Saturday, March 1, 2008

Review and Interview

Jennifer Porter recently reviewed my book LISTEN TO THE GHOST. Here's what she had to say.

Listen to the Ghost is about a 17 year old girl, Jade, who is haunted by a young woman, Phoebe, in Jade’s grandparents’ Victorian home in Charleston, South Carolina. Four teenagers are staying in the house for the summer while the grandparents are gone. Jade is an artist and displays her work in the local art fair; she has brought her bestfriend Elaine along with her and Jade’s older brother is in charge.

Phoebe the ghost will be a restless wandering spirit for all eternity if Jade does not find the linking wedding rings lost on Phoebe’s wedding day. A day that ended in tragedy.
Jade is also recovering from a painful breakup, and McClure does a wonderful job of crafting a tender new love story as Jade falls for the fourth teenage house sitter, Matt, one of her older brother’s friends. To make the situation more complicated, the ex-boyfriend appears later in the story as an obsessed and dangerous stalker.

Listen to the Ghost is a fun romantic ghost story. The dialogue flows clear and natural and the characters all have depth to them. Jade is not only an artist but also an athlete. But I have to emphasize fun ghost story. If you are looking for scary or realistic in terms of common knowledge about how ghosts haunt and the experiences people have when haunted, you will be disappointed with the book. While there are elements of what is known to happen in a haunting — the cold sensation, footsteps, chime-like noises, the other elements are more comical than anything else – the ghost throws food, she appears as a pink cloud, she can take on human form and speak.

The story held me though because McClure does provide us with the interesting mystery of the linking rings and the marriage that never was because of the tragedy that unfolded. And while at times the characters speak and act as if they are significantly older, they are likable and interesting. I would do anything to have teenagers like these ones in my house; they clean up, get up early in the morning, and are amazingly responsible and level-headed. The ideal of what we all hope our teenagers would be when on their own.

I recommend the book for younger teenagers or those looking for a clean, safe teen paranormal romance. There is a lack of technology in the characters’ lives, no cell phones, home computers, lap tops, etc but it retains a contemporary feel to it. And it is well-written and well paced.

Beverly Stowe McClure is from Texas. She was an elementary school teacher for 22 years and mother to four sons. She is a great-grandmother.

Other published works:
Caves, Cannons and Crinolines- a civil war YA historical fiction available in trade paperback in 2008
Secrets I Have Kept – YA adventure story, available as e book or paperback
Rebel in Blue Jeans- YA fiction available as an e book from Twilight Times

I am very lucky to have Beverly in one of my critque groups and she is kind enough to answer some questions for me:

1) When did you start writing to get published?
I started writing around 1990 when I took a writing course from The Institute of Children’s Literature.

2) You won “Conservation Teacher of the Year” in 1988?
In Texas we have districts for Soil and Water Conversation. Each year the state holds contests for students. Older students write essays, while the younger children make posters on some form of conservation. The best posters win ribbons. The districts also select a Conservation Teacher of the Year. In 1998, our Wichita S.W.C.D. chose me. I felt honored and still have my engraved plaque.

3) How would you suggest someone begin writing to get published?
I think this would be up to each individual. What works for one person might not work for another. But for most everyone, I believe you should learn as much about writing as possible. Read books about how to write young adult or picture books or whatever your preference is. Read books for enjoyment: fiction, nonfiction, books for all ages. Read more books. See what keeps you turning the pages? Then write what’s in your heart. Write your story. Have it critiqued. Make it the best you can.

4) What advice would you give writers trying to break into magazines?
Read back issues of the magazines you’re interested in submitting to. Study their writers’ guidelines. Make sure your story or article is what they publish. Polish your short story. Make every word count because word limits are usually between 500 – 1000 words, maybe more or less, depending on the age of the readers of the magazine.

5) You said you’ve discovered many interesting ancestors in your genealogy research. Would you share with us about some of what you have found?
Well, a distant cousin I met in Tennessee informed me we were of royalty. (See my head swell.) She had traced our family back to King John, who signed the Magna Carta. Okay, that wasn’t so good since he was a very bad king. He tried to take the throne away from his brother, Richard 1 (Richard the Lionhearted), without success. But then Richard died, and John became the king. (My head shrunk a size.)

Then my cousin informed me we went back to Charlemagne. Now that was good, right? He was the first ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. He’s well known in history. However, I discovered that probably half the world descended from Charlemagne, since he lived so many generations ago. (Head is back to normal size now.)

The best things I discovered in genealogy were old photos of my grandfather and great-grandmother and other family members.

6) How were you able to cope with the loss of your son (and a granddaughter)?
My faith in God is strong, and I know that someday I’ll see our son and granddaughter again. This doesn’t mean it was easy. We grieved. Every time I saw a baby, I was sad and wondered why. I still don’t know why; God does.

7) Why do you think you hated reading and writing as a child and how did that impact you as a teacher?
To this day, I’m not certain why I hated to read and write. Books were not a priority in our home, but my sister read, so I guess that’s no excuse. I did love to listen to “fairy tales” on the radio. Yes, this was before TV. I loved to play the piano, and I loved music and being a majorette in the band. Maybe I just didn’t have time for reading and writing.

My love for reading started when I read Dr. Seuss to my sons. Who could not love his stories? Then my students and I read Newbery winners. Wow! Such great writing. I wanted my students to enjoy reading instead of being like I was at their age—clueless to the excitement found in a good book. So we read together and discovered the joy of reading.

8) You say it took 12 years to really get something published, what do you think held your writing back from being published during that time? What was the key to changing that around?
In truth, my writing was bad at first. But I kept at it and improved until one day I sold an article. The key was never giving up and working hard.

Thanks, Beverly!!!

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