Special! An Interview with Author Rosanne Parry

Rosanne Parry is the author of the board book Daddy’s Home, and the recently reviewed novel Heart of a Shepherd, which explored the impact of a deployed military reserve unit on a rural area in Oregon. We’re happy to honor Veteran’s Day with an interview with this wonderful author.

Have you always wanted to be a writer? When did you start writing?
If you weren’t a writer, what would your job be?

I actually hated writing as a child. I had terrible handwriting and was a poor speller, so while I’ve always loved making up stories, it didn’t occur to me to write them down until I was in my 30s. I love to teach and still do it part-time. I’m sure I’d teach full time if I wasn’t a writer. Of course, my initial career plan was to become a circus flyer–still working on that. 🙂

How long did it take from starting to write to having your book published? Did you get many rejections?

Every writer gets rejections, not just new writers. Even writers with great reviews and best sellers get rejections. I never counted mine, and now that I have an agent I don’t even hear about them.

HEART OF A SHEPHERD was written over several years because I set it aside and worked on other stories when I got stuck. However, if you put together all the months that I worked on the first draft it would be about a year. I revised it with my critique group over ten months. My editor acquired it in September of 2006 and it came out in January of 2009.

Do you find it hard to stop editing/revising, or do you have a definite ending point?
For you, what is the hardest part of writing a book?

Working on my own, I could revise a piece endlessly. One thing I appreciate about my editor is that he is very focused about revisions. He let’s me know which parts of the story are working well and should be left alone and which parts need to be refined. By the time we got to our third revision I could see that I’d accomplished with the book what I’d hoped to, which made it much easier to let the story go on to copy editing and the rest of the process of turning it into a real book.

The hardest part? Waiting. I finished my edits on HEART OF A SHEPHERD almost a year before it was available in stores. I’m going to wrap up the revisions of my next novel SECOND FIDDLE by the end of the year, and it will come out in the spring of 2011.

I think I gleaned from your author’s note that you don’t live in the area portrayed in the book—what made you decide to write about that area?

I love eastern Oregon. It’s a stunning and spare and wild landscape. The people who live there are remarkable. Malheur County, where my story is set, is the size of Massechusetts. It has 30,000 residents, and yes, wildfire is as much a part of the landscape as mining and cattle ranching. I think my editor chose the book in part for the uniqueness of the setting. There aren’t many books set in the Great Basin about the lives of ranchers. Although if you enjoyed HEART OF A SHEPHERD, you might enjoy BULL RIDER by Suzanne Morgan Williams which is set just one county south in Nevada.

The religious aspect of Brother’s life is so homogenously woven into the story, which is somewhat unusual in modern children’s fiction. Was this something that you planned to do on purpose, or did it just develop by itself?

I didn’t set out to write a book with religion in it, but when I chose Malhuer County as my setting it was only honest to have the majority of my cast of characters devout Catholics. This area of Oregon was settled primarily by Irish and Basques for whom Catholicism is not just their faith but part of their cultural identification. Members of the military are also more church going than the general population, so it would have been lie of sorts to leave Brother’s spiritual life out of the book. It is a bit unusual to have a character be so frank about his faith in a childen’s novel though not unprecedented. Madeleine L’Engle’s work is infused with spirituality. Judy Blume’s ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT’S ME, MARGARET is a classic and the recent MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD by Francisco X Stork did a great job of addressing faith.

The relationships between the boys and their grandfather are so believable—did you have a close relationship with your grandparents or older relatives?

My grandfather lived with me when I was growing up although he was nothing like Grandpa Alderman. My own parents live near me and are a wonderful presence in my children’s lives. I can’t imagine parenting without them.

Do you have any family members or friends who are in the military?

Yes, many. My husband is a veteran of Desert Storm and has been out of the Army for many years, but I know many people who serve in the armed forces. Oregon has recently deployed the largest group of Oregan Guardsmen in 50 years, so many of the issues that unfolded in the book are alive in my community and many others.

What advice would you give to young writers?

If you love to write, write lots of things. Try all different kinds of stories. Don’t worry about finishing a story. If you get stuck set it aside and come back to it. If it’s just not fun anymore, start something new that is fun. But find a safe place to keep all your drafts, even the ones you don’t like. You might want to come back and work on them some day.

Are you working on a new book right now? If so, can you tell us anything about it? Do you have any cool plot ideas for the future?

I have a million cool story ideas, both for novels and picture books. While I’m waiting on my next revision letter I’ve been working on picture book ideas–one about St Patrick’s Day and a few about grandparents. My debut picture book, DADDY’S HOME was published by Candy Cane Press, and I’m hoping to work with them again.

I’m thrilled to be working with my Random House editor again on a new novel. This one is called SECOND FIDDLE. It’s about three girl musicians who live in Berlin in 1990 just as the Berlin Wall is coming down. It’s a great adventure story with a little bit of political intrigue and a lot of music and a very spontaneous trip to Paris. It has been fun fun fun to write! The story got me back to playing the violin, which I did when I was a kid and loved. I think it’s been fun for my editor, too, because he’s also a musician.

Who is YOUR favorite author or book?

Golly, do I have to pick one? This year my favorite authors are my fellow classmates at the Class of 2K9– a group of middle grade and YA authors with debut novels this year. You can visit all of us at our website. I have a list of my favorite books when I was a kid on my website, and I keep track of new books as I read them on my goodreads account.

What are your hobbies when you aren’t writing?

I like to dance and hike and ride my bike. I don’t get to do these very often, but I also love to ski and sail. Oregon is a beautiful place and Portland is a park-filled city so really anything that gets me outside is a good thing.

Thanks again to Rosanne Parry! We’re so happy that she was willing to answer our interview questions — especially since she had to take time away from revising her book-in-progress.


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