Monday, May 24, 2010
Killer Cows Loose in Cynthia's Attic!
Killer Cows have invaded Cynthia's Attic, courtesy of young adult author, D. M. Anderson.
Welcome, Dave. Word has it you have a book out titled, Killer Cows. How in the world did you come up with a story about killer cows?
Killer Cows is a sci-fi novel which sprang from two different stories. The first one, with the same title, was one of many stories I wrote in high school to gross-out and amuse my friends. The second was an idea I’d carried around most of my life, a what-if story asking what would happen if a teenager was suddenly in possession of technology from another world...in this case, a flying saucer. The book is a cross between realistic fiction and all the sci-fi and killer animal movies I’ve always loved...and still do. It seemed like a good idea to combine these genres, and I wanted to write something that, not only pays homage to my childhood influences, but is a fun read. And the term, killer cows, has always struck me as inherently funny.
What inspired you to write a young adult novel?
After years of trying unsuccessfully to be the next Stephen King, I pretty much threw in the towel and didn’t write anything for about ten years. During that time, I became a middle school teacher, where reading and teaching young adult novels came with the job. I was surprised how good a lot of it really was. I was also surprised how much YA fiction had changed since I was a kid. Today, there are no real boundaries. And, as a teacher, there’s something really cool in seeing a kid take a sudden interest in reading once he or she finds a book or author they like. I think that’s what inspired me the most. It would be really cool to be one of those authors who encourages a kid to read.
How has teaching prepared you for writing?
Working with middle schoolers has definitely changed how I write, because they are an extremely fickle audience. Unlike adults, most will not stick with a story if it doesn’t captivate them from the get-go. When I first decided to write for young adults, I thought it would be easy, but just the opposite is true. I had the misconception that writing for kids meant dumbing-down a story, but what it really means is cutting through the unnecessary prose and getting right to the point. I had to learn to show more and tell less, which isn’t easy. But because of that, I think my writing has improved, becoming more focused and direct.
I totally agree. One of the things I learned from young readers is never talk or write down to them. They'll catch you every time!
For all aspiring writers, will you give a brief description of your process?
It depends on the story, really. For short stories, I tend to wing-it and see what happens. Sometimes something cool comes out of it, sometimes not. For novels, I usually start with the same approach, seeing if I like my characters and the situations I place them in. For me, the character is everything, no matter the plot. And if I like the characters and how they are developing, I’ll loosely outline the rest of the book. Maybe a backwards approach, but it seems to work for me.
I have a love/hate relationship with writing. How about you? What do you love most and what do you dislike most about writing?
Definitely love/hate. What I love most about writing is the process itself, regardless of who reads it. Unlike my younger years, when I wrote to try and sell something, I now try to entertain myself first. I think that’s important since I have a desk drawer full of stories where the only audience has been me. What I hate the most is everything which comes afterwards...editing, revising, querying, trying to sell what I’ve written. It took me longer to place Killer Cows with a publisher than it did the actually write the thing, and I’m going through the same thing with the current book I’m trying to sell.
Can you tell something funny about yourself that people might not know?
Well, if your referring to my writing career, how Killer Cows got published is sort-of amusing. I queried lots of agents and publishers before Echelon Press asked to see the entire novel. Naturally excited, I sent it to them, then heard nothing for nearly a year, even though I kept inquiring about it. During that time, I got increasing angry that they didn’t bother to respond to a novel they requested to read. I started bad-mouthing them on a writer’s forum website I go to, spouting off how unprofessional they were. Then one day I got an email from another writer on that forum, telling me Echelon Press had been trying to find me for months to offer a contract. It turned out I didn’t include my contact info on my submission, so they had no idea how to find me. Still, despite all my trash talk, and the fact it was all my fault, Echelon’s CEO laughed it off and offered me a contract, anyway. I was the butt of a lot of jokes on that writer's forum for quite some time afterwards.
A good lesson for every writer. INCLUDE YOUR CONTACT INFO! LOL!
Finally, what are you working on, now? Anything new in the hopper?
I’m trying to place my second book, Shaken, an action novel inspired by the disaster films I’ve always enjoyed. It’s a book near and dear to my heart, partially because of its concept, but also because two of the main characters are inspired by the real-life relationship between my two daughters (who don’t always get along). I’m also nearly finished with my third novel, The Dark Ride, a YA horror tale inspired by Disneyland, Michael Crichton’s Westworld and Night of the Living Dead. It’s easily the most violent YA story I’ve written, but maybe the best one. After that, I’m hoping to lighten up and write the follow up to Killer Cows.
You're not letting any grass grow under your feet! Congratulations on all your projects. Thanks for visiting Cynthia's Attic, and please stop back again and give us an update!
Mary Cunningham Books