Pokras Toz has written a number of children's chapter books and has
been kind enough to guest post on the topic of writing them both years
that ChaBooCha (the Chapter Book Challenge)
has been running. So when she asked for hosts for the book blast for her
new chapter book "Pie and Other Brilliant Ideas," I was more than happy
to host it here.
Interview with Karen Pokras Toz
Tell us about Pie and
Other Brilliant Ideas.
“Pie” is really two stories in one book. First it is about
12 year old Georgie Harris. Georgie’s family just moved to a new town to be
closer to her grandmother, Jane, who recently moved to a nursing home. Because
of the move, Georgie’s family can no longer afford to send her to dance
lessons. Instead, Georgie spends most of her time baking pies to bring to her
visits with her grandmother. The second story in the book is about Eve –
Georgie’s grandmother’s roommate, who we quickly learn was a ballerina in
Russia “back in the day.” Not only that, Eve studied and danced with a world
famous ballerina named Paulina. Georgie loves to visit Eve and hear stories
about what it was like to study ballet in a different time and country, and
especially what it was like to dance with the great Paulina Strofsky.
What inspired you to
write this book?
I grew up dancing and now two of my three children dance. I
knew I eventually would write a book about dance – it was just a matter of
time. I began writing Pie while waiting for my daughter to go on stage at one
of her dance competitions last winter. The book originally was going to be
about the competitive dance circuit – but turned out much differently once I
got to know my characters (which is usually the case).
Are you working on
anything new at the moment?
Of course! I’ve just started writing the 4th (and
final) Nate Rocks book – Nate Rocks the City. Normally, I write my Nate books
pretty fast, but I find myself procrastinating on this one. I’m sure it’s
because I just don’t want to say goodbye. I’m also working on another Adult
Contemporary novel called “Woven Wishes” to hopefully be released this time
When did you first
consider yourself a writer?
I’m a writer? LOL. It still sounds odd for me to call myself
that. I don’t know what I am. I’m a mom, and I write. Sometimes if someone asks
me what I do, I’ll say I write children’s books (even though now I also write
adult books, too). But I have yet to say, “I’m a writer.” I guess after six
books, it’s time, huh?
When and how do you
find time to write in your daily life?
All three of my children are in school all day, so I try to
squeeze in some writing time then. Of course, I always think I’m going to have
hours and hours to myself to write, but after I get done doing the million
other things on my “to-do” list, there are some days where it is hard to fit it
in. Sometimes I just have to put everything aside, and remind myself that this
is my job now. It helps that I love to write.
Any advice to
aspiring writers looking to self publish?
Be prepared to put in a lot of time and effort – and time –
and effort. You need to think of your book as a product, and yourself as a
brand. As such, you need to put out the best product possible, and be prepared
to compete in a very competitive market. This means – (a) write the best book
you can possibly write, (b) put together a test market/group of beta readers,
(c) have your book professionally edited, (d) have a professional cover made,
(e) have your book professionally formatted, (f) put together a
marketing/business plan – and most importantly, keep writing and improving your
What would you say is
your interesting writing quirk?
I don’t know if it’s a quirk, but I have to have coffee, I
need silence, and I don’t outline. I generally have a very loose story idea and
then let my characters guide me. Sometimes (like in Pie and Other Brilliant
Ideas) the story goes in a completely different direction, and sometimes (as is
the case with most of my Nate Rocks books) I have to steer my characters in a
particular direction (Nate tends to get a little out of control.) Also, I
always like to have a title in place before I start writing. I don’t know why –
maybe that’s my quirky thing.
Of all the characters
you have written, who is your favorite?
Well now, that’s like asking me which of my three children
is my favorite! So, no, I can’t really answer that one. I will tell you this –
I had a great time writing Millicent Marie Is Not My Name, and I get a lot of
requests to write more books about her. I don’t think I will, but she does live
on with her very own blog on my website
Is there a writer
that you would love to co-write a book with?
It is no secret that I am a huge Judy Blume fan. Whenever
someone compares my writing style or one of my books to her, I feel like I’ve
hit the lottery (not in a monetary sense, but in a self-fulfillment sense). I
recently (as in last year) sent her a fan letter (read – stalker letter) and
was thrilled when I received an email back from her assistant wishing me well.
However, I’m pretty sure I was put on some sort of ‘crazy lady stalker fan stay
away from’ list. But – just in case
they are reading this (In a ‘we should really be monitoring this nutjob’ sort
of way) well then ... Judy – call me ...
Do people judge a
book by its cover? Who makes yours?
Yes, I do think so, and I also hope so! Now before you think
I’m tooting my own horn – don’t. I do not make my own covers. I’m not nearly
talented enough (in fact, I have zero artistic talent.) It was only by shear
luck that I met my amazing cover artist Deana Riddle of Bookstarter.com
. She is
the genius behind the incredible artwork that I am fortunate enough to have on
my covers. Thank you, Deana!!
What is your greatest
challenge as an author?
Time. Writing is only half the battle – and if you really
want to break down the time, it’s probably only a quarter of the battle. The
other three-quarters is marketing and there is not enough time in the day to
market and write. If you are also self-publishing you have the challenge of
distribution thrown into the mix and the problem of having upfront costs to
deal with – as you can see, there are many challenges – but there are also many
Tell us your most
rewarding experience since being published.
Hearing from readers – whether through parents, educators,
or the kids themselves. Nothing makes me happier than getting a note (whether
it be via email, a tweet, on FB, through my website, through my blog, etc) that
says my child usually hates to read, but I can’t get them to put your book
down! THAT is what it is all about to me.
What is the best
advice anyone has ever given you?
Two things really: When I first started writing my adult
contemporary novel Chasing Invisible (titled “invisible” at the time) it was
the first anything I had ever written. I hired a writing coach to read through
the first few chapters and give me advice. She told me it was awful. (Don’t
worry - I have since re-written that story more times that I can count & I
am proud to say it recently won an award!) Anyway – she told me that I had a very
young voice, and I should consider writing books for kids. I had never
considered this before, but I put invisible to the side, and started working on
Nate Rocks the World. That was awesome advice, don’t you think?
The next piece of advice I received was when I proudly
handed Nate Rocks the World over to my editor – she said, “I know you are tired
and want to take a break – but don’t. Start writing the next book.” I didn’t.
But, it was great advice, and it’s something I do follow now as I finish up
Can you see yourself
in any of your characters?
I get asked this question a lot. Now that I have several
books out, you may notice a trend with my kids’ books. They all have moms who
have “issues.” For example... Nate’s mom
is a terrible cook and homemaker, Millie’s mom is a little bit of a
shop-a-holic, and now Georgie’s mom is a little high strung. Let me say this.
They may or may not be based on me. That’s all I’m saying.
What is something
people would be surprised to know about you?
While I have always loved to read, writing was always my
worst subject in school. I was always a math/numbers person. In college I took
calculus and differential equations for fun (and they were!) I worked as a tax
accountant until just recently and only started writing a few years ago. I have
no explanation for why I suddenly felt the urge to start writing, but now that
I’ve started, I can’t stop!
I hope you’ve enjoyed
learning a little about me and my books – thanks for having me on your blog!
The story will grab you from page one, and keep you mesmerized until the last page.
~ Kristy James
My nine year old daughter and I enjoyed it very much. ~ Gman Writes
From the Award Winning Author of Millicent Marie is Not My Name
and baking pies – these are two of twelve year old Georgie Harris’
favorite things. When her parents decide to move closer to her
grandmother’s nursing home, Georgie quickly learns the bad news: dance
lessons are too expensive in this new town.
spends most of her time baking pies to bring to her grandmother at the
Willow Lakes Nursing Home. There she meets Eve, who inspires Georgie
with stories of having danced with a world famous Russian ballerina many
As Georgie and Eve’s friendship evolves, their tales intertwine in this feel good story showing dreams really can come true.
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Challenge received no compensation for this post.