Monday, August 20, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Circle of Secrets, Interview with Kimberley Griffiths Little and a Giveaway!

I am excited to be highlighting Circle of Secrets today by Kimberley Griffiths Little, with an interview and giveaway as well! I can't remember how I came across her blog, but I am so glad I did. Kimberley is a super-nice lady and in addition to her busy writing schedule, takes time to give back to the community through projects like Write On Con, blogging at From the Mixed Up Files... of Middle-Grade Authors, and Spellbinders: a blog for librarians, authors and educators working together to create lifelong readers.

I just went back and read a few of her blog posts over the past year and was particularly intrigued by this one which details all the different writing-related things she had going on in the months previous to the post. It makes me really appreciate the hard work she puts in as a writer and shows her dedication to her chosen craft!


Book Description: (from Amazon) Critically acclaimed author Kimberley Griffiths Little weaves a haunting story of friendship and family and the power of faith, once again set against the lush backdrop of the Louisiana bayou.

After her mother walked out on Shelby Jayne and her dad, Shelby thought she'd never speak to her mamma again. But with her dad leaving the country for work, it turns out she doesn't have a choice: Shelby has to move back into her mamma's house, deep in the heart of the Louisiana bayou.

Her new classmates tease and torment her, so Shelby's relieved to finally find a friend in Gwen, a mysterious girl who lives alone on the bayou. But Shelby can't help wondering if Gwen has something to do with the puzzling messages she finds hidden in the blue bottle tree behind her house. The only person who might be able to explain is her mamma -- but Shelby's not ready to ask. Not yet. It may take a brush with something from the beyond to help Shelby see that the power to put her own ghosts to rest is within her reach.

Kimberley Griffiths Little's haunting and powerful tale brings one girl's attempt to grapple with family, friendship, and forgiveness to beautiful, vivid life.

What makes it marvelous: Right away I felt a reason to feel sympathy for the main character. Shelby Jane's daddy is leaving her in the care of a mama she wants nothing to do with, in a swamp house you can only get to by boat. By the third chapter a mystery reveals itself: secret notes left in the blue bottle tree. After Shelby Jane has a hard time making true friends at school, I wanted to root for her - in finding a friend in Gwen, and in repairing the bond she desperately needed with her mother. I found myself staying up late one evening because I just had to see how it all worked out.

Note from Kimberley: I had asked her if there was an order to Circle of Secrets and The Healing Spell and this was her answer. "I guess technically you should read The Healing Spell first but they are stand-alone books (it was a blast to revisit the world in a whole new way). You may want to read The Healing Spell first. The surprise at the end may have more impact. 

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Interview with Kimberley!

Where you can make friends with Kimberley:
website: http://www.kimberleygriffithslittle.com/
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kimberleygriffithslittle
Twitter: https://twitter.com/KimberleyGLittl
Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/484627.Kimberley_Griffiths_Little


1. In another interview you mentioned "leaving one agent to acquire my dream agent." Can you tell us how that connection came about, and how you knew it was time to leave the first agent?
I made my connection through an art form known as “stalking”! Ha!
Okay, here is “The Story”: I published three MG novels with my first agent over a decade ago, and then I had what I call “The Famine” where, for 7 years, I kept writing like crazy, but couldn’t sell anything (for a variety of reasons.) One reason was my agent wasn’t subbing to more than a very few publishers (3-4); she lived out of the country for part of that time; eventually she stopped spending much time in the children’s lit arena, focusing instead on adult titles and genres. So we parted ways – very amicably. It was my husband who pushed me into moving on because I was just spinning my wheels, although I never stopped writing new work. But trying to find a new agent can be just as difficult as finding the first one so I was pretty nervous and worried that it would never happen again.
I’d heard great things about Tracey Adams through the online grapevine so when I began querying for a new agent, I researched her and emailed clients to find out more. But when I was ready to start my query submissions Tracey closed her agency for a time period, only taking submissions if she’d met you at a conference. I found out which conferences she was attending that year—as soon as possible!—and stalked—I mean “followed” her to SCBWI Los Angeles. I made a point of meeting her at the evening social, she asked what I was working on, I pitched two books (a MG and a YA) in a sentence or two, and she asked me to submit. Two months later I did (after polishing some more!), but I waited many months before hearing from her because she came home from SCBWI absolutely swamped!  I was getting requests for full manuscripts from other agents, but when Tracey wanted to set up a phone call appointment, I was elated. We talked for nearly two hours and it was a done deal. I couldn’t ask for a better agent. Within 6 weeks she sold a 3 book deal for me to Scholastic (stand-alone books). And last year she sold a YA trilogy to Harpercollins for me in an amazing deal. The first book will launch Fall 2013 as a lead title. It’s impossible to tell you how thrilled I am after a lot of very, very hard work.

2. How did you decide on the bayou swamps for the settings of your MG books The Healing Spell and Circle of Secrets? Do you have a connection to that area of the country, and what kind of research did you have to do in order to make the books feel authentic?

My family traveled through Louisiana about 13 years ago and I fell in love—hard. I went home and read everything I could get my hands on and immediately started planning a detailed research trip. I’ve spent the past 13 years going back over and over again, making lots of friends, boating on 6 different bayous with local fisherman, researching at the Louisiana State University. I think I’ve been to just about every small town in Cajun country—between Lafayette and Morgan City, as well as north to Pierre Part and south to Houma and Thibodeaux, too. I love the people, the culture, the food, and the magic of the wild scenery.

3. In your acknowledgements you mention contacting real traiteurs. What were the traiters' reactions to you contacting them, and what tips do you have for authors who are needing to interview people for research?
I was so touched at how open and warm and friendly the traiteurs were to welcome me into their home and talk freely about their work, their beliefs, and the various ways they get trained and practice their healing arts. I also had the generosity of their friends or family members who helped me set up a visit, usually on the spur of the moment! I initially read about traiteurs in some of my nonfiction reading by professors at LSU (extremely brief references, but I was very curious!)
I kept digging around the internet for more info (this was before Facebook or Youtube, even) and discovered a beautiful documentary done by a local film company who highlighted more than a dozen traiteurs. That documentary helped enormously to jump start my own personal visits as well as scouring the archives at LSU library for more information.

4. I won The Healing Spell from you on your blog (thank you!) and you also sent me a bunch of bookmarks (double thank you!) My son spied the bookmark for Circle of Secrets and said he wanted to read it. I was surprised and quickly answered "but it's about a girl." He didn't seem to care and proceeded to read both books before I cracked open either of them! Did you write these books hoping to connect mostly with girls or did you intentionally try to write them to appeal to both girls AND boys?

I love hearing this about your son, Julie, and so glad he enjoyed both books!
I knew that girls would probably be the primary reader of the books because the MC’s are girls, but I always seem to put boys into the story that play an important role, or that affect the MC in a huge way. I don’t consciously think, “I need to put a boy into the story” though. My boy characters have naturally evolved as I’m thinking about the story and plotting. They just sort of spring, full-blown into my mind and I know they’re the right catalyst for my MC, like Livie’s annoying cousin, Thibodeaux in The Healing Spell. He figures out the secret Livie is hiding and also commits an act at the end of the story that breaks Livie’s heart—but she has to forgive him in the end, just as she has to forgive herself for her own “sins” as well as the rest  of her family.

It has been very gratifying to see boys purchasing the books and email me fan letters. At my live bookstore or school events, boys even buy the charm bracelet to look at while they read the book! I think the stories are very universal and there is a “mystery” in each story, too, that appeals to both boys and girls.

5. How were you paired with Erin McGuire for your MG book covers? How much involvement did you have in this process?

Scholastic has an Art Department with professional designers and artists who discuss various cover concepts with my editor (as well as choosing the fonts, layout, interior design, borders, chapter heading artwork, etc). The art dept folks receive portfolios of artists around the country and keep abreast of the artists in the industry who are doing picture books or other book covers, and choose the one they think will evoke the concept the best.
Erin McGuire was chosen to do Circle of Secrets, and she spends a few weeks coming up with thumbnails of potential covers or concepts to show the art dept. They then discuss and choose some sketches they think are close to what they’re hoping for, have the artist work some more on it, or change this or that, and then the final is chosen from a second round of thumbnails with final tweaks until everyone is satisfied.

Circle of Secrets is a spooky, moody cover (I love the headstones and the dripping Spanish moss on the trees) and Scholastic liked it so well that they asked Erin to do the cover for my new book, When the Butterflies Came (April 1, 2013). It’s a completely different feel and color palette, but you can tell it’s Erin’s beautiful work. She created thumbnails and the final within about a week or so—very fast! Erin shared her process for When the Butterflies Came in this blog post on her website. It’s fascinating to see the sketches and hear about the final tweaks. Something we writers often don’t get to see!  

***Fun Little Tidbit: My editor asked me if I had any cover ideas for When the Butterflies Came and I gave her a couple of concepts I’d thought of. My first choice became her first choice and that’s the one that Erin created! I love that I got to be a part of the creative process and see my idea come alive in the gorgeous cover. (I use it as my wallpaper on my computer, too. :-))
6. What is one question (about writerly stuff) you have never been asked but always wanted to answer? Oh, and please provide the answer too!
Okay, here goes a dorky answer!
“If you came across a genie while walking along the banks of the Rio Grande (where I currently live) and she told you that you could have one wish to live inside the world of one of your favorite books, which book would you choose to live inside?
It’s hard to make a choice, but in the end I’d have to go with The Little White Horse by Elizabeth Goudge. The book takes place in 19th century England. A country manor house, hills and forests and lakes, and also a place filled with lots of magic so that every day would be beautiful and an adventure. I also love the bedroom the MC gets to stay in at her uncle’s “castle”. You’ll have to read the book to find out about the circular room with stars on a domed ceiling and a snug, miniature door that only Maria can fit through.
I’ve always been an “olden-days-castle-girl” and about a year ago started writing a YA novel set in a castle in Scotland. I’ve written half of the first book and the entire trilogy is now planned out. (Hopefully I’ll sell it one day). Years ago I stayed in the haunted tower room at Borthwick Castle outside of Edinburgh. One of the best things I’ve ever done on a trip. I highly recommend it!

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Thanks again Kimberley for taking the time to answer my questions. I enjoyed learning more about you and your publishing journey and I hope others will too!

Where you can make friends with Kimberley:

And now for the giveaway!

I have a signed copy of The Healing Spell that I won from Kimberley and would love to pass it on to one lucky reader. All you have to do is leave a comment and I will draw a name next Monday and announce the winner then. It would be nice if you signed up to follow my blog, but not necessary to be entered in the drawing.

No international entries. US and Canada only.

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Marvelous Middle Grade Monday (MMGM) was created by Shannon Messenger. To find other bloggers participating in MMGM go to her blog for a list of links.

27 comments:

  1. Awesome interview! Love the variety of information and I love agent stories. It gives me hope and makes me determined to have my own someday.

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    1. Thanks for your comment Sara!

      I love agent stories too! There are so many different ways to grab their attention and it does give me hope, if I ever get something ready to submit! :-)

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  2. I would love to win The Healing Spell! This series sounds so wonderful. I have heard such great things about it. I really enjoyed learning more about the author. I especially liked hearing about her switch from one agent to an even better agent. How wonderful! Thanks for sharing.
    ~Jess

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    1. Yes, her story is definitely encouraging! Thanks for your comment!

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  3. Great interview! And I learned totally new stuff about Kimberley even though I just interviewed her last month.

    I actually haven't read The Healing Spell and would love to win a copy.

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    1. Yes, after reading your interview with Kimberley I made sure to come up with totally different questions! :-) Thanks for stopping by Barbara!

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  4. Very in depth interview. You're the second MMGM participant to interview Kimberly. Maybe it's time I hunt down all her published books so far.
    I followed with my blogger ID, but I mostly blog on wordpress and I'm going to add you to my MMGM list so I can find you easily.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Akoss! I checked out your blog and hope to see more MMGM/MMMGM from you soon! Taking care of a baby (not counting NICU time which I don't have experience with) is so very time consuming... good luck continuing with writing and blogging during this life-changing 1st year! :-)

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    2. Aw thank you so much for the encouragement. :)

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  5. MANY, many thanks to Julie for this great interview. I loved the questions and I'm happy to inspire other writers the way I've been inspired over the years by writers in the virtual world as well as the real world. I've been very blessed.

    And y'all like that "stalking" story, eh??? LOL!

    Thank you to everyone for the lovely comments, it really makes my day.

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    1. Your welcome Kimberley! It was lots of fun learning more about you!

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  6. This looks like a really terrific book. I loved the interview! Thanks for the giveaway. I'm your latest follower, by the way.

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    1. Hi Rosi! Glad you found my blog and thanks for signing up as a follower!

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  7. I love the sound of this one - I think it had me at the mention of a swamp house!! How I miss Louisiana!

    - Jessica @ Book Sake

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    1. Thanks for stopping by to comment Jessica! I'm sure these would be right up your alley if you are familiar with Louisiana.

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  8. The Little White Horse, hmm. Think I'll have to go read that one.

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    1. Glad you found a new book to read! Thanks for your comment!

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  9. Jennifer DeLorenzoAugust 21, 2012 at 2:13 PM

    Awesome interview Julie... this book worm is intrigued for sure!

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Jenn! Happy MG reading!

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  10. Great interview and lovely review. You make the book sound very appealing. I like that your son read both books before you did.

    I'm your newest follower. And I'm adding you to my MMGM blogroll. Amazing how many of us are having giveaways right now!

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    1. Thanks for your comment Joanne! My son probably reads more than me... although that is most likely ONLY b/c he has more "down time" than I do! :-)

      And thanks for signing on as a follower!

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  11. I picked up lots of ideas for my 9 year old bookworm - thanks Julie! I'll be checking back often.

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    1. Hi Paula! Thanks for signing on as a follower. I often post what we are reading, and it's fun to share (and get) recommendations!

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  12. I don't think my last comment went through, so I'm trying again. If I leave two comments, I guess you'll have to enter me twice. :D But thank you for this fabulous interview. I'm adding this book to my (and my daughter's) TBR list whether I win the book or not. :D

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    1. Oh well, you only get one entry... LOL! I think you and your daughter will like this book. Happy reading! :-)

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  13. LOVE her art from. I may have to become an *artist* myself to find an agent. Great interview!

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  14. Splendid interview with Kimberley, Julie. I'm coming in under the wire with fingers crossed to win a copy!

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