Along with inviting me to read her middle grade book, Be Light Like a Bird, Monika Schröder graciously agreed to answer some questions as an interview for me! Thank you for being willing to do that!
Question #1: Do you set aside time to write every day or do you write more sporadically? When you write, do you aim to complete a certain number of words or pages? How does music/other noise affect your concentration?
Ms. Schröder’s Answer: I set aside about three to four hours a day to spend with my work in my studio. I am not always putting words on paper, but I stay “in the zone.” I need absolute silence.
Question #2: When you’re writing, do your characters seem to “hijack” the story or are you firmly in control of where the story is going? Similarly, do you outline your books or let the plot take you where it wants to go?
Ms. Schröder’s Answer: I usually have an idea of the broad plot line and the ending. But after I got stuck with this method, I am now becoming more of a planner.
Question #3: In general, how many revisions do you go through before a book is published? Do you have beta readers or is it just your editing team and their suggestions? Do you set your books aside for a period of time and then pick them up and edit them?
Ms. Schröder’s Answer: The number of revisions varies. I re-wrote my first novel, THE DOG IN THE WOOD, 37 times. Now I don’t need that many revisions any more. But my new book, BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD, also went through several revisions.
Yes, time is the best revision helper. It is always good to set a manuscript aside and then go back to it with fresh eyes. My husband, a former English teacher, is always my first reader. I appreciate his comments and once all his suggestions are incorporated I send my manuscript to my agent, who then gives his input.
Question #4: Your latest book, Be Light Like a Bird, is set in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Did you travel to the Upper Peninsula to do research for the book? If not, how did you make sure you got all the details of what life is like there correct?
Ms. Schröder’s Answer: My husband is from Michigan and we used to spend part of our summers at his family’s cabin near Sault Ste. Marie. In fact, my husband and I got married up there. We inherited the cabin and still own it. So I was familiar with the setting when I wrote the book.
Question #5: How did you break into the publishing world? How many rejections did you go through before finding a publisher? Did you ever think about quitting? If so, what did you do to keep yourself hopeful?
Ms. Schröder’s Answer: My first novel was rejected by the first editor I sent it to and I spent several years rewriting it. Yes, it takes tenacity to get published. My second and third book were published by the legendary Frances Foster, an editor with her own imprint at Farrar Straus Giroux. When she passed away it pulled the rug from under me. She was not only my editor but also my mentor and friend. After her death I had to find an agent and BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD was rejected several times. So, even though I already had published three novels, I experiences set-backs. Sometimes it is hard to keep up the hope. Again, my husband is a great help. He coaches me through times of self-doubt and he is a great fan of my work.
(Blogger’s Note: I, for one, am super glad that you kept trying with Be Light Like a Bird because it really is phenomenal.)
Question #6: Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Have you ever learned anything from a bad review and incorporated it into your future work?
Ms. Schröder’s Answer: I do read my reviews. It is painful to read bad reviews but in most cases I can find a kernel of truth in them. I might not agree with the weight a reviewer gives a certain aspect of the book, but I try to look at the issues raised with a clear eye.
Question #7: What are some great books/authors you’ve read recently?
Ms. Schröder’s Answer: I am a big fan of Avi’s work and I also loved Louis Bayard’s first book for kids, LUCKY STRIKES.
Question #8: What hobbies do you have/enjoy?
Ms. Schröder’s Answer: I tend to a big flower garden and I look forward to gardening season starting again soon. I also love to bake and cook.
Question #9: Do you like to travel? If so, what was your favorite location to visit?
Ms. Schröder’s Answer: My husband and I worked and lived overseas for 16 years. We have travelled a lot during those years. Now that we live in the US we don’t travel as much any more. But we recently visited Jekyll Island in Georgia and found it very beautiful.
Question #10: What is your favorite part of the writing/editing/publishing process? What is your least favorite?
Ms. Schröder’s Answer: My least favorite part of the process is writing the first draft. It is agonizingly slow and I have to force myself to keep on writing without looking back too much before I have reached the end of one whole draft. And that draft is usually very bad and then I make it better. I love revising, but my favorite part is probably when someone offers me a contract to publish my book.
Once again, I’d like to say a huge “THANK YOU” to Monika Schröder for agreeing to answer my questions. Be sure to check out her newest book, Be Light Like A Bird!