Blog Book Tour for Kim Norman!
Drum roll please . . . today I'd like to introduce Kim Norman, author of the newly released Jack Of All Tails (Dutton). Kim is a multi-talented gal with tons of energy to share. Enjoy her interview!
Kim, congratulations on your newest release, Jack Of All Tails (Dutton)!
So much of your life is in the public eye (you're a born performer). What is your pull to write and why this story?
As I mentioned on Dotti's blog, it was a "found gem" of a premise that just stuck with me. I tried it about a thousand-and-one ways; my poor critique group read it SO many times. They are saints! Originally, it was plotless; just kind of a slice-of-life: "Here's my family; here's this odd thing we do, (impersonating pets); tra la, isn' t it funny; the end." It had a lot of humor at that stage, but I was worried editors would complain there was no plot or conflict. So then I tried cramming in all these plot twists, (mean dogs; a lost dad; I think there was even a monkey in there for a while!), but it just wasn't working. It didn't have the freshness and humor of the original.
By this point, Joe Kulka, one of my crit group members, was jumping up and down, screaming, (I'll paraphrase), "No No NO! These plots are terrible! You've got to take it back closer to the original." (Did I mention how much I love my critique group? We've developed close friendships, but the group would mean nothing if not for that kind of honesty.) So I finally followed Joe's advice, took it back closer to the original version, and he was right. I did eventually find my conflict, (Kristi, the main character, struggling to figure out what kind of pet she's good at), but it wasn't a forced conflict with a lot of running around the park. It was an internal conflict true to Kristi's character.
How long did it take you to write Jack Of All Tails and what was your path to publication?
Once I found an angle, that first draft went fairly quickly. In fact, I THINK the closing line of the book has never changed from the first draft to the last page in the finished, printed book. But with all those revisions and back-tracks, it was months and months, probably over a year, before I got it to a level that it was ready to submit. I queried it around a few places, got a few nibbles as I recall, but I'm really the laziest writer on the planet when it comings to putting things in the mail. In October of 2002 I met a Dutton editor at a Mid-Atlantic SCBWI conference who liked the manuscript; she even had a revision letter to hand me when we met. I revised it two or three more times for her and she bought it the following April.
I clearly remember that final revision: I sat down on the couch with the manuscript in my lap and printouts of all my group's critiques fanned out around me, highlighted in a rainbow of colors. I especially liked Terri Murphy's suggestion that, each time Kristi is "fired" from a pet job, the customer would say, "No, No! Bad kitty/doggie/pig/whatever." That strengthened the story with repetition. I'd also had a lot of good council from my editor, who helped me with the pacing of the story, encouraging me to make a "turning dummy," to make sure all the funny, surprise elements landed on a left-hand page, after the page-turn.
It was April, the height of allergy season when I got up one morning with a migraine, popped a couple of extra-strength Excedrin, then stumbled to my computer (ever the junky) where I found my editor's offer to buy the manuscript. With that darned headache, I surely couldn't leap of joy! That would have to wait. I dug out a book I'd bought a beforehand on negotiating contracts. Thumbed thru it and could see that it was a good offer for a first-time author, so I emailed my acceptance.
You were the illustrator of The Museum Duck (Pearl Line Press). Was it hard to let somebody else illustrate Jack of All Tails?
Not at all. If you ever got a peek at The Museum Duck, you'd see that – while I'm a perfectly skilled graphic artist – I'm just not a strong illustrator. Not like pros such as you, Elizabeth! I have no strongly defined style, and I'm a bit too literal when envisioning scenes. I love how you guys add to the story with elements in your illustrations. I always point that out to kids during my school visits, noting how this or that detail is nowhere to be found in my text.
The Museum Duck is a nice little book for what it is: a local book which raises funds for our county museum, but I'd have to study and practice long and hard to reach the level of you pros! I enjoy composition & layout and adore typography, so I'm happy enough as a graphic artist, but I think I'm a bit misplaced as an artist. I think my true calling is as a writer.
As good as you are onstage, I know you must have exciting events planned with the release of Jack Of All Tails. Can you share?
Well, there was the launch party. Glorious! And so kind of my boss and his wife (the owners of The Smithfield Times, our local weekly newspaper where I have worked for 12 years), to host it for me. It was in the garden at the beautiful, historic Smithfield Inn.
I've got a busy summer of signings lined up, several around town, and also one in the library in Lovell, Maine, near Kezar Lake where I wrote (if I may say so) astrong revision of The Crocodaddy a few summers ago. So if you're anywhere near Lovell, Maine in early August, look me up!
Then, in the fall, it's back to school visits & educator conferences, which I've been building for a few years now. I started kind of early with the school visits, with nothing but an appearance in a Meadowbrook anthology as a credit, (a nice, dust jacketed hardback which I always donated to the school libraries) but I figure what I lacked in publication credits, I made up for in stage experience. I mean, how many authors can sing and tap dance for you? (Okay. I'll admit, I have never tap danced yet for a school performance. Those tile cafeterias are slippery. I'd fall and break my Jack of all TAILS!)
Now you've got me thinking I need to do something really zany! I am planning on creating my own Standee-type sign to put near my signing tables. My skills as a graphic artist go that far, at least. That has been a real savings for me, in fact. I can create press-ready layouts for postcards, brochures, etc., with my own equipment.
This was fun, E! Thanks for having me in for a chat!
Thanks back Kim!
Check out Kim's blog at http://jackofalltails.blogspot.com, and follow the rest of Kim's tour as she visits:
Monday - my blog
Tuesday - Dotti Enderle's blog
Wednesday - Kerry Madden's blog
Thursday - Barbara Johansen Newman's blog
Friday - Karen Lee's blog
Saturday - Ruth McNally Barshaw's blog