Monday, January 19, 2009
HEART OF A SHEPHERD Book Launch
This is the first of what will be a continuing series of book launch interviews. Rosanne Parry's debut fiction, HEART OF A SHEPHERD, launches next week to what I believe will be monumental fanfare. Enjoy this interview with the author - and be sure to check out this lovely book.
Congratulations on the publication of your novel, HEART OF A SHEPHERD. It is a rich coming-of-age story. What specifically inspired it?
There are many things in my life that have worked their way into the story. My Dad taught my son to play chess. My husband is a veteran. I have taught in rural and small town schools. I bottle fed a lamb once. Those experiences, plus a little research, plus a lot of making stuff up gave me the frame of the story, but without the core understanding of what was at stake for my main character, the frame was nothing special. The story didn’t really come together until I’d thought about my character long enough to understood why Brother wanted to be just like his dad. That understanding is what I think of as the core inspiration for the story and that didn’t come until after I’d written several drafts.
The setting for HEART OF A SHEPHERD is central to the story. Is this a setting familiar to you?
I’ve only been to Malheur County a few times, maybe a half dozen. However, it’s a striking landscape, and I have a retentive memory. I have friends who live there and in neighboring counties. The larger towns and physical features in the story, the Strawberry Mountains for example, are real places, but Brother’s home town, the river, and the reservoir are entirely fictional. I got a topographical map of the region and picked a spot that was convenient to the needs of my story.
I have to say, I love the cover my designer Jan Gerardi and my artist Jonathan Barkat came up with. It’s so evocative of the place and the mood of the story. What a great kid! And even though the landscape is actually Colorado, it’s very like the views of the Strawberry Mountains and the Blues and the Wallowas that I remember from eastern Oregon. I’ve included a picture of my own so you can see how close they’ve gotten to the real landscape.
Did you face any specific challenges in the writing of this book?
I faced the completely pedestrian yet nearly insurmountable challenges every writing mother faces. I won’t bore you with the recitation of my schedule. I am blessed with a supportive family full of avid readers and an editor willing to spend the amount of time a story needs to take its proper shape. Also, my house is quite messy.
How long have you been writing for children/teens? Have you written other books or is this your first effort?
I’ve been writing for many years but Heart of a Shepherd is my first novel to be published. My first picture book, Daddy’s Home, will be out on the 15th of March. It’s a sweet bedtime rhyme illustrated by David Leonard and published by Candy Cane Press.
I love working on picture books. I have to read a picture book aloud a thousand times (especially if it rhymes) and work the meter of an individual line in 20 or 30 variations until I get the right one. It helps me to remember that I should read the novel out loud, too, and make it sound as good as it looks. Sometimes when a scene is not working, rewriting it in iambic pentameter gives me a fresh look at the structure.
Can you describe your path to the publication of HEART OF A SHEPHERD?
I met my editor, Jim Thomas from Random House at the Oregon SCBWI Fall Retreat about six years ago. He critiqued something of mine and asked to see the whole thing, so I sent it in and he eventually wrote back saying, “This is great! Send me something else.” –so annoying! I yelled and threw things at him. (Fortunately, there is a continent between us. ☺) I have come to appreciate very much that Jim has never asked me to revise something on spec. He either wants the story or he doesn’t. He’s not doing me a favor by buying work he doesn’t think he can sell. Besides, I needed time to become a better writer. My children needed to be a little older, so we could manage the extra work of being an author, and Jim needed to find a story of mine he had confidence in. He picked Heart of a Shepherd, and he’s been behind it 100%--everyone at Random House has. It’s pretty amazing.
Do you have any advice for beginning writers?
I’ve always been fond of this quote from Winston Churchill. “Success is going from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.”
Can you tell us something about your personal life – inspirations, plans for the future, goals, etc.?
My personal life, I’m sorry to say, is as dull as unbuttered toast. I see a great deal of laundry in my future, also dishes and carpooling. ☺ I’m planning to write stories for the next 40 or 50 years at least, and that is hair-raising enough.
Do you have any new writing ventures underway?
I’m fortunate enough to be working on another novel with my editor at Random House. This one is very different from Heart of a Shepherd. It’s still a work in progress, and we haven’t settled on the right title yet, but I can tell you it’s about three girl musicians who live in Berlin and run away to Paris. It’s been lots of fun to write.