Friday, June 13, 2014

MAUREEN MCQUERRY GUEST POST + GIVEAWAY



I (Holly Schindler, blog administrator) got a chance to read McQuerry's BEYOND THE DOOR; what an incredible adventure!  Just the kind of "sneaky" read that keeps young minds active throughout the summer months...it's so engaging, they won't realize they're learning new material...

Without further ado, here's more about BEYOND THE DOOR from the author herself:

Beyond the Door Blog Tour 

What have I learned about the world from myth as a writer and a reader? Since writing Beyond the Door and The Peculiars I’ve been thinking about why myth matters. During this tour I’ve blogged in the U.S and U.K. about six things I’ve learned from mythic stories that have inspired me. The links are below in case you missed any! And don’t forget today’s give away!
U.S.
6/9  http://charlotteslibrary.blogspot.com  Beyond the Door, the backstory
6/10 http://middlegrademarch.com/     Cover artist Victo Ngai post, giveaway
6/11 thebookcellarx@gmail.com   What I’ve learned from Myth Part 1
6/12  http://hauntedorchid.blogspot.com  What I’ve Learned from Myth part 2

6/13  http://smack-dab-in-the-middle.blogspot.com   Interview/ give away


1.      Where did the idea for TIME OUT OF TIME come from? It all started with the Greenman. For the full story see my inspiration post on Day 1 (link) http://charlotteslibrary.blogspot.com

2.      What is your writing process?  Was the process different for this book?  How much research was involved?  How / where do you do your research? I often begin with scraps: an image, a character, a line of dialogue, and add to it a question that has been rumbling in my brain. I came to fiction writing through poetry, so visual images are very important to me as are the sound of words. When enough scraps come together I start to think through plot. I’m better at this now than I was when I first wrote Beyond the Door. I know my protagonists have to change by the end of the book and I need to know what major events cause that change. Stories are not about plot, but about the inner journey, changes of the protagonist. A great plot, lots of conflict and tension drive those changes.

I did quite a bit of reading about Celtic mythology for Beyond the Door and the sequel The Telling Stone. I knew I wanted to stay true to the essence of the mythic characters, but also knew that I needed to change them to fit my story. I tried to balance that desire all the way through. I like research and do a lot of it for all my books. The temptation is to get stuck in the rabbit trails of research and not get back to the writing.


3.      Timothy feels like an outsider.  As writers, we also find ourselves being observers, watching and listening as much as (sometimes more than) participating.  Did you feel like an outsider growing up? That’s a great question with a long answer. I was an only child and I think only children grow up as observers, spending a lot of time in their heads, perfect training for becoming a writer. Some of my closest friends were in books, and I think I always looked at the world a little “slant”as Emily Dickinson might say. I wanted Timothy to be an outsider because when I wrote the book I was teaching in a program for gifted and talented kids. They often think in quirky ways and don’t always fit into school. A telling moment for me was when I saw tears in a 6th grader’s eyes and she said I’ve found people who are like me. They get me. It’s just not the reluctant, struggling students who are outsiders.


4.      I love the Ogham script at the bottom of the book, which readers can decipher for themselves.  It offers a way to interact with the book without being drawn completely out of the text (as some digital extras in an e-book tend to do)…How has your experience as a teacher (which involves working to keep your students engaged in your current lesson) influenced your attempts to keep your readers engaged in your books? I want to appeal to readers in as many ways as possible: visually, auditorally, and analytically. We need to engage kids on as many levels as possible.
As a kid, I loved mysteries and codes. Mostly I write with what I love in mind and hope it works for other readers as well.

5.      I’m also intrigued by Jessica, who is “never nice and never did the right thing.”  How do you build your antagonists?  Is your depiction of the school bully influenced by your observations as a teacher and parent, or more by memories of your own childhood experiences?
 I remember and have observed the pecking order that emerges in late elementary middle school. It’s based on body changes, style, coolness factors, and an undefinable something that can look like self-assurance even when it’s not. This pecking order can be especially viscous among young girls and yet boys are often portrayed as the bullies in books. But even the bully is more than meets the eye. I wanted to show Jessica as more than a stereotype. Like each of us, she’s complex, makes decisions that are both good and bad and ultimately longs to be understood.

6.      Your passion for mythology shines through in the text.  How did you get hooked on it? My mother read to me. Such a simple, but powerful statement. She didn’t read Greek myths, but fairytales from books like The Big Book of Make-Believe and Andrew Lang’s fairytale books. From earliest days, I was immersed in European myth and fairytales. A strong Irish ancestry probably supported her choices. When I began reading on my own, I feel in love with Jane Yolen, Susan Cooper, T. H. White, Tolkien, Lewis and other writers who weave myth into their stories. I read all the King Arthur legends.



7.      The title of the book is referenced by Star Girl, who claims, “The land you see is still your land, but tonight we are in time out of time.”  How does the title play into your feelings about the importance of mythology’s role in history / society?  (I love the line which states, “All myth is a reminder of things people have forgotten they know, and of things yet to be.”)  I am a huge fan of the Inklings, that celebrated group of authors that included Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. Lewis believed that myths were sign posts to deeper truths. Myths deal with the big questions of life: why are we here, is the world safe, who are we really? These are the common questions of our humanity and myth feeds that conversation. For more thoughts on this, read Tolkien’s brilliant essay “On Fairy Stories.”

8.      As a kid, I loved to play Scrabble.  I enjoyed Timothy’s thinking in Scrabble words.  Were you a Scrabble aficionado (16 points) growing up?  Is this one of the observations you stored in your memory (as you mention on your bio on your website)? I did love Scrabble, but not quite as much as Timothy. I loved words and I loved the wooden Scrabble tiles. I am a synesthetic—I see letters, days of the week and numbers in color. That’s another reason why I’m fascinated with Scrabble.

9.      At the end of the book, you leave us with some questions that just beg for answers.  How do you handle books in a series?  Do you write the entire series at once?  Or do you handle it one book at a time?  Yes, to both. Each book has to have a story arc and a series must have an arc as well. I had to think in terms of how I wanted the three protagonists to change by the end of each book and then by the end of the series.


10.  Your book is filled with so many great reading experiences; I especially liked Timothy saving his mother when she’s bitten by the rat.  Looking back on it, your book is incredibly visual.  As a writer, I find action scenes incredibly challenging.  Do you enjoy writing action scenes?  Why / why not? Action scenes are very hard for me to write! I rewrote the action scenes time and time again. I blocked them out with real people just like actors on a stage. Battle scenes are the worst since I have little experience with weapons. I had to find some people who did and talk to them. You’ll read some epic battle scenes in Book 2 The Telling Stone.

Because I came to fiction through poetry and because I love visual art, I think in visual terms. It’s interesting that both The Peculiars and Beyond the Door have received comments about how visual they are.

11.  I’m a young reader.  I’ve just finished TIME AFTER TIME, and you’ve absolutely hooked me on mythology.  What do I read next?
 Margi Preus just came out with West of the Moon and Jonathan Auxier’s Night Gardner (both are also published by Abrams), The Wood Wife,  Wild Hunt Jane Yolen   and two fantastic sites for lovers of myth and fairytales…Goblin Fruit http://www.goblinfruit.net/, Endicott Studio http://endicottstudio.typepad.com/news/.

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4 comments:

  1. I can't wait to read this book! Myths! Deciphering! What more could I ask for? Plus, I believe we are twins because this is EXACTLY what happens to me:

    "I often begin with scraps: an image, a character, a line of dialogue, and add to it a question that has been rumbling in my brain. I came to fiction writing through poetry, so visual images are very important to me as are the sound of words. When enough scraps come together I start to think through plot."

    Looking forward to adding this to my pile, Maureen. And thanks for the great interview Holly!

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  2. Looking forward to reading your latest! Excellent interview here too.

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