Bookpleasures.com welcomes as our guest Q.L. Pearce who is the author of more than 120 books for young readers, from picture books to YA, as well as film tie-in books for the Fox animated film Titan AE and the Universal animated series Land Before Time, Red Bird Sings: The Story of Zitkala Sa (Carolrhoda Books, with co-author and illustrator, Gina Capaldi), received several awards including a Carter G. Woodson Book Award gold medal from NCSS and a Moonbeam Children’s Book Award gold medal.
Her fiction includes the popular middle grade series, Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs (Price, Stern, Sloan). Q believes strongly in the value of scary books for young readers. When asked what credentials she has which qualify her as an expert in this area she replies, "I was a child once. That was very scary."
Norm: Good day Q.L. and thanks for participating in our interview.
How long have you been writing? And how long did it take you to get your first major book contract?
Q.L. I’ve been writing since I could first scribble out a story on paper. I won my first school writing contest in third grade and my first city sponsored contest at age eleven. Once I began seriously submitting to magazines I gathered an extensive collection of rejections. Over the course of ten years or so the rejections went from definite “no” to “no, but keep submitting.” My first contract with a major publisher was for an activity book about dinosaurs. It was with Price Stern Sloan. My first contract for fiction also came from Price Stern Sloan when they published Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs.
Norm: Why do you write? Do you have a theme, message, or goal for your books and why did you choose to write books for young readers?
Q.L. I write because I love doing it. I have a passion for researching nonfiction topics and biography. Fiction is my favorite, though. I’ve always been a storyteller and I’m partial to horror, sci-fi and mystery. I remember once when I was a kid a neighbor complained to my mother that I was scaring her daughter with my spooky stories.
I can’t say that I have an overarching theme or message but my goal is to empower kids and to entertain. That’s why I enjoy writing for young readers. They generally read for the fun of it.
Norm: Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Q.L. Ideas come from everywhere…magazines, newspapers, travel. An offbeat article about Scottish castles or crop circles might catch my eye. I might see a strangely shaped tree while on a hike and wonder what lurks at its roots. My dear friend, author Tamara Thorne, and I sometimes take road trips. We visit haunted hotels, abandoned buildings and ghost towns, all for inspiration.
Norm: What advice can you give aspiring writers that you wished you had gotten, or that you wished you would have listened to?
Q.L. Finish what you start. I have several manuscripts that are sitting in a file folder because I didn’t push through when I hit a weak spot. Once that happens I start second-guessing and lose momentum. It’s a bad habit. A prolific writer I respect told me to get the story on paper even if it isn’t exactly what I had in mind, then go back and get it right.
A piece of advice I always give to young writers is to travel, meet new people, learn about new cultures and try new things. Life experience is a wonderful muse.
Norm: How many times in your career have you experienced rejection? How did they shape you?
Q.L. I’ve had manuscripts turned down, books in work cancelled, and negative reviews. I try to find the lesson in each rejection that can make my work stronger. I suppose I’ve developed a thick skin over the years. One of my favorite work mantras is a quote from Dory in Finding Nemo. “Just keep swimming.”
Norm: Are you a plot or character writer?
Q.L. Plot without a doubt. I work hard to develop my characters but the story truly shapes them.
Norm: What does a typical writing day look like for you, from waking to turning in at night, and how does it compare to a conventional 9 to 5 job?
Q.L. I begin my day with meditation even before my first cup of coffee. I have a wonderful husband, two dogs, a bird, a host of fish, and a garden. They get first dibs on my attention after my practice. I start my reading and research mid-morning then spend two or three hours writing. My dogs take me out for walks a couple of times a day and I use that time to brainstorm. Daily life, errands, cooking, chores, exercise, and reading fit in here and there. I usually write for another hour or so at the end of the day. I turn in early and rise early. The critters pretty much determine that schedule.
Norm: How has your environment/upbringing colored your writing?
Q.L. My parents always encouraged me to explore and be curious about the world. I am Canadian born to British parents. Shortly after I was born we moved to Baranquilla, Colombia, then to Florida where I lived on an island. Now California is my home. I love to travel. My husband and I lived in Paris for a while and most recently have visited, Shanghai, Lhasa,Tibet, and Cambridge, England. I think this exposure to a wide world of possibility has shaped me as a person and influenced my writing.
Norm: What helps you focus when you write and do you find it easy reading back your own work?
Q.L. I’m easily distracted. Having deadlines helps me focus. I have to shut off my inner editor and just go for it. I enjoy reading back my own writing and tweaking it into shape.
Norm: Please tell us about your latest book, Spine Chillers?
Q.L. My first short story series was Scary Stories for Sleep-Overs. It did very well. Although it has been out of print for some time, I still hear from now adult readers who let me know how much they liked the books when they were kids. Spinechillers is a collection of short stories for a new generation of tweens to teens. It includes classic ghosts, a monster or two, urban legends and one tale that is an homage to The Twilight Zone.
Norm: Which character in your latest book was the easiest to write? Most difficult?
Q.L. The easiest character to write was Hendrik in the story Seaworthy. He is based on an old legend and I had a lot of fun bringing him to life.
The most difficult to write was Tyler, the main character in the story Prom Date. He makes some unfortunate choices but he isn’t a mean kid. I tried to keep a balance so the reader could see why he made the choices he did and how conflicted he felt about them.
Norm: Where can our readers find out more about you and your books?
They can go to my WEBSITE
Norm: Are you working on any books/projects that you would like to share with us? (We would love to hear all about them!)
Q.L. I’m working on a few things including the next volume of Spinechillers. I have two fact fiction picturebooks in work with coauthor/illustrator Gina Capaldi, a middle grade mystery adventure with coauthor Francesca Rusackas, and a YA horror novel. I’m also thrilled to be joining Tamara Thorne and Alistair Cross as co-host for YA nights on Thorne and Cross Haunted Nights LIVE, part of the Authors on the Air: Radio Network.
Norm: As this interview draws to a close what one question would you have liked me to ask you? Please share your answer.
Q.L. I think you covered everything very well. Thanks!
Norm: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer my questions. Good luck with all of your books.