1. How did you do in English as a kid?
Way back in the days of Dick, Jane, Sally and Spot, reading and English were all grouped together into one subject area. I was pretty good in reading recognition and comprehension. I was a great speller. I was decent in most grammar. But when it came to the mechanics of diagramming sentences, my participles were often dangling! I venture to say that my editor(s) might still be looking for them!
2. When did you decide to become an author?
I am not sure it was ever a conscious decision to become an author. I think I started writing before I could spell – or read! Writing with pictures in the backs of my father’s books. I have always had a wild imagination – complete with an imaginary friend – and I loved to make up stories, songs, and plays.
3. What’s your favorite book? Why?
That is a most difficult question. First of all, let me narrow the field to favorite children’s book. Then there are hundreds that I love – and at one time or another probably considered them a “favorite”. But, since I have to choose just one, I would have to say that the book that has influenced me the most is The Giver by Lois Lowry.
Why? The character, Jonas, touched me with with how he dealt with the memories of his past and how he made his future decisions. It’s an intense and gripping story of our connectedness in society. Ultimately, it is a revelation of one’s boy’s destiny and how he must change it – for himself, Gabriel, and the whole community.
4. Are your characters based on real people?
I think that the safe answer to that question, when one writes fiction, should always be “No.” Yet, my characters – their names, their expressions and their personalities – stem from people who I have known in my life. The good and the bad, the trials and triumphs, all have a basis in my reality.
5. Did you outline and plan your books before you wrote them or did their stories flow on its own?
I am both plotter and pantser. First, I have an idea fueled by inspiration and imagination. I create/write that basic story in my head. Then I will write down snippets and phrases – on pieces of paper, napkins, my hand, my iPad, and record them on my iPhone. Eventually those find their way to index cards, which I magnetize and place on a large magnetic storyboard in my office. That is the transition from pants to plot. I derive my plot outline from those scene possibilities. The ebb and flow of the story – the hiccups and blocked thought processes – all can be easily rearranged on the big board.
I believe that the character, Sean, truly grabbed the first nugget that I had for Hiding Carly and wrote his own story. He just brought me along for the typing and the research! It was a fun ride!
6. How much research did you have to do for writing Hiding Carly and Fallen Prey?
I am a consummate researcher! I think I enjoy that phase at least as much as the actual writing. People will ask me, “Are you writing the book yet?”
I tell them that the story is working itself out in my head and that I will finish it when the research is over! I am never really satisfied that I know everything I need to know for accuracy. The Sean Gray Junior Special Agent series is realistic contemporary fiction. So, the research for Hiding Carly was heavily weighted in learning all about the FBI and the Junior Special Agent Program. I was fortunate because I was able to interview an FBI Special Agent for the first book. Also, I learned a lot about kidnapped and missing children. Many aspects of character development and the situations in which Sean and Carly and their families found themselves, required investigation.
For Fallen Prey, I was already an alumna of the FBI Citizens Academy Program and had learned a lot more about the inner workings of the agency. During the final weeks, I became a member of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department Citizen’s Academy, so I added the knowledge I gained there to the story.
My research for book two also focused on the terrain of the river – driving and walking along the shore to pinpoint the precise location of the opening of the book. And I learned a whole lot more about the internet and ALL the resources that are available there. In addition, I interviewed agents who dealt with entrapped, trafficked and exploited kids. I researched and studied the woods and the little tiny “houses” that people rarely notice that dot the landscape. I also spent a great deal of time with my nose in medical books! And luckily I had studied some law, but had to research international trials and the basics of the federal court system.
All in all, my research is always the most time-consuming activity. But I love it!
7. Did you cry while writing one of your books?
I don’t think that I ever cried while writing – at least not because of the story content. There are sad moments for sure. But because I know how this all ends, I wasn’t overwhelmed with sadness. I cried when I wrote the dedications, though.
8. Do you have trouble saying goodbye to your characters when the book is finished?
So far, I haven’t had to say goodbye. At least not with the Sean Gray series. There has been only one death in book one. (I won’t spoil it for those who haven’t read the story). Maybe after the next book, I might be sad to say goodbye to Sean and his friends. I don’t know. I am already working on several other books, so I guess that will make it easier.
9. What’s your favorite book you’ve written?
I wrote a book of poetry years ago. It has never been published – but I still love it. In all honesty, I would have to say Hiding Carly is my favorite. It was such a surprise – a true gift from God. Sean is a really cool kid. I would be proud to have him for my own son. Everybody should know a Sean Gray.
10. What’s the funniest thing that ever happened to you related to your writing?
The funniest thing that has happened to me related to writing is finally deciding to put one of those imaginative and inspired stories to paper. I started out writing the “great American novel.” It was an adult novel. I started typing away. Then it struck me that I had no idea what I was doing.
So, I got the bright idea that I would start out my writing career with a children’s book. After all, writing a children’s book had to be easier. It was for kids!
What a delusional moment that was. Bring in the PTO/PTA/ALA, etc. I was a teacher, but had to really study all the rules and regulations of writing for children. Word choices, reading levels – I knew them – but from a teacher’s point of view. Now I had to figure out how to write the right words for my audience. The guidelines for writing for children are much tighter. It’s a chuckle!
11. Ann, you are well-known for your ability to write great dialogue.
Thank you, Joan.
Would you please tell us the main purposes of dialogue and hints to lead readers to write better dialogue?
Three of the main purposes of dialogue are:
- Dialogue brings a novel to life. It is the heartbeat of the emotion and the conflict.
- Dialogue gives necessary information. Rather than long narratives of backstory, characters can reveal information through their conversations.
- Dialogue reveals character. It can show how someone feels and it can also show how characters feel about one another.
Three tips for writing more effective dialog are:
- Listen to people – especially to the people of the age(s) for whom you are writing. Eavesdrop on their conversations. Observe speech patterns, and rhythm and pacing.
- Ground dialogue in the scene – conversation should advance the plot of each scene. It should take place somewhere – on the telephone, at the park, etc. The dialogue of your characters should be purposeful in the context of the action of the scene.
- Give Your Characters distinct speech patterns – your characters are of a different age, sex, etc. therefore they don’t sound the same. They have different personalities. Consider their age, gender, social and economic background, education, etc. Write their dialogue accordingly.
12. Who or what has been the most help and inspiration to you as a writer?
My mom always was one of my biggest fans. She truly believed that I would write a great novel. I was fortunate that she read Hiding Carly before she died.
My best friend, Susan Waites, is my biggest supporter, my beta reader, my hand holder, and my headache therapist!
Then there is you and the Savvy Wordsmiths critique group. You all are wonderful friends and energetic supporters.
I know you asked for one – but my family and my friends lift me up and push me forward all of the time.
Most of all, I have to thank God for giving me life and the gifts that have enabled me to write, to teach, to speak, to counsel. I am blessed indeed.
13. What are you writing now?
I am working on several projects. Ranging from a Picture Book to Middle Grade to Young Adult and Adult, fiction and some nonfiction. I also am working on my autobiography. (A true fictitious tale focusing on growing up in small town Ohio in the 60’s!) And a devotional – a promise I made when I first began. One I will keep.
At the top of my list, however, is the third and final book in the Sean Gray series. As I said above, I know the ending. And the journey from Fallen Prey to the series end is rife with turmoil, trauma, and tragic circumstance. The many plotlines have all but short-circuited in my brain!
14. What do you do for relaxation?
- I play with my wonderful baby, Jesse (he’s a Maine Coon rescue cat).
- I work out – I love Les Mills Body Combat (mixed martial arts) and Body Flow (Tai Chi, Pilates & Yoga).
- I listen to Beethoven, and sometimes I play the piano or saxophone.
- I love to draw (pen, ink & charcoal) and paint (watercolor)
- I love the ocean. It is my favorite place to breathe.
- My favorite cities are Kihei (Maui), New York, Rome, and Paris.
- My favorite food is pizza – New York Style.
- My favorite dessert is Italian Ice from Brooklyn.
- My favorite alcoholic beverage is Cabernet Sauvignon. Otherwise – water will do just fine.
- My favorite color is black.
- My favorite song is “Desperado” by The Eagles.
- My favorite movie is The Notebook.
15. It is great that Amazon gave Hiding Carly a Best Sellers Rank of #1. Tell us about that.
- On December 14, 2012 when Peak City Publishing released Hiding Carly and allowed free copies downloaded on Kindle with Amazon, Ann was given the Amazon Best Sellers Rank of #1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children’s eBooks > Mysteries, Espionage, & Detectives
Thank you for being a guest on my blog. I enjoyed learning more about you and your writing. I wish you success in every writing adventure you take.
Here’s an awesome interview that Ann Eisenstein did for ABC Charleston on December 30, 2013:
Purchase Hiding Carly:
Purchase Fallen Prey:
Soon to be available at all major bookstores and online at:
Both books are also available through Follett and Ingram.
Social Media Links for Ann Eisenstein:
GIVEAWAY: If you leave a comment, I’ll put your name in a hat to win a free autographed copy of Ann Eisenstein’s new book, Fallen Prey.
What a great prize! You and your middle-school child or grandchild will love it!
Feel free to share this post with your friends.
I’ll have random.org choose a winner’s name at midnight on Sunday, December 15, 2013. I’ll post the winner on Monday morning.
Never Give Up
Joan Y. Edwards
Copyright © 2013 Joan Y. Edwards