Welcome to the Interview An Author segment of my blog. I am honored to introduce a very talented author, JZ Bingham. Thank you JZ for coming here to share your books and venture in publishing. I previously reviewed your wonderful first book, Dreamy Drums, Trouble in Paradise, on my blog and found it to be a delightful read for children
1. When did you decide to be a writer?
I was a financial writer for many years. The decision to embark on a career of fiction writing was made in 2010, after a difficult year of divorce and separation anxiety from losing my daughter to out-of-state college. After floundering through this mid-life crisis of sorts, my melancholy mood led to deep thoughts about my life up to that point that begged to be put down on paper. After this self-analysis in words, I decided to write about the new little joy in my life — a new puppy, whose hilarious personality and antics inspired me to begin a story for children about the cartoon version of her.
2. How did you come up with the ideas and characters for your Dreamy Drums books?
The first character I came up with was Sammy, the male version of my dog Samira. I made her a male because of her tomboy characteristics. Next came his parents; instead of making them human, I made them dogs also, but they’re all different types of dogs, signifying the diversity of the family unit in general. There’s a lot of symbolism in Salty Splashes stories. My initial character for his sister was a dog also, but my publisher thought she should be a cat. I resisted at first but went along with it. It’s funny how Kat has quickly become a run-away favorite among kids, both boys and girls, because of her prowess and wit. My publisher came up with the worm, squirrel and bobcat characters. Interestingly, the squirrel and the bobcat are based on real animals in my yard. They kept appearing during the writing of the books, so we put them in. They all play important roles, forming the core group within Salty Splashes. The King and his tribe of foxes are based on the historical presence of cattle ranches and indigenous foxes on the Channel Islands. The name of the island and the King, Gansevort, came to me spontaneously while writing the page that first introduces the King, and is a bit of dark humor: Gansevoort Street is the name of a street in Manhattan in the heart of the meat-packing district. I took out the extra “o” so kids wouldn’t mispronounce it.
3. Have you always loved to write in rhyme?
I’ve always loved rhyme, but I never wrote in rhyme. I’m a big fan of classic rap music — the funny kind from the ‘70’s and ’80’s — rhymes that are lyrical and incorporate humor. The origin for the Salty Splashes rhymes actually came about when I wrote a synopsis of my book for my publisher, in rhyme, just on a whim. It was a funny version of what was originally a chapter book. He liked the rhyme but disliked the story. He decided the books should be rewritten, and all in rhyme. It seemed daunting at the time, but the rhymes just came to me, very naturally, and since then, I’ve been able to write other rhyming poems on a whim, many of which are displayed on my Facebook page and on LinkedIn. I know it’s just the beginning, because I have three books I’m working on to expand the Salty Splashes series. All will be in rhyme.
4. How many books are in this series?
Currently, there are three Salty Splashes books. I’ll have another one for Christmas 2013 and two more for Spring 2014. Another two are due for Fall 2014. We anticipate about four books per year.
5. How did your find your wonderful illustrator?
My publisher found Curt Walstead. I’m not sure how. I believe I searched the Internet and liked his portfolio. It’s interesting that Curt’s work has evolved in this distinct style because his work before Salty Splashes doesn’t really resemble what’s he’s done for Balcony 7, my publisher. The vision of my publisher was so strong, he steered Curt with very clear direction of the world and the characters in these books. Curt is very talented and has a keen lock on this world. That’s pretty evident when you see these books, particularly in hardcover. The full-bleed illustrations are so vibrant and expressive, they make the characters and our fictional version of Santa Barbara and the Channel Islands come alive.
6. Are you going to continue writing for this series and characters?
I will probably write for this series until my dying day. I feel very close to these characters because I’ve given them their voice. Also, their world is my backyard, so there’s a very strong connection there as well. I feel them, I hear them, and I can assure you, there will be a lot more in their future.
7. Any new books and series in progress?
I’m currently working on a trilogy of fiction, based on a true story. The first book is a coming-of-age story from the perspective of a 17-year old and will be a Young Adult novel. Her story is epic and touches on so many aspects of life. The following two books will focus on the two decades after, and will probably be geared toward Adults, but I anticipate the YA crowd will want to follow her development. I hope to have the first book out for spring 2014; at the latest, it will be out in the fall. I’ve read excerpts already to a very small group of writers at the recent Santa Barbara Writers Conference and it was well-received. I now have a whole group of highly qualified beta readers interested in reading the first draft.
8. Please share how my readers can follow you and purchase your books.
My website, www.jzbingham.com is a place for updates and to read my regular Blog posts, which I’ve been told are “colorful.” I’m also very easy to find on social media: I have a Facebook page and I’m also on Twitter, both as JZ Bingham. I also love my LinkedIn page, where I often contribute spontaneous poetry on my World of Poets group. As far as the books go, we had a soft launch recently but our official release date of Salty Splashes books won’t be until November 1st. This is an issue that my publisher is working on and has a lot to do with our global distribution partner, who is actively working on getting these books into stores all across the US and Canada over the next several months. We’re ramping up for a big opening just before Christmas, and you’ll see these books in physical and on-line stores by then. For signed copies and free custom bookmarks, only the books purchased through www.balcony7.com will include those. Again, November 1st is the day.
9. Anything else you would like to tell us about yourself and your venture into becoming an author?
Being an author requires the ability to put yourself out there, not only with the expectation of being critiqued, but also with the expectation that your honesty or potential success will reveal you to masses of strangers. In my case, I don’t mind critiques; I love listening to my audience and improving my writing. What I’ve found so far with the limited release we’ve had to date, is the overwhelming joy that I feel when I’m sent a photo of a smiling child posing with one of my books; the warmth that emanates from my heart when seeing these, and reading their sweetly innocent requests for more books…I just can’t tell you how that feels. Being an author requires honesty and a whole-hearted attempt at excellence; two things that aren’t as easy as they sound. The payback, however, is priceless.
Thank you Janice for the opportunity to visit with you on your blog. I enjoyed sharing my books with you and your readers.
I enjoyed having you here, JZ, thank you. I wish you much success in the writing and publishing of your new books. Please feel free to stop by again to let us you know how you are doing and share any new books you may have at that time.
A special thank you to my kind readers for stopping by. I sincerely hope that you enjoyed this interview with JZ Bingham and getting to know her better as much as I did. Her books are beautiful and cleverly written in rhyme that will delight children ages seven and up. Her blog and website are outstanding and colorful and eye catching. Check them out.
REMEMBER: READING GIVES YOU WINGS TO FLY!
Thought for the day: Say something nice to someone to make them smile!