Thursday, January 10, 2013

Interview with Kristin O'Donnell Tubb

I'm thrilled to welcome Kristin O'Donnell Tubb to my blog today! Her third middle grade novel, The 13th Sign, released earlier this week. My questions for Kristin are in blue; her responses are in black.

What does a typical writing day look like for you?

Anything but typical! Most days start with email and coffee, and I start writing somewhere around 10 a.m. or so. I usually place myself back in the story by rereading what I wrote last and editing that before moving on to the next scene.

I don’t write every day (much to Stephen King’s chagrin!). For me, having time to really think about a scene before putting it on paper is helpful. And I usually only write a single scene at a time. I suppose this makes me a slow writer, but after a decade of freelance writing, I still truly love what I do, so I’m hesitant to make it feel too much like work!

And it’s working, so why fix it? :-) Do you write in a certain place all the time or do you write anywhere and anytime you have a minute?

The “anywhere and anytime” camp is more my style, although I’ll add that I do a lot of “writing” on the voice recorder on my phone. Some of my best ideas come while I’m walking the dogs or driving the kids. Large portions of The 13th Sign (and my latest manuscript, Island of Superstition) were voice recorded and then transcribed. Lesson: you probably don’t want to meet me in oncoming traffic!

Voice recording. I like that idea and will try it with the new, fancy phone I got for Christmas. From where or from what did the idea of The 13th Sign come?

After I finished writing Selling Hope, I knew I wanted to tell another space-oriented story. (I was, in a former life, an Aerospace Engineering major). The idea of astrology – and how much I loved reading my horoscope when I was a tween – popped into my head. But when I started researching and uncovered a missing 13th zodiac sign, I knew I had my story.

I was nervous, because it was obvious this story lent itself to a fantasy format, and I’d been successful with historical fiction in the past. But my wonderful agent Josh Adams loved the idea, as did my also-wonderful editor, Liz Szabla. They believed in me, and that made all the difference in this story coming alive.

I love when ideas percolate in writers’ brains for long amounts of time before becoming ‘something.’Could you share a bit about your writing journey and path to publication?

Sure! I started writing for kids by writing coloring and activity books – Scooby-Doo, Holly Hobbie, Strawberry Shortcake, and more. That’s when I knew for sure I’d found my niche. I wrote two really horrible middle grade novels and (embarrassingly) queried several agents and editors with those monstrosities. Then I got the idea of Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different (Delacorte, 2008) while on a freelance newspaper assignment. Something clicked for me, writing that story, and I truly felt like this story was one that needed to be told.

I met Wendy Loggia, Autumn’s editor, at a Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI) conference in Nashville in 2006. Twelve publishers had already rejected Autumn when she requested the full. And…she rejected it, too! But she asked for a revision, and accepted the story after that. My debut!

I still didn’t have an agent, though. I attended an SCBWI conference in New York in 2007 and saw Tracey Adams of Adams Literary speak. It was obvious that she genuinely loved her clients and her career, so I queried her. Her husband and co-agent, Josh, became my agent several months later. I feel very, very lucky to work with this team; it is both a partnership and a friendship. (And they’re both black belts! Hiyah!)

Josh sold Selling Hope to Liz Szabla, whom I’d also met at that same SCBWI conference. I’ve been delighted to work with Feiwel & Friends on both Hope and The 13th Sign.

The moral of this story? Join SCBWI!

Wow! What great opportunities SCBWI provided. Do you/can you work on more than one writing project at a time?

I think most writers, when they are serious about making a career out of writing, must do of this. The projects won’t all be in the same stages, of course. But researching a new story while writing another and editing/promoting a third is a necessity, I think.

Well said, Kristin. What is the best writing advice you have or have heard?

Not to quote myself, but: Join SCBWI! SCBWI allows you to meet and network with like-minded professionals while providing many, many outlets for honing craft. It strikes a balance between the business of publishing and the art of writing for children. Plus, the friends you meet through SCBWI will be friends for life. I’m now the Regional Advisor for Tennessee and Kentucky, the Midsouth chapter. I’m delighted to give back to this organization that has made my dreams come true.

One tiny extra: I invite everyone to come take a fun quiz to find out your 12-sign horoscope, your 13-sign horoscope, and which horoscope sign you ACT like! The quiz lives at It’s fun- please come play!

That does sound fun! Thank you, Kristin, for your insight. And a giveaway of my ARC of the just-released The 13th Sign is still open, simply scroll one post below!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: The 13th Sign (with ARC giveaway!)

The 13th Sign by Kristin O'Donnell Tubb releases on January 8th! Woohoo! To celebrate with Kristin, I have a signed ARC I'd like to give away. Giveaway details are at the end of this post.

The premise: Every birthday, Jalen and her grandma visit Madame Beausoleil's shop to have Jalen's horoscope read. Even though Jalen's pretty sure she doesn't believe in "dis hoo," she comes on her thirteenth birthday mostly because her beloved grandmother is sick and she wants to honor her 'Nina.' This year, Jalen finds a book in the shop, a book which--when unlocked--releases the 13th Zodiac sign. And accidentally, Jalen releases this sign, the sign of the Healer. But then everyone's personalities shift . . . and the other twelve signs are furious . . . with Jalen.

What keeps readers reading: The action. Jalen has twenty-three hours to battle the twelve zodiac signs before the changes she unleashed become permanent, so this novel moves fast. Jalen, her best friend Ellie, and Ellie's brother Brennan barely catch their breath as the story races along. And readers are breathless right beside them.

What I loved: There is a healing theme woven throughout this story. It's a story under the main story, but to me, it is the more important story. It involves a healing of the heart, not the body, and centers around Jalen, her grandmother, and Jalen's father who disappeared at a crucial moment in Jalen's life four years ago.

Because of its intricate plot and underlying theme, The 13th Sign is designed for upper middle grade readers. To snag my (signed!) ARC, simply comment on this post by 8pm CST on Sunday, January 13th, 2013. Blog followers get their name in the drawing twice. U.S. residents only. Winner announced next Monday.

For more middle grade fun, check the links on
Shannon Messenger's blog.
And on Thursday I have an interview with Kristin O'Donnell Tubb!
Happy middle grade reading!