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Interview with Annie Tipton, author of Diary of a Real Payne: Church Camp Chaos

Annie Tipton, children's author
Annie Tipton, children's author
Krista Komaromy

Annie Tipton made up her first story at the ripe old age of two when she asked her mom to write it down for her. (Hey, she was just two--she didn't know how to make letters yet!) Since then she has read and written many words as a student, newspaper reporter, author, and editor. Annie loves snow (which is a good thing because she lives in Ohio), wearing scarves, sushi, Scrabble, and spending time with friends and family.

Q: Congratulations on the release of your book, Diary of a Real Payne: Church Camp Chaos. What was your inspiration for it?

A: I have always identified with and loved Judy Blume’s books about Peter Hatcher and his crazy little brother named Fudge. Judy took the everydayness of life from the point of view of a young boy in a really funny, true-to-life way. I am the kind of person who finds humor in everyday situations as well, so EJ and many of the other characters in the Diary of a Real Payne series have the same view. If my stories can leave half the impression on kids that those books had on me, I will be thrilled.

Kids who like the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series will find something here, too. Although the concept of this series is not exactly like Wimpy Kid, each chapter begins with pages from EJ’s diary, so the reader gets to be inside her head throughout the book. Those sections are really fun for me to write. EJ’s a smart girl with lots of interests, and she’s got opinions about stuff, too!

Q: When did your passion for children’s books begin? Did you have a favorite book when you were a child?

A: My parents helped grow a love of reading and children’s books in me from the time I was old enough to sit on a lap and be read to. From simple board books to C. S. Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, I was exposed to lots of different stories even before I could read them myself. So I count the Narnia series as one of my favorites, as well as Lucy Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series. Judy Blume’s Fudge books have always been a favorite, and even as an adult I enjoy revisiting these favorites as well as a new(ish) children’s favorite for me: JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series.

Q: Did you take any workshops or courses before you started writing?

A: No. My writing training has been largely hands-on, in addition to a college degree in journalism. I’ve learned that to write better, sometimes I just need to write more.

Q: How was your creative process like during the writing of this book and how long did it take you to complete it? Did you face any difficulties along the way?

A: The books in the Real Payne series are about 40,000 words apiece, and I can write a full manuscript in about six weeks (mostly in the evenings and weekends since I have a day job). I definitely go through moments of panic for each book—that I won’t be able to complete the actual writing—but so far, so good. Don’t let anyway fool you, though: writing is HARD. Sometimes the characters won’t do what you want them to do. Sometimes my brain doesn’t do what I need it to do. Sometimes everything is a distraction for me. But at the completion of a manuscript, those frustrations magically disappear.

Q: What do you find most challenging about writing for children?

A: I’ve actually been surprised at how easy it is for me to revert to “kid mode” while writing this series. I generally have a simple and optimistic view of the world and I tend to see humor in everyday life, so my own point-of-view lines up with kids well. Many scenes from my childhood—particularly memories I have of my younger brother—pop up in the storyline of the series, too. Because of all of this, I think children’s fiction is probably the least-challenging fiction that I, personally, could be writing.

Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?

A: I drop off the radar in my family for about a month during the main writing of the manuscript. I have the luxury in that I’m single, no kids, so it’s my parents, brother, and sister-in-law that know I’m deep in writing mode during the evenings and on weekends. Friends mostly take a backseat for a few weeks, too. Since I have a full-time day job, I’ve learned to be self-disciplined in setting up daily word count goals for myself. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the evenings at the local library with my laptop and headphones.

Q: Tell us about your publisher and how you found it.

A: I work in the editorial department at Barbour Publishing, the publisher of the Diary of a Real Payne series. We came up with the concept for the series in-house, and I loved the idea so much, I asked if I could write it. The rest is history.

Q: What was it like working with an illustrator and how much control did you have over the artwork?

A: I have been so blessed to be paired with an illustrator who really understands the concept of the series. As I described EJ and her bigger-than-life daydreams, Luke Flowers (Luke Flowers Creative), really hit the illustrations dead-on to help get my idea across. I remember seeing the cover concept for Church Camp Chaos and immediately falling in love. He had the concept, perspective, and visual interest down pat! EJ’s daydream of soaring through the air as a superhero (in reality, sailing on a zip line) came to life.

Q: How do you define success?

A: My hope for the Diary of a Real Payne series has always been that the book gets into the hands of as many people as possible who need some encouragement and a chuckle. The stories in the series are ultimately stories of hope and happiness, so when I hear from readers that this is what they got from reading about EJ and her adventures, I know the book has been a success.

Q: Do you think that becoming an author entails sacrifices?

A: Absolutely! I don’t think any writer knows what that looks like until we go through the painful process. But if it weren’t a challenge, then everyone would have a book published, right? Anything worth doing is worth the sacrifice.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring children’s writers? Do you know of any helpful resources you’d like to share?

A: Keep on keeping on! Never let an opportunity to write pass you by. Even though at times my experience in writing this series has been a challenge, I am thankful for the opportunity every day. I’m so glad I stepped up to the plate and said “I can write that, if you’ll let me.”

Q: What’s on the horizon for you?

A: The third and final book in the series—Diary of a Real Payne: Oh Baby!—releases in September 2014. I’m looking forward to seeing the completion of EJ’s adventures!


Title: Diary of a Real Payne Book 2: Church Camp Chaos

Genre: Fiction – Children / Juvenile

Author: Annie Tipton


Publisher: Barbour Publishing, Inc.

Purchase link:

In this second fabulous release in the Diary of a Real Payne series for 8- to 12-year-old girls, young readers will find themselves ROTFL as EJ ismore than ready to be done with Ms. “Picky” Pickerington, CoraLee McCallister, and fourth grade in general. Hello sunshine, hello 11th birthday party, hello free time, hello. . .CAMP! It’s EJ’s first summer to spend an entire week at Camp Christian: friends, swimming, bunk beds, games, campfires, s’mores, hiking, and even a gigantic zip line. In classic EJ form, she dreams up even more fantastic adventures for herself. It’s colossal fun and Church Camp Chaos for EJ fans!

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