Wednesday, March 18, 2009

An Interview with Danette Haworth, author of "Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning"

I am so pleased to introduce Danette Haworth, author of "Violet Raines Almost Got Struck By Lightning", which I reviewed recently here. Violet was her debut novel for young adults, and was recently picked up by Scholastic Books. They have even featured her book in a trailer on their website! Danette is a central Floridian, a mother and a wife, a blogger at her site Summer Friend, and is quite a cool lady! Emma and I enjoyed her book so much, that we decided it would be fun to ask her a few questions!

Sandy: We know from seeing your book trailer on the Scholastic website that the woods and the Econ River, which is near your house, was your inspiration for the backdrop of Violet Raines. What was your inspiration for the character of Violet and her adventures?

Danette: When my mother was a young girl, she lived up north in farm country and I grew up hearing all her stories, one involved the neighbors, who invited her over every Sunday for a fish fry. I also have a picture of my mother as a little girl sitting on horse. She looks so stubborn! So when I sat down to work on an idea, I thought I was going to write an adult book, a kind of mother/daughter thing with issues. Then Violet walked in one day and took over! She came to me as a complete character, her attitude, her looks, her accent; she even brought her friends with her! I spent the next couple of weeks coming up with a worthy trial that would be genuine to Violet’s character.

Sandy: What part of the book was your favorite to write?

Danette: Some days I struggled and other days I was on a roll, but every single day I looked forward to being in the woods with Violet. The whole book was fun to write. Whatever part I was working on that day was my favorite. And Violet—whoa, Violet!—she made me snicker with the things she said.

Sandy: I’ve read that you like the woods and the mountains. Where is your absolute favorite vacation spot?

Danette: My absolute favorite vacation spot is anywhere in the Great Smoky Mountains. This is going to sound all dramatic and everything, but being deep in the woods gives me joy unfettered. I’ll even wax poetic here: Being on land once trod by Indians and settlers is akin to being taken back in time. And the bigness of it--all those trees and the wind rustling the leaves--the absolute bigness of it all and the smallness of me brings to mind the scripture What is man, that thou art mindful of him?

Sandy: Do you have a special place where you write? Any special routines?

Danette: My husband and I used to share an extra bedroom that we used as an office. After I sold my first book, he kicked himself out. Now I’ve got the room to myself and everything stays just as I left it. My day begins No! NO! Not time to get up! with me trudging downstairs in the dark to make lunches and get everyone ready for school. I drop off my precious cargo, straighten up a little bit, and I am writing by ten. I take no phone calls, make no dates, and try (but fail) to not repeatedly check my email.

Sandy: Can you tell us a little about your upcoming projects?

Danette: "The Hotel of Blueberry Goodness" is scheduled with Walker for Spring 2010. It’s about a girl who lives in a dilapidating, antebellum hotel and meets an eclectic group of friends, including a teenage runaway. "Me and Jack", Walker 2011, centers on Joshua Reed, his unusual dog, and the struggle they face being accepted in their new town.

Sandy: What is the best book you’ve read lately?

Danette: I loved Second Fiddle, a middle-grade novel by Siobhan Parkinson. The main character is wonderful and the internal dialogue—hilarious!

Sandy: This is one I always love to ask, because you get the greatest answers! Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us!

Danette: This is hard! I’m trying to think of something shocking. Would annoying do? I once worked as a telephone solicitor, so yeah, that was me calling about timeshares during your supper.

Sandy: OK, I have to ask this. Before my husband and I had kids, we would take our yellow lab and go hiking every weekend. One weekend, we hiked along the Econ River, and came across a swinging rope bridge that was fairly high. Despite my fear of heights, we crossed it, but about two-thirds of the way over, it got very narrow. We tried to turn around because we didn’t think the dog would be able to navigate it, and when we did, the dog FELL over the side and into the river. We had to coax her to swim back to the side (with the leash still attached to her, and snagging on limbs). The fun was officially over at that point, and I demanded we go home. I still have nightmares about this, and the story has been told countless times to the kids. Could this be the same bridge in your book? It came right into mind when I was reading!

Danette: Sandy,OMG! That is the same bridge! I cannot believe you’ve walked on it—I was afeared! My husband and I were canoeing and we saw the bridge coming up in the treetops. “Come on, come on,” he said. He wanted to pull the canoe over and run across the bridge. I just kept paddling. It looked too high, too scary.

We paddled on and sailed under. About a minute later, the bridge clanked and squeaked and I turned around to see two little blonde girls on the bridge. They pranced across it like wood sprites and disappeared into the other side of the woods, their laughter trailing behind them.

Sandy: Thank you so much Danette! I so appreciate you taking time to share a little of yourself with us!


Melody said...

That's a great interview, Sandy!
Your bridge-crossing adventure sounds scary to me... I'm glad everyone was OK!!!

Beth F said...

Super interview! Thanks so much to you both for sharing. Violet sounds like a great character.

Unknown said...

Great interview! It's amazing that you recognised the bridge from the book! It always makes the book so much better if you have a good knowledge of it's setting.

Iliana said...

Sandy I don't know how I missed your original review of the book but got a chance to read it and it sounds really fun. I don't read YA too often but that's going on my list.

Great interview!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Melody - thank you! Yes the bridge incident has afforded me some serious baggage!

Beth - Violet is a girl after my own heart. Full of moxie and true to herself.

Jackie - I was just amazed that the bridge in her story was the bridge of my nightmares. It was the first thing that came to mind, even though it happened about 13 years ago!

Iliana - a year ago, I would have said I never read YA. But with an 11 year-old, plus the YA exposure on the blogs, I'm finding that I am missing out!

The Bumbles said...

Total Twilight Zone moment that you two know the same old bridge! I am impressed with your interview - I'm nervous just to lead a book discussion, much less talk to the author - which would be a feat in and of itself since she is deceased - but you get the idea!

Sandy Nawrot said...

Bumbles - it was a very freaky coincidence! I've been nervous to ask for interviews with authors, but Danette is very real and unpretentious. I'm glad I made contact with her!

Unknown said...

Great interview!

Gavin said...

Sandy, Great interview! I loved Danette's description of Violet walking in and taking over.

Unknown said...

Enjoyed the interview. It's very cool that you both crossed the same bridge like that.

In spite of the danger, C.J. and I should really take the dogs hiking more often.

Looking forward to more interviews.

Literary Feline said...

What a great interview! And how neat that you walked across the bridge in the book Sandy! It really adds a new layer to a book when you have been to a particular place described in a book, doesn't it?

This sounds like a wonderful book.