Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Meet author Penny Ehrenkranz
Katie: I'm pleased to interview author Penny Ehrenkranz on my blog today. Penny has many publishing credits, including 75 articles, 50 stories, 2 ebooks and a chapter book. She writes for both adults and children.
Penny, welcome to my blog today. Please give us a summary of your latest chapter book, "Ghost for Rent."
Penny: "Ghost for Rent" is a middle grade, paranormal, ghost story and is aimed at youth in grades four to six. It is approximately 65 pages long. The story begins when eleven year old Wendy Wiles learns her parents are planning to get divorced. When the family is forced to leave Wendy's beloved city home for a cheaper country place, Wendy, her mother, and her twelve year old brother move to rural Warren, Oregon.
On move-in day, Wendy meets a neighbor girl who tells her their quaint country home is haunted. Events proceed quickly as Wendy, her new friend, Jennifer, and Wendy's brother, Mike, see ghostly figures dancing in the woods. Despite Mom's claims that "there's no such thing as ghosts," paranormal events occur in the Wiles' home. Meanwhile her brother Mike, arch-tease, torments Wendy, claiming he's causing the unusual happenings.
Wendy searches through library records to get to the bottom of the mystery. Finally with Jennifer's help, Wendy begins to unravel the truth. At last even Mike can no longer disbelieve and decides to aid Wendy in her search. By the end of the story, the three young sleuths have uncovered an accidental death, a suicide and a murder.
Katie: What inspired you to write this chapter book?
Penny: I would have to say my daughter. She was a middle-grader at the time I started working on it, and although I had numerous publications in magazines, both fiction and non-fiction, she insisted I wasn't a writer because I didn't have a "book." After hearing a friend talk about ghostly sightings in a house she had rented, "Ghost for Rent" became a story I had to tell. I had great fun writing it.
Katie: Do any of your published works parallel your life?
Penny: I suspect most of my characters have attributes which can be found in family and friends, but the stories I've told are pure fantasy. My non-fiction, however, is strongly anchored around volunteer work I've done such as grant-writing, working with troubled teens, domestic and sexual violence victims, and human rights issues.
Katie: Since you have published so widely, which genre is your favorite and why?
Penny: I love fantasy, whether it's dark fantasy, like my paranormal, or high fantasy like my illustrated chapbook, "Dragon Sight." I think once I read Tolkien, I was hooked in fantasy. This is the genre I usually read, so I'm most comfortable writing it. There are quite a few ghost tales from the area where I live, so it's easy to do research.
Katie: You've written many articles and short stories. Do you research differently for an article than a short story?
Penny: I definitely do. As I've said before, most of my articles are based on my own experience as a volunteer. I've written about date rape, surviving domestic violence, learning tolerance, listening to your children, and how to run a no-cost, talented and gifted volunteer-based school program, among other things. As a volunteer for different local agencies, I went through training and also did training myself of other volunteers. This gives me both a wealth of research material, plus personal experience. Also, having worked for a prosecutor's office, I had access to a lot of other experts in many of the fields in which I have volunteered.
When I write a story, I may do background research. A lot of my fantasy stories have worlds which I have created, so it's hard to say what type of research I put into those. In "Ghost for Rent," the research was more thinking back to what life was like in our small town twenty years ago. Then, if I wasn't clear, I checked with other long-time community members or old newspaper listings.
Katie: What three words do you think describe you as a writer?
Penny: That's tough. I guess I would have to say versatile because I don't stick to one type of writing; creative, since I do a lot of my own world-building; and persistent since I feel if I can't sell a piece to one editor, there's usually one at another magazine that will love it.
Katie: Would you please share a typical writing day for us?
Penny: I have no typical writing days. When I was working full-time, I would write after I got home from work and dinner was finished. Now that I'm retired, I have more flexibility, which is good, as life tends to get in the way of my writing more often than not. I'm learning to network so that takes some of my time. I've also started blogging about writing. I tend to fit in my writing when I can.
Katie: What future writing plans do you have?
Penny: I am always looking for ideas for articles. I would love to write travel articles, and have taken a class, but so far haven't been able to sell any of those pieces. I am also interested in getting into the market which caters to retired and senior citizens. With my new granddaughter, I have put together a picture book, but it still needs some work. I am working on a sequel to "Ghost for Rent," and I also love to enter contests.
Katie: What sort of marketing and promotional work have you done for "Ghost for Rent?"
Penny: Unfortunately, when "Ghost for Rent" was first released in 2003, I didn't know very much about marketing. I did a book signing at my local independent book store and our local newspaper ran a press release and did a small interview. Only recently, I learned about online marketing, such as blog tours. I also joined a social networking site and have been promoting my book there. I know there is a lot more I need to learn about marketing and promotion. One of the things I still need to do is set up a personal website to promote my work.
Katie: What sort of struggles did you face while writing "Ghost for Rent?"
Penny: I have always written short stories, so the hardest thing for me was sustaining a long story such a "Ghost for Rent." I have a hard time adding all the details and expanding minor characters, both of which are needed to flesh out a novel. At the time, I didn't know too much about critique groups, so I had friends' children read the story. They aren't always the best critics.
Katie: Most writers have experienced writer's block. What have you done to get past it?
Penny: If I'm stuck, I generally switch to a different type of writing. If I'm working on a story, and it isn't going anywhere, I'll tackle a non-fiction article. If my novel is bogging down, I may switch to flash fiction. When all else fails, I sometimes resort to writing prompts or journaling, just to start writing. Once my brain is in gear, the writing generally follows. Some days, if I'm really blocked, I may have to throw out everything I've written, but at least I put something on paper and that's always important.
Katie: What three pieces of advice would you give to beginning writers?
Penny: The most important thing I learned is that it's okay to be rejected. When I first started submitting stories in my early twenties, I didn't have a clue what I was doing. When I received my first few rejections, I felt I had nothing to offer and I wasn't a writer. Now I know better and have learned that even the very best and highest paid writers are rejected. The second thing I would say, is that it's important to submit your work. Once a piece is written, if it just languishes in a drawer or a computer file, it will never come to life. Lastly, I would say it's important to perfect your grammar and spelling and to find your own writing voice. Sending off an unprofessional manuscript that sounds like your favorite author is not going to get you published.
You can order "Ghost for Hire" here and her ebooks through Fictionwise, and the "Ghost for Rent" ebook at Amazon.