As some of you know, Karen was at the Barnes & Noble in Jenkintown to promote NATE ROCKS THE BOAT. I had full intentions of making it out to see her since I’m not that far away, but due to time conflicts, I wasn’t able to. Another missed photo-op, the story of my life!
But, not all is lost. I did manage to score another interview with Karen (for those of you that missed it, she appeared here with me almost a year ago to promote her first in the ‘NATE’ series, NATE ROCKS THE WORLD. You can catch the interview by clicking on her name in the sidebar).
Don’t forget to check out my recommended reading following the interview. It is Oprah’s first choice for her new ‘Book Club 2’ and from what I am hearing, very mixed reviews. If you’ve read it, I’d love to hear your thoughts. That’s for later… for now, help me to welcome Karen Pokras Toz.
IDI – Karen, it’s great to have you back. I’ve already mentioned that your ‘NATE’ books were for children; what aspect of your writing do you feel targets that age group?
KPT – Well, for the Nate Rocks books, I’m definitely targeting the 7-12 year old reader – both boys and girls, but mainly boys. I have two boys of my own, so I feel I’ve got “10-year-old boy speak” down pretty good. It’s difficult at times, because I want to make sure the language is appropriate. For example, in Nate Rocks the Boat, I debated whether to use the word “fart.” It’s a great word for 10-year-old boys, but I know some parents don’t like it. So I wrote, “A gassy sound omitted from his bottom.” Then I thought – what 10-year-old says that? What any-year-old says that? So sorry, parents, we do in fact talk about and use the word fart in Nate Rocks the Boat.
IDI – Aah, the F-word for minors. I think that might just be every young boys’ favorite word… until they learn the F-word for grown-ups.
Do you think writing has changed your life?
KPT – Absolutely. If you told me 5 years ago, I’d wind up being a novelist, I would have laughed in your face. I’m a numbers person. I’ve worked as an accountant for 15 years. The most I had ever written was an email asking a client about their taxes. But, my creative piece eventually made it to the surface, and here I am! Over the last few, I’ve gone from being an accountant who likes to write, to a writer who does taxes on the side.
IDI – I think that ultimately, that is every writer’s goal, to make writing their day job. I’m glad you’ve been able to do that.
What are you working on now? Can we get a peek?
KPT – I have four projects going on right now in different stages. 1st – I’m finishing up a short Nate Rocks story for an anthology I’m participating in, that will hopefully be out this fall to be published by The Anchor Group. It’s called “Nate Rocks the Wand,” and it’s a funny Halloween based story. I’m also writing the 3rd Nate Rocks book (title still to be decided, but leaning towards Nate Rocks the City.) I’ve started writing a new middle grade book – this one about a twelve-year-old girl who blogs, and I’m in the very early stages of developing a new story by Elyse Pierce (aka me) about three sisters. Here’s a tidbit from Nate Rocks the Wand:
In this scene – Mom is working on some “special” treats for Nathan’s dreaded Halloween party at school when Dad enters the room:
“Brain Pudding? Eyeball Brew? Don’t tell me –the school Halloween party must be coming up. Hey Nathan, did I ever tell you about the time Uncle Robert and I dressed up like vampires?”
“You mean the time when snuck into Grandmom and Grandpop’s bedroom in the middle of the night and scared them half to death?” I asked.
“Grandmom screamed so loud, the neighbor called the police. Grandpop was not happy.” Dad snapped out of his remember when memory and looked straight into my eyes. “Now don’t you get any ideas about trying something like that, Nathan. I sleep with one eye open, you know – all us vampires do.”
IDI – Is your work plot or character driven?
KPT – Both – is possible? The Nate Rocks books are like stories within stories. Overall the book is character driven, but each of Nathan’s adventures within the main story are plot driven. Confused? You’ll just have to read the books to understand!
IDI – Great hook! Karen, who’s your favorite author, and why?
KPT – My favorite kid’s author is Judy Blume. I grew up with her books, and my own children have enjoyed her books. She a huge influence in my writing, and I love when people tell me that Nate Rocks the World reminds them of Tales of A Fourth Grade Nothing. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t keep her style of writing in the back of my mind while writing the Nate books. I don’t really have a favorite adult book author. I love Harper Lee (To Kill A Mockingbird) and enjoy reading historical fiction. It’s a genre I’d love to write someday.
IDI – Do you outline or sketch the entire book before you’re comfortable enough to begin your draft or do you prefer to fly by the seat of your jockey’s?
KPT – I’m definitely a fly by the seat kind of writer. I generally come up with a basic idea (usually while in the shower – isn’t that where most great ideas come from?) I quickly jot down some notes (Yes – in the shower – I actually found a waterproof pad of paper/pencil set called AquaNotes – hands down the best invention ever!) Then I sit down and start writing. I admit, I don’t always know how the story will end up, and a lot of times, I’ll let the characters take me where they want to go. Nothing beats having that “Aha!” moment when everything pulls together, and you realize how the book is meant to end.
IDI – Pen and paper or computer and Word? The bustle of Barnes & Noble or the quiet of your study? Alone or within a writing group? Tell us, what is your most productive/inspiring setting?
KPT – I’m a computer girl. In fact my Macbook and I have a “thing.” My husband has already told me he is jealous. I also need quiet. The tiniest noise distracts me. Music, TV, kids, they all have to be off. I love writing in the early morning before anyone else is awake in my house. Coffee is also a requirement.
IDI – What advice would you give to a new/unpublished writer?
KPT – Take your time and put out the best possible product. Whether you are going to publish your own work or go the traditional route, it is vital that you have a story you feel is the best it can be. Writing a novel is a process that involves many, including beta readers/reviewers, editors, designers, and more. It’s great that your mom and dad love your story, but what about other people in your target audience? When I wrote the first Nate Rocks book, I asked a friend of mine who is a 4th grade teacher if he could have his class read it and give their opinion. Not only did the kids love being part of the process, but also they were brutally honest lol! I re-wrote and re-wrote. Then I hired an editor, and re-wrote some more. Take pride in your work!
IDI – I’ve heard it said, ‘Know the rules first, and then you may break them’. Which ones do you find yourself breaking the most often and does it work within your writing?
KPT – This question makes me smile, as I break all kinds of rules! First, for the Nate Rocks books, I write in first person present. I know a lot of people say this is a big no-no, but I want the reader to feel like they are in the room with Nate – hanging out and joining him on all his adventures. I can’t imagine writing him any other way. Another rule I broke is genre hopping. I know a lot of authors also say, stick with what you know and don’t genre hop. Again, I say – why? I had a great time writing my “grown-up” book, Julia’s Song. To try to keep my children’s books separate, I chose to write Julia’s Song under the pen name, Elyse Pierce. But I’ve been talking about it so much, I think most people are able to figure it out pretty quickly.
IDI – One last question. Who is Karen Pokras Toz?
KPT – First and foremost, I’m a Mom. In fact, I started writing my children’s books because of my three children. My two older kids (now teens) would grumble something fierce every time I suggested they read “for pleasure.” Even just getting them to read what was required for school was a chore. It was difficult to believe we shared the same DNA, as I’ve always loved to read. Of course, I did not grow up in a generation of computers, video games, cell phones, movies on demand, and hundreds of television channels. There are so many distractions for kids today. They complained that reading was boring, and so, I decided to write a series that kids would enjoy reading to prove them wrong. About two years ago, I sat down and created 10-year-old Nathan Rockledge, aka Nate Rocks. There are currently two books published in the series, Nate Rocks the World, and Nate Rocks the Boat. I also have an adult contemporary novel called Julia’s Song, written under my pen name, Elyse Pierce.
IDI – I’ll definitely have to remember that name. I had the opportunity to read NATE ROCKS THE WORLD and I thought it was just wonderful. I’m looking forward to reading NATE ROCKS THE BOAT and I hope you keep Nate going strong! Thank you, Karen, for sharing with us.
If you are a published author and would like to reach out to your readers, consider an Ink Drop Interview. Send an email to ladybuggerly (at hotmail) and I will make it happen.
Ink Drop Interviews are conducted by Kathy Reinhart, author of MISSOURI IN A SUITCASE, the award-winning LILY WHITE LIES, and her latest release and highly-acclaimed THE RED STROKES. You can find Kathy on:
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