© 2013 Sheila Turnage, Inc.
Questions Kids Ask Me – AKA Report Info!
STATS: Name? Sheila Turnage. I was born in Jacksonville, NC, and grew up on a farm in eastern North Carolina. I went to college at East Carolina University, where I studied anthropology. I still live on that farm with my husband, a smart dog, a dozen chickens, and a flock of guineas. Deer and wild turkeys wander through our yard.
Q. When did you decide to be a writer?
A. First grade. I’d written a story with one of those fat pencils, on that paper with the blue dotted lines. My teacher liked it and she let me read it to a class of third graders. I remember thinking, this is it. This is what I want to do. I’m going to be a writer.
Q. But how does a farm kid get to be a writer?
A. No matter where you live, if you write you’re a writer. I had a great start. I grew up around fabulous storytellers, plus my parents read to me when I was small. Then, as soon as I could read, my mother got me a library card. I always had books, and when you grow up in the country you get lots of time to read.
Q. Did you study writing in school?
A. I took journalism classes in high school and college, and I still take creative writing classes at my community college.
Q. Do you write every day or do you wait until you’re inspired?
A. If I have a deadline, I write every day. If I don’t have a deadline, I might write but I always keep an ear out for a story or a character and when I hear one I write it down. I’m always thinking about my next story. As for inspiration – some days I feel inspired and some days I don’t. Writing is easier when it flows, but sometimes what I write when I’m not feeling so inspired is just as good in the end because I rewrite so much. Rewriting is really important for me. Also fun.
Q. The narrator of the Mo and Dale Mysteries is eleven-year-old Mo LoBeau. She’s funny and smart and a little pushy. Is she you when you were a kid?
A. Mo and I have lots in common, but she’s smarter than I am. And funnier. And better at solving mysteries.
Q. Where does your inspiration come from?
A. Really I think inspiration is everywhere, if you’re open to it. Mo’s voice really inspires me and keeps me going. Life inspires me. The people and animals and places around me… If you’re looking for something to write about, just keep your eyes and heart open. I think you’ll be surprised!
Q. Who does the dynamite maps for your books? I love maps!
A. Eileen LaGreca creates those! I think they’re incredible. If you want to see them again, click here!
Q. What’s the best thing about being a writer?
A. The moment everything clicks and you know a story works.
Q. What’s the hardest thing about being a writer?
A. Trusting the click to happen!
Q. I hear writers work in their pajamas – a perk. True or False?
A. Some writers probably do, but I wear regular clothes. Wearing pjs all day depresses me and confuses the chickens.
Q. How do you think up good characters?
A. I listen for characters. Sometimes it starts with a word. Or a sentence. Or an outburst of imagination. I don’t try to get it perfect, I just write it the way I hear it. Then I polish it into a good story. It sounds odd, but this happens to a lot of writers, the same way musicians might hear music in their minds, or a painter might be carried away by light and shadow.
Q. Suppose your characters are just sitting around, and nothing’s happening in your story?
A. I add conflict. A storm! An argument! A fight! A crime! Conflict keeps characters busy. It also keeps Mo’s readers turning the pages.
Q. What’s it like where you live?
A. I live on a farm in eastern North Carolina. It’s mostly quiet and flat and green. If you want to learn more about Eastern NC, click here!
Q. Let’s say you’re a kid and you want to be a writer. What should you do?
A. Write what you like to write! Read books that make you happy. Listen to the way people talk and watch how they move. Listen to people’s stories. Jot things down – odd details, funny lines, ideas. Look around for other writers and form a group so you share your work. Even if you have to write something you don’t really want to write (like a school paper), get that done and then write what makes you happy.
Q. Have you written other books besides the Mo and Dale Mysteries?
A. I have! I don’t have a favorite but I definitely have the most fun writing the Mo and Dale Mysteries. To learn more about my other books, click here.
Q. Are you going to write more Mo and Dale Mysteries?
A. I know I will write at least one more after The Odds of Getting Even. In fact, I’ve already started it. I can’t tell you too much, but I can tell you it includes part of Tupelo Landing’s pirate history. And a Nashville singer Harm Crenshaw never expected to see in town. And a school play that’s… well, you’ll have to read the book. PLUS for those of you who’ve been asking about Mo’s Upstream Mother, in this book the Desperados take a second look at the most important case of Mo’s life. Enough said.
Q. Can people send their stories to you for advice?
A. No, I’m not set up for that because I’m busy writing, too. But like I said, I think it’s a great idea to get feedback from other writers around you. You can ask your teacher or librarian to help you get a writers’ group going. Then you’ll get the feedback you need and I can get my next book written!