Wednesday, 5 January 2011

A Chat with Writer Theresa Milstein

Imagine this:  celebrating the New Year with writer friends and fellow bloggers!  The coolest, isn't it?  Well, I have - sort of - started the New Year having a nice natter with a friend and fellow blogger - only virtually.  I don't want you to be too jealous so I will tell you all about it!  I had a lovely-lovely chat with Writer Theresa Milstein...and we drank lots and lots of coffee - of course!...And ermmm, no snacks for Theresa though, but we had her favourites - Lindt Truffles and Reese's Peanut Butter cups!

From across the North Atlantic Ocean, we talked about our favourite subject - writing.  I'm sharing it with you on this post!  Hope you enjoy it!

How long have you been writing seriously?

I began writing seriously over four years ago, but I had much to learn about writing because I’d never considered that I had enough talent so I hadn’t worked it. I thought it was something you were born with – not something you had to learn and practice.

When did you realise you wanted to be a writer?

For years, I’d begin to write a story, remind myself I wasn’t a writer, and then stop. But then Melissa Glenn Haber spoke to my fifth-graders. She told the students she used to write stories and hide them away. At some point, her husband told her she’d be happier if she tried to do something with her stories.

That resonated with me. I decided to write a middle grade novel. I finished the hot mess in six weeks.

What was the first novel you read?

The first novel I read was Charlotte’s Web. It made me cry in third-grade and it still makes me cry now. It’s a beautiful book.

Do you remember the first writing piece you’ve written?

We weren’t encouraged to write fiction in elementary school. I took a creative writing class in high school, but I can’t remember anything I wrote. I don’t think I tried fiction again until I was twenty-four, but that was during my hiding-writing phase.

Would you like to tell us about novels you’ve finished?

My last completed YA novel is The Mist Chasers. Here’s the pitch:

Sixteen-year-old Eve and her best friend Adam are the sole witnesses to a badass mist that obliterates a Walmart, launching them on a ludicrous quest to salvage the planet before it reaches the tipping point.

I’m shopping it now. The query and beginning are on my 2nd blog, Earnest Writer’s Excerpts:

Did you make any research on the novels you’ve written?

Yes, I’ve done plenty of research. For one novel, I studied celtic traditions. For another, I looked up information about witches. I’ve researched vampires. For The Mist Chasers, I read plenty about global warming.

What do you think can make a character interesting to the readers?

To me (and Stephen King) character is more important than story. If the reader doesn’t identify with the character and know what s/he wants, then they won’t care about the plot. And it’s important for that the character grows. They need to control instead of be controlled by the action. Is that too vague?

Who are your favourite authors and favourite books?

That’s tough. I have a list of some of my favorite books in my Blogger profile, so I’ll mention a couple of authors. Although I read adult books too, I really pay attention when reading middle grade and YA authors. J.K. Rowling, even though I know that doesn’t make me unique. She’s truly a genius. And I like Kate DiCamillo because each of her stories is so different from the other.

Who inspires you the most in your writing?

I think my childhood inspires me. Relationships with my parents, insecurities, friendship issues, awkwardness, the feeling of wanting to be free of parental rules but frightened of being on my own. And writing helps me work through my past.

Any current projects?

Yes. I’m about halfway through a YA WIP called Naked Eye. Lucienne runs with scissors and loses her eye. When she’s sixteen, her prosthetic eye is replaced with a magical one and when people lie, she knows the truth. She has to figure out whom to trust. It’s my most complicated manuscript yet.

Do you have any tips to share with aspiring writers out there who’d like to finish their story?

Writing “The End” isn’t the end. You must keep editing. Know your grammar because no agent or editor is going to do that work for you. And find critique buddies. Don’t submit until you have a polished piece, which means all that’s left to do is move commas around.

What is your biggest dream as a writer?

I would LOVE to make a living from writing. Now that I teach full-time, I really begrudge the lost writing time. When I was a daily substitute teacher, I devoted hours to writing and editing each day.

Thank you very much, Theresa, do you have anything else to add?

Thank you for interviewing me, Len. And for you and all the writers out there, don’t give up. I love this quote:

"Opportunities are usually disguised as hard work, so most people don't recognize them." ~Ann Landers

There you go, dear readers!  I hope you enjoyed reading my absolutely exciting chat with Theresa.  And thank you, Theresa, I enjoyed every minute of it immensely!
Theresa blogs on Substitute Teacher's Saga.

Also, I'd like to thank you all for all the lovely holiday greetings you've left on my blog and Facebook page.  I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Year's!

Oh, wait! I have a question for you before you go - I'm really curious - what was the first novel you read? Mine was Swords of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  That was the beginning of my book addiction.  Please tell me what was your first book! Did you like it?


Theresa Milstein said...

Len, I'm honored to be interviewed on your blog. I'd better put up my post and link it NOW.

Let's hope to drink coffee together one day. Happy 2011!

The Words Crafter said...

Thanks so much for having this interview! I love reading Theresa's blog and learning more about her was fun!

betchai said...

The first novel I wrote is The Naked Face by Sidney Sheldon Len, I was such a paperback worm when I was in high school and college, but these days, I prefer to being out a lot.

I am glad to know you are exploring so well your writing world Len, kudos to you and more power.

Rachael Harrie said...

Great interview Len and Theresa. I love that quote by Ann Landers, it's so true!

Happy New Year.


Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

What a fabulous interview! I have been impressed with Teresa since I stumbled upon her blog (who can refuse reading about the poor class sub?) and discovered her fantastic ideas. I just love the "mist that obliterates a Walmart"! How cool and funny and scary is THAT?

Jen Daiker said...

Len, Theresa, this post was amazing! It was so good to get to know Theresa more!! I don't think I've ever gotten the chance! She's a rockstar (as are you!) and it's great to learn more!!!

The pitch was great for Theresa's story as well!!!

What a fun way to start my morning! Thanks!

Old Kitty said...

Yay!!! Awwww what a wonderful interview!! Thank you Len!! Theresa Milstein is one of my absolute favourite bloggers on this planet - her blog pieces are always a joy to read - very insightful and thoughtful! The most amazing thing that I love about her and it shines through here too is her determination to succeed! I really wish her well with Mist Chasers and now this very intriguing new one: Naked Eye!
Take care

Judy Mintz said...

The premise for Theresa's WIP is very compelling. I can't wait to read it. Thanks for helping spread her street cred!

Anne Gallagher said...

This was a great interview. Thanks Len, thanks Theresa. It's always nice to know more about the people we follow.

The first novel I ever read was THE BLACK WHIPPET by S. Sutton-Vane.

Denise said...

Lovely interview! Theresa, you are an inspiration and a wonderful writer whose voice and sense of humor and insight are apparent in all that you write!

Melissa Sarno said...

This is a wonderful interview! Thanks for sharing it. I'd love to hear more from aspiring writers- I hope you make it a series on your blog! ;-) I don't know the first novel I ever read. It was either Charlotte's Web or The Secret Garden or Heidi or Black Beauty. That really narrows it down... :-)

Jamie Burch said...

Great interview!!! I'm happy I found my way here. Happy New Year!

Theresa Milstein said...

You're all so sweet. Thank you!

Glynis said...

What a fabulous interview! Thanks for sharing Theresa with us, Len.

Robyn Campbell said...

Len, super interview with a super, cool, awesome, classy lady. Thanks for doing it.

I love what she said about "writing “The End” isn’t the end." You are oh so right, dear Theresa. SOOOOOOOOOOOO much editing. UG.

Loved reading. My first novel was Black Beauty. It's still my favorite to this day.

Susan Fields said...

I really enjoyed the interview, Len and Theresa! It was great to learn more about one of my wonderful blogging buddies!

I'm really not sure what the first novel I read was, but Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great by Judy Blume comes to mind. She definitely inspired me as a child to want to write.

Deniz Bevan said...

Great interview! Good luck on finding an agent, I think your story sounds very interesting.
I read Charlotte's Web back in third grade too, can't remember too much further back - maybe Judy Blume? Or a collection of the Hans Christian Andersen tales.
Urk, must return to editing my own novel...

Theresa Milstein said...

More sweet comments. Thank you!

Julie Musil said...

Len, great interview with Theresa! I've enjoyed her blog for a long time now, and it was fun getting to know her better.

Theresa, your pitches sound great!

Mary Anne Gruen said...

Great interview! I hope Theresa gets a chance to write more often again. I love characters too! They become like friends you can't wait to visit.

Theresa Milstein said...

Thanks for visiting, everyone!

Len said...

Thanks so much for all the comments, everyone! Thanks also, Theresa, once again, for this wonderful chat, for sharing with us your thoughts, and most of all, your writing! I will be visiting your blogs, dear friends, please bear with me, so sorry I haven't done that this week but I will. Hugs to all!!! :)

Ann said...

Great and very interesting interview Len and Theresa. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

Karen Lange said...

Thanks for a great interview! It's nice to get to know Theresa better.

Happy New Year!

Deniz Bevan said...

Great interview you too!
I can't remember what the first novel I read was... Have a feeling mine was also Charlotte's Web. That book always makes me cry.