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Author Majanka Verstraete Discusses Why She Writes Kids’ Books

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“Why I Write Kids’ Books” – A Post by Author Majanka Verstraete

I’ve been asked on numerous occasions, by my friends and family, even by complete strangers, why I write kids’ books. People seem to think it’s an easy question for me to answer, but it isn’t.

I started out writing young adult novels. When I started writing these novels, I’d barely grown out of the young adult stage of life myself, so it was easy to relate to the characters and to describe their day-to-day world. But the more I wrote in this particular genre, the more I wanted to expand my horizons.

The day I came up with the story for Valentina and the Haunted Mansion was a dreary, rainy afternoon. I should’ve been studying for an important test for university, but instead I thought about this book. The idea was simple: a vampire girl moves into a mansion and finds a ghost, aimed at kids—the picture book I would’ve died to read back when I was a kid.

I hesitated though, because it had been years since I’d even touched a picture book. But I figured, since picture books are short, why not give it a shot. A few revision rounds later, I submitted the manuscript, and here we are.

After finding a home for Valentina and the Haunted Mansion with Evolved Publishing, I was inspired to keep writing for kids. I came up with the idea for the Weirdville lower grade chapter book series, starting with The Doll Maker, not long after signing the contract for the Valentina series.

In the Valentina series, it’s all about how even monsters can be scared of other monsters. It’s about showing kids that they shouldn’t be afraid of imaginary monsters.

I wanted to bring some of that magic to an older audience in the Weirdville series. The books’ protagonists are all kids, and they’re struggling with something dark and evil. Through their courage, intelligence and determination, they fight this evil—and they may or may not win.

When I was a kid, I loved scary books—the scarier, the better. There aren’t enough scary books out there for kids—preferably the kind that gives them a slight scare, but doesn’t keep them up all night—and the books that are there, like the Goosebumps series and Christopher Pike’s series of kids’ books, all date back from the 1990s. Kids want something new, something fresh, with protagonists who have cell phones and know how to use the internet. I wanted to fill that gap with the Weirdville series.

Like I said, it’s not an easy question to answer. On the one hand, I feel like there aren’t enough kids’ books out there in the genre I want to cover—speculative fiction, horror in particular—and on the other hand, I want to show kids that you’re never too young to overcome your fears, and to fight evil, in any shape or form.

One thing is for sure, though: I love writing kids’ books. It allows me to use my creativity in a way I never thought possible. For young adults, you have to explain stuff, like why there would be a monster under the bed. Kids don’t need explaining—they already know the monster is there, they just have to figure out if they’ll be afraid of it, or if they’ll befriend it.

~~~~~

Majanka Verstraete’s series are expanding in December, with the addition of Valentina and the Whackaddole Witch, House of Horrors, and Fright Train, all releasing on December 9th.

FIND MAJANKA’S BOOKS HERE:

Valentina_Haunted_Mansion_300dpi_200x286Amazon US
Apple iTunes-Books
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Diesel
Kobo
Smashwords
Sony
Amazon CA
Amazon UK
 
 
 
Weirdville_Doll_Maker_300dpi_200x320Amazon US
Apple iTunes-Books
Barnes and Nobleicon
BookieJar
Diesel
Kobo
Smashwords
Sony
Amazon CA
Amazon UK

Books to make your Halloween more fun, or perhaps a bit spookier!

Gear up for Halloween with some great reading fun for your kids and for you.

Evolved Publishing offers a number of books that fit in nicely with the spooky-fun holiday, starting with books your kids are sure to have fun with, and ending with books that might you have afraid to turn out the lights late at night.

Tommy_Goes_ToT_300dpi_200x286Tommy Goes Trick-or-Treating by Emlyn Chand (Illustrated by Noelle Giffin)
[Children’s Picture Book for Kids 3-8 Years Old]

Tommy the woodpecker and his friend Michael the raccoon want to join the local children in their Halloween fun. Thanks to Tommy’s knock-knocking beak and Michael’s quick paws, the duo is able to heist many a candy bar from the unsuspecting homeowners and children. But will the mischievous duo learn the true spirit of Halloween?

Available in hardcover, softcover, and as a FREE eBook at these retailers: Amazon, Barnes and Noble
icon, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, and Sony.

 
Valentina_Haunted_Mansion_300dpi_200x286Valentina and the Haunted Mansion by Majanka Verstraete (Illustrated by Noelle Giffin)
[Children’s Picture Book for Kids 3-8 Years Old]

A little vampire girl who’s afraid of ghosts, and monsters, and the dark? Oh yeah. Strange things start to happen all around Valentina’s new house: footprints appear in the dust, a disembodied voice sneezes… and just because Valentina is a vampire, doesn’t mean she doesn’t get scared like any other little girl.

Available in hardcover, softcover, and as an eBook at these retailers: Amazon, Barnes and Nobleicon, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, and Sony.
 
TLK_TDSF_300dpi_200x300The Three Lost Kids & The Death of the Sugar Fairy by Karpov Kinrade (Kimberly Kinrade)
[Lower Grade Chapter Book for Kids 6-10 Years Old]

The Three Lost Kids are attacked by Sugar Bugs, face their fears in Cavity Cave, and battle giant Gummy Bears, all to save a dying Sugar Fairy who holds the fate of Halloween in her hands. Can the girls learn to work together, each using their strengths to save the day, or will their fighting trap them in Sugar Land forever?

Available in softcover, and as an eBook at these retailers: Amazon, Barnes and Nobleicon, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, and Sony.
 
Weirdville_Doll_Maker_300dpi_200x320The Doll Maker by Majanka Verstraete
[Lower Grade Chapter Book for Kids 6-10 Years Old]

Derek’s little sister wants one of those creepy-looking dolls staring at him from the strange new doll shop in town, and what his sister wants, she gets. Just one problem: the doll maker seems linked to a bunch of mysterious disappearances, and the last thing Derek wants is his sister being next on the doll maker’s list.

Available in softcover, and as an eBook at these retailers: Amazon, Barnes and Nobleicon, Kobo, Smashwords, and Sony.
 
Well_Suited_Sentry_300dpi_200x300Well-Suited Sentry – A Short Story by Lane Diamond
[Short Story for Readers 16 and Up]

This prison sentry is unlike any other. You don’t want to cross him. Better that you should remain in your cell, follow the rules, and never get on his bad side.

Transgression comes at far too high a price.

Available as a FREE eBook at these retailers: Amazon, Barnes and Nobleicon, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, and Sony.
 
FMA_v3_300_DPI_200x300Forgive Me, Alex by Lane Diamond
[Psychological Suspense Thriller – Mature Audience]

Tony Hooper stands in shadow across the street, one amongst many in the crowd of curiosity-hounds gathered to watch a monster’s release. Seventeen years after Mitchell Norton, the devil, terrorized Algonquin, Illinois on a spree of kidnapping, torture and murder, the authorities release the butcher from psychiatric prison.

The devil walks the world again. What shall Tony do about it? Aye, what indeed.

Available in hardcover, softcover, and as an eBook at these retailers: Amazon, Barnes and Nobleicon, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, and Sony.
 
Eulogy_300dpi_200x300Eulogy by D.T. Conklin
[Fantasy – Mature Audience]

‘They’ll stand amongst the corpses of the beloved.’ That’s what he said at the end, though I never considered myself one of the beloved, not at the beginning. I was simply a terrified woman then, but now… now I understand. Maybe I wish I didn’t.

Void take me, this is so demon-damned hard.

In the beginning, he loved me. Irony, it twists and twirls like a lover’s song, but this is hardly a lover’s tale. It’s one of blades and blood. I wish I could’ve seen it sooner, but that would’ve been too easy. I wouldn’t have learned to love him.

Available in softcover, and as an eBook at these retailers: Amazon, Barnes and Nobleicon, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, and Sony.
 
WantedDeadOrUndead_v5_300dpi_200x300Wanted: Dead or Undead by Angela Scott
[Young Adult – Horror/Western]

When a fiery-headed cowgirl saunters through the saloon doors, wielding shotguns and a know-how for killing the living dead, Trace believes he just may be the luckiest man alive. She not only has the answer for how they can all outlive the plague taking over the wild, wild west, she is the answer.

Available in softcover, and as an eBook at these retailers: Amazon, Barnes and Nobleicon, iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords, and Sony.

The Subculture Club

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Author Robb Grindstaff discusses a subject that informs much of his writing.

CULTURE: The ideas, customs, and social behavior of a particular people or society. – Oxford Dictionary

SUBCULTURE: A cultural group within a larger culture, often having beliefs or interests at variance with those of the larger culture. – Oxford Dictionary

One of the questions all writers hear frequently is some variation of, “What’s your book about?” or the more general version of that question, “What do you write about?”

A brief synopsis of the plot might be in order—the elevator pitch that you would give an agent or publisher who wants to know the gist of the story in thirty seconds or less. Maybe the questioner is inquiring about the basic theme of one book.

At a higher level, the big-picture view, it can be a question that’s deeper than about one book. What does an author write about? What overarching elements or messages pervade a particular writer’s books? Mark Twain wrote about the Mississippi River and characters who inhabited that locale during 1800s America when slavery was legal. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote about the upper crust of society in the roaring twenties and the disillusionment with the American Dream. Jane Austen looked at the natural tension between individualism and the individual’s responsibility to society, romantic imagination versus rational reality.

In a recent interview, someone asked me what I write about—that bigger picture, overarching view that drives my short stories and novels. I stumbled through an unsatisfactory answer. That question has banged around in my mind ever since. One story of mine might not have anything in common with another. Different characters, different settings, different plots. Nope, nothing in common.

A few months after that interview, the “a-ha” moment hit. I thought of the right answer when I realized the common thread that runs through most of my work.

I write about unique, and uniquely American, subcultures. Whatever the plot of any of my stories might be, I tend to set these stories in some particular American subculture, and populate the stories with characters from that group.

For a more in-depth definition of terms, I turned to Kim Cochran Kiesewetter, associate professor of sociology at Sandhills College in North Carolina.

In Sociology In Focus, Ms. Kiesewetter writes, “Culture, in a nutshell, is everything that is not nature. Culture is the common beliefs, values, traditions, symbols, and behaviors a group of people in a given society share. Culture is big…and kind of vague.”

She goes on to describe subculture as “smaller groups of people with unique-to-them beliefs, values, traditions, symbols, and behaviors they share with one another that still function relatively smoothly within larger culture.”

In my novel Hannah’s Voice [Evolved Publishing, January 2013], a young girl grows up in a small, rural community in North Carolina within a traditional if somewhat fundamentalist Christian church. Even within that particular group, differences arise over Hannah’s situation. As the story progresses, Hannah eventually appears on a national television news program, and attends college in Washington, D.C. The differences between the larger culture (New York, the nation’s capital, TV journalism, university life, politics) and the subculture (rural south, Bible belt, close-knit families and communities) rise to the surface. Conflicts erupt between different groups of people who view the same situation through polar opposite subcultural lenses.

In my next novel, Carry Me Away [Evolved Publishing, September 2013], the main character, Carrie, is the biracial, bicultural daughter of a U.S. Marine officer and a Japanese mother. Carrie grows up as a military brat—living most of her youth abroad, on military bases and in the military environment, and also coming to terms with her Japanese roots and cultural identity. Sonoran Dreams, my self-published collection of short stories, is built on the rugged individualism of the people living in the Arizona desert.

I’ve had the great fortune in my life to live in different places, in and out of the U.S. I have lived among, and been a part of, several different American subcultures. I would argue that there is no singular “American culture” as such, but a collection of subcultures that live together in various degrees of harmony and tension, give and take, ebb and flow. Each is a colorful piece of cloth. They’re all stitched together into this marvelous quilt we call home.

Having been a part of several subcultures, I strive to dig a little deeper than the stereotypes and caricatures we often see in popular entertainment. Each subculture is made up of human beings, people with big hearts and giant flaws, wonderful, loving and kind people, as well as the selfish and greedy and deluded.

So to answer that interview question from a few months back: What do I write about? The overarching quest that drives most of my stories is to shine a light on the intriguing lives of various American subcultures.

The American quilt is complex and beautiful. Each square is a setting for a thousand stories, and contains an infinite number of real characters.

Sometimes, however, a quilt may become frayed and start to unravel.

~~~~~~~~~~

Robb Grindstaff’s second novel, Carry Me Away, officially launches on Monday, September 23rd, but is already available at most online retailers. For more information, CLICK HERE.

“Forgive Me, Alex” Has a New Cover

The New Face of Lane Diamond’s Psychological Thriller “Forgive Me, Alex”

To learn more about why this change was made, see Lane Diamond’s Post at his website.

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