Today I welcome Ann Eisenstein whose book, Fallen Prey, was released in November, 2013. If you leave a comment you will be entered in a drawing for this, the second of the three books in the Sean Gray, Junior Special Agent Mystery series. (contest limited to USA entrants)
LP: Ann, you grew up on a farm, taught elementary school and have a master’s in psychology. Tell us how your background has shaped the hat you wear today, as an author of middle grade and YA books.
AE: I spent my childhood on a large farm, six miles outside of town, the only girl with two brothers who were five and six years older than me. They were best buddies with one another, and didn’t want a little sister tagging along and interfering with their adventures. So, I had to invent ways to amuse myself! Mostly I read, but I also conjured up an imaginary friend, Timmy, who explored and played and dreamed with me. I think in those days were planted the seeds of my creative expression. Although I might have “outgrown” Timmy, I never outgrew my imagination. I began writing in elementary school and continued throughout my education years – poetry, short stories, plays, songs, and articles for the newspapers. I was also deeply involved in drama, speech, music and journalism throughout school and beyond.
My love of children led to an early career in teaching and in addition to educating kids, the desire to help them in social and emotional ways steered me to pursue an advanced degree in school psychology. All of those different paths converged at some point in a place that made writing for children naturally necessary for me. It was a logical progression that encapsulated all that I have done – all that I am – to continue helping children.
LP: Tell is about Hiding Carly and what inspired that book.
AE: Hiding Carly was inspired, in part, by endless news stories of missing and exploited children and a fifth grade boy, whom I will call G. I have always worked with kids from extremely low social-economic strata – teaching, counseling, and mentoring. At the time, I was working with G on a number of things, from academic and school problems to social and conflict resolution skills. He struggled academically and he was not very interactive with his peers. He also was very quiet and shy.
At the time, along with his fifth grade peers, G was engaged in a unique program offered by the FBI, the Junior Special Agent Program. I witnessed a growing interest in what this program had to offer. He was genuinely interested in something. It was exciting and gave us something to talk about besides his baseball games, which I loved watching. An idea crept into my head about a Junior Special Agent protagonist. I struck up a conversation with the Special Agent in charge of this program, relaying how much my mentee was learning and benefiting from it. And I mentioned “the book.” The agent agreed to an interview. A seed. A kernel. A beginning.
LP: Fallen Prey, book two of the three part Sean Gray, Junior Special Agent Mystery Series, was just released in November, 2013. What was the inspiration for this series?
AE: I originally intended Hiding Carly to be a stand-alone novel, but the FBI liked my story, and wanted me to do a series. So I quite naturally acquiesced! Sean’s story isn’t finished. Carly and the trials from the first book add further drama and mystery.
The main plotline of Fallen Prey comes from an actual FBI closed case. The main characters from Hiding Carly re-appear, and woven through the new story are the elements of those relationships and the mysteries that were introduced in that first book.
Fallen Prey opens with Sean and Andy attending an end- of-summer party at the zoo near the river. They are headed to a middle school that is much larger than Springdale Elementary and it promises to be challenging – replete with groupies and gangs and geeks. When Sean joins an after school computer club, where an eighth grader demonstrates “the ropes” and angles of a new virtual world, Sean and his friends are catapulted into the middle of a cyber-crisis.
LP: The literary world is full of twists and turns. Is there a moment or two in your journey that you would like to share?
AE: A series of ticks come to mind, a chain reaction of sorts. The moment when I saw Hiding Carly in print for the first time; when I held the actual book in my hands and saw the excitement that others had when they read the book; when people that I didn’t know and would probably never meet reviewed my book and wanted to share it; finally, when they started asking for book two.
LP: How has your involvement in law enforcement shaped what you write about?
AE: Because of Hiding Carly, I was nominated to go through the FBI Citizen’s Academy Program where I learned all about the inner workings of the agency and received training in many areas. I subsequently received training with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department through their Citizen’s Academy Program. My involvement with the FBI and law enforcement has been instrumental in the direction of the series and my life, really. The ability to train with them and interview the agents and officers whenever I need the research, has contributed tremendously to the degree of authenticity in my writing, as well as providing inspiration. The main plot line of Fallen Prey was taken from an actual FBI case, though the real details and names are not the same, of course.
LP: What piece of wisdom would you like to share with aspiring writers?
AE: I would love to be able to proclaim some mystical and magical bit of knowledge that would make the journey from creative kernel to published book in hand simple and easy. But I do not have that secret formula in hand. The best advice or piece of wisdom that I have is threefold:
- Read (especially in the genre for which you want to write)
- Write (all the time – carry a notebook with you, keep one by your bedside table – use a recorder – whatever)
- Listen to the wisdom of those who have gone before you (go to conferences, take classes, read blogs of other writers – like this one)
Thank you, Linda, for having me here. I have really enjoyed it!
Hey READERS, I would love to hear from you.
Is your MIND FULL of old thoughts or new?