As promised, this week we have an interview with children’s author, P.J. Larue, author of “The Mystic Princesses and Whirlpool.” So, without further authorial intrusion from me, I give you the interview.
1. What inspired you to write? Was it a particular book? A particular author?
I wrote in high school, but stopped for a long time. I started writing again about two and one-half years ago after a former co-worker and his three sons were killed in a car crash. I didn’t know him very well, but the intense grief that a family would feel after losing all of its men at one time, spoke to me. I sat at my computer, tears streaming down my face, as I wrote a poem to his sister who was also a former co-worker. I hoped to bring some solace to her. It turned out that her family did find comfort in it. Another friend of the family added pictures of the four men as a border around the poem. The sister keeps her copy of the poem at work and each of the men’s wives and mother hung it in their homes. I also have it hanging in my office, as a reminder that life is short, and we never know when it will end. I do not share the poem on the internet, because I believe it belongs to the family. To know that something I wrote means so much to them is humbling.
2. How did you settle on writing for children and do you plan on expanding into adult fare?
Even though I’ve been promoting my children’s book, I write poems and pair it with my photography. Some of my poems and poetry are on my Pinterest board and on my Facebook page.
I wrote The Mystic Princesses because several of my co-workers encouraged me to give writing a shot once they read the poem I mentioned above.
I enjoy writing short stories. I like researching a historical event. My story lines then provide “reasons” for why the historical event unfolded as it did. I submit the short stories to writing contests. My short story “The Confession of D. B. Cooper” received an honorable mention last year for the Writer’s Digest Crime Competition at the end of 2011.
3. You’ve said elsewhere that your book for children, “The Mystic Princess and the Whirlpool,” teaches peace and preventing violence. What prompted you to choose that topic over more common topics in children’s books, such as truthfulness or teamwork?
After the initial draft, I realized I had four characters that represented the elements of water, fire, air and the earth, but no conflict. The book was all happy, and needed tension to move it forward. So I added Princess Harmonie, named for Harmonia, the daughter of the god Ares, from Greek mythology. I used Princess Harmonie to represent peace, and the initial four characters to use their elemental powers to protect her from her brothers and sisters who want to fight and cause wars.
There is so much violence in the world, and I can’t help but think we as authors can help bring it down a notch or two. Our youth are exposed to video games, movies and books which are desensitizing them to the value of human life. Movies and video games are often inspired by successful books. It would be a great accomplishment if authors could help to turn the tide toward teaching others to respect each other’s opinions and to value life. I remember being taught the Golden Rule, “Treat others as you would want to be treated.” I’d love to be part of a movement to teach that again.
4. You currently publish as an indie author. Do you want to transition into traditional publishing or do you plan continue in indie publishing?
Currently, I plan to continue with The Mystic Princess series as an indie author. However, I am open to both avenues. If one of my short stories were to catch the attention of an agent, I would definitely explore the options presented.
5. Children today are considerably more tech-savvy than they were even 10 years ago. Do you see digital books, such as those for Kindle, as the inevitable end point for children’s books, or will there always be a market for hard copies?
I think we may be in a transitional period right now, because ereaders are very popular with adults, and they are spreading to children, as well. Ebooks typically cost less than print books and schools are moving toward the use of ereaders instead of distributing print books.
Toddlers and pre-school children love to turn the pages of books. However, with interactive ebooks becoming available, that could change. Elementary age, which is my target, is tough because the children are converting from picture books to chapter books and may not be fully into the tech group yet. I may be a little ahead of the curve by issuing The Mystic Princesses and the Whirlpool only in an epub format. I do expect epub for children to take off, though, since children are so tech oriented.
6. Do you start with the art or the words for your books, and do you see an advantage to starting with one or the other?
Spouting Horn, Kauai, was a large part of the inspiration for the book. However, I would say that I start with the words, primarily. I don’t see an advantage of starting with one or the other. However, the art must be colorful and pleasing to catch attention.
7. What is your biggest challenge in crafting prose for children?
I found writing on an elementary school age level to be a challenge. I did not “dumb it down,” but I did have several conversations with my editor about appropriate vocabulary and sentence structure for that age level. She recommended that I use the Flesh-Kincaid reading level tool in Microsoft Word to test my sentence structure, length and difficulty levels.
8. If you could tell every parent in the world just one thing, what would it be?
Monitor your children’s TV, video games and books so that their children don’t become desensitized to violence.
9. If you could tell every child in the world just one thing, what would it be?
Make sure they learn to read well. Without reading skills, it is difficult to find a job that will support a family.
10. Do you have your next book planned and, if so, can you tell anything about it?
I have written about 75% of The Mystic Princesses and the Magic Show, which is set in New Orleans. It will feature child safety, such as how the princesses can escape from the Children of Ares if they are captured. These same techniques may help children to escape from potential predators in real life. Like the first book in the series, it also has environmental awareness. The magic show is to raise funds for cleaning and healing wildlife injured as a result of a hurricane causing an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
11. Last one, what are your long term plans in terms of writing?
I’ve pictured The Mystic Princess books as a series of five books, with each character being the primary heroine in one of the books. I will set the books at different locations, so that the readers can learn about each of the areas, but in each book there will be lessons that the children can learn. If I end up with a successful series, it would not have to be limited to five, though.
I also have been toying with an idea for a novel that I want to write, but that may have to wait until I retire from my current full-time job. I don’t think I’ll have the time to write and promote it right now, but it will give me plenty of time to plan the characters and plot.
Get the Book:
Amazon Link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Mystic-Princesses-Whirlpool-ebook/dp/B0086YGAEM
Barnes and Noble.com: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mystic-princesses-and-the-whirlpool-p-j-larue/1111259489
iBookstore Link: http://www.ibookstore.com/products.php?i=B0086YGAEM
Connect with the Author:
Goodreads Link: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16059950-the-mystic-princesses-and-the-whirlpool
Facebook Link: https://www.facebook.com/pj.larue.12
Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Mystic-Princesses-and-the-Whirlpool/313900812057752
Twitter Link: @PJ_LaRue
Pinterest Link: http://pinterest.com/pjlarue12/