Today we welcome author Frances O'Roark Dowell to talk about her writing and her latest book. Be sure to leave a comment to be entered to win a copy of
Ten Miles Past Normal.
Hello, Frances. Could you please tell us a little about your writing background and how you made your first sale?
Frances: I have an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, with a concentration in poetry. I started writing middle grade and young adult fiction after finally accepting the fact I would never make a living as a poet outside of the university, and I didn’t want to teach. I made my first sale after a friend of mine from grad school met a children’s book editor and asked if I could send her my manuscript. To make a long story short, my first book, Dovey Coe, ended up with Atheneum Books/Simon & Schuster, with an editor who was friends with the editor my friend met. I tell writers all the time that classes, conferences, and writing programs can be very valuable for the connections you make.
Readers and writers often like to get a behind the scenes peek of an author's writing routine. It would be great if you could please share your typical writing day schedule.
Frances: I sit down around 9:30—after I’ve taken the kids to school, eaten breakfast, and walked the dog—and do everything I can to resist the siren call of the Internet. If I’m working on a first draft of a book, I can usually write for two hours. I find first drafts really, really hard. If I’m revising, I often work for five or six hours over the course of a day. I love revising.
I love revising, too! Now please tell us about your novel, Ten Miles Past Normal, and what we can expect from your characters.
Frances: Ten Miles Past Normal is the story of Janie Gorman, a 9th grader who’s having a really hard time adjusting to high school—it’s too big, all her friends are in other parts of the building, she doesn’t have anyone to eat lunch with, her teachers, with one or two exceptions, are nut jobs. She has the added burden of being a farm girl—she lives with her parents and younger sister on five acres outside of town, on what you might call a hobby farm. So she keeps showing up with school with various smelly, unfortunate things stuck to her, which is not ideal.
A lot of Janie’s story is figuring out where she fits in. At first she’s hopeful she’ll get on the Student Council/Good Kid track, where everyone’s normal and no one smells like goat manure. But life takes her in a different direction—she ends up playing bass in the school’ jam band, making friends with a monster of a guy named Monster (it’s his real name) and hanging out in the library with a Sharpie-tattoo fiend named Verbena. Not really what she was hoping for, but ultimately she realizes this is the cooler path.
What's up next? Do you have another project in the works? If so, please tell us about it.
Frances: I’m currently at work on a middle grade project (i.e. A book for readers in the 9-13 range, so a little younger than the audience for Ten Miles). The working title is Abigail Walker, but that could change, and it’s essentially about a sixth grade girl who tries to buck the system and do what she wants to do, not what everybody else wants her to do. After that, who knows. I’d like to write another YA novel.
Would you like to close with a writing tip?
Frances: Write everyday, even when you really don’t feel like it, even when you don’t have anything to say, even when you can’t stand the sound of your own voice on the page. Writing’s like anything—it takes practice to get good at it. There are a few geniuses around, but most writers I know work really, really hard at it.
Great tip, and thank you, Frances!
And now for our readers, to be entered in the giveaway, simply leave a comment telling us...your favorite number! (Mine, for no real reason, is 17!) And be sure to check back on Monday, March 21 to learn the winner!