Thursday, October 18, 2012

Meet Lynne Kelly

Animal Lovers - please welcome middle grade author Lynne Kelly, whose debut novel CHAINED is about - an elephant! And a boy. And their special relationship.

It. Is. Awesome. And you can win a copy! See giveaway below:

Here's the blurb from Goodreads:
After ten-year-old Hastin’s family borrows money to pay for his sister’s hospital bill, he leaves his village in northern India to take a job as an elephant keeper and work off the debt. He thinks it will be an adventure, but he isn’t prepared for the cruel circus owner. The crowds that come to the circus see a lively animal who plays soccer and balances on milk bottles, but Hastin sees Nandita, a sweet elephant and his best friend, who is chained when she’s not performing and hurt with a hook until she learns tricks perfectly. Hastin protects Nandita as best as he can, knowing that the only way they will both survive is if he can find a way for them to escape.
How long have you been writing for children, Lynne? Tell us how you got your start as a writer.

Just since 2006, when I got the idea that led to Chained. I was a teacher at the time and started writing what I thought would be a picture book about an elephant, one that I'd share with the kids at school and then look into getting published if it was any good.

What made you decide to write a book about an elephant? Have you always loved elephants? I mean, why not a dog, or a giraffe, or a rhinoceros?

Yes, I've always loved elephants! They're so intelligent and have such strong connections with family and friends. For this story, I'd heard about elephants fighting to break free of their chains when they're first captured, and then giving up forever. I started thinking about a story with a captive elephant who wants to return to her home in the wild, but she doesn't try breaking free of her chains because she doesn't know she could do it.

I’ve heard that when you first imagined this novel, it was as a picture book. Can you elaborate?
Yes, I was thinking it would be a picture book about that elephant who grows up as a show elephant, then finally breaks free and runs back to her home in the jungle. It never occurred to me to try to write a novel, but some people who critiqued it recognized that the story needed expanding.

Tell us a little about the setting in Chained? Do you have first-hand knowledge of India? How did you make it feel so authentic?
I chose the setting because I wanted the elephant to be caught from her home in the wild and work as a show elephant sort of nearby, so her home felt just out of reach. I read a lot of online resources and books about India, but the most helpful information was from people who'd lived there. I elaborate on that more (and about going from picture book to novel) in "The Landscape Unseen," in a recent issue of Hunger Mountain.

How long did it take you to write Chained? How long was your journey to actual publication?
The journey from idea to publication was about six years, which isn't unusual, but it's probably a good thing I didn't know when I started that it takes that long to write a book and get it published. But I had a lot to learn about writing, so while reading all I could about elephants and India, I was reading all I could about writing, too, and taking my new chapters to critique groups for feedback. After finishing the novel and doing lots of revisions, I started submitting to literary agents in the spring of 2009. Coincidentally, during the same week in February 2010 I heard from two agents who were interested in representation. I talked to both and had a difficult decision to make, but I ended up signing with Joanna Volpe, now of New Leaf Literary & Media Representation. I did a new round of revisions for her, then she submitted the manuscript to a few publishers. A couple weeks later we had an offer, and Jo set up an auction when another publisher let her know they were also interested in acquiring it. The book sold to Macmillan/FSG in April, 2010, and hit the bookshelves about two years later, in May 2012.

I always love to find out how people choose titles? Was Chained the original title for this story, or was it chosen by the publisher, or someone else?
Often titles do change, but Chained was the title on the manuscript when I first submitted it. At first I was calling it "The Elephant's Path," but that wasn't interesting enough, so I kept brainstorming other titles. Somehow "Chained" came to me at some point and that's the one I stuck with.

This book is written in first-person present tense. Was that the way you envisioned the story from the start, or did it change?
I started writing it in 3rd person past tense, and a few chapters in I decided to try it in 1st person, and I really liked it that way. In the summer of 2008 I went to the Highlights Foundation workshop in Chautauqua, where Patricia Lee Gauch was my mentor. During one of our sessions she said, "Something makes me want to ask you to write this in present tense." That night I rewrote the first chapter in present tense and showed it to her the next day, and we both thought it was working out better; we felt closer to the character and the action seemed more immediate.

As an author promoting her first book, how important do you feel social media is to your career? Is marketing a love/hate relationship with you (as many authors admit) or do you enjoy it? How much time daily/weekly do you spend promoting?
I think it's very important, and I do enjoy it. I've gotten to know a huge writing community online that I wouldn't know about without my social media activity. Writing is a solitary activity, and it helps to have the support of people who are going through the same thing. And it's a great way to meet other book people, like teachers, librarians, and book bloggers. I've bought many books that I heard about from someone's online recommendation, and I'm sure the same thing has happened with my own book. It's hard to say how much time I spend on promotion because it varies a lot; when I'm busy with work or with a deadline, I'll take at least a few minutes during the day to tweet something and reply to others, but when my time's more flexible I'll spend more time on Twitter, Facebook, and my blog.

What are you working on next, Lynne? Anything new in your publishing career you’d like to tell us about?
Two things that are totally different; I'm revising a humorous YA novel with some mystery to it, REASONS FOR LEAVING, about an agoraphobic teen who has to go on a road trip to find a missing friend, and I'm writing my next MG novel, NESSIE MALONE'S GUIDE TO CREATURES THAT AREN'T REAL, about an amateur forensic scientist with cryptozoologist parents.

Okay, as a fellow animal person, I have to ask you this question. What, actually, is your favorite animal?
Elephants, of course! Although they'll crush the bed if you let them sleep with you, so I'm also a dog person.
Lynne - Thank you So Much for stopping by and telling us about your new book! Find more about Lynne here: website/ facebook/ twitter/ goodreads.   
Want to win a copy of Chained? Lynne has generously offered to giveaway a copy. Simple enter the contest using Rafflecopter, below. Open to U.S. addresses only. Good luck, everyone!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Laura S. said...

Great interview. This book looks wonderful! I love the premise. I hope it turns out well for Hastin and Nandita. I better read it to find out!!

Patricia said...

I, too, love elephants and have blogged about them and read any posts I can find that deal with them. My favorite movie is Water For Elephants. Thank you for writing this book and I'm going to purchase it for my Nook if it's available. Wonderful interview.

Gwen Cole said...

I've had this book on my wishlist for the longest time!! I love elephants and I loved the pitch when I read it. :D

Sharon Ledwith said...

Sounds like you have a winner of a book, Lynne! Nice interview, Linda! In my next book, an elephant makes an appearance - love them! Following you on Twitter and liked you on Facebook, Lynne! Best wishes!