Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Author Interview - Jacquitta McManus - Children/YA Author

       Today we're in the village of Nagoran. It's a bit warm so we have palm fans for everyone. Please grab a seat around our story teller. You're in for a wonderful surprise! I’m very excited to introduce you to our author today – Jacquitta McManus, who is a Children's Author. I did a bit of surfing around on her websites and a review site or two, which are listed at the end so be sure to visit. On looking around at her main website, Worlds to Discover is a world in itself! I'm sure you'll agree her site makes you smile and want to learn more about her main characters. Make sure to book mark that site because you’ll want to revisit with your children. She has so much to look at and read and download! Readers and mothers, you are going to enjoy learning about this woman today as well as introduce her stories to your kids. 

Here is her bio:

        As a little girl from KY I didn’t have a lot of outlets that allowed me to explore what drew me to those stories.  All I knew was that they were exciting adventures and I loved the experience of the imagination. As I got older and it was time to make a decision about what to do as a career I realized that the only thing that interested me was animation. So I headed off to college for a digital animation degree. I loved computers so it seemed like the obvious choice.
        So, I was in college taking my courses… taking art classes, taking animation classes and of course the basics. P.S. I was one of the students who hated taking the basic courses. I was there for animation and that was all I wanted to do. Math… uhhh could have left it.  Spanish… uhhh could have left it. English… well… was never a strong subject for me. Grammatics, (I know, it’s not a real word… but it sounds good.), just didn’t sink into my brain. I didn’t get it. Therefore I didn’t even consider being a writer of stories. My focus was getting into my animation classes. I constantly went to the professor over the department to get in early. Thank you Professor for allowing me to start animation before I really got into my art classes.  (But of course after I started taking my animation classes I could see why having an art foundation was so important. LOL.)
        Okay… I’m rambling… back to my background. During the end of my college experience …  and my last couple of semesters … I had my son. Although my grandmother thought I wouldn’t finish, I did. I got my degree in Mass Communications with an emphasis in Digital Animation with minors in Art and African American studies. Oh yeah, I did a study abroad in Africa. That was a great experience. I also started to get into directing films in my last year … which is still a passion for me and will one day be a reality.
        I got married, and we moved to Atlanta and we had another baby, a girl.
       It wasn’t until my daughter was growing out of watching Sesame Street and Blues Clues that I realize that there was not a lot of things out there for her. And when I say that I mean … fantasy/adventure stories with characters that looked like her. It bothered me. It bothered me a lot.
       But even then I didn’t start down the storytelling path. I remembered writing down a story concept, very very vague with little details about what I visioned on a piece of paper and that was it. At the time I was working on my first short film. I was producing and directing and it consumed me. I had a strong desire for it to be right and I had to prove to myself that I could do what I thought I could do. And I can.  Even then I wanted to direct a fantasy story, I knew that financially it was easier to go the drama route, so I did. I wrote, produced and directed a short film and was pleased. It wasn’t all I thought I could make it but it was good for the resources I had. Everyone who was involved in the project loved it and wanted me to submit it to a film festival, so I did, but only one. It was picked as one of the top five finalists, but we didn’t win. But I was happy with it all the same.
       One thing that caught my attention after the film was made and screened was my direction in writing the script. When it was all done I saw places I wish I would have handled differently and some places I wish I would have given more room. And although I wanted to keep it under 15 minutes I wish I wouldn’t have let the story dictate its own length. I think it would have given the story more room to connect with people and would have allowed for more moments that would have rounded out the characters.
       Okay… again, enough of my rambling. After the short film I got a lot of questions about the 2nd part and what I was planning to do with the rest of the story. My hope at that time was to turn the storyline into a series. So with the help of two other people I began the process of writing the series. Our goal was to write the first twelve episodes. It was around episode three that I realized that I didn’t like the drama genre as much as I liked the fantasy/adventure genre. So, I picked up a pencil and pad and for two weeks I wrote out an outline for a fantasy/adventure trilogy. It took about six legal pads. I mapped it out by chapters.  I was hooked in the fantasy/adventure genre.
       Now the easiest thing for me to do is probably write it in script form. I see things visually and scripts seem to allow me to get what I see out the quickest.  But I didn’t want to do that.  Something inside said write it as a book.
       So I brought a writing program to help me organize everything and I got started writing. I got to chapter six and I was pretty happy with what I had. I mean, It was the biggest thing I ever wrote … 30,000 plus words and I wasn’t even halfway through the first book.  It was when I got to chapter seven that I realized that the story wasn’t going the way I wanted it to. And although I had taken the time to write a full outline of the story it was feeling more and more like just a big brainstorm. My character arc for my characters was there but the world was not developed enough. I got stuck on a scene that needed background development and when I looked back at the previous chapters I knew I was going to have to start over … page one word one.
       Foundation … foundation … I had to stop and focus on the foundation. I started first by sketching out a map of the world … thank you art classes … and started working on the characters of the story. I hired an illustrator to do some character concepts … yes I have an art minor, but I’m not that good … that’s why it’s just a minor … LOL. I began to read … anything and everything that I could. That journey began at least two years ago. Now I have a complete world with more than a half dozen races, with background histories, locations and all. And I’m loving every minute of its development. I still go back and tweak parts of it … I might even completely rearrange a section of it and although I feel like I’m 90% there with it, I still have to complete the other 10% of it before I really get back into writing the book again. Although last week I wrote 2 chapters in my head, I’ll let it sit there for a while to make sure I really like it.
       During the development of the background for my first novel, I’ve started developing other stories as well. All of which are fantasy/adventures; although some YA stories are peeking through. And now I’m proud to announce that my first finished story, and my first MagBook is now published and available for purchase. It has been a journey getting it here but it’s here now.
       And one of the rewards of all of this is the feeling of being on the path that I was meant to be on. That can’t be brought or given. It has to be earned.
P.S.S. Oh … I guess I should mention … in between the time after I produced my first short film and when I really got into storytelling I worked as a graphic designer. Learned a lot that will benefit me greatly as I continue to create stories. And it was during that time that the concept for Labyrinth’s Door was born. It was a way to bring all of my experience to something I love.
       To great adventures!

Deanna:  Jacquitta, welcome to my blog!

Jacquitta:  Thank you, Deanna, for having me on your blog today. Welcome to Nagoran Village - the home village of Anyia in my story Anyia "Dream of a Warrior" where the weather is warm and pleasant. 

Deanna:  What is your writing day like and are you a morning writer or a nighttime writer?

Jacquitta:  I love to write in the morning when the house is quiet and my thoughts are fresh. If I can get started around 8am I can usually stay in it for hours. Well, on a good day I can. Other days I might try to write and all I can do is look at my computer screen wishing something will start to flow. As of now, I don't have a typical writing day ... I just go with the flow and take advantage of the times it's pouring out of me and miss those days when it's not.

Deanna:  Some writers will describe themselves as "character" or "plot" writers. Which one would you describe yourself as? 

Jacquitta:  If I had to pick one I would describe myself as a plot writer. Writing fantasy/adventure stories is about the plot. What's going to happen and how. I hope that within the plot I create characters with depth and give some balance to both. 

Deanna:  Where do you get story ideas?

Jacquitta:  From everywhere. I can be driving down the road and see something and it can spark an idea for a character or story. I can be listening to music and a scene will start to develop in my head and from that characters and plot. Ideas come from everywhere ... I just try to keep myself open to receive them. 

Deanna:  Do you use a time line story board when you write?

Jacquitta:  I do have a time line story board that I use. It's not very detailed, only hitting the main points of the story. I'm finding out though as I write and create characters for my series that I also have to write background stories on them. I write a lot of scenes and dialogue exchanges to help me build the story and personalities. 

Deanna:  Do you prefer to write stand alone books or a series with the same characters?

Jacquitta:  I'm finding that I like series. A book series allows for building worlds and relationships in away that a stand alone book does not. I also like to build up to the plot and allow for character moments which I think can be done better with a book series.

Deanna:  How do you prepare for a book series? Do you create an outline for one story and break it down into multiple books for a series or do you develop the plot and story as you go?

Jacquitta:  I think I do a little bit of both. I will write out a rough outline of the story and then figure out where a good break would be. From there I can develop the plot and story for one book that flows into the next book. Each book is developed on it's own, but they all flow into each other to create one big story.

Deanna:  Do you visit libraries and do story hours with children?

Jacquitta:  I don't visit the libraries as much anymore and never really did the story hour. I do take my children, but I'm usually looking for books for them and not myself. I love bookstores but I don't visit them as much anymore either ... I think being able to search online for books has kept me away from visiting libraries and bookstores as much. I just finished reading The Secret of Nimh with my daughter and now I'm looking for another novel to read with her ... and I'm looking for it online. She's only seven, so I'm trying to find something we both will enjoy. 

Deanna:  Tell as a bit about Labyrinth's Door - Anyia "Dream of a Warrior".

Jacquitta:  Labyrinth's Door - Anyia "Dream of a Warrior" is my first published book. It's the first book of a series that I'm working on. It's a story about a young girl named Anyia who has to make a choice ... does she obey her father and follow the traditions of her village or does she dare break tradition to follow her own dream of becoming a warrior during a time when Empress Zarina threatens her way of life. 

Excerpt:

     Hours passed before Anyia was able to move her body even slightly. Wiping the sweat off her face, she turned over and looked out between the bars. They were moving through the forest on a worn path heading toward a blue dome tent where an elderly lady sat at a table full of fruits, breads and gourds of water. The smell of the bread floated through the air. Anyia's mouth watered as she closed her eyes, thinking how great it would be if they gave her a piece.
      Moments later, the Thor warriors stopped and set the crate down roughly, banging Anyia against the metal bars. She watched as they rushed the table and began drinking and eating.
      "Do you have means to pay for my food?" asked the elderly lady. She had the presence of strength; she sat on a wooden stool in her green dress; at first Anyia thought the lady was bald. A grown woman in Nagoran Village would have been forbidden to wear her hair so short.
      Kuru and Runo just looked at each other and kept eating. Then Anyia saw a tall muscular man with gray hair walk past the crate.
      "Yes," said Som.
     She watched as he pulled out a few coins, dropping them on the table.
     He picked up a gourd of water and took a long drink before setting it back down. Then he turned around and, for the first time, Anyia could see his eyes; she shuddered. Som's eyes were pale gray; when he looked at her, chills ran up her spine, but she couldn't look away. She scanned his face; he had three red marks above his left brow.


Deanna:  That's an intriguing excerpt that makes me want to know more of the story! What are you working on now? 

Jacquitta:  I'm currently finishing up my first fantasy/adventure coloring book, Talee and the Fallen Object. Talee, a girl who lives on the gas planet Gala has her curiosity piqued when she see's an object fall from the backpack of a mail flyer and journeys out to see what it is.

Deanna:  You have such an imagination, Jacquitta. Your books sound very interesting and should draw many children to your site. Where is the best place for fans to find you?

Jacquitta:  They can visit me at my website WorldsToDiscover.com and  my Blog as well as on Facebook. I'm also on Twitter and GoodReads.


Labyrinths Door is available at Amazon and on my website above.

Deanna:  Here is Jacquitta's past and future schedule if you'd like to follow her or read where she's been:

December 21 - Guest Blogging at http://mizging.blogspot.com  Ginger mizging@gmail.com
December 24 - Guest Blogging at http://kristenhaskins.blogspot.com  Kristen kristen_babygurl@hotmail.com
December 28 - Guest Blogging at http://atwc1.com  Dee dee@deeswhite.com
December 30 - Guest blogging at http://magicianofoz.blogspot.com  James magicianofoz@hotmail.com
January 4 - Author Interviewed at http://thephantomparagrapher.blogspot.com  Paula  paula@chicklitclub.com
January 10 - Author Interviewed at http://consciousdiscussions.blogspot.com  Lillian drumit@shaw.ca
January 18 - Author Interviewed at http://deannajewel.blogspot.com  Deanna  deanna.jewel@yahoo.com
January 20 - Guest Blogging at http://www.armsofasister.com  Monique  monique.burkes@gmail.com
January 22 - Author Interviewed at http://myimmortalstories.blogspot.com  Katie  ksalidas@cox.net

Feel free to leave a comment or question for Jacquitta; she'll be around to chat with you today! Thank you all for stopping in to read about her and please take time to visit her wonderful, cheerful website!