Thursday, December 18, 2008
FEATURED AUTHOR: Philana Marie Boles
Philana Marie Boles has a BFA in Creative Writing/Theater from Bowling Green State University and is the author of Little Divas (HarperCollins)-- a popular novel for tweens that was just re-released in paperback after two years of success in hardback. She is also the author of two novels for adults: Blame It on Eve (Random House) and In the Paint (HarperCollins). She lives and writes in New York City.
Cassidy Carter has let everyone push her around long enough. Before seventh grade starts she will become independent.
Life is changing fast for Cassidy: Her parents just got divorced and she's moved in with her dad. Even things between her and her strong-willed cousin and constant best friend, Rikki, are different. All Rikki seems to care about are boys and how to sneak past her preacher father to meet up with them. When a new girl, Golden, moves in next door, Cassidy sees a chance to make a change. With help from her two friends she will learn to test her own limits and summon her inner diva—because sometimes having a little attitude and respect for yourself is the only way to get what you want.
What would you like readers to take away from your book?
Reading should be a fun experience more than anything, so hopefully an enjoyable time. Also, because Little Divas is an ode to confidence, a little boost of self esteem after reading it would also be cool, too. Even us grown-ups need that sometimes.
What is your favorite scene from Little Divas?
Oh that is not easy! OK. Hmmm… I suppose the part where Cassidy and Rikki meet Golden for the first time. It’s such a simple scene, I know, but it’s also the most pivotal. Nothing, for each of those girls, is ever quite the same again after that moment.
Why did you elect to write for children?
Some of our most celebrated and beautiful literature has young protagonists—Catcher in the Rye by J.D Salinger, The Outsiders by S.E.Hinton, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Starring Sally J. Freedman as Herself by Judy Blume for example—so it’s always been a genre that I’ve just simply enjoyed reading. Because I choose to write what I love reading, writing for younger readers has always been a goal.
And I have never wanted to be classified as a genre writer, just a writer. I write poetry, screenplays, non-fiction, journalism, short stories, love stories… But having been an educator and being so close with my God children also, I’ve always been inspired by the kids. It’s very rewarding when a kid approves something, you know! They can be critical and will tell you because they don’t yet know life’s option to be phony. I love that because genuineness is a delightful thing.
Also, just to note, one of the reasons that I’m so happy that Little Divas has resonated is because there is a definite void with multicultural protagonists for younger readers, which is why so many of our girls have been gravitating toward adult fiction.
What did you learn while writing this book?
I can’t honestly say that I “learned” anything but it was definitely a re-affirming experience for me to write something without pretense or attempts at contrived situations, to just simply let the story evolve from the characters and to then be reminded once again that an honest approach always resonates more so than a contrived plot. I had an amazing editor, Leann Heywood, who truly saw Little Divas through to its fullest potential and I wholeheartedly appreciated her willingness to, right along with me, just let the characters come to life in their own ways. The Little Divas writing experience was all about letting the story evolve naturally and fine tuning it after that, which is how I prefer to write.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
Hmmm… I have actually never put thought into that. I guess the only thing that comes to mind would be to respect that writing is a “real” job. It might not be your chosen profession, per se, but it takes many different people in various careers to make the world go round and we all need to respect that more.
What is the best lesson you have learned from another children’s book writer?
From Judy Blume I learned very early on, as one of her loyal readers, how important it is to service the reader and to always just make sure that the reading has a strong element of good-old-fun! The minute you write to please anyone else but your readers—as author—you end up coming across on the page and it’s just not as enjoyable to read. A reader should be fully engrossed in the characters and not see the author manipulating the story.
Also, Judy Blume was so admirably unabashed in subject matter and her characters spoke so candidly to the heart, that those of us who grew up reading her books now consider her stories timeless. I can still envision some of her scenes! Mothers of my readers grew up reading Judy Blume books and understand, more than anyone, what I mean.
What is the toughest test you've faced as a writer?
The editorial shuffle. Three of my editors left their positions prior to my book’s publication and that wasn't easy. But I’ve got a lot of heart and an unrelenting faith, so while it was quite a ride I did not waver in my goals. To God be the Glory for that!
What is something readers would be surprised you do?
Well, to know me is to easily recognize that I am such a kid at heart, and definitely by choice, so maybe it’s not such a surprise that while I recognize that life is hard, sure, and that the real world is tough, yes, and while I am a shear professional in terms of my career—whoo hoo—I also just really love to run around the park with my God children, play laser tag, order pizza and watch That’s So Raven marathons or Finding Nemo, rewinding and laughing at the same parts over and over again. My aunt Rosie gave me great advice when she told me to always play just as hard as I work in life! And I do.
What are three things you wish you’d known before you reached where you are now?
Honestly, these “wish I had known” questions are always a bit of a challenge for me because I choose not to regret things. Life happens as it happens so that we can fully experience our journeys. Had I known things then that I know now, I wouldn’t fully appreciate the blessing of progress like I do. I’m pleased with where I am and feel prepared as I go forth and continue to learn and grow.
Having said all that, however, three things that I’ve had to learn that will forever more shape my decisions are also easy to identify:
#1) Being humble does not mean being modest. It is okay, for example, to let people know that I’m a published author. I used to really shy away from that in social circles, not wanting to alienate others and that was so foolish. I’m wiser now.
#2) When something (or someone) is foul, it’s okay to call it so! A simple “Hi hater” with a smile and a wink does fine. Ha! Big up to T.I…
#3) When God is for you no one can ultimately be against you and win.
How do you reach new readers?
Mostly through angels and messengers, like yourself, good people who are in various media outlets that care enough to let their readers/audiences know about an author who is just doing the best she can to use the talent that God gave her in order to provide quality fiction for enjoyment. I appreciate you!
Can you give us five Children book authors you admire?
Sure! Judy Blume, Laurie Halse Anderson, Ann M. Martin, Shel Silverstein, Ellen Conford, Jacqueline Woodson, Phyliss Reynolds Naylor… Whoops! That’s seven, isn’t it? Sorry… I’ll stop.
If you could have dinner with 3 authors to talk with about their writing (living or deceased) who would you invite and why?
Janet Fitch, because she is, in my opinion, our most gifted living writer and also, from the brief conversations I’ve had with her, she is really humble. Strength of character plus talent equals out as marked for sheer flyness to me.
I would also invite Eric Jerome Dickey. Beyond his admirable and deserved success he is also a really fun guy to be around and I love hearing his anecdotes. It amazes me how completely unaffected he has remained in this business and he's just an awesome guy to be around.
And lastly, to round out the table, and because you said “living or deceased” I’d like to invite Langston Hughes. When I was fifteen years old I first read his poem “ Dreams” and I still cling dear to those words. That poem has made all the difference in the life choices I’ve made and for that, I would like to toast some after dinner bub and tell Langston thank you.
Can you give us one do and one don’t for those aspiring to be a children’s book writer?
Do study the craft and read a lot no matter how raw and immense your natural born talent might be. Michael Jordan studied the game, focused and practiced, no? It amazes my how many people want to write but don’t, well, write…
Oh and don’t look to other authors to help get your book published. We are not publishers. Instead, do what we did… Study the craft, study the business, write… and once you have a solid manuscript primed to go, submit accordingly.
How can readers get in contact with you?
My official website is http://www.pmarie.com/ and my blog “The Love Spot” can be found by going to http://www.philanamarieboles.com/. Readers can also drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Can you give us a sneak peek of your next book?
Well, I am finishing up my debut YA, which I’m so thrilled about. It’s a little premature yet for me to provide your readers with a sneak peek—we have yet to get through edits—but I hope readers will check my website for updates! I’m also working on some non-fiction material which I also look forward to announcing more details about soon.
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