Thursday, November 3, 2011

Interview with Author Jewel Kats



Jewel Kats is an award-winning writer. She’s also one tough cookie. At the age of nine, Jewel endured a car accident. Her physical abilities altered forever. She spent weeks in the Hospital for Sick Children recovering, has survived eight leg surgeries, and currently walks with a cane. (Note: It’s fashionably handpainted!) Nothing stops Jewel. For six years, she penned a syndicated teen advice column for Scripps-Howard News Service and TorStar Syndication Services. Jewel has earned $20,000 in scholarships from Global Television Network and Harlequin Enterprises Ltd. She’s penned three children’s books, including: Reena’s Bollywood Dream, What Do You Use to Help Your Body? and her latest book Cinderella’s Magical Wheelchair.

Please welcome Jewel to our blog.

Jewel, can you tell us about your current book. Give a short summary and also how you got the idea for this book.
I’ve always loved the story of, “Cinderella.” I’ve literally read every version out there—many with unique multicultural twists. However, I never came across a story that I could completely relate to. Up until now, there has never been a re-told version of “Cinderella” featuring a protagonist with a disability. Hence, I decided to fill this void. I thought it was about time there be a Princess on a wheelchair! High-time, actually!!! 

As for the synopsis, “Cinderella’s Magical Wheelchair” is a modern-day tale that takes place in a Kingdom far, far away. Cinderella is forced to work like a mule for Stepmother and her twin stepsisters. One day, an invitation arrives. It’s from the Palace. A Royal costume party is being held! Stepmother promises Cinderella she can attend. The catch? She has to make jewelry for the twins. Cinderella keeps her word. Whereas, Stepmother doesn’t. Magic ensues. And, I’ll leave the rest to your imagination…
What is a typical writing day like for you?
First of all, I hardly sleep! Seriously. It’s hard for me to shut down and catch some zzzzz’s. My mind is always running about. I currently write full-time, and for this I’m very grateful. Why? I have the luxury to write either in the afternoon; or if an idea strikes me at night. I usually work about six solid hours per day on some writing related project. I’m usually doing a few things at once. More often than not, I end up working more.
  
What do you enjoy most about writing?
I absolutely love the process of getting into my character. I often read what they’d like. Sometimes, I even dress like them! I really try to immerse myself into their brain. I’ve nicknamed this technique: “method writing.” I also enjoy the process of imagining new environments and new worlds.

What is the most difficult part of writing?
Sometimes, I struggle to write. Well, I still manage to write in a literal sense—but I don’t like anything that I record! I call them my “backspace days.” I’ve learned to get through this by telling myself something is better than an empty page. Moreover, I regurgitate maybe my version of “junk” is another person’s form of “art.” I’ve often been told that I’m too hard on myself—both personally and professionally. Read: I’m only human!

Is there any book that, when you read it, you thought, "I wish I had written that!"?
I really admire books from other genres—specifically, Harlequin Romances. It’s always been my dream to write one. I’ve gone as far as writing a story outline, and character sketches. However, something keeps holding me back. Perhaps, it’s fear? Deep down, I wonder if I have what it takes to write fiction for women. Thus far, much of my success has come from writing for folks under 30. My career as a journalist is a whole other story.  

What are you working on right now?
We recently bought a poodle puppy named, Bambi. She will be coming home to us on Nov. 6th. Anyhoooo, I got this wacky idea to host a real-life “puppy shower” for her. Through this thought, a children’s chapter book idea sprouted. The “what-ifs” started, and soon enough a grade one student named, Beatrice, formed. She’s a hilarious kid who orchestrates a puppy shower to show-off to her arch enemy.

What is your best tip for aspiring authors?
Please don’t ever give up! Rejection letters are a part of the book authoring process. Also, remember to be open to critiquing. Stories can always improve!

What advice would you give children and teens as they prepare for life?
Keep repeating this: “There is a silver lining around each dark cloud.” Learn to find positives in negatives. Learn to turn your frown into a smile. Learn to laugh through rain.

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Frequently Asked Questions about Jewel directly from her website at http://www.jewelkats.com/

•Why Have You Written Children’s Picture Books?
I have a super soft spot for picture books. It was through them that I learned English. Here’s a shocker: I couldn’t for the life of me construct ONE proper English sentence as a kindergartner. Yes, me! In turn, I became an E.S.L. student by day; and a picture book hoarder by night. I literally stared at book illustrations until my eyeballs hurt. I was so determined to figure out what was going on in the story text. It also helped that Mom read stories to me every day. So, in a sense, I’m indebted to not just her, but picture books BIG TIME. I not only mastered English through them; but, today, make my bread and butter as an English medium writer. Hats off to picture books!!

•Did You Always Dream of Becoming an Author?
Sigh. Make that a double sigh. If I could only sit here and tell you that I’ve been dreaming up stories since I was a toddler. Read: That totally didn’t happen! After learning English, I pretty much f-o-r-g-o-t about reading. I know, talk about sad. Throughout my junior years, gabbing on the phone became my new favorite pastime. I also took up the habit of penning letters. (Confession: A few lucky ducks got lipstick stamped smooches as a signature seal from me!) In any case, I was always communicating. In my final year of high school, my transcript confirms that my highest mark came in my English class. Yet, I still didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until I was 19, and in a coffee shop that one of the most important conversations in my life happened. Here’s a direct account:
Taufiq flipped a newspaper page. He looked at me for a long moment. Words formed at his lips, but stopped.

I raised a finely plucked eyebrow. “What’s up?” I asked. “Why are you looking at me like that?”

His almond eyes glanced back at the newspaper at hand. He drummed at the surface of the Mom and Pop coffee shop tabletop. “You should write for U of T’s student newspaper.”

Hot chocolate spluttered out of my short nose. “What are you CRAZY?” I said in the vein of a wild, 19-year-old woman.

Taufiq smiled at me with typical Gemini calmness. “Yes, I am serious. You write such beautiful letters…”


Let’s just say, the rest is history. I soon started writing for University of Toronto’s largest newspaper. Thereafter, I watched my words come to life on stage. At age 20, I co-wrote and toured in “Swept Away,” a forum theatre production about youth homelessness. I went onto work in mainstream print media, and now write fictional books.


•Is There A Specific Quote That Motivates You to Write?
Why, yes, there is…It goes like this: “If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” -Toni Morrison


 You can find out more about Jewel Kats’ World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule at http://storiesforchildrenpublishing.com/JewelKats.aspx. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Kats and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions.

In addition, come listen to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/worldofinknetwork. The hosts VS Grenier, Kris Quinn Chirstopherson and Irene Roth will be chatting with Jewel Kats about her books, writing, the publishing industry and experiences with virtual tours. Kats will also be sharing writing tips and trials, and tribulations of the writer’s life. The show will be live November 7, 2011 at 2pm EST.

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*Stories for Children Publishing, LLC. (SFC) and its divisions do not receive any compensation for product reviews beyond a sample and/or limited access to a paid website. SFC donates all books sent for review to a charitable organization. SFC may do a contest or giveaway of samples we receive. SFC does not review any samples sent without a request for review to the Blog Editor, VS Grenier. SFC's staff members will not return unauthorized samples to the senders, but will donate them without review.