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An Interview With Erica Richardson

I’m so excited to share my interview with Erica Richardson, author of Luna’s Rescue! She offers insights into finding a balance between writing and parenting, what inspired her to write middle-grade books, and what readers have to look forward to as The Cottonwood Chronicles continue!

Have you entered the giveaway for a print copy of Luna’s Rescue?! There’s still time left! Head to my Instagram to enter, and I’ll announce the winner on Friday. This is an adventure you won’t want to miss out on 🙂

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Share with us a little bit about Luna’s Rescue and what inspired you to write it!

The transition to parenthood was a lot harder for me than I had expected (especially being a stay-home mom). Being a mother to my kids has been very natural in so many ways, but “staying home” has been a lot less natural! It’s a tricky balance because staying home with my kids is important to me and I really love being their primary care giver. I spent the first several years of motherhood searching for an outlet that would help me recharge, grow intellectually, and connect with other people. I did a lot of praying and searching to find something that would be a good fit for our family. One of the things I eventually tried was getting a pet! I have adored animals for as far back as I can remember. Long story short, we ended up getting a crested gecko, which I named Luna. Through some miraculous combination of having Luna in our home and reading some middle-grade books I’d gotten ahold of, I felt inspired that I could write a book. I had tried to write books when I was a teenager (Lord-of-the-Rings-never-ending-journey types of books), but I had never considered writing a book as an adult.

 The One and Only Ivan really inspired me because it was a beautiful story with a simple plot and loveable animal characters. There is something so pure about animals. Animals and children have that in common. I started getting ideas about the things Luna would do if she were to go on an adventure. From The One and Only Ivan and Hello, Universe, I learned that a storyline doesn’t have to be complicated to be beautiful and worth reading. That encouraged me.

I’m a writer—a long winded one—so I apologize for the long answer! But one more thing that might be useful to someone… I’ve dealt with some mental health issues throughout my life but couldn’t quite put my finger on what they were until several years into motherhood. I learned that I have OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). Before learning about my own diagnosis, I had never met or talked to anyone with OCD. I just thought of it as an adjective that people use when they describe themselves as very organized (which I now understand is a disservice to those who actually have the disorder). I now understand that OCD made college very challenging for me. I got great grades and excelled in my classes, but I would go through phases of intense anxiety where I would change my major again and again and again! It was very stressful. I have changed my major 7 or 8 times in school (probably more), which has made it very hard to finish! After leaving school to be home with kids, then going back to school, then having to stop due to health problems, my self-confidence took a pretty big blow. I started to feel like I couldn’t finish anything! I wanted to finish something or accomplish some kind of goal so badly! 

Writing children’s books has brought me so much peace in that sense because it is something that I can finish! Finishing my first book, Luna’s Rescue, left me in a bit of a shock. I kept thinking to myself, Did I REALLY finish? Is it done? Did I actually do it? I actually got really stressed out after publishing my book because I was convinced that I hadn’t really finished! I still haven’t fully processed the fact that I’ve finished and published books!

Anyways, it was such an answer to prayers to be led to writing—an outlet that I could focus on to channel my mind in a productive way, rather than letting my mind obsess over stressful, unproductive things. Writing has been a great blessing to me and definitely an answer to prayer.

What do you love most about writing for middle grade readers? What do you think makes middle-grade fantasy an important genre?

I’m 28 years old on the outside and 10 years old on the inside. Writing for young kids feels natural to me because I share the same interests and sense of humor as many of them. I’ve loved writing for a long time, but it has been so thrilling to finally have found a niche that really fits me.

I love that kids are honest. When I give my manuscript to my test readers, I know that the feedback they give will be honest. And when they say, “I loved it” or “I couldn’t put it down!” I know they are being genuine and not just being polite. It’s really rewarding.

I think that writing fantasy for middle-grade readers is important because these kids are in a very formative time of life. Whether or not they have access to books (and whether or not they enjoy those books) can have a big impact on their educations and reading throughout the rest of their lives. I also feel it’s important to teach good values and lessons in middle-grade literature. I want my readers to finish my books feeling entertained, but even more importantly, inspired. There are so many different messages being thrust at young people in today’s world. I feel honored to have the chance to share messages with young people through my books, and I take the responsibility of providing clean content with good moral lessons very seriously.

Do you have any advice for fellow writers who are balancing a writing career and parenthood? How have you seen motherhood and writing influence each other?

Firstly, my kids inspire me! They are full of creativity, light, and—putting a shameless plug in for Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel here—wonder! My kids are examples to me every day of seeing the wonder and beauty in the world. They see it in everything—bubbles, macaroni and cheese, playing in the grass, etc!

As far as advice… If any of you figure out how to balance a writing career and parenting, please contact me and tell me your secret! Honestly, trying to find a balance is one of the constant challenges of mortal life, in my opinion. 

A few thoughts are: 

1.) Let your kids be involved (to an extent!) with your writing process. My kids respond better to me being on my computer when I explain to them what I’m doing. I’ll tell them what book I’m working on, what the storyline is, and about the characters. I’ll talk through what I’m doing as I design covers. They especially like seeing the covers being made. As far as the actual writing, they lose interest pretty quickly, but they are more likely to be satisfied with giving me time and space if I give them a chance to hear about what I’m doing than if they just see me on the computer and have no idea what I’m doing on it. (My kids are all too young to be able to read, by the way.)

2.) For me, as a stay-home mom, it can be so ridiculously hard to respect myself, my time, and my space. I’ll fight down a dragon if it calls my kid a rude name, but if my kid disrespects me, it can be easy to just take it and shrug it off. I’ve learned that for my well-being, and the well-being of my whole family, I need to take care of myself. I have to set healthy boundaries and teach my kids to respect me. So, on that note, it’s so important that as parents who are also writers, we are able to teach our children healthy boundaries. Setting boundaries makes life so much better. My kids need to know that there is time for me to be totally present with them, and that there is time for me to be able to work on my writing. Before learning that, I often felt that my kids had to have my undivided attention ALL. THE. TIME. …That left me feeling like an oatmeal-brained zombie who then felt excessive amounts of guilt for not being a great mom (because I HAD NO ENERGY OR SPARK!) It’s so important that parents, especially stay-home moms, recognize that their personal pursuits are of value. Being a writer has made me a better mom. And my kids need that healthy, happy mom! So, I need to keep up my writing, which will in turn keep me feeling healthier and more balanced, which will enable me to be a great mom.

What are you reading right now?

Right now, I am reading The Last Rabbit by Shelley Moore Thomas. The Trebors by Caroline C. Barney is on top of my current reads pile. And Penelope Grace and the Winter Carousel will be leaping straight to the top of my reading pile once I receive my copy! Looking forward to it! (The word “carousel” is surprisingly hard to spell!)

You’re currently working on your next book! What do readers have to look forward to as The Cottonwood Chronicles continue?

This is really exciting, but I actually just recently finished Hoover’s Horn, which is the second book in The Cottonwood Chronicles (Luna’s Rescue being the first). I’m in the very final stages of having this book ready for publication. The readers of The Cottonwood Chronicles have a wild ride ahead of them. They can definitely look forward to going on some unexpected adventures and meeting some very unique, lovable characters, including a garden gnome named Terracotta Glaze who is a very restless spirit.

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You can purchase Luna’s Rescue and Hoover’s Horn on Amazon! And make sure to check out Erica’s story, Lisa’s Ugly Glasses 🙂

Want to follow along on all of Erica’s writing adventures? 🙂 Head to her Instagram so you won’t miss out on any exciting updates!

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Thank you again to all of the wonderful authors who have joined me for excerpts, interviews, and giveaways (Oh my!) over the last few weeks! It has been such a delight to get to know all of you and share your stories with readers! I can’t wait to see all the wonders God does through the words you write over the years to come 🙂

Do you have a favorite author you’d like to see featured on the blog? Please let me know! I’m always looking for recommendations!

Hoping your weekend is full of good books,

Alexandria

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Chip and the Book of Rose Leaves: Installment Seven

This week, Chip and Alfeus brave a hidden cavern that’s beautiful, but not altogether safe…

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They rested for a time there, near the entrance to the cavern. Chip took a long drink of cool, clear water from the small spring that trickled down into the cavern’s depths. Feeling refreshed now, he balanced carefully on his hind legs as he sniffed the air.

It was pleasantly cool, just what you might expect from a mysterious, hidden place like this one.

And yet…

There was something unusual about the smell the longer Chip sniffed, but he couldn’t quite place it. Something almost smoky.

“Whatever is your nose quivering about now?” Alfeus asked, and Chip frowned, for his friend almost sounded nervous.

“What’s wrong, Alfeus?”

The chipmunk, rubbing his snout in distracted agitation, answered briskly, “I’m not altogether fond of some of the underground residents, if you must know.”

“Why? Who lives here?”

“Fire lizards,” Alfeus said. “They’re changeable creatures, by all accounts, and were no great help when the forest stood at odds.”

“So, they’re dangerous?”

“Well, I wouldn’t exactly call them enemies,” the chipmunk offered, shifting uncertainly. “I wouldn’t exactly call them friends, either.”

“And you’re certain that the cavern is the only way to reach Abaline?” Chip asked, feeling the warning twinge of danger, which made his left ear start twitching, as he spoke.

“Yes. If you try to go past the waterfall and stay aboveground, Abaline is nowhere to be found. You go through, or you go nowhere at all.”

He knew Alfeus was right. Still, Chip felt compelled to point out, “You might have mentioned the fire lizards earlier.”

“I’m hoping they keep to themselves,” the chipmunk said, choosing to ignore the pointed comment. “They only venture out at high noon to soak up what heat they can before returning to the Obsidian Lizard.”

Chip, who had just begun to hop further into the cavern, stopped short. “Obsidian Lizard?”

“Yes, yes, that’s what I said! There’s no reason to get your fur ruffled about it. He only leaves the underground during the peak of summer, and that’s a ways off yet. Until then, his fellow lizards soak up heat to warm him. Somehow, it keeps the fire within him aflame.”

At this, Chip muttered something about the chipmunk’s words being less than reassuring.

“Better informed with a little healthy fear than ignorant and foolhardy because of it. Besides, only heat draws them out, and we won’t have any flame to attract them. I’m certain we’ll make it through without incident.”

“So, you managed it safely with Leah?”

“Well, no…” Alfeus confessed, his voice trailing off. “I only went as far as the cavern’s mouth. She insisted that it was something she must do alone. But I’ve always regretted not going with her all the way to Abaline.”

Chip offered an encouraging smile, for he could sense Alfeus’ discomfort, and he was truly grateful to have a friend along on this journey. “Well then, it’s a good thing you have another chance now.”

With that, they began to make their way through the luminous underground. Both Chip and Alfeus stared above and around them at the glittering walls, mouths agape.

Thousands upon thousands of gems and crystals were encrusted in the dark gray stone, but it seemed more than happenstance to Chip, as if someone had lovingly chosen just the spot from which each gem could best send out its own radiant glow.

He could not help but continue to stare in wonder; in fact, so enraptured was he that he nearly stumbled into the widening stream.

But can you blame him, reader?

After all, of the many things that Chip might have anticipated encountering, he had never expected to come face to face with a radiance such as this beneath the earth where no familiar rays of light might reach them.

What is this place? Chip silently pondered as they continued to follow the water’s meandering path.

“Where is the light coming from, I wonder?” said Alfeus in a whisper, which seemed only right in a place like this.

Once the question was voiced aloud, Chip naturally felt that he must investigate further. He hopped over to the wall on their left, placing a paw against the stone before jerking it back just as quickly when it proved to be quite warm.

When he mentioned this to Alfeus, the chipmunk did not look terribly surprised. “That’ll be the fire lizards. There are so many of them, they’re bound to heat the very walls themselves.”

Chip heard Alfeus, but did not reply. He had caught sight of movement in a nearby gem. Oh, how he wished Romulus were there to teach him their names, for he was sure to know them all.

There it was again!

Something darted to the right past a jewel, carnation pink in color, and Chip was sure the movement came from the other side of the wall, rather than from the reflection of the gem’s smooth surface.

“Alfeus, did you see that? I think there’s a passage on the other side of this wall!”

“Well, if there is, it’s the fire lizards who use it, and I’m not inclined to wait and see,” Alfeus said before marching resolutely forward.

Reluctantly, the young rabbit followed. Much as he might long to uncover the mysteries of the fire lizards’ dwelling, he knew Abaline was more important. They followed the flowing stream to their right, Chip admiring the way the stone shimmered beneath the perfectly clear water. He had expected to feel tense and afraid after learning of the fire lizards, but there was something altogether pure and comforting about this underground haven, and the rabbit found that he felt free to explore every crevice and nook, much to Alfeus’ consternation.

At last, they reached the back of the cavern. Before them, looking as if they had been there since time began, were three gaping tunnel entrances. The stream flowed merrily down the middle path, and Chip was tempted to simply follow it, but instead looked at Alfeus expectantly. “Which one do we take to Abaline?”

The chipmunk was silent, staring fixedly from one tunnel to the next.

“Alfeus?” Chip prompted.

He jumped a bit before replying, “Well, I can’t say that I know, Chip. I imagine that’s something that each seeker of Abaline’s treasure has to uncover for themselves.”

At the end of this lofty pronouncement, Alfeus looked away rather sheepishly, for after all, he truly did want to be useful and was bothered when he felt he was not.

“That’s all right, Alfeus,” Chip said, noticing his friend’s embarrassment. “We’ll figure it out.”

He hopped forward to the tunnel on the left and sniffed, immediately scrunching up his nose in distaste. It smelled damp and unfriendly, and something in the heavy staleness of it warned Chip against taking that path.

“Alfeus, what does the tunnel on the right smell like to you?”

Hurriedly, the chipmunk scampered over, taking a good and proper whiff before sighing with delight at the scent that greeted him. “Hazelnuts, Chip,” he breathed. “Mountains and mountains of them!”

Alfeus was several feet past the entrance before Chip managed to stop him. But then, all of a sudden, the headiest sensation swept over him, enveloping him in the scent of lilac, just as if he were back in his grandmother’s burrow beneath the grandest lilac bush that Everleaf Forest had ever seen.

Alfeus continued to mutter about hazelnuts as Chip turned to stare down the tunnel, breathing in his favorite smell. He was just about to make his way closer to it when his left ear twitched violently.

For one pivotal moment, Chip’s mind cleared, and he was struck by the pungent wave of rot rising up from the tunnel’s depths. He pushed the hazelnut-crazed chipmunk out of the tunnel until they were far back enough for the smells to fade.

Though Alfeus had, at first, been overtaken by indignant hysterics, only a few minutes passed before he returned to his own, rather persnickety self. “Confound it all! What sort of depraved mind makes false promises of hazelnuts?”

“At least you didn’t get a whiff of what was really coming from that tunnel,” Chip choked out, still nearly gagging from the unrelenting stench of it. Still, he managed a smile at Alfeus’ dramatics.

The chipmunk was yet to be appeased. “I refuse to tolerate such deceitfulness! Such foul play! One nice, wholesome adventure is all a chipmunk asks for in life, and if anyone else comes to muck it up, it’s me they’ll have to answer to!”

It was then that a roar sounded, so terrible and deep that it made the very walls around them tremble.

Chip looked at Alfeus. “You were saying?”

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Any guesses on where (or who) the roar is coming from? Share your ideas using #bookofroseleaves

Until next week,

Alexandria

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Book Review: A Mosaic of Wings

This week, I’m introducing you to one of new favorite authors, Kimberly Duffy! Check out my review of her debut release below!

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Readers are always searching for those rarest of books that not only entertain and delight you, but also work their way deep into your spirit, finding an eternal home there. A Mosaic of Wings is one of them. The story opens with Nora, a passionate student of entomology at Cornell University, who finds beauty and wonder in all of God’s creation, but particularly in the world of insects. But society insists that she cannot add anything of value to a man’s field, and Nora soon finds herself opposed on all sides, most fiercely by her step-father, who promotes a advantageous match as the only proper path for her.

Still, some friends remain true, among them a favorite professor who longs to see her flourish in the field. Before long, Nora finds herself swept off to India, a land all warmth and spice and passion, competing for a scholarship that just might give her the freedom she’s craving to boldly pursue her dreams. It will not be long, though, before this new land and its people, along with an unexpected friend from home, begin to shape Nora into a stronger and more courageous woman of God than ever before, making her one of those rare fictional characters who are most worthy of emulating.

Without doubt, Kimberly Duffy has woven an enchanting tale that will captivate anyone with the courage to pick up this book and embrace all the ways it will challenge and change you.

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