Guest Interview with Author G.Z. Schmidt (and Giveaway!)

Today I’m honored to welcome my first guest to the blog, G.Z. (Gail) Schmidt. Gail is the author of the middle-grade time travel fantasy, NO ORDINARY THING, available from Holiday House on October 13th.

NO ORDINARY THING (Holiday House 2020)

Gail and I met through SCBWI almost three years ago, when we swapped manuscripts for critique. Now both of those manuscripts are going to be published! As soon as I read the first chapter of Gail’s gorgeous novel, I knew it was something special, and I’m so excited to highlight it here today. Even better, Gail and I are hosting a special giveaway to celebrate its upcoming release. We’re giving away a copy of NO ORDINARY THING and a query letter critique from me! Check out the details at the bottom of this post.

But don’t go scrolling just yet! Gail and I recently interviewed one another about our favorite thing: writing fantasy. Read on to learn more about Gail’s inspiration, process, and advice for aspiring writers. Then, after you’ve entered the giveaway, head over to Gail’s blog at the link below to read her interview with me! 

G.Z. Schmidt, Author of NO ORDINARY THING (Holiday House 2020)

Welcome to the blog, Gail! To begin, tell us a little bit about your novel, NO ORDINARY THING. Time traveling is no ordinary thing, but that’s what awaits 12-year-old Adam when he finds a snow globe that allows him to journey into the past. The snow globe whisks Adam from his home and introduces him to a succession of unusual characters along the way. Strangely, each individual seems to have a past that is interwoven with Adam’s own.

Meanwhile, 100 years ago in the streets of New York City, the famous magician and candlemaker extraordinaire Elbert the Excellent hopes to dazzle the world with his magic, but instead stumbles upon a mysterious entity known as “the time touch.”

As the two storylines unravel, they reveal a single thread that ties Adam and Elbert’s pasts together. At the center of their histories lies an abandoned candle factory, a factory that claimed multiple lives in a tragic fire years ago… one that Adam might be able to prevent.

Where did the inspiration for your book come from? As a child, I loved the book Holes by Louis Sachar, and that book influenced this story. I was also inspired by the award-winning international film Your Name, which tells of two teens who live 3 years apart. I love stories with a little bit of magic that’s set in the real world, and that’s what No Ordinary Thing has.

What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your book? There are still lots of revisions to do even after your book is accepted by a publisher. After I signed my book deal, I worked with my editor to cut out entire scenes and revamp the timeline in the story. Then in copyedits, we went over every sentence and circled repetitive words. In the end, all the revisions made my work much stronger. One thing to keep in mind is the publisher is working with you, not against you. They’re not going to turn your book into something you hate. Instead, they’re trying to bring out the best parts of your story so it shines for miles.

What comes first, the plot or characters? For me, plot comes first. Ideally, you’ll want both a compelling plot AND interesting characters. But I think in children’s literature, plot outweighs characters. It’s different from adult literature, where you can have books with virtually no plot but the character pulls the reader through.

Any tips for other fantasy writers out there? Lay out the rules and foundation for your world so you don’t write yourself into a corner. For my time-travel story, I kept a notebook of all the dates and different timelines, as well as imaginary days of the week for when the story progresses. This way, you don’t make a mistake like, “On Monday morning, Adam ate a bowl of cereal. Two days later, on Friday afternoon, he went to the circus.”

Writing can be an emotionally draining and stressful pursuit. Any tips for aspiring writers? Have a hobby outside your writing. This applies to a lot of things. If your world only revolves around one thing, you’re going to get sucked into all its gruesome details, and every problem seems magnified tenfold, every rejection seems personal. Realizing there’s a whole world out there gives you perspective on things. Take a break now and then, and have goals outside of writing. Plant flowers in your garden. Train for the marathon. Learn a new language. You should be writing because it’s a source of happiness for you, not a source of stress!

Thanks, Gail, for dropping by the blog! I can’t wait for readers to get their hands on your book!

Now, the moment you’ve been waiting for: giveaway time! The rules are simple. For a chance to win a copy of Gail’s debut, NO ORDINARY THING, visit her website (and read my interview!) here and follow the instructions. If you’d like a chance to win a query critique from me, follow this blog by clicking the button below, and you’ll automatically be entered to win. A winner will be randomly selected on September 7, 2020. Good luck!  

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