Thursday, October 13, 2011

Interview with James Nelson, Author of On the Volcano

Enjoy the following interview with James Nelson, author of On the Volcano:

1.         You have had an extensive writing career. Did you always plan on writing a young adult

No, the idea never crossed my mind. The fact is, On the Volcano started out as just “a
novel.” It was to be read by anyone––adults, young adults, intelligent
children, whoever wanted a good story. But publishing is about marketing, and each book that goes out is aimed at a particular market. GP Putnam’s Sons felt my book would do well in the Young Adult market, so that is where they aimed it. So, no, I did not plan on writing a young adult novel.

2 .        What was it about the landscape of volcanoes you had seen and the Rocky Mountains you once lived by that drew this particular story out of you?

It’s really not so much about volcanoes or the Rocky Mountains, it’s more just happenstance. Let me explain. Occasionally I sit down and write an opening paragraph for a novel just for fun. Opening paragraphs are, of course, vitally important to a novel, and I like to see if I can write
a good one.
I re-read these paragraphs from time to time, and one paragraph I liked more and more was about a young girl looking across the crater of a huge, dilapidated volcano, wondering what was on the other side.
So I wrote a few more paragraphs. And then I wrote a few more, and a few more after that. Before I knew it, I had 10,000 words about Katie MacDonald and her father, and found I was writing a novel to be titled On the Volcano.
3.         Why did you choose a female to be your main character?

As in the last answer, I didn’t really choose Katie McDonald, she just happened. She wasn’t named Katie McDonald at the time, she was just the young girl I saw when I wrote that first paragraph. It don’t know why she appeared. Maybe I wanted to write something about a young, vulnerable
person who was going to have to face a lot of troubling circumstances. I don’t know. That’s what’s fascinating about the writing process.

4.        What type of research, if any, did you do to write the book?

I didn’t need to do much research. I did some, to make sure the saddle scabbard I described actually existed in real life. I was familiar with “fletching arrows,” but I did some research into arrow-making just to make sure. I researched volcanoes to make sure mine was not bigger than any real volcano on the planet. (It wasn’t; the Ngorongoro crater in Africa is about the same size as mine.) But I didn’t need to do extensive research on the landscape. Growing up in Colorado, and traveling in Utah, Nevada, and other desert-like states gave me lots of useful background.
5.         Did you have a particular interest in this timeframe––1800’s––of the book?

I have always has a fondness for the 19th century, particularly for the writers of that century. My college major was in 19th century English literature. I got into American writers and writers from other countries, on my own.
6.            Katie is a very strong person. Did you have someone in mind––a role model in your
life––as you wrote about her?

 I did not have anyone in particular in mind. As Katie began to develop, I wanted her to be strong,
able to face the problems and dangers of living on the edge of a volcano. The question to be answered was, what will she do when confronted with the problems brought on by the presence of other people, not all of whom may have her best interests at heart.
 7.         Do you have another novel in the works? Will it be another young adult novel?

I do have another novel, titled Teddy, finished except for polishing, and it is another coming-of-age story, this time about a boy. Again, this not a novel written specifically for young adults. Like On the Volcano, I have written it for a general audience, and young adults are cordially invited to read it along with the rest of the public.
I hope you’ll read it and like it.

Thank you, James.  I do look forward to reading your next novel!

Check back tomorrow for a book giveaway of On the Volcano!

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