Deanna K. Klingel, author of award-winning middle grade and YA literature, has released her first preschool book. Deanna and her husband live in the mountains of western North Carolina. Their seven married children and eleven grandchildren are in the southeast. Deanna and Dave enjoy visiting them, traveling with Deanna’s books, playing golf and being outside with their golden retriever Buddy.
This interview is part of a 5-day virtual tour sponsored by the National Writing for Children Center, a showcase for children's book authors and illustrators.
About the Book
Little Beth romps through her personal playground showing how she learns the proper names and characteristics of her bird friends. Her antics come alive in the delightful illustrations.
Purchase the Beth's Birds.
Q: Congratulations on the release of your book, Beth’s Birds. What was your inspiration for it?
A: The inspiration was little Beth herself. Beth is my daughter. This was written for her, and about her.
Q: When did your passion for children’s books begin? Did you have a favorite book when you were a child?
A: I had so many favorite books as a child, I couldn’t begin to name them all. My mother gave me her passion for children’s books. She read to my brothers and I every evening. Long after I was old enough to read for myself, I still sat on the edge of the bed in my pajamas listening and begging for one more page.
Q: Did you take any workshops or courses before you started writing?
A: I started the learning process with an editor in London who worked with me through the computers. The more I learned the more I knew I needed to learn. I joined professional organizations and attended conferences and workshops. When my writing style was identified as YA, I didn’t fully comprehend what that was. I hadn’t grown up with YA. I enrolled in a YA Lit class at Brevard College. I attend three conferences a year and go to classes. I have a critique group I study with twice a month. I’m always trying to learn 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: I wrote this series for my youngest daughter. I took photos of her doing the things that are in the book and wrote the text. She grew up, I put the “books” in my file. It was easy.
Q: What do you find most challenging about writing for children?
A: The most challenging is probably my stage in life. My children are grown. Today’s children are quite different in attitude and interests.
Q: What is your writing schedule like and how do you balance it with your other work and family time?
A: I write every day. I’m not always working on a story. Sometimes I’m writing blogs, editing, writing proposals, queries, polishing things for submissions. It may be a marketing day and I’ll be writing letters and sending emails. Those days I tend to work in blocks of time. I might take breaks for phone calls, cooking supper, or dog walking. When I’m working on a story I’m at it for days of uninterrupted time. I have to have quiet. I’m very fortunate that I don’t have to balance it with anything else. My husband is totally supportive and generous with his time. He knows when I’m working on a story that I’m in another place and time, won’t have much to say, and won’t be doing much of anything else. He’s patient and understanding. Sometimes he comes through with a neck rub for the stiff neck.
Q: Tell us about your publisher and how you found it.
A: Last year while I was attending a book festival with my other books, I saw a colorful display of children’s books. I looked them over, and even though they weren’t about birds or nature, they reminded me about the books in my file. I talked to the editor who encouraged me to submit a query. She accepted the books based on the query without seeing the actual manuscripts. She said she knew it was for her. I wrote these for Beth when she was four years old. They went to contract the week she turned thirty four.
Q: What was it like working with an illustrator and how much control did you have over the artwork?
A: This was my first picture book. I loved the illustrator. I gave him the photos that went with the text. I realized rather quickly that the photos actually hampered his creativity. I told him he was free to interpret the photos and didn’t have to copy them. He needed to develop Beth’s personality his own way since he’d be recreating her in the next books. I took back the photos and trusted him completely.
Q: How do you define success?
A: I’m assuming you mean success as a writer. For me it’s writing something that someone enjoys reading. It might change their life in some positive way, make someone or something better.
Q: Do you think that becoming an author entails sacrifices?
A: Anything you feel passionate about will entail a sacrifice. Whenever you are involved in any project, there are many other things you won’t be doing. Being an author is costly. It takes your time, your energy and it might take your money as well. For some of things you no longer have time to do, you may have to pay someone to do it for you. If you decide to self- publish or do author subsidy, you are going to invest money. Even if you publish traditionally, you still have to buy the books you hope to sell. I spend nearly every weekend away from home, eating at Mickey D’s, buying gas and sleeping in cheap hotels while I sell my books. Sure, it’s a 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: I find the best resource to be the Book Markets for Childrens Book Writers. SCBWI has wonderful conferences. There are many smaller conferences that cost a lot less money, however. All classes and workshops, no matter how many times you go to them, will always teach you something. Try not to get overwhelmed and frustrated when you discover that the more you learn the more you need to learn. That’s a good thing, actually.
Q: What’s on the horizon for you?
A: The rest of the Little Beth Books will roll out one at a time. The next one is underway now, Beth’s Backyard Friends about the little mammals. Then there’s one about night noises and habitat. I’ve got two middle grade books under contract, Blue-Eyed Doll and Rebecca & Heart. I have four that are looking for homes. I’m getting ready to start interviewing and researching for my next YA historical biography. And of course, marketing. Always marketing.