Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Danette Haworth - the interview!

Danette Haworth has a great debut novel, titled 'Violet Raines almost Got Struck by Lightning.' (I can wholeheartedly tell you that I lurved this book. She has a great character in Violet...and Eddie!) She's been a TW (more on that below!), a travel writer, and a flash fiction/short story writer…and then there's Violet (As well as The Hotel of Blueberry Goodness and Me and Jack, forthcoming in 2010 and 2011, respectively.) 
jKb: Welcome to Tell it, Danette!

DH: Thank you! It’s great to be here!

jKb: Violet is a story about relationships of all kinds…her relationship with her mother, with Eddie (possibly my favorite part?), with her best friend Lottie…*cough*, ah, Char…and with the new girl, Melissa. Did you, in your revisions (or before) have to deal with properly getting those emotions out in the right, most delicate way without sacrificing Violet's voice? (I am particularly thinking of the Eddie/Violet luuuuuve thing)

DH: It just came out that way! My editor, Stacy Cantor, really liked the developing nuance between Eddie and Violet, and she helped me crank up the volume on it while still keeping it just below the surface.
jKb: How did you get the whisp that turned into Violet? I know you said you wanted to write something about the mother/daughter relationship…do you normally come up with a theme first and apply or do characters march into your head and the plot develops from there? 
DH: With Violet, she came to me as a whole character. I had been thinking of a certain mother/daughter plot, and I’d been thinking about it for a couple of weeks, and then, I swear, Violet walked right into my computer room and rattled off the first paragraph of the book. She presented herself completely—voice, looks, accent—she even brought the setting of the book with her. All I had to do now was figure out what would happen to her.
jKb: Let's talk about p-l-o-t. I know you said you need a roadmap for your writing. How then did you deal when Violet wanted to do things her way? How do you deal with character stubbornness – as in, 'It's my way or the highway?'
DH: Although I outline my stories, much of the work is done in my head before I ever touch the keyboard. I really work an idea over to see if it’s executable. In Violet’s case, I had her first; she was just such an incredible character that anything that happened to her would have been interesting. I just loved her confidence and spunk. I felt more like I was watching her than creating her.

My outlines are loose; they’re more like guidelines rather than dictates. The magic really happens when you sit down to the keyboard and release the story.
jKb: Your EUREKA I'm getting published!! 'process' went about in a little bit of a different way – from publisher to agent. Did you find that made the process easier, in a way? (I'm thinking of a particular critique buddy as I write this sentence). Had you queried agents before on Violet or other MS at all? What drew you to Ted in particular? (Read HERE for information on Danette's publishing journey):
DH: I’d just finished revising Violet Raines when it was time to go to the SCBWI Workshop in Orlando. Stacy critiqued my first ten pages, and the way she talked about the manuscript and Violet, I could tell she connected with the story. I really wanted to work with her because it seemed to me she knew who Violet was. I waited a few weeks before submitting because I had pages out to other places for critique, but then I couldn’t hold out any longer. Plus, I felt good about the manuscript. I sent it to Stacy and queried a handful of agents at the same time. (Stacy was the first professional to read Violet Raines.)

Ted Malawer popped into Verla Kay’s Website for Children’s Writers & Illustrators. Something in what he said made me think he might like Violet, and I also got a strong sense that he might like my other manuscript, Me and Jack. I queried him right away. We had a few email exchanges, but for me the deal was sealed when Ted said he was smitten with the writing. That was it for me—I wanted Ted as my agent.
jKb: You've got some new books coming out (Congratulations!) How has Ted challenged you in your process to become a better writer? What do you think one of his best comments has been, in relation to the whole writing thing? (We all know and love you, Ted!)

DH: One thing I have to say about Ted is that he is a very patient guy! I’ve had all sorts of newbie questions for him and he answers them easily and in a way that I don’t feel foolish for having asked them. He’s great to speak with on the phone, very easy to talk with, and he’s generous with praise and advice.
jKb: So…once you got that fabulous contract… How did you publicize Violet? You have a blog; what other things online (offline) do you do? Did it go more smoothly/less smoothly than you planned? 
DH: Walker Books employed a great publicity plan, distributing ARCs all over the place and just giving Violet a real boost. I’ve had such a good experience with them. For my own part, I’ve done a couple of classroom visits and have talked with teachers and nearby bookstore owners. I love classroom visits. These are the people who are reading your book! I love hearing their questions and comments on Violet Raines and on writing in general. Next month, I’ve got almost a full week of school visits lined up and I can’t wait!
jKb: What was your most surreal moment during the entire trek to publication?  
DH: The thing with Violet happened so fast that I didn’t have time to get anxious. But later, after I revised Me and Jack, I had time to fret while Ted read it. Ted took only a few days to finish it, but it was moment-to-moment anticipation for me. Then came his email: he loved it. I almost cried, sitting there alone in my computer room. 
jKb: How did you celebrate at work when you got your offer? Were you still a TW at that time, or had you moved onto the Travel writing by then? 
DH: Actually, I had moved onto stay-at-home writer by then! We celebrated by going to one of my favorite restaurants, The Cheesecake Factory. Yum, yum!
jKb: I'm finding lots of Tech Writers in fiction, to my amusement (hello, day job!) What do you think the draw is for us lovely people what do TW'ing and Fiction? The insanity factor? The teknikal-stuff-wurkz-on-mah-braen? The blatant fear of being sucked into technical conversations? LOL!
DH:  When I was in college, everyone I knew who was writing went into journalism; I didn’t think there would be enough jobs out there for all of us! My sister suggested Technical Writing, and I thought it was a good fit—I enjoyed writing directions to my house or explaining how to use our TV system. But I was all the time writing and submitting short stories.

All tech writers are writers at heart. Technical writing is an excellent basis for fiction writing because in tech writing, you have to be precise. Let’s say you’re writing or editing something for NASA or a manual for Army equipment; you cannot afford to be off by even one degree! All your words must point the reader to the exact action you want them to take. In fiction, all your words must lead the reader to the feelings you want them to experience.
jKb: I did NOT know you love you some U2! As a fellow enthusiast, I can only commend you on your exquisite taste. So, just for fun, Bono or Edge? (Edge!) Favorite album cover? (I'm fond of Achtung, Baby!)
DH: Do not even get me started on the greatness that is U2. Some people have to see Stonehenge, some have to see the Grand Canyon; I have to see U2 in concert! Bono or Edge? Both brilliant, of course, but I pick Bono. Favorite album cover: Under a Blood Red Sky. 
Thanks, Danette, for such a great interview! Those of us slogging in the trenches salute you! And all - if you haven't read Violet, do a kid you know a favor. Or just buy it and read it for yourself!

Thank you, Jennifer! It was fun. If you want to find out more about Violet Raines, the first chapter is available on my website:  www.danettehaworth.com

For more information on Danette, including some great interviews, see below!



Kerri said...

Great interview!

Stephen Parrish said...

Enjoyed this, thanks. I love reading the behind-the-scenes stuff, and Danette is one of my favoritest people.

pseudosu said...

Wow- terrif! Thanks for sharing!

Heidi said...

outstanding interview! like Stephen, I love hearing about the behind the scenes things. It's very cool to know that stories come to published authors the same way they come to me!

Brit said...

Awesome interview!

Add me to the "Behind-the-scenes-junkie". Know those people who buy DVDs with all the commentaries and special features? Yep - that's me!

kimmirich said...

Awesome interview, thank you, and Happy Holidays!