Questioning AUTHORity is a weekly feature here at Bookish Serendipity in which I interview MG and YA authors. Today I am featuring Dianna Winget, author of the MG novel A Million Ways Home. Thanks so much to Dianna for participating!
About the Author:
With the support of her parents, she was able to enroll in the Institute of Children’s Literature, a well-respected correspondence school. After completing both the basic and advanced courses, Dianna began selling short stories and articles to magazines such as Clubhouse, U*S* Kids, Child Life, and Good Reading for Everyone.
It wasn’t until 2012, that Dianna realized her dream of writing middle grade novels for kids with the publication of “A Smidgen of Sky” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt). Her next novel, “A Million Ways Home”, will be published by Scholastic Press in 2014. Dianna is repped by Lara Perkins at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.
ME: I am just going to admit it outright: this novel made me cry. What inspired your latest novel, A Million Ways Home?
DW: It made you cry in a good, bittersweet kind of way, I hope? (ME: Yes!) I can’t say exactly what inspired A Million Ways Home. But I can tell you that it is a compilation of several of my interests—law enforcement, foster care, and especially dogs. Poppy’s Grandma Beth was inspired by my own dear grandma who passed away some years ago. The description of the apartment in the story is directly based on the apartment where my grandma lived in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Manito Park is a very real and lovely place as well, located in Spokane, a little over an hour from my home.
ME: Can you tell us about how A Million Ways Home got published? How has the publishing process differed from when your debut novel, A Smidgen of Sky, came out?
DW: It took a very long time to sell my first novel, A Smidgen of Sky. A lot of that time was taken up with trying to find an agent. Once I found her, it took about sixteen months of effort before it sold to an editor at Harcourt. At the time she was shopping it, contemporary middle grade wasn’t very popular. Young adult was much more popular, and the fantasy, paranormal phase was going strong. I’m delighted to say that the pendulum has finally swung and realistic, contemporary middle grade is a hot commodity right now. A Million Ways Home only took about four months to sell to Scholastic Press, and they published it only a year later.
ME: If you could meet one of your characters in real life, who would you pick?
DW: Oh, Wow! What a wonderful question! Hmm . . . I’d like to meet them all, of course. But if I was limited to only one, I’d have to say I’d like to meet Detective Brannigan. He’s such a strong, steady guy, and takes such an emotional risk to help Poppy. I really admire him for that.
ME: Who are your favorite childrens’ authors? Are there any particular authors who inspire you to write?
DW: I’ve been writing stories since I was nine years old, and I’m not sure if any one in particular inspired me to write, but I can tell you my three all-time favorite books: Charlotte’s Web, by E.B. White, Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls, and The Outsiders, by S.E. Hinton.
Some of my favorite children’s authors in more recent times are Ingrid Law, Jennifer Nielson, and Sheila O’Conner.
ME: Both your books have been middle grade. Why do you write for pre-teen readers instead of teens or adults?
DW: I was blessed with a mom who read to me from the time I was very small, but about age 10 or 11 is when I fell deeply in love with books for myself. It’s a magical, in between time of life, when you’re starting to figure out who you are as an individual, with few responsibilities and a ton of possibilities. I clearly remember that time in my life, not feeling like a little kid anymore, but certainly not feeling like a grown up either. It was my favorite part of childhood, and it just feels so natural to write for that age group.
ME: Do you have any advice for teen and aspiring writers?
DW: If writing is your passion, then pursue it wholeheartedly! But realize that there’s a big difference between writing to entertain yourself and writing for publication. If you want to write novels and be traditionally published, then take all the time you need to learn the craft of writing before trying to sell anything. Read, read and read some more. You’d be amazed how much you can learn about writing from reading the work of authors who have gone before you. Be open to honest criticism of your work, and remember that much of writing is rewriting and revision. Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself. The road to publication can be long and winding, relax and enjoy the trip.
Thanks so much to Dianna for participating!