I’m excited to welcome Margo Sorenson and her new book, TIME OF HONOR, to my blog. Here is a brief description:
Fourteen-year-old Connor’s smart mouth gets her in and—luckily—out of trouble on her prep school’s debate team and in the classroom. On a field trip to the U.K., when she is suddenly catapulted into the year 1272, she finds her royal new friends’ lives are threatened by a conspiracy fueled by greed. When William and Maud learn that their father has been murdered on the Crusade, they beg her to help them find who is plotting against them. William must confront his enemy in battle, but what does Connor discover about herself and her ability to use words when she tries to save her new friends—and herself?
Tell your readers about your new book, TIME OF HONOR. How did you come up with your main character, Connor.
I knew I’d need a resourceful character who wasn’t afraid to tangle with anyone, and, having coached speech and debate for many years (yes, I’m a retired NFL coach!), it occurred to me that my debaters were great models for Connor. They were courageous, quick-witted, and intelligent, and, oh, yes, more than a few had “smart mouths”! Within a character’s greatest trait lies her “tragic flaw,” the seeds of her own destruction (according to Aristotle. ha), so I decided that her quick-draw speech proclivity could fit perfectly with the plot I was hatching.
How did you come up with the idea for your book? I love historical fiction, especially when it is entwined with present time.
As a medieval history major (anything before 1600 is way too modern for me!), I’d always wanted to live back in the middle ages, and, growing up seeing castles and such in Europe, it wasn’t too big a jump to write myself back into that time. I’ve written other time-travel adventures (my adventure-biographies of Langston Hughes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, etc.), and it was always so much fun to juxtapose a modern kid with history, highlighting the contrasts and similarities, so it was a natural plot progression for me. When I was writing this manuscript, it was always so hard to drag myself back into the 21st century!
Share your favorite excerpt/scene.
That’s a hard question! One of my favorite scenes in the beginning is when Connor’s new titled friends want her to wear their late mother’s clothing, because what she’s wearing “isn’t seemly,” (think New England hip prep school attire). She cringes, hoping that her new friends are right when they assure her that, indeed, the serving woman has carefully inspected the gown for fleas and other creatures. To change into the gown, she has to go into the garderobe (privy) and is grossed out by the accommodations. Now, she is becoming desperate, wondering how she can get back to her own time as soon as possible. It was really a lot of fun for me to contrast the modern with the medieval all through the story, so there are plenty more of those scenes, including the final face-off between – well, I can’t share the “spoiler”!
What was your favorite book as a teen? Tell us about it and how it affected you as a person.
My favorite book as a teen was – well – there were so many, I can’t pick out just one. The one that really rocked my world as a young teen, though, was the 1952 novel TO CATCH A THIEF, by David Dodge. Years later, I saw it as a movie, but nothing could match the thrill I felt when first reading the adventure, set in glamorous foreign venues, with the page-turning plot twists. How I wish I could write like that! It made me want to return to Europe and live there – well, not as a cat burglar – but in that atmosphere. It sounded so exciting, and that memory still motivates me to travel to that part of the world and enjoy the people and culture – but not steal their jewels!
What shaped your decision to write for the younger reader?
As a teacher and as a parent, it was a natural decision, since I spent so much of my life with people who weren’t yet adults – but who thought they were. I’ve read that one wants to write for the age group where he or she had the most intense experiences, and, for me, that would be the tween ages. Connecting with young readers is so affirming; they’re full of energy and enthusiasm and are continually full of surprises, and I thoroughly enjoy my school visits with all ages of students.
How has writing affected your life? And what’s your favorite part of being a writer?
Writing has affected my life because I no longer have to grade papers, but I do have to “grade” my own work, when I do the continual revisions. Because I love playing with words, I get to do what is really enjoyable for me on a daily basis – except for when something isn’t working, and then it’s shoulder to the wheel. My favorite part of being a writer is communicating with young readers – either through letters and emails they send me – or in author visits to schools, both in person or Skyping. Kids are so energetic and full of ideas and quirky comments that they keep me on my toes, and it’s really inspirational for my writing.
What advice can you give regarding the writing process?
Ellen Kozak wrote the First Commandment of Writers: “Thou Shalt Not Fall In Love With Thine Own Words.” Oh, my goodness, it’s possible that truer words were never written. How many times have I written something that made me want to jump up and down and holler, “Yes! Yes! Yes!” Then, I put it away for a bit, take it out, and ask myself, “What was I thinking?” What is important is to have a critique partner, someone who knows what your vision is and, at the same time, isn’t afraid to push you to the next level. I’m blessed to have a dear writer friend, Bonnie Graves (THE BEST WORST DAY, MYSTERY OF THE TOOTH GREMLIN, CALIFORNIA CONDOR: FLYING FREE, etc.) from my years in Minnesota who is my CP, and we email manuscripts and blog posts back and forth to each other. Once a year we try to get together and our husbands make martinis and converse while we talk stories.
Regarding publication and marketing, what advice can you offer aspiring writers?
Make lists of necessary tasks far in advance (at least six months ahead of publication), using all the resources you’ve been reading on the internet, written by authoritative authors. Think outside the box for niche marketing. But, more important, do only what you’re comfortable with. I can’t do a blog, because I know I’d be driven to blog every day, and, then, where would my writing be? I couldn’t handle both, though I know many writers who do a wonderful job of it (are you blushing, yet?). Twitter is fine, but I do have to limit my time, because I’m enticed to follow all those links, and, although they can be very illuminating, at the same time, I’m know I’m shorting my writing life. To be courteous and kind to all is probably the very most important advice. Never underestimate the power of a simple, heartfelt “thank you.”
How can your fans find, follow or friend you?
My wonderful website designer is always updating my website with new links to posts and blogs and free lesson plans for my books. http://margosorenson.com/
You can follow me (and please do!) on Twitter as @ipapaverison (the first three words of my favorite Italian childhood song), where I tweet about education, writing, reading, and some just plain silly stuff.
Thank you so much, C.K., for inviting me to be a guest on your great blog again! Aloha!
It was so wonderful to have you visit, Margo. I’m thrilled for your successes and can’t wait for our readers to share your stories!