First off, jealous!
What’s it like living in Seattle, how did you find yourself there?
Technically I live in a pretty little town called Kirkland just across the lake from Seattle. Some folks call it the “banana belt” which simply means it rains a tiny bit less here than it does in Seattle. I’m told our Puget Sound climate is much like that of England, so we share with you beautiful gardens, mild temperatures, and lots of precipitation.
You probably know all about our coffee and software culture (think Starbucks and Microsoft), but we also are a community of readers. What goes better with a double latte on a rainy day than a great book? We have all the culture of other cities: theatre, opera, art galleries, and so forth. But we also enjoy being nestled between two beautiful mountain ranges: the Cascades and the Olympics. In the winter skiers can be cruising the slopes within an hour or two. In the spring, summer, and fall we can hike, canoe, kayak, and camp to our heart’s content. The Puget Sound area is truly a glorious place to live.
My husband and I visited a friend in the Seattle area years ago and really liked the feel of the place. When he was offered a position at a company here we relocated in a heartbeat.
So what’s the first book you really fell in love with?
Are you only going to let me have one? I was an early, voracious reader…it got me out of helping my mother with the dinner dishes, quite irritating to my older sister. “Oh, leave Danelle alone. She’s reading.” I loved so many books! Still do. But if I had to choose just one, my earliest love was probably E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. I remember sobbing uncontrollably. And then I read it again, and again, and again.
I still have my original copy, crackly yellow and dog-eared. Such a beautiful story of friendship, love, and self-sacrifice.
Can you tell the Privateers a little about you and how you came up with the idea of this mad pirate tale?
I’m a wife, mother, and Jill-of-all-trades who loves animals, kids, and the outdoors. I get bored really easily and need to have projects going all the time. I have degrees in literature, economics, German, and international business and have worked as a translator, interpreter, technical writer, and journalist. One of the most fulfilling jobs I’ve ever had was a volunteer position as a wildlife rehabilitator. I hike with a field guide so I can identify plants and animals. I garden and enjoy working with my hands. All of this has been funneled into The Pirate’s Booty.
Like many writers for children, I came up with this idea when I told my son bedtime stories. Well, partially. One of my son’s favorite characters was an unlucky pirate captain who was forever losing his ship. Sometimes he was attacked by other pirates, sometimes he slipped on the wet deck and fell overboard, sometimes his crew mutinied. One time a spaceship full of aliens ejected him with a laser beam. These stories did not have the intended effect of lulling my son to sleep. He was generally laughing too hard at the misadventures of Pirate Hank. I’m a sucker for kids’ laughter.
If you’ve seen “Mess or Inspiration?” on my blog at www.dmdarroch.com, you’ll know where my idea for Angus came from: my garage. Many parents of inventive boys and girls have similar spaces in their homes. While hiking in Montana on a family vacation, my son and I were talking about Pirate Hank and I had an epiphany. What if a young inventor-in-training like the one who lives in my house were to have an accident and wind up marooned with Pirate Hank? And what if a pirate from Hank’s ship moved into my house? As I brainstormed the idea on the top of Big Mountain, my son was laughing heartily. I just love that sound. I started writing as soon as we returned from vacation.
An inventor-in-training sounds awesome! But who is your favourite character in the story and why?
You’re only going to let me have one again, aren’t you? I’m so fond of all the characters in this story, well, maybe not Marge. But if I had to choose…I have a real affinity for Sir Schnortle. He is just so himself. He doesn’t try to be anything but who he is and he makes no apologies for it. And he really knows how to get even with BP.
Is there a scene in the story you’re most proud of?
I’m partial to the scene in “Discipline” when Mrs. Clark has arguably one of the worst mornings a mother could have. I really enjoyed writing that scene. Now when I have a bad morning I think, “Well, at least I don’t own a pair of sherbet green slippers.”
Was the story hard to write, or did it flow out of you like you couldn’t stop it?
Yes. Both. The main story sprang from my fingertips to the keyboard as fast as I could type. I had to set a timer so I would remember to stop writing and pick my son up from the bus stop. The inventions were a bit more time-consuming. I wanted them to be believable things a smart boy could build with what he found around him. I didn’t just want to write an abracadabra moment in which some fantastic contraption appears out of nowhere. I wanted to take the reader along on the creative process, to inspire the reader to think inventively along with Angus and Ivy. I would love to hear that a young reader built something in their garage after reading The Pirate’s Booty.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers, particularly of illustrated fiction?
The best advice I could give is to find your audience even if it is just one person. Write your story for that person. Move that one person and you’ll have created a great read. In my case, that one person is my son. He enjoys a fast-moving adventure tale with humor. I wrote descriptively because, even though I’m crafty, I’m no illustrator. My illustrator Jennifer L. Hotes was able to read my chapters and create images that suited my story. If a picture didn’t quite suit or she had questions about which way to go, I knew that meant I needed to rewrite a section for clarity.
For writers who intend to hire an illustrator, I would suggest you find someone you enjoy working with. Be able to give and take criticism graciously. Your illustrator is on your team and wants your book to succeed as much as you do.
Finally, if you could have any superpower what would it be?
I should say something altruistic like “the ability to snap my fingers and remove all pain and suffering from the earth”. But today, I’d settle for the witchy power of Samantha on the old sitcom “Bewitched” to clean up her entire house with one wiggle of the nose.
Check out all of this awesomeness while you’re at it!