1. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you became an author.
I am a Post Depression child and the eighth of nine children who grew up on a dairy farm smack dab in the middle of the state of Pennsylvania. Books were a scarce commodity in our household so it was a red letter day for me when the county bookmobile came to our school which was located on the corner of our farm. What a thrill it was to climb into that vehicle, which was probably about the size of the Taurus van my husband drives, and choose one book from all those beckoning me from the shelves. After I read my book I returned it to the teacher and was allowed to borrow someone else’s story. It was through those bookmobile experiences I developed a respect for authors. I decided that someday I would write a book. It took me about thirty years to accomplish that goal, and the fun continues.
2. Tell us about your current book. Give a short summary, tell us about your publisher, and also how you got the idea for this book.
Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest, my thirty-second children’s book, was released by Windward Books on December 1. It’s a biography of Aisling (pronounced “Ashley”) Lara Shepherd whose goal is to some day run her own dogs in the famous Iditarod sled dog race held each March in Alaska. Born legally blind, from the time she was three she loved watching sled dog racing on television. My book, written from information Aisling shared with me in hundreds of e-mail letters, follows her through the mushing season the year she is eleven. That memorable year she conquered obstacles, dealt with heartbreak and loss, and achieved great victories, while keeping her eye on the Iditarod.
Windward Books had been one of my publishers for many years. I am the author of an eight-book series of wildlife picture books called My Little Books. To date there are over 125, 000 copies of these books in print. Because of the satisfying relationship I have with Al Krysan, the publisher, I asked if he’d consider publishing Aisling’s story. Gentleman that he is, he agreed to read it though biography was not a genre he published. When eventually he found time to read the manuscript, he was hooked. He has demonstrated his commitment to Aisling and her goal by backing the book with a tremendous publicity blitz. I am honored by his trust in me and in Aisling’s story.
3. What is a typical writing day like for you?
I believe writers must write every day. I begin my writing day with Morning Pages, a habit I developed many years ago after reading a book by Julia Cameron. I used to keep these writings, but one day the stack of journals became so tall and took up so much room, I started disposing of them a few at a time in the weekly trash pickup. They had served their purpose in the original writing in that they primed the pump for whatever I was going to concentrate on later in the day.
What do I write? It depends on what is on my mind. Sometimes it is two pages in which I try out ideas for a problem in some manuscript. Sometimes it is a rant about someone of something that upset me. Sometimes it is gloating over an unusual blessing or circumstance that came my way. My third page is a prayer journal of sorts. A page of pondering, asking, thanking, worshipping the Lord because I know my talent comes from Him. All of this serves to clear the writing pipes and make room for the “good” stuff to flow through later in the day.
Unlike most of my writing friends who feel freshest and want to get right to work on whatever manuscript is at the top of their work pile, I can’t settle down until I take care of major things on my daily “to do” list. If I don’t take care of them first, they keep distracting me until I give them the attention they are demanding. That means I spend my mornings doing my other things. Sometimes I don’t get to my writing until after the evening meal. But when I do settle down to write, I give it my full attention. My goal is to spend at least three hours a day writing.
4. What do you enjoy most about writing?
5. What is the most difficult part of writing?
The most difficult part of writing for me is choosing what to write from a long list of things I find intriguing. When I began my publishing career nearly forty years ago, I couldn’t think of interesting topics. Now I can’t decide which I’d like most to write.
6. Do you make school visits or do speaking/book signing engagements? If so, please describe a typical presentation.
I enjoy making school visits and doing book signings. Bob Renaud, the illustrator for Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest, lives about twelve miles from me. That made it possible for us to do joint signings after the book was released. We received our copies on December 4 and conducted seven signings between December 10 and 21.
My school presentations are tailored to the teachers’ requests. I prefer small groups to enable eye contact. Teachers are free to set a schedule for my class visits in which I share a specific book, talk about my life as a writer and why I wrote that particular title. Sometimes teachers request that I address a particular topic, such as where I get my ideas. Length of each presentation is dependent on the age group. Along with the pre-sale of my books before my visit, I also bring stuffed animals that go along with the titles. I have a cute little husky dog that goes well with Aisling’s story.
7. Is there any book that, when you read it, you thought, "I wish I had written that!"?
Yes, more than one! I’d love to be able to write riveting historical fiction like the adult writer, Liz Curtis Higgs, stories like Thorn in My Heart, Fair Is the Rose, Here Burns My Candle, and Mine Is the Night.
Come visit me at http://www.hopeirvinmarston.com/ Among other things you’ll find an update on Aisling’s mushing competitions for this season. If you have a question, please email me at mailto:email@example.com
9. What are you working on right now?
My current project is an historical middle grade novel, Sackets Harbor Powder Monkey. It’s local history. I had hoped to find a publisher for it a couple of years ago. After over 20 rejections I realized it must have major faults. I learned to find them after attending Darcy Pattison’s Novel Revision Workshop in the fall of 2010. Since then I’ve spent considerable time re-writing the story. Last month I had it professionally critiqued by children’s editor Paula Morrow (good decision on my part) and am now working through her comments and suggestions. Because it’s too late to find a main stream publisher in time for the War of 1812 Bicentennial Celebration, I am bringing this one out as an e-book.
10. What is your best tip for aspiring authors?
Read. Read. Read. Read the kind of books you’d like to write and read How-To books that show you how to write that kind.
11. What advice would you give children and teens as they prepare for life?
“Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV
12. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readership?
Yes. A big “thank you” to you for inviting me to your blog and another “thank you” to those of you are reading my interview. I’d love to hear from you.