March 21st, 2012


Three Times A Charm with Jo Marshall

Three Times a Charm is a weekly feature that spotlights authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the publishing industry.

This week author, Jo Marshall, joins us.

First, I want to thank you, Kai, for your hospitality, and the invitation to your blog.  I’m a new author, and this is my second blog interview, so I think you are very brave to ask me to be your guest.  If there is a way to mess it up, I’m sure to stumble over it.  I am impressed with your enthusiasm, and the fact that you are an accomplished blogger.  Besides all that, your blog is fun and upbeat, and I feel privileged to be part of it. So, thank you!

Aw, thanks, Jo. Can you tell us about you?

About me?  Well, I grew up in the desert on the Navajo Indian Reservation in Shiprock, New Mexico. I also lived in Maricopa County, Arizona, and in the foothills of the Sierras - Reno, Nevada.  During my and my husband’s military tours, I lived in Japan and West Berlin.  After assignments in Kansas and the DC area, we moved to Snohomish, Washington in the Pacific Northwest about six years ago.  Traveling has always been part of my life.  I come from a large family, the middle child of seven kids, and my parents were both teachers with very little income. I think poor describes it pretty well, although I wasn’t aware of it.  Back then, teachers had three months vacation during the summer. So as soon as school let out, we’d pack up our truck and go camping in every national park within driving distance. One summer we drove from New Mexico all the way to Canada. Over fifty years later, I still remember being overwhelmed by the splendor of Jasper and Banff. When we camped in Yoho Kicking Horse Canyon, I thought I was in heaven!  Much later, that memory inspired the setting for my series, Twig Stories.  I think like most writers, I was a bookworm, and wrote stories from the moment I could read and write. Although we couldn’t afford many books, achieving high grades and being well-read was expected by my parents, so I practically lived in libraries. My mom suggested I read all the Newberry and Caldecott books, which I did, but I actually wasn’t all that discriminating. I’d read a book about the construction of St. Petersburg, Russia with as much curiosity as a book about studying iguanas on the Galapagos. I read whatever fell off the shelves into my hands, finally concluding that I loved science, history, and the natural world more than fiction, which may be surprising for a fantasy writer.

The Twig Stories sound adorable. Tell us more about your series!

I write eco-literary adventure novels for young fantasy readers (about 8 -12 years old). The books are part of a series called Twig Stories. I should mention right away that the royalties are shared with environmental nonprofits.  My first two books came out last year, Leaf & the Rushing Waters and Leaf & the Sky of Fire.  Presently, I’m finishing up Leaf & the Long Ice.  I expect Leaf & Echo Peak to be out next year.  Perhaps this is an odd genre to some.  Eco-literary? Sounds boring! Eco-literature is just an easier way of saying “children’s literature with an environmental theme.”  If you search that phrase you see that the genre stretches from Beatrix Potter’s English Lake District and Dr. Suess (The Lorax) to more serious works by Rachel Carson and John Muir.  Scientists described my own stories to me as ‘eco-literary’ after I sent my manuscripts to them for their opinions.  I thought I was simply writing young reader stories about what I loved, with themes I thought were important – the experience of nature as seen from the eyes of a child, and what climate change is doing to that world.  It surprised me that these highly respected researchers considered my stories to be more important than I did.  Still, the greatest kick I get is when my daughter and her friends’ read my books for the first time, light up, and tell me with surprise, “You’re a good writer!” and that they love the stories. I never get tired of hearing that!

One of the joys of writing Twig Stories for me is collaborating with D.W. Murray, the illustrator for the series. David is a professional Disney and Universal Pictures artist, yet finds time in-between projects to create the lively characters, creatures, and scenes for the stories. Not surprisingly, the stories are greatly enhanced by David’s talent and contributions. Sometimes I have to rewrite my stories after David’s imagination takes hold, but that’s ok with me. I love his beautiful illustrations and fantastic book covers.

They sound charming and the covers are beautiful. Middle graders love series, too.

Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.

As far as the ‘threes’ for me – I chose leisure activities, professions, and authors.

  • Top 3 leisure activities.

My three very favorite activities involve doing anything with my family – taking my daughter to her horseback riding lessons, watching Dr. Who with my son, or enjoying movie classics with my husband. If we all manage to get together for a board game night, then that’s a plus.

  • Top 3 professions you wanted to be when you grew up.

1)     I wanted to be a forest ranger, and still want to - the kind that lives in a tower and watches for fires. I believe they may have enough time on their hands to read.

2)     I wanted to be a teacher until I actually student-taught German at Colorado College. The kids liked me, but I didn’t think I was very good at it even though I received high grades and an excellent evaluation. I just bored myself to death!

3)     Jane  Goodall – is that a profession?  A Jane Goodallian? I wanted to live in Africa. Any profession that offered the opportunity to live in Kenya was ok with me. I think I just wanted to wear the safari shorts and hat…and drive a jeep. Driving a jeep became my favorite pastime in the Army.  And I got to wear a hat.

§Top 3 authors.

1)     Without  question, A.A. Milne, author of Winnie the Pooh is at the top of the list. I enjoy the simplicity of his stories, the kindness of his characters, and the natural setting.

2)     David Quammen. Brilliant journalist and natural history author. Too many awards to mention. He is most well known for The Song of the Dodo and The Flight of the Iguana (one of my all time favorites!).

3)     William DeBuys, who is a passionate conservationist and award-winning writer. I just read his startling new book, A Great Aridness: Climate Change in the North American Southwest, and was deeply moved by his compassion and factual inquiry.

“A Jane Goodallian” ß That’s funny!

 Jo, where can our readers go to keep up with you and your writing?

My website for Twig Stories is

My facebook Jo Marshall author page

My link to my Twig Stories fan/book page (

Emails: and

Thank you for joining us on Three Times A Charm, this week. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed hosting you on SoT. Hope you visit again. Best of luck with your writing, Jo.

I am always looking for guests for Three Times A Charm. If you are an author, illustrator or book reviewer, an agent or an editor. If you have something related to children’s publishing that you’d like people to know about, feel free to contact me about a future appearance.