Friday, April 3, 2015

Author Interview with Gennifer Choldenko


The DMS was lucky enough to interview Gennifer Choldenko. Lizzy reviewed her books Al Capone Does My Shirts and No Passengers Beyond This Point, and it was great to share our thoughts and hear yours! We're excited to learn a little more about her stories. So, without further ado... take it away, Gennifer!

What inspired you to write No Passengers Beyond This Point? How did you come up with the characters India, Finn and Mouse?

The starter seeds for some books are really clear. The Al Capone books began when I read an article in the paper about kids who grew up on Alcatraz when it was a working penitentiary.  My newest novel Chasing Secrets, (due out in August) began when I read a nonfiction book about rats that mentioned a plague outbreak in San Francisco in 1900.  Honestly, I have no idea where the idea for No Passengers came from.  I was traveling a lot to promote the Al Capone books.  I was spending a lot of time in airports and I really missed my family.  One day I closed the door of my office and out popped No Passengers Behond This Point.  

The characters Finn, India and Moose were loosely based on my brother, my sister and me.

You must do a lot of research for your historical fiction books. What was your research process like for the Al Capone at Alcatraz series? Was there any aspect of your research that was the most interesting?

I find the reserch process absolutely fascinating.  So the question here might be, what didn’t I find interesting?  Gangsters, the depression, autism, a maximum security prison on an island in the middle of the San Francisco bay . . . it’s all such juicy stuff.

I have been researching these subjects off and on for sixteen years.
I have done everything I can think of to find out more. That includes: working as a docent on Alcatraz, interviewing scores of guards, convicts and kids who grew up on the island, attending something like fifteen Alcatraz Alumni Days on the island, reading the prison files of famous and not so famous Alcatraz convicts . . . the list goes on and on!
Did all of the books in the Al Capone at Alcatraz series take you the same length of time to write or do they each have a process of their own? Which one took you the longest to write?

Each of the books has it’s own process.  Most have taken a good two and a half years to write, though Al Capone Does My Shirts took five years.

What are some of your favorite books from childhood? Were there any specific authors who inspired you?


Where do you like to write? Do you listen to music while you are writing?

In the mornings I typically write at Starbucks.  In the afternoon, I write at the dining room table. Though, I also write in the car when my daughter is taking her trumpet lesson, in the parking lot of the gym, at the airport and just about every other place. 

I don't like to listen to music while I’m writing, but I can block it out if I have to.

If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be? Why?

I love the San Francisco Bay area. I would like to live six months a year here and then six months in New Orleans, Paris, Boston, NYC and London.

The path to publication varies from author to author. Every author has a unique story and one that other authors can learn from. Can you tell us a little bit about your path to publication or do you have any advice for new authors?

Wow, that’s a long story. I had an easy time getting my first book published. (A picture book: Moonstruck: The True Story of the Cow Who Jumped Over the Moon.
And then a very difficult time getting my “second" book published: a novel called Notes from a Liar and HerDog. I say “second” because I probably write thirty or forty books written each of which I hoped would be my “second” book. I did not think I would ever get another book published, despite the fact that Moonstruck got good reviews, was bought by the book clubs, sold well, earned out easily and went to paperback. But I didn’t give up. I kept working to up my game. I don’t believe you can control how creative you are. But you can definitely improve your craft. So that’s my advice. Do everything you can to improve your writing skills. 

Are you currently working on a book? If so, can you tell us a little bit about it?

Right now, I’m working on two new novels. But, I don’t like to talk about WIP. I will say I am very excited about the novel out this year: Chasing Secrets.

As I mentioned, Chasing Secrets: a deadly surprise in the city of lies is about a plague outbreak in San Francisco in 1900.  The protagonist, Lizzie, is the daughter of a doctor, who finds herself dealing with rampant anti-Chinese sentiment in the middle of a plague outbreak which everyone, including her beloved father, is denying. Lizzie is the best female main character I’ve ever written. When I had to send the final draft to copyediting, I mourned the loss of the book.  For the first time ever, I did not want to leave the world I had created behind.

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48 comments:

  1. Thank you both.
    This reader is fascinated, intrigued and awed to find out more about writer's dedication, persistence and talent.

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    1. Elephant's Child- I am so glad you enjoyed the interview so much. It was fascinating to hear from Gennifer! :) ~L

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  2. I attended a workshop led by her at the SCBWI conference here. She's amazing! I need to read all of her books...never enough hours in the day.

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    1. Stephanie- That is so cool that you attended a workshop led by Gennifer. Good luck reading her books! :) ~L

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  3. Enjoyed the interview, especially reading about the research that goes into writing a book. That would have been interesting to interview people associated with Alcatraz.

    betty

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    1. Betty- So glad you enjoyed the interview and Gennifer's research process. It sounds like she learned a lot during her research process and she was able to conduct some fascinating interview. :) ~L

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  4. Those are amazing places to choose to live in for awhile. I wish I had unlimited traveling time. I read one of Gennifer's books and hope to read more.

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    1. Medeia- Gennifer has chosen some great places to live for a while. So glad you have been able to read one of her books and hope you get to read more soon. :) ~L

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  5. She was inspired by A Wrinkle in Time? Cool. That book I read and thought was a great read!

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    1. Al- I loved A Wrinkle in Time too. Glad to hear you enjoyed it as well! :) ~L

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  6. Wow! Another book about Alcatraz! Who knew there were so many??? I'm going to have to be selective here. Which will be hard, because they all sound so good.

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    1. Kate- Alcatraz is definitely an interesting setting for a book. I hope you get to read Gennifer's Al Capone series because they are so well written. :) ~L

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  7. That is one rock I'd rather not live on, but I loved her first book, so I'm sure this next one will be great, too.

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    1. Lee- I wouldn't want to live there either- but it is fascinating to read about. :) ~L

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  8. Wow...freaks me out just looking at a cell!

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  9. Wonderful interview. Research is a lot of fun, I think. Learning what life was like a long time ago, or in a new place is fun. The new book sounds great. Congratulations, Gennifer.

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    1. Beverly- So glad you enjoyed the interview. Research is an amazing adventure. So much to learn! :) ~L

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  10. I can't wait to check out this author's work! Awesome interview! :)

    ~Mckenzie @ A Belle's Tales

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    1. Thanks, McKenzie- I hope you get to read one of Gennifer's books soon. :) ~L

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  11. What a fun interview and totally inspiring me to read Al Capone Does My Shirts book next in my TBR as it's already sitting on my bookshelf! I live near Eastern State Penitentiary in Philly where Capone's cell there is still "decorated" and I am heading to the ALA book convention in June in San Francisco - and just bought my Alcatraz tickets! So this is a must read before I go. Cant wait!

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    1. Donna- How awesome that you already have Al Capone Does My Shirts on your bookshelf. Awesome! I also think it is interesting that you live near Eastern State Penitentiary and that Al Capone's cell there is decorated. I bet the ALA book convention will be amazing and how cool that you get to visit Alcatraz! Enjoy! :) ~L

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  12. I bet the research of Alcatraz was really interesting.

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  13. Great interview and once can see how much goes into writing a book. Meeting and talking to the people who were at Alcatraz must have been so interesting. Did a person from your meeting impress you so much you used them as a character?

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    1. Birgit- So happy to hear you enjoyed the interview. You came up with an amazing question- we wish we had thought of it! :) I agree with you that speaking to the people who lived at Alcatraz must have been interesting. :) ~L

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  14. Congratulations to Gennifer Choldenko. Great intewrview. I loved reading more about her and her wip.

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    1. Romance Reader- So glad you enjoyed learning more about Gennifer and her WIP. :) ~L

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  15. Wonderful interview. I'm really looking forward to Chasing Secrets. Thanks for this post.

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    1. Rosi- Glad you liked the interview and I hope you enjoy Chasing Secrets! :) ~L

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  16. I really get into research for school which is a weird thing I think for students but history can be so interesting so I feel like I know where the author is coming from.

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    1. Adriana- I can relate to enjoying research too. It is so interesting to learn new things about history. :) ~L

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  17. I LOVE Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! Even more than Matilda, which I actually had to read for school three years ago ahah. It was lovely though and the movie even greater :) Super interview!

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    1. Lola- I enjoyed Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Matilda. Both were great in different ways. :) ~L

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  18. I'm always so impressed by historical authors and all the research they have to do, but if I had to research really cool things, like Al Capone, Alkatraz, or a plague, I'd do that in a heartbeat! Gennifer's books sound fabulous! Wishing her much success!

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    1. Lexa- I bet it helps to have research that is chocked full of so many interesting facts and unique circumstances. :) ~L

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  19. Hello, Gennifer! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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    1. The Armchair Squid- Thanks for stopping by. :) ~L

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  20. I love passionate writers who never give up... who find a way to make it happen... that is true love of writing... xox

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    1. Launna- I love passionate writers too! :) ~L

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  21. And this just reminded me of my kindergarten days. That cow who jumped over the moon. I knew a song about that before. :P

    Happy Easter!

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    1. Lux- I remember that song too! :) ~L

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  22. Lovely interview! I really need to read more MG novels. Alcatraz is a fascinating place, so I think I'd be curious about that series.

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    1. Shooting Stars Mag- Thanks! MG novels are such fun and Alcatraz is a fascinating place to learn about. :) ~L

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  23. I love the look of Moonstruck. I'm going to check it out.

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  24. Isn't it interesting where our stories come from? I lived near San Francisco for a few years. It's the most eclectic city. Loved it.

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    1. DM- I love San Francisco too! Such a great city. That is awesome that you got to live there for a few years. Awesome that you got to live there. :) ~L

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