I met author Kimberly Dana through Bookpleasures when I reviewed her book Pretty Dolls. Pretty Dolls is a wonderful illutrated children's book that deals with the subjects of friendship, jealousy and bullying.
Kimberly is an award winning author and teacher. She was recently interviewed on NBC's More at Midday. Here's a link to the interview on YouTube: Video interview
Kimberly currently has a giveaway here on Goodreads which runs until 1st April 2012. It's open to anyone in the US. To enter you just need to navigate to the Pretty Dolls book page and follow the link to the giveaway. There are 5 copies available.
Here's my interview with the author:
I understand that as well as being a writer you are also a schoolteacher who teaches middle school children. As you write children’s and young adult books I guess that a lot of your inspiration comes from the children you teach. Have any of them read your books, and if so, what kind of feedback have you got from them?
I get A LOT of my inspiration and ideas from my middle school students. Teens and preteens are so smart and astute. They are the emotional truth-tellers of the world and just by observing them in action, you learn a lot about authenticity – something most adults have lost along the way. That said, my middle reader book, Lucy and CeCee’s How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School and YA novel, Cheerage Fearage are soon to be released, so my students have yet to read them. But when I teach my children’s picture book unit in creative writing, they all read Pretty Dolls with very positive reviews, I’m happy to report.
Pretty Dolls deal with the subject of bullying, in a very creative way. As a school teacher what advice would you give to a child who is being bullied, and do you think there are any tell-tale signs that parents and teachers can look out for?
Wow, great question. Bullying is such a hot topic right now. We hear about it all the time in the news and with the Internet as the perfect covert medium, bullying seems to be getting worse in a much more menacing way. As far as telltale signs, I think it’s important to ask your child what’s going on in their life and be on the watch for moodiness, dejection, and social avoidance. Let kids know if they are being bullied that it’s not their fault, they’re not alone, and adults are here to help them.
From your insight as a teacher, what do you think schools can do to deal more effectively with bullying?
Early intervention is so important when dealing with bullying. Research shows that kids are bullied every seven minutes and it starts in the primary and elementary years. Our greatest defense is implementing character education programs, starting with quality literature. By relating to fictional characters, such as Gracie in my picture book Pretty Dolls, kids learn empathy at a young age, which is the core to human social interaction.
The illustrations in Pretty Dolls are beautiful and really bring the story to life, in my opinion. How did you go about finding an illustrator and did you have any input as to how the characters in the story would look?
I agree that the illustrations are gorgeous. Kurt Jones did a wonderful job bringing the characters and action to life. Unfortunately, I can’t take any credit for finding him. Kurt works for my publishing company, Tate Publishing, and yes - he has talent in spades!
You have a book trailer for Pretty Dolls on YouTube. Book trailers are becoming very popular these days as a way of promoting books. What’s your opinion about the effectiveness of book trailers as a promotional tool, and have you ever been influenced to buy a book after watching the trailer?
Book trailers are wonderful promoting tools, and as a new author, I fully subscribe to utilizing new marketing techniques. Some traditionalists have a case of “video killed the radio star,” but I say if it works for Hollywood, it should work for us. Book trailers are especially beneficial for hooking YA and middle readers because the Internet is their playground.
I have seen on your website that you’ve done some book signings for Pretty Dolls, how did they go? And, do you have any tips for authors who are considering organising a book-signing event? I know that many authors are put off because of a fear that no one will turn up!
Hahaha! Promotion is all about getting over your fear! I am actually a very private person so when I first started promoting, Internet visibility really freaked me out. But I’m so over it now. An online presence is essential, especially considering my audience. Book signings are great because even if only five people show up, that’s five readers you didn’t have before and word-of-mouth is the best advertising around. So yes, books signings are definitely worth the effort (and courage)! A helpful hint my marketing representative told me is to bring cookies and candy. When people come over to grub, hit them with your stuff!
As well as Pretty Dolls, you’ve also written a YA thriller, ‘Cheerage Fearage’; can you tell us a bit about that very interesting title, and also a bit about the book itself, please?
My YA book, Cheerage Fearage takes place at Camp Valentine - a cheerleading camp with raging spirit. It’s ten years after a popular girl’s bizarre death and the bloodthirsty pranks are going down at a hypnotic pace. Enter Tiki Tinklemeyer my protagonist, an indentured servant to the geek label, who’s thrown into the middle of camp mayhem. Not only is she out of her element spending a week with the micro-miniskirt V.I.P.’s, but now someone wants to kill her. The book’s tagline is Fly high and die!
I’ve seen from your bio that you are a judge and co-ordinator for the Electronic Publishing Industry Coalition’s annual ebook competition. Can you tell us more about this competition?
EPIC hosts the oldest competition honoring eBooks and the ePublishing industry. The annual contest accepts all categories, including children’s, mainstream, action/adventure, fantasy, historical, horror, suspense/thriller, science fiction, and romance to name a few. It’s a terrific opportunity for published authors to showcase their work.
I’ve seen on your website that you’ve won awards for your writing. Please feel free to show off about them here. There are too many forums on the Internet that stop authors talking about their achievements, and I think that writing books is a very hard job and authors should be able to brag about any awards they win. So, please tell us, what awards have you won, and how did these come about?
I’m a bit of a competition junkie, but I really think it helps aspiring authors get out of the slush pile. It certainly changed the trajectory of my writing career. I have won the following awards:
· PRETTY DOLLS - Finalist - Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest, Children’s Picture Book Category
· LUCY AND CECEE’S HOW TO SURVIVE (AND THRIVE) IN MIDDLE SCHOOL - Editor’s Choice Award, Rising Star Award by iUniverse
· CHEERAGE FEARAGE - Honorable Mention - Writers Digest Writing Competition - YA Novel Category
· BUNGALOW 52 - Finalist - Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest - YA Novel Category and Honorable Mention - Writers Digest Writing Competition - YA Novel Category
· JONAS AND THE BLUE LADY - Honorable Mention - Writers Digest Writing Competition - Children’s Picture Book Category
Who are your favourite authors and what is it about their writing that you like?
I read the phenomenal author:Francesca Lia Block|9072],Rachel Cohn, and Sara Shepard, voraciously. The all have an ear for how really teens talk (and think). I have recently found a new appreciation for graphic novels, specifically manga. Along with amazing storytelling, manga is aesthetically beautiful and it’s clear why it has been so fully embraced by the international market.
Is there a book you own that you’ve read more than once?
One of the joys of being an English teacher is reading great books multiple times. The books I teach over and over and never tire of are S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango StreetThe Diary of a Young Girl, and quintessential classics like Homer’s The Odyssey and Shakespeare’s ]Romeo and Juliet. When Juliet impales herself with Romeo’s dagger, and a sniveling ninth grade boy asks you for a tissue, you know you’ve hooked them!
What is the target age-group for Pretty Dolls?
The target age-group for Pretty Dolls would around 4-8. But I add that the book’s universal themes of friendship, jealousy, and love are pertinent for any age.
Pretty Dolls is innovative as it also comes with a free code so that the reader can download an audio to go along with the book. Who came up with that idea?
My publisher thought Pretty Dolls would lend itself nicely as an audio download. Shawna Windom did a fabulous job with capturing each girl’s individual voice and narrating the story.
Are you reading a book at the moment?
I usually read at least three books at a time: a children’s book, a YA book, and an “adult contemporary book,” preferably a thriller so scary I can’t sleep at night. As for the moment, I’m enjoying Tomie dePaola children’s books, Rachel Cohn’s YA book Gingerbread,and The Snowman by Jo Nesbo. I love the new Nordic Thriller craze. Go all dragon tattoo chicks!
What do you think of ebooks as opposed to print books?
I’m pretty much on board with ebooks, especially since my next release, Cheerage Fearage, is coming out with Wild Child, a prominent ebook publisher. Love it or hate it, ebooks are here to stay, so it’s probably best to go out and embrace your Kindle!
How important are reviews for you as a writer?
Who doesn’t love a good review? You hear authors say they never read or pay attention to such things, but I contend that is not realistic especially when you are first starting out. I’m going to be honest and say reviews are very important and of value. An author needs to hear the good and the bad in order to grow and hone their craft.
Are you working on any other books at the moment?
At the moment, I am looking forward to promoting my upcoming releases. I’m also writing a creepy beast poem book tailored more for boys. Here is my poem on Zombies:
Brains for breakfast – brains for lunch
Brains for dinner – brains for brunch
Flesh with fries is what they crave
When they burst out from their grave
The walking dead’s alive and well
Most come from a voodoo spell.
Do you have any upcoming events that you’d like to tell your readers about?
I’m really excited about my next two releases. Cheerage Fearage by Wild Child Publishing and Lucy and CeCee’s How to Survive (and Thrive) in Middle School by iUniverse are both coming out in the next few months, so I’m preparing for that. Additionally, I’m hosting several local book signings and author visitations. Promotion is a lot of hard work, but it’s so rewarding to meet your readers in person.
Where can people buy your books?
Thank you so much, Maria, for this wonderful opportunity to interview on your blog. Readers can buy my books at Amazon, BarnesandNoble, and Tate Pubishing. Also, please check my website and blog for new release information. Cheers!
It's been a pleasure, Kimberly, I wish you continued success with you books and writing!
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