Three Times a Charm is a weekly feature that spotlights authors, illustrators, bloggers, agents, editors or promoters from the publishing industry.
This week author, Shevi Arnold, joins us. Shevi, tell us about you.
When I was little, I wanted to be God. But I discovered that job was already taken. So I decided I wanted to be a movie director. It seemed like the second-best way to create worlds.
As I grew up, I started telling stories to the little kids on the bus and my cousins’ little kids. It was fun, and I loved the enrapt looks on their faces when they listened to my tales. When I read the essays I had written for school to the rest of my class, they howled with laughter. Even the teachers enjoyed my writing.
In college I majored in English Literature and Theater Studies, because the university I attended only offered communications as a master’s degree. I still wanted to create worlds, but somewhere along the way I discovered that directing movies might not be the best way to do that. Directors have to deal with so many people who don’t share their vision for what those worlds should look like. Novelists, on the other hand…
So I decided to become a writer, but before I became a novelist, I worked in newspapers and magazines. Over twelve years I worked as an editorial cartoonist, a newspaper illustrator, a comics magazine editor, an arts-and-entertainment writer, and a consumer columnist. But then my husband and I discovered that our son was autistic, and the best schools for him were far away in New Jersey. So we quit our jobs, packed up our things, and moved.
After the anthrax scare of September 11, 2001, I found it hard to find freelance work as a journalist. I asked my husband what I should do. He asked me what I wanted to do. I told him that for a long time I wanted to write a novel. And so I did.
Since then I’ve written seven novels and I’ve published three--Toren the Teller’s Tale, Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey, and Ride of Your Life. Why My Love Life Sucks, book one in the Gilbert the Fixer series will be out later this year. After that, who knows?
Tell us more about your most recent book, Ride of Your Life.
Seventeen-year-old Tracy Miller met the love of her life . . . thirty years after her own death. Tracy was working at the House of Horrors at the Amazing Lands Theme Park when the fire broke out. Instead of running, she lost her life trying to save eleven-year-old Mack. Now suddenly, thirty years after the fire, everything changes with the arrival of two new ghosts: a little girl named Ashley and a cute seventeen-year-old boy named Josh. Josh would do anything for Tracy, but can he help her let go of the past and accept his love?
Ride of Your Life is a bittersweet, romantic, YA ghost story that was inspired by a true event: the Great Adventure Haunted Castle fire, which killed eight teenagers in 1984. It is a fantasy novel about undying love, and it won third-place in Smart Writer’s Write It Now (W.I.N.) contest in the YA category, which was judged by Alex Flinn, the author of Beastly and Cloaked. Hang on. Love can be as terrifying as a roller coaster, but it could also be the Ride of Your Life.
Purchase from Amazon. The paperback is coming in a matter of days J!
Ride of Your Life sounds great! I can’t wait to read it.
Now, for the Threes. Share with us your top 3’s to help us know you a little better.
- Top 3 tools of the trade you couldn’t live without.
The top three tools of the trade I couldn’t live without are my computer, my imagination, and my sense of humor. I also need books, lots and lots of books.
- Top 3 skills to hone for people just starting in your business.
Do you want to be a writer? If so, here are three things you should do to get started.
First, read. Read a lot. Read classics, and read current bestsellers. Read in the genre you want to write in, but also give others a try. Read books about correct English usage, writing, publishing, and the writing life. Read, read and read. But don’t just read for pleasure. Read like a writer. Analyze what you read. What do you like about that part right there? What don’t you like? How does this thing or that thing make you feel? Are there places you feel bored, and are there places you just couldn’t put the book down? How might you fix the boring parts? How did the author make the book so exciting? Analyze everything, even the word choice. How does the author use adverbial phrases? Do they work? What would happen if you tried to replace those adverbial phrases with nouns and verbs? Analyze it all.
Second, apply what you’ve learned by analyzing these texts to your own writing. Is there a hero or heroine you’ve fallen in love with? If so, what is it about that character you admire, and how can you make your hero or heroine equally compelling? Do you like books that start slowly with a lot of description, or do you prefer books that jump right into the action? How can you give your own book the kind of beginning you like to see in other books?
Third, learn to separate yourself from your work. It seems like such a simple thing, but I’ve found the biggest stumbling block for so many new writers is they haven’t learned this very basic skill. They’re like those contestants on American Idol or America’s Got Talent who have never performed in front of an audience. Their egos are so tied up in their performance that they end up running away from the audition in tears or shouting that the judges don’t know what they’re talking about. You aren’t your story, and when someone says something critical about your story, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you. The worst thing with having your ego tied up with your work is that it can prevent you from even starting. So many new writers are terrified to put anything down on paper because they’re afraid it won’t be perfect. First drafts are never perfect! Heck, I’ve even edited my answers in this interview. That’s what editing is for. So let your story be as awful as it needs to be—but get it written down! Don’t be afraid of criticism, and don’t be your own worst critic. Not every reader will love your story. That’s just the truth. But there’s something to be learned from every reader, just like there’s something to be learned from everything you read. Sometimes you learn more from something that’s badly written. You learn why you didn’t like it, and you learn how to do it better.
And I’d like to add just one more thing: have fun.
- Top 3 pieces of advice for kids these days.
1. Be yourself. There’s only one you. You have a special gift to give to the world, and only you can give it. But you can’t do that if you’re afraid to stand out from the crowd. Don’t give a damn about what other people think. The people we most admire are those who aren’t afraid to be themselves.
2. Let others be who they are. Don’t look down at someone because he or she is different. That person also has a unique gift that only he or she can give. Encourage that person. I believe bullying happens because we don’t respect each other’s differences, and we let bullying happen because we don’t respect our own unique gifts. It’s a theme in two of my books—Dan Quixote: Boy of Nuevo Jersey and Toren the Teller’s Tale. In both books, the title characters eventually come to embrace the things that make them special. If there’s one thing I want readers to take away from those books, it’s that feeling that it’s great to be exactly who you were meant to be. The world could be a wonderful place if we all encouraged one another to embrace and share our unique gifts.
3. Be humble and pay attention, because there’s something to be learned from every person you meet. Don’t think you know it all, because you don’t. No one does. But the smartest people are those who are always open to learning something new, and there’s something new to learn everywhere you look. You can learn perseverance by looking at an ant carrying a piece of food bigger than itself to its colony’s ant hill. If you can learn that from a lowly ant, just imagine what you could learn from the people around you?
Shevi, how can our readers go to keep up with you and your writing?
Thank you for joining us for this week’s Three Times A Charm. I always enjoy visiting with you, Shevi. Best of luck with your writing.
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.