Monday, September 8, 2008

Author Interview: Keri Mikulski, author of Screwball

I was recently given the honor of interviewing the lovely Keri Mikulski, author of Screwball, the first of a series of book starring softball hero Ashley Clarke. Here's what she said about life, writing, and books.

Keri Mikulski
We can all read about your bio from the back of your book or your FAQ online. So, what's a completely random fact about you that most people don't know?
Do you remember the eighties game show “Double Dare”? When I was in the fifth grade and I was sporting a short perm, the Double Dare producers visited our school and I was chosen, along with three classmates, to compete on the show. I slipped in beans during the obstacle course and tripped up the host Marc Summers in the process. Unfortunately, we didn’t win the trip to Disney World, but we did win a bunch of cool stuff. I still have the show on VHS tape.

Your plane crashed on a deserted island, and Sawyer wasn't on it. You only have one book to entertain yourself with until the rescue comes—if it ever comes. What book do you wish you had with you on the island?
Hmm.. Fiction– probably Megan Mccafferty’s “Second Helpings” because it’s hilarious. Nonfiction – the Bible. I’ve always wanted to read the whole book from cover to cover.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
It depends on what I was feeling at the moment. I went through stages when I wanted to be a police officer, Wonder Woman, a gymnast, an author, a vet, a professional baseball player, a singer, a nurse, a teacher, and a librarian.


How much of you is in your book? Is there a character like you? Is a situation in the book derived from real life?
My characters are a combination of different traits of different people I’ve met over the years. People that know me and read the book often ask me: Is Jake this person? Is Andrew this person? Is Christy this person? The characters and situations are completely fictional. But, out of all the characters I’ve created so far, Ashley is probably the closest to me. When, I was a pitcher in high school, I definitely dealt with some of the same issues Ashley deals with.

The situations are partly, like the characters, derived from real life. I’ve been to a tattoo parlor. I grew up in New Jersey. I rode on the back of motorcycles. My dad was a police officer. And I did date athletes. ☺
What was your timeline for the book? How long did it take to write, revise, submit, and finally, get published? How did you feel at these stages?
I came up with idea of Ashley Clarke during a wrestling tournament (my husband is a coach ☺). I was doing research for a writing assignment and a girl wearing a softball sweatshirt, caught my eye after she ran down the bleachers to talk to a wrestler. I started writing the first scene as a short story. Then, the ideas continued to flow, so I approached FASTPITCH FOREVER magazine with a series pitch. Kim, the publisher, loved it, added it to her next issue, and asked for more. After three scenes, she approached me to turn the series into a book. So, from Ashley’s birth to the finished product, it took about nine month. The revisions took about three out of the nine. The second book of the series, which should drop this winter, also will end up done in nine months. Weird. Writing books is like a pregnancy. ☺

The stages:
1. First draft – Excited and in the zone.
2. Revisions – Still excited and in the zone, but my brain is fried.
3. Submission – Nervous. Like I’m about to pitch a big game.
4. Publication process – All the decisions tend to stress me out – like what to cut, how edgy we should go, etc.. Then, I always have a moment of what if this doesn’t happen and it never becomes a book. But when I see the ARC in the mail, I’m excited again.
If your reader could only take away one emotion, theme, or idea from the book, what would you want that to be?
This is tough to narrow down to just one. But, the most important one to me? Don’t judge someone by his or her past, his or her family, or their situation. Get to know someone first, then make a decision. If you don’t, you might miss out on the love of your life.

What are your goals as an author? Where do you want to see yourself as a writer in 5, 10, 15 years?
My goals are to continue to make money doing what I love. In five years, I hope to have four books published. In ten years, I hope to have a non sporty book published. In fifteen years, I hope to be somewhat satisfied with my writing career.
What's the most surprising thing you've learned since becoming a writer?
Don’t laugh. But, I learned that writers travel. I had no idea writers have to go on publicity tours. I’m scared to death of airplanes. So far I’ve dodged the airplane for publicity. But this spring, I’m going to Texas at some point, so I have to do it. And do it ALONE.
Beyond the typical—never give up, believe in yourself—what would be the single best advice you'd like to give to an aspiring author?
Write the book you always wanted to read.

What do you consider to be your strongest talent in writing? Your weakest?
I’ve been told that I can set up a scene well and my characters are believable. To this day, I’m not completely sure how I do this. Writing to me is like playing pretend. ☺ On the other hand, I always get snagged for lack of transitions, over using the word ‘amazing’, and adding way too many conflicts.
What's a writing pet peeve that you have?
Generally, my biggest pet peeve, whether in writing or not, is selfishness. Honestly, every book I’ve ever read, I can pick out something I like about it, so I really don’t have a writing pet peeve. I guess it’s the teacher in me.
Thank you, Keri, for the wonderful insight into your writing life!

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