Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Kimberley Griffiths Little: setting, characters and book trailers

Kimberley Griffiths Little is the author of five middle-grade novels. The Healing Spell was a Bank Street College Best Books (2011) and won the 2010 Whitney Award for Best Youth Novel. Her most recent book is Circle of Secrets.  Kimberley once had 6 weeks to write and revise and submit a novel to her editor.

[Sarah] How do you approach writing when you first get an idea for a story?
[Kimberley] When I first get the initial inklings of an “Idea”, it just attacks me. For instance I’m sitting at my desk travelling the many wonders of the inter-webs when *SMACK*! An “Idea” for a new project hits me right in the face and plum near knocks me off my chair. After I recover (and get an ice pack for my resulting black eye), I find my “Notebook” or a piece of paper and start writing down my Idea. Now because I have a life, (and kids and a husband and a house to clean and cats… :/ ) I usually just write down the Idea and then let it simmer on the back burner of my brain stove while I go about my daily activities. When I get my next “Idea” (I managed to dodge this idea from hitting me in the face but it did clip my shoulder), I go and I write it in that same notebook and let it simmer for a while. My next idea (which gut punched me) I write it down and I just continue to do this until I think I have it all down (which usually results in me needing to get a massage to work out all the inevitable kinks).

Note: these head-smacking Ideas are all for the same Big New Fancy-Schmancy Novel, but I will get hit with little pieces of the characters, the twists and turns of the plot as well as the climax or the emotional core of the story over a period of many weeks or months.

Once I have a Notebook – or my head – filled up with Ideas, I transfer all these notes onto 3x5 cards which I then lay out on a table of the floor and rearrange in various orders. Once I’m ready to write, I dive in and start fattening the Ideas with words to make them all nice and fluffy (like sheep) and I put it all in a Word document called a Manuscript.

[Sarah] How do you find your characters? As you revise, what do you do to deepen your characters?
[Kimberley] Well, my characters often find me. They just walk up to me when I’m doing any of my daily activities and introduce themselves. They give me a big ole hug and greet me like I am an old friend who has just been gone for a little while. Then they move in. They come in with all their stuff and a couple of suitcases and they make themselves at home. They eat my food in the middle of the night, they watch my TV during all hours of the day, and they take my cars and go travelling all over my neighborhood and they even sleep in my Bed!  My Bed!!! 

Then when they realize that I’m going insane watching them wreck my house and life, they come over to me and pour out their hearts and souls and tell me all their darkest desires and secrets and deepest dreams—all while sitting at the table drinking a nice cup of cocoa and me writing furiously in my notebook. Then they thank me for the “Wonderful Visit” and they go back to their own little world where they live their lives through my writings.

[Sarah]  The setting permeates through your writing. You recently discussed “deepening character with setting” on Cynsations. What craft techniques, besides description, do you use when writing and revising to make the setting a character?

[Kimberley] Me and my setting have a “date” so it can try to woo me.  I get dressed up nice and fancy and go to pick up my setting in my car and we go out to dinner. Then the whole evening is filled with my Setting talking to me about its great characteristics and then it butters me up with telling me just how I could write about it and make us both shine in the spotlight. Then it whisks me away to show me all of its wonderful sights and history and hidden nooks and crannies, and it makes me fall for it over and over again. When I get home, I’m still hungry for more so I spend weeks and months reading everything I can get my hands on about my setting, jotting down all of its lovely secrets and small and wonderful aspects in my Notebook. Or you might say that I do a big research trip, fall madly in love with the setting and just write passionately about it. Either way it works ;-)

[Sarah]  You have some great book trailers. What steps did you take to make your last book trailer?

[Kimberley] First I write a Script. Once the book is written, I write the script—or try to—about a year in advance of publication. It gets rewritten a bunch and I say it out loud to get the words and phrasing and timing right. Then I let it sit in my computer file because I got distracted by this chocolate covered Peep that just kept calling my name and teasing me all over the house.

About nine months pass and I remember that I have a book that is about to be published and I need to make a book trailer for it—because I ADORE book trailers, I really do. SO I rush to my computer and find my file that I emailed to my fantastically talented friends who makes Book Trailers for a living (Nua Music, although they mostly write music and do amazing Sound Design). Then I start screaming and hollering and otherwise just freaking my head off because I need a book trailer done soon and all I have is a script and some pictures or video that I managed to take during past research trips to the area—and how am I going to make The Best Book Trailer of the Year out of just that??!!
*commence hysterical crying*

Finally, I pick myself up off the bed (where I had dramatically thrown myself to cry), call my friend and tell her what’s up. And she takes over! Cindy-Rae gets all the items I’ve collected for the trailer and she and her son start working, writing music, taking more pictures and finding a wonderful family from the bayou to do all the voice-over’s and pose for more pictures and they manage to make all of the Trailer an Over-all Delicious Delight. I’m asked for my opinions quite often and we are up to the middle of many late nights but after many questions and debates we finally arrive at something Marvelous! And Tah Dah!
 Circle of Secrets book trailer

[Sarah]  Which authors have inspired you?

[Kimberley] This is such a brain-freeze question! I love so many authors and many new authors and debut authors inspire me to work harder. The very first writer’s conference I ever went to was a small affair in Santa Fe, New Mexico eons and eons ago and at that point I had never met another writer before in my life, let alone a published author, let alone some of my favorite authors. I was so overwhelmed after the two-day conference was over that I went home and cried for a week. It was such an emotional time and confirmed to me that this was what I wanted to do with my life (I’d been writing since I was a kid) and I felt like I had found my *tribe*. The authors who spoke that weekend were Richard Peck, Lois Duncan, Steven Kellog, and Rosemary Wells. And they didn’t’ just *speak* from afar. Since the group was less than one hundred people there was a lot of one-on-one time with them. We had meals with them and Rosemary Wells was critiquing everyone’s stuff for free and letting us sit in the “living room” and ask questions and she talked and talked and talked. It was simply marvelous. 

[Sarah] What are your writing snacks?

[Kimberley] A local delicacy known to heighten the senses and Stimulate the Writing Capabilities of any who will answer its Siren Call: Chocolate. Or some homemade chocolate chip cookies. Lots of Homemade cookies.

Thanks, Kimberley, for a great interview! Be sure to check out her blog. You may also want to read her process and be inspired by her 3x5-card-plotting-method.

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