Tuesday, October 15, 2013

INDUSTRY SPOTLIGHT: Ann Eisenstein, Author of HIDING CARLY and FALLEN PREY

This is the second installment in my “Industry Spotlight” series, which will explore the publishing profession from all angles. Our guest today is Ann Eisenstein, author of middle grade novel HIDING CARLY. The second book in Ann’s SEAN GRAY, JUNIOR SPECIAL AGENT series, FALLEN PREY, will be released November 7, 2013.
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Hello, Ann. I am so excited to have you as my guest today! I also want to wish you a very HAPPY BIRTHDAY, my friend! You are a woman of MANY talents and interests, Ann. Your journey to publication has been very unique. Can you share a bit about that, as well as how you landed a publishing contract without an agent?  

Thank you, Becky, for having me here today. It is always an honor to be a featured author on such an exciting and inspirational site!
Yes, at the present time I am without agent. Not that I do not value the many services that an agent can offer an author. My journey with HIDING CARLY has indeed been unique. When I first finished my manuscript, armed with excellent advice from successful authors and - having attended several SCBWIC conferences - great guidance from agents and editors, I wrote query after query after query. And I have stacks of rejections, ranging from rubber stamped postcards to sweet handwritten notes. Most of which, in one form or another, said that it was “not right for our list.” I had several “send me the manuscript” replies. Only one publisher, Dutton, was interested in working with me. However, even after the encouragement of “moving up” the chain, the associate with whom I was working left the house and my manuscript was “misplaced.” Months later, I received my tattered manuscript accompanied by the “not right for our list” letter.

So, I decided to publish the book myself. There is an FBI theme in the book and I’d interviewed the FBI Special Agent who had been in charge of the Junior Special Agent Program. I invited him to my launch party, along with the woman who was currently in charge of that program. She liked the book so much she sent a copy of it to her counterpart at the FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. They asked if I would consider a series. How could I say “no” to the FBI?
About a year after that, I was selling HIDING CARLY at the South Carolina Book Festival and met the publisher of Peak City Publishing. She and her managing editor read my book and about two weeks later, I received a phone call asking if I would consider their representation of the series. Again – how could I say “no” to that?

 
That is a real testament to the power of hard work and perseverance, Ann! Can you share with us what inspired you to write HIDING CARLY?

One of the things that I had always wanted to do was write a book. I had written poetry and short stories, articles and curriculum, manuals and programs – but never a novel. That was my dream. I started an adult novel, but was struggling with it. I wasn’t certain of the plot, the conflict, the characters’ motivation. So, I put it aside. I thought, “Maybe I should start with a children’s book – that had to be easier!” That was delusional for sure.

Also, I was “retired” and needed something to do! And since I had always worked with children in one capacity or another, as tutor, a teacher, a psychologist, I began volunteering in one of the elementary schools in Columbia.  I was mentoring a fifth grade boy who was quiet and shy – famous for nods and shrugs and one word answers. 
G’s class was in the FBI Junior Special Agent Program. The main focus of this program is to help students improve their performance and their attendance in school. The JSA curriculum also helps students develop a positive self-image and encourages them to stay away from drugs, gangs, crime and violence. Through his involvement in this program, I began to witness a change in G’s behavior. He became more involved in school, his work, and our relationship. He also became more outgoing in his relationship with his peers. I was so proud of him!

Everything started to come together and evolve. The desire for a book. A boy who had character change. The excitement of the FBI.  I chose as my MC a young boy named Jamie and I titled the book Badge Boy. I stared at the page – it was pretty blank. It was about this time that I realized that writing for children was definitely not easier.
As I said earlier, I called the Special Agent in charge of G’s JSA program, told him I was writing a book and asked if I could interview him. He agreed to the interview and I was on my way to the FBI. Gates, guns and grit.

Armed with an idea and some information, I returned to my computer and turned on my imagination and waited for the inspiration. I met Sean Gray, my main character. He bumped Jamie out of the story, changed the title to HIDING CARLY and took me on an exciting murder mystery that in my wildest dreams I could not have solved – not without Sean Gray, Junior Special Agent.
What a wonderful story, Ann! You are truly invested in your subject matter, on many levels. Can you share a bit about any new projects that you have in the works?
As you noted earlier, book two in the series, FALLEN PREY, is set for release November 7, 2013.

Twelve-year-old Junior Special Agent Sean Gray is in a race against time. Could there be a connection between his testimony in the trial of an international child kidnapping ring and his mysterious accident?
While the sheriff’s department and the FBI are investigating, his new friend, Gabby, gets caught in the web of an online predator and disappears. She’s been missing for more than 48 hours, and the authorities have not been able to find her.
Sean goes undercover to bait the mysterious hunter. But when he becomes the prey, how will he rescue her?
I am in the beginning stage of the third, and final, book of the series, which will be released in 2014.
In addition to the book, a producer in Atlanta read HIDING CARLY and called to ask me if I would be interested in making a movie. Per his request, I have already written the screenplay adaptation. Although he has left his company (Yes that seems to happen a lot), talk has been for a TV movie, with a potential series to follow.

Some of my other WIPs are:
Fiction:
STATESVILLE 719 (contemporary young adult novel) Seventeen year old Matt has plans to get away from his past and his abusive uncle when he gets a mysterious letter telling him that his “dead mother” is in prison for killing his father and that his “dead sister” is coming to live with him.

CHALLENGER (chapter book) Charlie, an eight year old little leaguer, paralyzed in an automobile accident, learns to accept life in a wheelchair and play ball again. 
WISDOM (young adult science fiction) Bored with his high school classes, Thomas, an honors student at Midlands High, and the only son of two gifted and talented university researchers, time travels to the future and back to the past, searching for his identity.

A QUESTION OF DEPENDENCY (screenplay) Randy Parker, a single father and an alcoholic, struggles to regain the custody of his children from the California court system and rebuild his life.
Nonfiction:
SARA MAE FLEMING (biography) In 1954 South Carolina, a twenty year old African American cleaning lady from Eastover, SC inspired Rosa Parks by first taking that lonely stand in the “whites only” section of a city transit bus.

DIARY OF A MAD DAUGHTER (historical) My chronicle of my mother’s descent into the horrific world of Alzheimer’s.
You have a very diverse list of WIPs, and they all sound so interesting. You must spend a lot of time writing! Can you tell us about your writing routine?

I am a 24/7 writer now. Meaning that I am never “off.” I am outlining or researching or thinking or dreaming about my books, or reading the works of others.

I am equally plotter/pantser. I do love the free flow of allowing my characters to draft their own stories. At the same time, I have two big white boards for storyboarding. I also use an APP called “Index Cards” for outlining on the go. Oh, and I occasionally can be seen talking (sometimes yelling) into my mini recorder while driving. It can get pretty animated!
You are very busy at the moment promoting HIDING CARLY, and you also do frequent speaking events, book signings, festivals, and school visits. Can you talk about this and how you strike a balance between promoting your work and writing?
These are the days of self-promotion for authors. Especially for those who are published by smaller publishers. I will talk about my work anywhere, anytime, to anyone who will listen! Seriously, I think that anybody who puts their passion, talent, time into a work of art wants to promote that work. Part of sharing is the work itself, but a great part is talking about it – what it is, what inspired it, what can be gleaned, learned, and enjoyed. So, catch me at Barnes & Noble this week, The Peak City Book Festival in Apex, NC on November 9 and the Carteret Writer’s Meeting in Morehead City, NC on November 12. And other places in between!

Part of what has inspired my SEAN GRAY, JUNOR SPECIAL AGENT series are issues that affect kids today, from bullying to suicide to kidnapping to internet stalking and predation. One of my greatest passions is helping kids navigate the journey of childhood and adolescence. If I can engage, educate, and entertain them at the same time, I have been successful.  Therefore, writing these stories and talking about them and the issues that they contain are equally important. Though it is sometimes difficult to strike that balance between promotion and writing, they are interconnected. 
Your website is an amazing resource for parents and teachers, with topics ranging from internet safety and missing children to author features. Your website truly captures who you are and puts it out there for the world to see! How did you go about creating such a great “platform” for yourself and your writing?

Thank you, Becky. I think in a way I am a product of all that I have experienced and of all the people who have touched me throughout my life. I am very passionate about kids and their right to be safe and loved and protected. I have always believed in their innate innocence and our responsibility to care for them. My “platform” is a true combination of my roles as educator, psychologist, and author. Rather than a single creation, it is a confluence of my passions.

You are a psychologist and are also involved as a volunteer for the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, as well as the FBI, in Columbia, SC, where you live. Can you talk about your interest in psychology and law enforcement, and how you are able to incorporate these passions into your book writing? 
During one of my early interviews with the FBI, I was asked to join the FBI Citizens Academy. The Federal Bureau of Investigation National Citizens Academy is an organization dedicated to supporting the mission of the FBI in its role as the official liaison between the FBI Citizens’ Academy Alumni Association (FBICAAA) Chapters and the FBI. The FBINCAAA supports those Chapters, and serves with them as the FBI’s private sector community ambassadors for education and preparedness to ensure a safer America. Comprised of community leaders, we work closely with FBI Special Agents in building stronger partnerships within the community to help the FBI stay “better attuned to the needs and issues of our communities.” We are in contact with the agency with information that could help solve or prevent crimes. We are also "ambassadors" of the FBI who dispel myths and misunderstandings about the Bureau, and often go on to join alumni chapters that work directly with us on all kinds of public safety initiatives.

I also am a member if the FBI’s Infragard, which brings together representatives from the private and public sectors to help protect our nation’s critical infrastructure—both virtual and physical—from attacks by terrorists and criminals.

I am also a graduate of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department Citizen Police Academy Program, whose mission is to educate and inform the community; to provide a forum for police - community interaction; to identify community problems, needs and concerns; and to foster a partnership with the community that will solve problems and work toward creating a safer environment.

Through all programs, I am able to help serve the needs of my community, working with both government and private sector partners every day and at every level—local, state, federal, tribal, and international. And as I said earlier, as an educator and a psychologist, my main passion and purpose is to serve the needs of children and their families. These factions all fit together.

The FBI and the Richland County Sheriff’s Department are on the front lines in the effort to combat crimes against children, including kidnapping, sexual exploitation, child trafficking. These are the real life issues that we and our kids face in these times. Issues that my protagonist, Sean, faces, questions, studies and hopes to help resolve.
In the SEAN GRAY, JUNIOR SPECIAL AGENT series, Sean, is a believable boy with strong character traits that belie his physical stature. Sean participated in the FBI Junior Special Agent program at school, where he learned many valuable lessons like: ask questions, follow the evidence, and that despite outward appearances, all things are not as they seem. Former (retired) FBI Special Agent Robert Malinowski said Sean “exemplifies the qualities that we see in our Junior Special Agents.”

You are obviously a dedicated public servant, Ann. How wonderful that you are able to bring all of your interests and passions together and showcase them through your writing! Thanks so much for being my guest today, and for your thoughtful answers to my (many) questions. My boys and I are currently reading HIDING CARLY together. We are all enjoying it so much, and will be excited to read the sequel!
Thank you, Becky, for having me. I have enjoyed being with you. And I am very happy that you and your boys are enjoying HIDING CARLY.
 
Ann’s book, HIDING CARLY, is available at online retailers, from the Peak City Publishing website, as well as major bookstores, such as Barnes and Noble and Books A Million. Book #2 in the series, FALLEN PREY, will be available on November 7, 2013!

11 comments:

  1. Thanks, Becky, for the birthday wishes and for having me as a guest. I enjoyed being here!

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  2. Wow. Very cool success story. It doesn't give one hope. Loved this interview.

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    1. AAACK--me and my stupid typos. I meant it DOES give one hope. My apologies, ladies. Can I blame it on my lack of sleep. I need a permanent edit button :).

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    2. I assumed that is what you meant, Johnell! = )

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  3. It takes an Einstein to persevere when you know you've got something right... Wonderful story behind the story.

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  4. Nice to meet you, Ann! Your stories sound wonderful, and thanks for sharing your story w/us!

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  5. Dear Becky,
    Thanks for having Ann Eisenstein explain her journey to the publication of two books.

    Dear Ann,
    Thanks for sharing your journey to publication! May you have many ventures of publication success.

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Thanks so much for visiting my blog!

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