Daily Archives: February 12, 2010

Kyra: Interview with Ann Dee Ellis (it truly is February)

When I first read Ann Dee Ellis’ published novel This Is What I Did: I nearly died. “My gosh,” I thought. “How in the world did Ann Dee do this? SO much here.
And not so much. It’s all over the page. And there are hardly any words.”
When I read her second novel Everything is Fine, I cried several times (in public), and was not ashamed.

Ann Dee has a gift. Ann Dee can take only ahundredandfifty words and make a novel that will cut your guts up.
Every time she posts I think, why am I doing this blog with her? She is so good.
I write 10,000 useless words. She comes in behind me and makes the point.

This past January, there were some sad mistakes made in the book world.
One is that Ann Dee’s Everything is Fine was not acknowledged as one of the best middle grades written.
Watch this girl (who is waaay older than me), everyone, and see if I am not right.
She is going to get the accolades.
She is going to get famous.
And then she and I will run down to my favie restaurant
(well, I will drive next to her and chat as she runs)
and she is buying me dinner because I will have told her so.

1. You write the kind of books that I wish I could write. How did you
find your style? Your blog is a similar voice. Is this a voice you
always go to?

Thanks Kyra. Such a compliment.
My voice.
Chris Crowe always teases me about not being able to write a
paragraph. It’s sort of funny. Sort of.
The truth is it took me awhile to find my voice. I was overwriting for
the longest time. I’d write and write and write and it always felt
heavy and flat.
When I stopped worrying about how it sounded or if I got the teenspeak
or not, when I just let myself go, the voice found me.
I have tried to shake it now and then. I even wrote in paragraphs for
awhile. But it didn’t stick.

2. What was your inspiration for Everything is Fine? Did you cry when
you wrote it–when you finally knew what was going to happen?

My inspiration for EVERYTHING IS FINE was Mazzy, the main character. I
love to play around, especially when I’m trying on a new character. At
the time that I started working on EVERYTHING IS FINE, I was toiling
on what was supposed to be my second novel. This so-called second
novel was becoming a chore. It wasn’t doing what I wanted it to be
doing and I just didn’t love the characters. As a break from the agony
that was that book, I came up with Mazzy. I wrote the first page and
thought, I like her. She’s weird, she’s awkward, she’s sort of mean
but I like her.

As for crying, I knew that Mazzy’s mom was depressed from the first
page but I didn’t know why. I was surprised at how heavy it got. I’m
not sure if I cried but I know it was hard to write those scenes.

3. You are so young and hip. How old are you? My mom says you are
waaay older than she is.

I am waaaaay younger than your mom. It’s weird. And I’m super super hip.
See how I used the word super? Hip to the max.

4. If you didn’t write, what would you do?

Be a mom. I’m a mom now. I would be a better mom.
I wonder about that.
Would I be a better mom?
Or would I be a depressed mom. I already am a sometimes depressed mom
but isn’t that normal? I hope that’s normal. Like when they keep
stripping down to their diapers when I am trying to get them out the
door and then they dump the raisins all over the floor and then smash
them into the rug and then the neighbor drops by and makes a comment
about the stickiness that is my countertop and then I want to lie (is
it lay?) on the floor and let the boys jump  from the couches onto my
head and act like my life is so hard.
Does this make you want to have lots and lots of kids, Kyra? I bet it does.
But really, if I wasn’t a writer, I’d be a mom.
Or  a cruise boat speaker.

5. What are your three favorite books that came out in 2009? That came out ever?

Yeah, ummmmm, I will admit now that I am not up in the now with my
reading. I loved THE CHOSEN ONE and not because Carol wrote it but
because it was beautiful. Haunting and beautiful. One of my favorite books. Right now I’m reading FEED which didn’t come out in 2009 but still counts because I
started it in 2009.  I’m in awe of MT Anderson’s
ability to create such an authentic world with a fresh voice. I
normally don’t do sci-fi.  The other one I will mention is LOOKS by
Madeline George. I was completely taken with the story and the
writing. It’s a fascinating book.

Of all time? You’re talking YA? Or of all time? Too hard. But here’s a
short list:  THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET by Sandra Cisneros, THE BELL
JAR by Sylvia Plath (warning–it’s a hard read and not for everyone.
Sorry Lucinda). I AM THE CHEESE by Robert Cormier. RAMONA by Beverly
Cleary. All those John Bellairs books that I read in third and fourth
grade. JANE EYRE (In high school, I used to  have the romantic parts
marked and I’d just flip to those when I needed them). And sorry but I
love NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN by Cormac McCarthy (it is bloody and hard but the prose is breathtaking. Don’t read it.).

6. What do you like to do in your spare time?

Sleep. Eat. Bake. Run (not really but I tell myself I like to). Watch
bad reality TV (Okay, some bad, some good. Project Runway is not bad). Sleep.

7. What’s the hardest part of writing? What’s the easiest part?

The hardest part is sitting down and doing it. Just doing it. I don’t
know why but it seems like such a struggle to get myself going. Once I
do start, however, I love it. I don’t know why I avoid things that
make me feel better.

The best part is the playing. The creating. When I finally know my
character  and I can’t let him or her go until I find out the end.

8. How did you get your start in publishing?

The Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference.

9.What’s you best advice for writers?

Do what you love. And play. I can’t say that enough. Have fun.
Surprise yourself.

10. What are you working on riKght now? Will you please send me your
manuscript so I can read it?

I could send it to you but you would have no idea what was going on. I
am trying to write the worst draft in history.

It’s an idea that I had six years ago right after I got married.  I
wrote the first thirty pages and was proud of myself. It was
complicated, weird, and sort of creepy. I  gave the pages to my
husband to read.
He said, Wow, what happens next.
I said, Uhhhhh.
I never wrote another page.
Until . . . now.
I’m trying. It’s hard but I’m trying. And the only way it is sort of
working is because I’m letting myself write crap. It looks nothing
NOTHING i say, like those first thirty pages. Hmmm. I could send it,
but you’d be lost lost lost.

The end. Thanks Kyra.

And Happy Valentines!


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