Friday, July 29, 2011

Blog Tour: Skipping Stone at the Center of the Earth by Andy Hueller (Giveaway!)

This virtual book tour is being presented by Cedar Fort Publishing
Please click HERE to go to the entire tour schedule.
Please click HERE to see my review.
Welcome to The Wormhole and my day on the tour!
It is my pleasure to feature author Andy Hueller!

Andy Hueller is the author of Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle. He teaches at St. Paul Academy and Summit School and lives in Minneapolis with his wife, Debbie. He gives Cal Cobble credit for leading him to a career writing for younger readers. “I closed my eyes one day years ago and saw this boy with flaming red-orange hair and freckles that looked like smoldering embers. For some reason, he was living in a remote place and didn’t have many friends. I wanted to figure out why he lived so far away and what it was like to be picked on for reasons he couldn’t control.”

I am thrilled to present the interview...
? When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer? I don’t know the answer, but I can share some pieces that might add up to something like an answer. My parents were regular readers around the house and, therefore, so was I. (My twin brother and older sister were and are readers, too.) Like most kids who read, I came to want to tell and write my own stories. I wrote stories for school and on my own. I remember even submitting ideas for movies I wanted to see to different studios. I typed these movie pitches on a typewriter somebody gave our family. Or maybe it was my mom’s from when she was younger? I stopped writing stories in junior high (which is part of why, now that I’m a teacher, I so encourage creative construction in my classroom. How cool is it to create something where before there was nothing?). By the time I was a junior in high school, I knew I would be an English teacher one day. I wasn’t as devoted to reading—too many varsity and intramural sports, movies with friends, etc.—at that point but knew I needed to get back to it. My senior year and just after, I went back and reread every book I’d been assigned in high school. I began spending a lot of my free time, once again, reading. As spring of my first year in college came, I suddenly had an idea for a story. I began getting up every morning and spending at least an hour and a half writing. That first story—a novella, I suppose—wasn’t very good, of course, but I didn’t know that. And I had developed the habits of a writer. College became a lot more fun (and in some ways easier) because I maintained those habits. A couple years into my teaching career, I had to change my habits. I was just too busy planning lessons, grading student work, and trying to spend some time with my wife. So now I write mostly (and feverishly) on breaks. So maybe the answer is this, and I know I’m not the only one: For me, the writing always comes from the reading. Reading regularly gets me thinking narratively.
? How many jobs did you have before you became a writer? Hmm. Well, I still have a job (the best one in the world, this side of Major League middle-infielder): middle school and high school English teacher. But before I published a book? Let’s see. After college (and I worked in college, too, by the way) I was a camp counselor, a tennis coach, a medical-supplies-company low-end editor, and an online writing tutor. Now I’m a teacher and a writer. I still coach, too (basketball and tennis). The medical-supplies-company low-end editor position was kind of like Mr. Bucket’s job in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. He screwed caps on toothpaste tubes over and over. I cut and pasted information into letters that went out to sales reps. It was the same letter, which I assembled fifty or sixty times a day.
? How long does it take you to write a book? The first book I ever finished writing is the one that will be out in August, Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth. It took me four and a half years to write a draft of it, and I continued to tweak it for another couple years before it got published. The first book that got published, conversely, took me only a couple weeks to write initially, and then several months to edit properly. Why did the second book I wrote (and the first to get published) take me so much less time than the first? I think it’s because it’s not so complicated a story. Also, I had developed a system: I would write by hand first, which tended to free up my brain, and then type up later what I’d written that morning.
? What would you say is your most interesting writing quirk? I LOVE figurative language (metaphors, similes, personification). I love it like my dog loves chasing squirrels. I often need to tone myself down, for everyone’s benefit. My dog loves to chase those squirrels, but she nearly takes my arm off as she tugs on the leash.
? Do you have a routine that you use to get into the right frame of mind to write? I write best when I’ve been reading a lot. I usually have a book or two in mind as I write my own stories. It’s never the content of the book I’m concerned with. It’s the tone. The nearness of the narrator to the story. When I wrote Dizzy Fantastic and Her Flying Bicycle, for instance, I had Kate DiCamillo’s The Tiger Rising with me. Those two stories have very little in common, but the tone and point of view of the narrator are similar (I think, anyway). If I just can’t compose on my computer—my brain’s stuck—I open a notebook and begin writing there. When I’m ready, I’ll type up what I wrote and, sometimes, that will give me enough momentum to keep going.
? Where do you get your ideas or inspiration for your characters? Hmm. Well, Dizzy is my wife as a girl. It’s fiction, of course, but lots of what I knew about that character come from what my wife has told my about herself as a girl. Other characters come to me pretty much whole and I’m not sure if they’re inspired by anybody in my life or not. In Skipping Stones, though, there’s a principal whose bald spot turns red when he’s angry. When I was in third and fourth grade, a teacher at my school had a similar bald spot.
? How do you decide what you want to write about? I usually write to myself as a ten-year-old. I cherished Roald Dahl’s books above all others, so when I wrote my first book (Skipping Stones at the Center of the Earth, which, again, is the second to be published) I wrote a fantasy with perhaps a similar feel to it. But I liked lots of other books, too—well, nearly every book I read, actually; I just liked stories at that age—and I try to write in those genres. Sometimes when I write something I begin with a sentence that appeared in my head. Other times, I know a little more about the story and when I sit down to write I’m figuring the rest of the story out. Even then, I pay a lot of attention to the language. It needs to sound right for me to move on. Settings almost always come from my own reality. When I was driving in a nearby farm town, for instance, I saw a huge, green yard. That became the yard between the orphanage and the rock beach in Skipping Stones.
About you as a person:
? What books have most influenced your life? Here are the books I’ve had the most fun reading: The BFG, by Roald Dahl; The Basement Baseball Club, by Jeffrey Kelley; The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, by Michael Chabon; Last Days of Summer, by Steve Kluger; and The Princess Bride, by William Golding. In each of these books, there’s a sense of imagination—of anything’s possible. The language is important, always, as well. I love when authors play with language.
? What do you like to do when you are not writing? Read novels, the newspaper, and poetry; watch television on DVD; play sports (basketball, softball, and tennis, these days); bike with my wife (her bike has a horn plus a basket with flowers!) to some restaurant we haven’t chosen yet; and lots of other stuff.
? What is your favorite comfort food? Pizza from Bascali’s. No, scratch that: a peach-and-butterscotch muffin from Keys Bakery.
? What do you think makes a good story? Characters who feel real or believable in their story’s world.
? Who would you consider your favorite author and why? I always say Roald Dahl because he’s so playful and trusts his readers. I’ll add Michael Chabon for the same reasons.
? What book, if any, do you read over and over again? Last Days of Summer. It’s funny, smart, and heartwarming. I leaf through Dahl’s books a lot. I reread, again and again, the opening chapter of Bridge to Terabithia, where Jess runs for the first time. This chapter and the opening chapter in Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book strike me as the most compelling first chapters I’ve ever read. I compare all of my first chapters to their high standards. Admittedly, I haven’t met them yet!
Fun random questions: 
·        dogs or cats? DOGS
·        Coffee or tea? Iced tea. Coffee ice cream.
·        Dark or milk chocolate? Yes, please.
·        Rocks or flowers? Rocks to skip. Flowers to give my wife.
·        Night or day? Day.
·        Favorite color? Mauve, because you can find that color if you press down on your finger nail. That’s what a friend told me once, anyway.
·        Crayons or markers? Markers, in function. Cray-on is more fun to say, though.
·        Pens or pencils? Pens. My scribbly handwriting doesn’t get any better after I’ve erased it and started over.
You can buy a copy of this great story at Amazon HERE and at Barnes and Noble HERE!
*****and of course you are all wondering about the giveaway right!!!!
Here is the form - sorry it didn't work earlier today!

Thanks for stopping by The Wormhole!
Happy Reading!
There is another tour stop today at: Book Twirps
The next stop on the tour is: July 30 at Earth's Book Nook

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