Questions for Guest Author Jane Kelley
Jane: Yes I am. I've written many short science and social studies books for elementary school. A few of titles are: Life On The Prairie, Beaks and Feathers, Ancient Egypt, Meteor Showers. Most are still in print.
Barbara: Since you wrote for educational purposes, why did you decide to start writing fiction?
Jane: I love doing both kinds of writing. I love learning about topics as I research them. Explaining is kind of like teaching. But I also really enjoy telling a story and bringing characters to life.
Barbara: It also says in your bio that you were inspired by your grandmother to write, since she was also a novelist. Did she publish any books?
Jane: Yes my grandmother Katharine Carson published several novels in the 1940s. Her most acclaimed book is called Mrs. Pennington, which is loosely based on her grandmother's life in Kansas. It's out of print.
Barbara: You grew up in Wisconsin but now you live in Brooklyn, NY. What was the reason you left Wisconsin? What made you decide to move to Brooklyn?
Jane: I like to say that there are two reasons to move to New York City. One is if you are hugely successful. The other -- which was the case for me -- is if you haven't found what you want to do with your life yet. I was drawn to New York City because it's a place of great possibility and excitement.
Barbara: Recently I wrote an article about how you were inspired to write Nature Girl. Would you please tell our listeners what this was? How did it involve a large park in Brooklyn and your backyard in Vermont?
Jane: I live in Brooklyn with my husband and daughter close to Prospect Park. It is a beautiful place -- but it is a city park. I grew up in Wisconsin so I could just go out the back door into the woods behind my house. I loved that freedom. I think it is something that many modern children miss. We decided to rent a house in Vermont for one summer to recreate that experience for our daughter. While we were there, I began to write the story of the city girl in the country -- and how she came to love being there by hiking a section of the Appalachian Trail.
Anyone who has grown up in New York City knows the only place to be in the summer is the country. How wonderful you were able to share it with your daughter. My parents used to send me away and visit me at summer camp. I would much rather have spent the summers with them instead of mean girls at camp:) But these are different times.
Jane: It starts with a character. I write the first draft in a notebook because that feels less intimidating and more intimate. Then when I switch to the computer, I outline the shape of the novel. There will be many drafts before I'm done.
Barbara: Was it difficult to get Nature Girl, your debut novel, published? Please take our listeners through the publication process.
Jane: It was difficult to get it written! I had tried to write in other genres for years before finally honing in on a middle grade novel. Once that girl's voice clicked for me, I was pretty confident that eventually Nature Girl would be published. I showed it to an agent. She submitted it to several editors before it was bought by Random House.
Barbara: How close is the main character, Megan, to anyone you know?
Jane: I have a daughter, but Megan is closer to me than to her. I am much more of a grumbler than she is.
Barbara: Would you describe your own experience of hiking The Appalachian Trail? Did you have any of the experiences that Megan encountered?
Jane: I have only hiked small stretches of the trail -- never anything as extensive as what I made my character do. Although I do plan to do that sometime. I have been on many hikes in many other places. I haven't met a bear, but I have certainly climbed mountains and swum in rivers and picked wild raspberries.
Barbara: Would you tell us what kind of research you did for this book?
Jane: I made a conscious choice NOT to hike the stretch I describe because I didn't want to be too tied to reality. Certain things happen because they need to for Megan's inner journey. They might not have been able to if I stuck to the physical reality. I did make sure that everything was plausible.
Barbara: As I was reading the book I realized that it would really be a book that teachers could use in the classroom. Do you have a Teacher’s Guide?
Jane: Thanks for reminding me that I need to do that! I think it is an excellent way to bring reluctant kids to nature as well as boost self esteem and learn an appreciation for the natural world.
Jane: I have done school presentations. I will be doing a nature writing workshop for Writopia Lab in NYC on Oct. 17. Writopia is a terrific writing workshop for kids. I highly recommend it. If you'd like more information about them -- or my workshop, go to their website. http://www.writopialab.org/
Barbara: What are you doing to market your book? Please tell us what has been done by your publisher to help you.
Jane: Random House sent out lots of advanced review copies. Because of that, Nature Girl received many nice blurbs and reviews. Random House also continues to arrange author appearances for me.
Barbara: Do you have any plans to publish any other books?
Jane: Yes Random House will publish my new middle grade novel next fall. It's called The Girl Behind The Glass. It's the story of what happens when twins move to a creepy old house. Anna adjusts to their new school -- but Hannah becomes dangerously obsessed with the strange things that happen in the house.
Barbara: Do you have any projects on which you are working?
Jane: Yes -- my next book is a medical thriller. A young girl tries to find out about the virus that has made her mother who is a scientist seriously ill.
Barbara: Please give all of the places where our listeners can find your books and information about you. Also, tell us where we can find out more about The Appalachian Trail. (At this time I will also give the link to my Examiner.com article and refer people to the blog interview and my review of your book.)
Jane: My website is http://www.janekelleybooks.com/. I am a goodreads author http://www.goodreads.com/ I also have an author page on Amazon. This is my Random House page:
You can learn about the Appalachian Trail at http://www.appalachiantrail.org/
But you don't have to hike two thousand miles. There are so many wonderful trails to explore.