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IWSG Post and Caroline Starr Rose Interview and Jasper and the Riddle of Riley's Mine Giveaway

Happy Wednesday Everyone! Today I’m thrilled to have Caroline Starr Rose back on the blog to share about her new MG historical adventure story JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY’S MINE. I love the combination of historical fiction and the mystery in Caroline’s newest book.

Before I get to my interview with Caroline, I'm going to post my IWSG post for this month.

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of the month is officially Insecure Writer's Support Group Day.
The co-hosts this month are Co-Hosts:  Tamara Narayan, Patsy Collins, M.J. Fifield, and Nicohle Christopherson!

Today's Question: Have you really pulled out a really old story and reworked it? How did it work out?

Well, I only have one completed manuscript. That's because I had never taken any writing courses or even thought of writing a book before I started. So I had A LOT to learn, and it required many, many revisions. 

I have gone through many periods where I had to put my manuscript aside for months at a time because of how busy I got working full-time as an attorney, taking care of my husband, taking care of my daughter and volunteering. So, there have been many times where I pulled out my old beloved manuscript to work on it. I found that letting it sit in the drawer for long periods of time actually helped. I could see it with fresh eyes and tackle the problems with a clearer vision of what needed to be corrected. And sometimes it helped me be bolder, because my word count was about 30,000 too long, so I had a lot to cut.

I use this same principle in my nonfiction job writing articles for websites. I try to stay a bit ahead in my writing. Once I have written an article, I read it aloud for my first edit. Then I let the article sit for a few days or longer before I make my final revisions. Looking at it with fresh eyes helps me see the edits needed, typos, and awkward words that I missed in my first edits.

What about you? Do you pick up your old manuscripts?

Now onto my interview with Caroline.

Here’s a blurb about Caroline's new book from Goodreads:

Hoping to strike it rich, two brothers escape an abusive father and set out on a treacherous journey to Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush.
Desperate to get away from their drunkard of a father, eleven-year-old Jasper and his older brother Melvin often talk of running away, of heading north to Alaska to chase riches beyond their wildest dreams. The Klondike Gold Rush is calling, and Melvin has finally decided the time to go is now--even if that means leaving Jasper behind. But Jasper has other plans, and follows his brother aboard a steamer as a stowaway.
Onboard the ship, Jasper overhears a rumor about One-Eyed Riley, an old coot who's long since gone, but is said to have left clues to the location of his stake, which still has plenty of gold left. The first person to unravel the clues and find the mine can stake the claim and become filthy rich. Jasper is quick to catch gold fever and knows he and Melvin can find the mine--all they have to do is survive the rough Alaskan terrain, along with the steep competition from the unscrupulous and dangerous people they encounter along the way.
In an endearing, funny, pitch-perfect middle grade voice, Caroline Starr Rose tells another stellar historical adventure young readers will long remember.

Hi Caroline! Thanks so much for joining us.

Thanks for hosting me today, Natalie!

1. For anyone who doesn’t know you here, share how you became a writer.

I’m a former teacher who started writing the summer of 1998. It took four novel and six picture book manuscripts (or twelve years of practice and rejection) to sell my first book, MAY B.

2. Where did you get the idea for JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY’S MINE?

I find ideas grow and blend together in my subconscious before I’m aware of them. My interest in the Klondike stems from a book my mom let my borrow while I was researching the frontier for MAY B. It was about the women who’d experienced the Gold Rush. While I ultimately settled on Kansas as my setting, I was intrigued. A few years later, I read in the Albuquerque Journal about a man named Forrest Fenn who’d hidden a treasure somewhere in New Mexico. The first person to find it through the clues left in a cryptic poem could claim the treasure as their own. (It’s still out there, by the way). Finally, my sons asked if I might ever write a book about a boy. These three things together became the starting point for JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY’S MINE.

3. Awesome how your mom and sons helped you come up with the idea for your book. What research did you have to do about the Klondike Gold Rush and Alaska during that time period? What advice do you have other authors wanting to write historical fiction for middle graders?

I was looking through my JASPER research journal a few days ago and counted up 13-15 research books plus 3-4 novels I read in preparation for this book. I also watched a few documentaries and was lucky enough — for the first time ever — to visit a place in one of my books. My husband and I took an Alaskan cruise two summers ago, and my only request was that we stop in Skagway, a town that figures into the story.

As for advice, I’d encourage writers to remember their book doesn’t have to do it all. History is a big thing, and it sometimes feels you have to squeeze everything into a story to make it legitimate. But ultimately, you’re writing your character’s experience in the midst of the history. His / her motivations, actions, and understanding of the world will be shaped by the era, but not every little historical detail will affect or interest your character. It’s tempting to “info dump” in order to fill in the reader about historical context they might be unfamiliar with, but ideally they’ll get a natural sense of this through dialogue and the unfolding story.

4. Oh, I've always wanted to go on an Alaskan cruise. Awesome that you got to go with your
husband. Many of the reviewers who read an advance copy of your book loved Jasper as a character. Share a bit about him and how his character developed as you wrote his story.

I love hearing this! I feel the energy and spirit of the book have really been nicely captured in early reviews. And the response to Jasper himself has been wonderful. Jasper is actually based on Huckleberry Finn. I knew early on the story needed an adventurous, quick-witted, slightly naive, quick-to-speak-his-mind protagonist, and a “Huckster” character fit the bill. We as readers experience the hardship Jasper faces both at home and through his journey in his matter-of-fact, humorous, and determined approach to the world. I especially am fond of Jasper’s relationship with his older brother, Mel. I can’t think of many books where the sibling relationship is key, and I’m proud of the way these two boys love each other — even in the midst of disagreements, misunderstandings, and the occasional shove.

5. I love his approach to his challenges. I'm a pretty matter-of-fact person too. What was a writing challenge you faced in writing JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY’S MINE and how did you overcome it?

My first two novels, MAY B. and BLUE BIRDS, are in verse, while JASPER’s written in prose. That’s significant for a whole host of reasons. A verse novel is like a photo album, a collection of images that capture one moment and add to the whole. But prose is like a movie with rolling film. Scenes run deeper and wider. While verse is spare and focuses on emotion and imagery, Prose is verbose. It lets a story take its time. Though emotion and imagery can play a part, they’re not central to the form. A book of prose has far fewer scenes than a verse novel. There’s so much room in a single scene I wasn’t sure how to handle the limitless space. I raced through my first few drafts, worried I’d lose a reader’s interest with all those words. My editor encouraged me to luxuriate in the book’s present moment. It was like learning a new way to communicate.

6. Funny, for me, writing in verse would be way more challenging. I’ve loved watching your career as a writer grow since you were first on the blog when MAY B. was released. I’ve seen other authors who I featured when they were debuts who were able to continue to grow their careers and others who did everything they could to market their first book that have had challenges selling more books. Why do you think that you have been able to continue to sell and publish books when others have not?

I can’t chalk it up to talent or determination. Oodles of authors have that. I’m very aware both luck and timing have played a role in my career so far, as have editors willing to take a chance on me. Gratitude abounds.

8. I’m sure your perspective and knowledge of what it means to be an author has changed since your debut with MAY B. Share a bit of what you’ve learned and how it is shaping your career.

When MAY B. first launched, I wrote what I called my Writer’s Manifesto as a way to stay grounded. I revisited it last year, tweaking here and there. It’s interesting that while I’ve added a few things, so much of that first document continues to speak to, challenge, and encourage me. Readers can see the updated version here.

9. How are you marketing JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY’S MINE? Has your marketing strategies changed over the years and if so, how?

One things I’ve done this time around (which feels like a smart move) was build a launch team. I enlisted interested readers through my e-newsletter, explaining launch team members would get an ARC of the book in exchange for an honest review. The review must be posted to Amazon and one other online site around my release date. Those who wanted to participate filled out a form (which included questions about why they were interested, their connection to children’s literature [as a teacher, librarian, parent of young reader, etc.], their social media reach, and ideas they had about spreading the word). I hand picked participants based on responses…and the number of ARCs I’d received. So far, so good!

10. That's a great idea to start a launch team. What are you working on now?

I have a picture book coming out this fall with Albert Whitman called RIDE ON, WILL CODY! According to legend, young Will Cody (later known as America’s greatest showman, Buffalo Bill) took the third-longest ride in Pony Express history, lasting 22 hours and 40 minutes and requiring 21 horses. The book’s a poetic, fast-paced glimpse at Will’s ride. (PS - It took almost three years — and 21 rejections — to sell).

Thanks for sharing all your advice, Caroline. You can find Caroline at

Caroline's publisher has generously offered a copy of JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY"S MINE for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through March 18th. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This is for U.S.

Here's what's coming up:

Monday March 6th I have a guest post by debut author Michael Miller and a giveaway of his YA science fiction SHADOW RUN

Monday March 13th I have an interview with debut author and follower Rosalyn Eves and a giveaway of her YA historical fantasy Rose Blood Rebellion

Tuesday March 14th I'm participating in the Lucky Leprechaun Giveaway Hop

Monday March 20th I have a guest post by debut author Alyson Gerber and her agent Kate McKean with a giveaway of her MG contemporary BRACED and a query critique giveaway by Kate McKean

Wednesday March 22nd I have an agent spotlight with Kristy Hunter and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!


Jennifer Hawes said...

You always have such wonderful interviews! Thanks for sharing this one.

Donna K. Weaver said...

I feel ya on never having taking classes and such. Who knew I'd do this--and love it so much--in my old age?

L. Diane Wolfe said...

Caroline's book cover is cute.

Letting a story sit for a while really does help.

Bish Denham said...

Letting something sit for a while has proved to be helpful for me. I love the premise of Caroline's book! I've tweeted about the giveaway.

Julie Flanders said...

I've just picked up a kind-of-old manuscript and started working on it again. It's only a year old but feels ancient to me LOL. I agree, it's amazing how letting even an article sit for a few days makes a huge difference.

Thanks for coming by my blog and congrats to Caroline!

Unknown said...

You're absolutely right about fresh eyes - they make a big difference. Jasper's adventure sounds like so much fun! Good luck to Caroline!

Christine Rains said...

Congrats to Caroline! I've always wanted to go to Alaska too.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Smart advice for writing something historical.
I prefer to stay ahead as well. I do that great with articles and stuff. Not so great with fiction.

Kristin Lenz said...

It always helps to hear these stories about long roads to publication with multiple books and rejections - thank you, Caroline!
And Natalie, to answer your IWSG question - yes, my debut published novel was an old manuscript that I kept pulling back out and reworking, several times over several years. I believed in it, but it didn't stop me from writing new material as well.

Crystal Collier said...

You know, Natalie, my first full novel was 140K. It was high fantasy, so 100k is acceptable. I worked it down to 90, even though it never went anywhere. Yet. ;) I think snipping is one of the first lessons we learn.

A launch team is such a great idea! I can only imagine the work behind the scenes to put/keep it together! Whew.

Gwen Gardner said...

Hi Natalie, It does help to put the manuscript away and pick it up with new eyes after a break. Funny what you notice.

Your new release sounds good, Caroline. Congratulations!

I tweeted!

Caroline Starr Rose said...

Thank you for hosting me today, Natalie. Best of luck, fellow writers!

Jessica Lawson said...

Great interview~ I love Jasper and already own a copy, so I'll let someone else win. Thanks, Ladies!

cleemckenzie said...

There is something rather comforting in having something to start with, even it's an old manuscript you've long ago set aside. At least there's no blank page with that incessant cursor blinking at you when you set out.

Loved the interview. Congratulations to Caroline.

S.P. Bowers said...

Wow, I've written a little bit of poetry but writing a whole book in verse is pretty awesome! That's a great talent you have.

Jemi Fraser said...

yes! Fresh eyes help me a lot!!!

Congrats to Caroline - this one sounds like another winner!!!

jpetroroy said...

Yay, Caroline! So excited for this.

Olga Godim said...

You're right. To see your writing with fresh eyes required you putting some time between revisions.
Great cover for Caroline's new book - love it.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Jasper sounds exactly like the kind of adventure book I read and loved as a kid.

And yes, it does help to let a manuscript rest for a while. It will then offer a clearer vision for editing.

Denise Covey said...

Hi Natalie. I wish you well in picking up your ms and getting it ready to publish one day! Resting it is a good idea, but not so long you forget what you liked about it which happens to me.

I don't have time to read the full interview now. As you know I'm road trippin' in the Aussie Outback and have rare wifi. Catch you later!

Empty Nest Insider said...

Great idea about letting articles sit for a few days. It's amazing how your mind can play tricks on you after several days of writing stories one after the other. I enjoyed the interview with Caroline and I like how her book was a family project.


Michelle OHara Levin said...

I loved this post. The notes about not cramming all of history in and the writer's manifesto... I feel like I need to bookmark that so I can come back again and again. Thank you!

Marilyn said...

Thanks for a great interview, Natalie! I've got several manuscripts that are currently "in the drawer". I'll give them another look when I finish my current WIP. I love historical fiction and I think blending it with a mystery is a great idea. I look forward to reading Caroline's new book!

Danielle H. said...

Thanks for the interview. I enjoyed the advice about not dumping all the facts you researched into the novel, but let it flow naturally into the story through dialogue and action. I've been lucky enough to explore Skagway as a kid when my parents drove to AK and then took the ferries to the island cities on the way back home. I shared on tumblr:

Unknown said...

Great interview. I would really love to win this book. I also mentioned it on Twitter. monicachess26(@)gmail(.)com

Greg Pattridge said...

I have a half dozen in the drawer and two I tossed out for good. It helps to always have one to revise while the others are taking a rest.
Thanks for the insightful interview. Caroline's new book sounds like both the characters and story are great.

Rosi said...

Since I haven't written anything new in awhile, all I do is look at old manuscripts. Yes, time and distance does help. More discipline, though, is what I really need. This was a wonderful interview and, even though I am trying not to get more books, I can't resist throwing my hat in the ring for this one. I do love both mysteries and historical fiction. Thanks for the post and the chance to win.

Maria said...

I'm a housewife who writes, but I totally love the idea of having full-time job and a family and writing on the side. Because you're living life in reality and getting lots of ideas about which to write.

Cherie Reich said...

Setting writing aside for a while does help to see it clearer.

Congrats to Caroline! What a cute cover!

Joanne R. Fritz said...

Love JASPER AND THE RIDDLE OF RILEY'S MINE and love learning more about the story behind the novel. I've been following Caroline since even before MAY B. was published. Please don't include me in the giveaway as I was one of those lucky launch team members (and honored to be one).

dolorah said...

I used to laugh at people who read their work aloud to help with editing. And, now I do it too. Our eyes just read what they want it to say.

Good tactics.

DMS said...

I have been seeing this book around the internet and I was happy to learn more about it. Sounds like an interesting read. Great to hear from Caroline. I especially enjoyed hearing about her marketing technique. Always great to hear tips. Wishing her all the best. Thanks for the chance to win a copy. :)

Stephanie Faris said...

Congrats to Caroline! When I first started writing, I noticed there were some writers who chose to rework the same manuscript as they learned new things. I was the type who just tossed out old ones and started a new one!

Nick Wilford said...

This sounds great! MG and historical definitely sounds like a good mix, and the gold rush is something that will sound exciting to kids. I also appreciate the advice about just including enough historical detail to serve the story.

Beth said...

I have a finished adult manuscript that I'd love to turn into a YA - someday!

Naomi D. said...

I'd love to be entered in the critique giveaway. naomigdavis@gmail.com

Anonymous said...

Great prize to win and pass on this summer.

Jeanette Green said...

Jasper sounds exactly like the kind of adventure book I encourage my kids to read. I loved books like this as a kid. And yes, it does help to let a manuscript rest for a while.

Jeanette Green said...

Also.. shared on facebook, google and twitter. :)

geezer-chick said...

The gold rush fascinates me.

Arf2-D2 said...

I tweeted

Arf2-D2 said...

i follow on twitter.
Cool old timey ish cover.

Arf2-D2 said...

(or ignore if pins dont count)