot of research?

Most of my books, because write historical books, require a lot of research. These books did not. These were all based on Beth’s experiences as a little girl. Perhaps the illustrator had to do research to make the birds and animals accurate. 

How do you keep your narrative exciting?

For preschoolers and kindergartens, life is exciting. Beth tells the stories with her true childish excitement. I think the readers will pick up on the voice and be excited, too. Of course, in these little books, the illustrations are pretty exciting, too. 

How was your experience working with an illustrator?

This was my first book to use an illustrator. Steve Daniels has a wonderful eye for detail especially with animals and environment. It was interesting to watch him create the story board, and I saw the initial sketches he made from my photos. I realized that using the photos, which I thought would be a help for the artist, turned out to be a handicap. I told him in the future I wouldn’t hinder him with photos. He was really great to work with. He’s already working on the next book, Beth’s Backyard Friends.

Many writers experience a vague anxiety before they sit down to right. Can you relate to this?

I don’t think I experience any anxiety. I think you mean when embarking on a new work? When I start writing a story it’s because it’s bubbling out of me, it’s been simmering a while and it’s ready to boil. I’m eager to get started. But I won’t start until I’ve taken care of all business that could interrupt me. When I get started on a story I’m concentrating and I don’t want interruptions. I don’t think that’s anxiety, maybe preparation.

Do you have a writing schedule? Are you disciplined?

Yes and yes.  I write every day. I’m not always writing a story. Sometimes it’s a submission preparation, synopsis, query, cover letter. Sometimes it’s marketing, letters, inquiries, emails. While I’m doing these things it’s easier to take a break in between completed tasks. I walk the dog to get outside. I may only work part of the day while tending to household tasks. But when I’m writing the story, the breaks are only for the sake of health: stiff legs, stiff neck, tired eyes. I go to bed at ten o’clock no matter what. I get up early and I eat a good breakfast. I check email, Facebook, and get to work. It’s all about the story.

What was your publishing process like?

Do you mean the Little Beth Books? I was at a large book festival with my books when I spotted the colorful display of children’s books. I studied the books, and even though none were backyard nature books, they reminded me about my Little Beth Books. I thought maybe there was a market for them after all. I talked to the publisher who encouraged me to send a query. I spit polished the stories and sent in my query. She took the entire series based on the query without ever seeing the manuscripts. I was over the moon!. I wrote them for daughter when she was four. They went to contract the week she turned thirty four. 

Did you go the traditional way or did you self published? Are you happy with your decision?

Peak City Publishing, LLC, is a traditional publisher in Apex, North Carolina, my home state. Peak City is absolutely the best place for these little books.

How do you celebrate the completion of a book?

I smile a lot. Then I go back to work. Finding a publisher for the book is every bit as much work as writing it. Then comes marketing. A lot of work. It’s a happy time, but it’s not over, as they say. 

How do you define success?

Success for me as writer means that someone, somewhere read something I wrote that mattered to them. Maybe a character or happening caused them to reevaluate something in their life. Maybe they were inspired to step out and do something great. Once a parent told me their middle school reluctant reader, after reading Avery’s Battlefield, asked for Avery’s Crossroad and became a reader. Maybe it someone with a busy schedule  who took time out and read something I wrote and enjoyed it. Success for me means someone read my work and was glad they did. 

What do you love most about the writer’s life?

The things I like about the writer’s life are also the things I don’t like. I like the solitude. But it can get lonely. I like the quiet. But I miss conversation. I love my loft studio. I miss being in the garden. I love the writing. I miss physical excerise. I love traveling with my books. I miss Dave and Buddy. Would I change anything. No. 

Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?

I absolutely do, and I’d love visitors. I have a website http://www.booksbydeanna.com/. My miniblog is “Selling Books.” It’s on my website http://www.booksbydeanna.com/blog-selling-books.html. Very easy to find, it’s the second tab. Each of my books has its own page. I also have a Facebook page for my books Books By Deanna, and a personal Facebook page, Deanna K. Klingel, which you are welcome to visit. 

Where is your book available?

The book is available on my website, Peak City Publishing, Amazon, kindle, and in many Wild Bird Unlimited Stores, several nature center gift shops and indie book stores. If you know of a nature center with a gift shop that would like to carry it, let me know. 

What advice would you give to aspiring writers whose spouses or partners don’t support their dreams of becoming an author?

It’s going to be very hard to do it without that support. You will have to guard your personal time for writing so you will have time with your spouse. You may be getting up earlier, going to bed later, going without lunch. But if you really want it, you will make the time and make it work. Perhaps if your spouse sees how happy and excited it makes you, it will be contagious. But if you walk about tired and cranky and fret about all that’s going on in your writer’s world, it’s not going to win them over. They will need to see that it’s a positive in your life. 

What is your advice for aspiring children’s authors?

Why do you want to be a children’s writer? You need to know that before you chase that dream. If it’s because you think writing for the kids is easy, you need to attend some conferences and workshops and learn that it’s actually harder. If it’s because you want to produce worthwhile literature young readers will want to read, you are probably on the right track. If you have a personal love affair with children’s literature, then my advice to you is get going on it. Work very hard, and keep loving it. Don’t give up. 

George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.” Do you agree?

Well, maybe I partly agree. I’m definitely driven by something I neither resist nor understand. But I doubt it’s a demon. Writing a book is a struggle. It’s a lot of exhausting work, but I don’t find it to be a horrible struggle, and I wouldn’t compare it to a bout of some painful illness. Maybe I’d compare it to labor and delivery. Mr. Orwell sounds like he’d rather be doing something else but can’t. I think we all have choices. Choose what makes you happy even if it’s hard. Choose to do that which leaves you with a grateful heart. 

Anything else you’d like to tell my readers?

Thank you for reading my books!

 

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About Mayra Calvani

Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults and has authored over a dozen books, some of which have won awards. Her stories, reviews, interviews and articles have appeared on numerous publications such as The Writer, Writer’s Journal, Multicultural Review, and Bloomsbury Review, among many others. Represented by Serendipity Literary.