Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Renee Hand - Author of The Crypto-Capers

As promised yesterday, Renee Hand recently gave me the opportunity to interview her and I'm delighted to share with you the Q&A. I'm sure you will enjoy it as much as I did. Take this opportunity to ask Renee your questions or to leave her a comment. She will be checking in throughout the day.

DMc: Renee, you are an award-winning Romance Novelist and Children’s Author. What techniques do you use to shift between the genres?

RH: It isn’t difficult for me at all to switch gears from one genre to the next. I actually have more fun writing for my children’s series then I do for my romance so I do more with it. The major difference in writing for adults and writing for children is the audience, so I have to make sure that my topics and verbiage are appropriate for the right audience. I still do the same amount of research for both. My romance novels of course are much thicker than my children’s books so they do take me longer to write. But whenever I write a story, no matter if it is a romance novel for adults or for my children’s series, I put a lot of heart in it. When a reader gets done with reading one of my books, they are not just going to set it down and say, “That was a good book!” and walk away. They’re going to say that my stories meant something to them in some way and they will remember them. I love to have that connection with my readers. I have had children come up to me and say they love the series and want more. I have had adults come up to me and say that my romance novels have touched their lives in some way and that is what my writing is about.

DMc: On your website you encourage children to submit suggestions for future characters. Have you ever developed a suggestion further?

RH: Yes, and my readers are going to see this in book 3 which comes out in the fall. I can’t give too much away now unfortunately, but I do choose the character descriptions sent to me based on my need for them at the time. When I wrote book 3, two boys sent to me their descriptions which fit in with my story line perfectly. I am doing something special for the children who take the time to send me their descriptions. Again, what I do for those special children can be seen in book 3. Every description I receive I also keep, so I may not use a particular description now, but I might use it in a future case. Right now I am currently working on book 4 so I am looking through my character descriptions to see who I can use. Now would be a good time for readers to send more character descriptions to me.

DMc: Are your characters based on yourself or anyone you know?

RH: The only character based on myself is Mia Holmes. She is very much like me in certain aspects. I developed Nellie Holmes (aka Granny) to resemble my grandmother who was a spunky and energetic woman. Max and Mia Holmes are the great-great-great-grandchildren of Sherlock Holmes. They have is observation and reasoning, especially Max. Morris is the computer genius of the group and he was created based on how I saw him to be. Granny and Morris are unique characters because they are the ones that change the most. Max and Mia are exactly what they are, there is no different side to them. But Granny and Morris are not what they appear to be and they do things that are unexpected.

DMc: Are the writer’s you showcase on your website strictly students or can anyone submit to you?

RH: I only showcase students and the reason for that is because I want to help and inspire the youth of our country. There are a lot of budding writers out there and if I can help them in some way with their dreams of becoming an author when they get older, then I will do it. I was the same way that some of these children are today. I was an avid writer who spent most of my time writing.

DMc: When you conduct school visits, do you develop your visit by the requirements of the school or do you have a specific visit planned out to present to the school for approval?

RH: When I go to schools they are contacting me because I have a set program that I run. I do have a list of topics that I discuss and there are many things that I can do or change based on the schools needs. I am a versatile speaker.

DMc: On your blog, you provide a Cryptogram a week, has a child ever stumped you? [Love the idea of winning a free signed copy if you are stumped!]

RH: No, not yet. I am a cryptogram junky, I love to do them and do them everyday. Children are pretty clever so I do have a set of rules they must follow in order to create a cryptogram for me. If I didn’t have rules I would have children come up with some pretty strange things. What I want children to benefit from while doing this activity, is I want them to get familiar with the cipher that I use in my books, how to create them and how to solve them. If my readers know how to do that then they will understand how and why they are used in the book. It gives them a better understanding. Everything I do is for a reason. Children are always learning something.

DMc: Please share with us the idea behind your series, The Crypto-Capers Series.

RH: There were two reasons why I wrote this book. One, I love reading mysteries. I also love to figure out cryptograms, I am a cryptogram junky. So I thought what a great idea it would be to combine the two things I love to do and make it into a story where kids could interact with it. Two, I wanted children to be involved with what they were reading. This series is fun and entertaining, always keeping the reader’s attention. Not only does the series challenge the avid reader, but also keeps the reluctant readers attention. As soon as the reader picks up the book, they have instantly joined the team as a detective. The reader will be asked to look up different things and to participate in the story on different occasions. My goal was to have kids remember what they were reading because they are learning information with value, yet having fun at the same time. I am all about having fun in my stories and the activities I create for it.

DMc: Are you a disciplined writer?

RH: Yes and no! I usually try to write every morning, but I do like to take breaks to recharge my creativity. I need to have breaks in my writing and when I do my writing always turns out better.

DMc: Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? If yes, what works for you to break through the block?

RH: Every once in awhile I get stuck on an idea, not that often. When that happens there are two things that I do. One, I look through the list of information that I keep from my research on that particular book to help pump my creativity. Two, I refer back to my idea wall. In my workspace I have what I call an idea wall. Whenever there are things for me to remember I write them on this wall. I currently have sticky notes all over it. Whenever I get stuck on an idea, I write the problem on my wall and put it at eye level. Since I pass my workspace several times a day, I constantly think about the problem I am having. The wall has never failed me yet!

DMc: A signature request I like to ask every author, illustrator, editor, etc..., I interview is for the individual to share with us a tidbit from their lives that the reader will find either humorous or surprising. Renee, can you please share one with us?

RH: I am not quite sure which story to tell you. The biggest thing that surprises people about me is that I love to have a diversity of things going on in my life to keep me challenged, otherwise I get bored. I like to know about a lot of things. I am not the kind of person who focuses their knowledge on a few things and that’s it, then can’t function anywhere else. I like to know about a lot of things to keep me diversified. I don’t like to carry all my eggs in one basket, if you know what I mean.

I love to write children’s books because it is challenging for me and I can do so much with it. I designed my series so I could think out of the box and be unique and fun. I love to write and being an author. I enjoy traveling to different schools, libraries and various other events doing presentations. I love coaching and playing tennis, which I do a lot come spring, summer and fall. I also love to teach. Even though my life at times seems to be constantly on a roller coaster that takes me in and out of crazy town, the one thing that I must have is stability in my home. So I am also a devoted wife and dedicated mother. My life is constantly full of responsibilities, but my family always comes first and is of the highest priority to me. I am not perfect in any way, I am flawed and can always use improvement. I try constantly to improve myself to become a better person, trying to learn more, but I am also proud and confident of who I am. That is the one thing I know, and it took me awhile to figure it out, but I believe in myself and what I can do, and when there is something that I am determined to do, there is no stopping me.


  1. Donna
    Thank you so much for interviewing me and for promoting my books. I greatly appreciate it. What a pleasure and an honor it is. Thank you so much for everything and good luck in all of your future endeavors. If anyone has any questions about the series or about writing please let me know. I look forward to hearing from you. I do have a blog. Check it out! Here is also my video on You Tube
    I can also be contacted on facebook!

    Renee Hand
    The Crypto-Capers Series


  2. Good morning Renee:

    It's a pleasure having you as my guest author today and I look forward to visitor comments and questions throughout the day.


  3. I so have a questions - and so far no one has asked or answered it - lol - How come you have started the series based in London and then the first two books bring you to the United States? and How can your characters afford to travel everywhere? How are they contacted for the "mysteries"? Okay that was more than one question - but these are what inquiring minds want to know - or at least my inquiring mind - lol -

    Good interview and fun answers - Donna is always an inspiration to us and she seems to have some interesting folks come on her blog - E :)

  4. Good Morning Everyone
    Those are good questions. Here are the answers to them. Max and Mia are the great great great grandchildren of Sherlock Holmes. Their main base is in London where they frequently help out Scotland Yard with their cases. The beginning of The Case of the Missig Sock gives a really good explanation of the characters and how they got started and what they do. My characters travel all around the world solving cases, they don't stay in London. Morris, who is the computer genius of the group, puts their information out to the world to let people know they are for hire, plus their reputation proceeds them. People contact them usually by e-mail or by some other way. They are very accomplished at solving cases and have many people who are willing to reccomend them. They get paid to solve cases which is why they can afford to travel everywhere. Sometimes their clients also pay for them to travel. The first two books lead The Crytpo-Capers to the U.S. for specific reasons. In my series their is always a reason why my characters do what they do. The series relates to eachother which is why readers must start with book 1. There is a history there. In book 3 The Crypto-Capers will be going to another country. Something or someone is leading them there for a reason. In each case there is a new mystery going on and yet they are relateable because of the background of each case. You will see the characters change and grow with each case because they will have to. It really is a fascinating series. Again, The Crypto-Capers will be traveling around the world so they will be visiting some pretty cool and interesting places. Check them out and see. Hopefully this helps everyone with a better understanding of the series.

  5. Donna,
    What a beautiful and helpful post! Thanks,

    I've enjoyed reading about you and the way you work. Your books for kids seem to be so very interesting-kids love mysteries-this is a success recipe. I might read one when time permits.

  6. Very interesting interview. I think the Crypto-Capers sound like an excellent series.

  7. Are we supposed to be solving the cryptogram at the bottom of your signature? is there a guide somewhere for the cryptogram? This does look to be a very good series and I hope to be able to follow it as much as I can - E :)

  8. Thank you for such an interesting interview, the book and the series sounds great, can't wait to read/hear more.


  9. Hello
    At the beginning of book one, in the "Note to Reader" section, I explain what a cryptogram is and how to solve it. I even give you an example. By my signature is a word scramble, not a cryptogram. What you are seeing is ODGO KUCL!GOOD LUCK!
    There are a few of those mixed in throughout the story. My characters will point them out. The best thing to do is sit down with a pad of paper and keep track of the cipher key and all of the cryptograms. Then you can see what you need to do and how to work things out. Book 1 of the series is the easiest because my characters find everything that you will need to be successful. Trust me. If I have 4th graders reading the book and solving the cryptograms, you can do it too. It seems harder than what it is, but it is really easy to understand once you get the hang of it. Also, only found in book 1 is an answer key in the back of the book. If you need help, you can look in the back and find the answer. I want all of my readers to have success and confidence with the series. Keep in mind that after book 1 you will never see an answer key again, you will have to create your own, but don't worry, if you follow along with the detectives, they will show you how to do it because they need to do it too. My goal is to keep my readers thinking, so, ODGO KUCL! I hope this helps.
    Renee Hand
    The Crypto-Capers Series

  10. Thanks, Renee. The problem with a book tour - not everyone has the "key" to solving the cryptograms as not everyone has the book. I know you are wanting folks to get your books, but even a partial key on your blog or something would be helpful - The cryptogram I created for my first book - has a partial key available for the cryptogram - so that is kind of what I am looking for - a key of some sort to help solve the cryptogram messages you leave behind on the comments on the blog tour. - E :)

  11. This book sounds flat-out-fun!

  12. Hello All:

    The exchange between visitors and Renee has been quite enjoyable. Keep coming. Renee will be checking back in soon.


  13. Great interview, Donna. Thanks for telling us about your writing and your books, Renee. They sound perfect for my grandchildren.


  14. Hello everyone
    You will not need to have my books to solve the cryptograms that I am leaving at each blog stop on my tour. I created these to challenge you. I am not going to provide a cipher key to help you, the challenge of this is for you to figure the cryptograms out for yourselves. I actually solve cryptograms every night before I go to bed without any help of a cipher key. But here is some information to help you if you are not familiar with cryptograms. What I am using is called a substitution cipher, what this means is that I am substituting one letter of the alphabet for another. This is the same kind of cipher I am using in my books.
    No letter ever stands for itself, for example, a C will not stand for a C. The most common three-letter words include; the, and, but, for & are. Common two letter words are; it, is, of & in. The order of frequency of the most used letters in the English language is; E, T, A, O, I, N, S, H, R, D, L, U. Think of your blends and digraphs and that will help you. I am offering a free book to anyone who can solve all of my cryptograms and e-mails the answers to me at the end of my tour. I hope this helps everyone.
    Renee Hand

  15. My kids would've loved these. I'll keep them in mind for friends' kids now. (Not grandkids! Not yet! Please!)

  16. Renee's characters and plots sound fascinating. Sounds like I have books to add to my summer reading list.


  17. Donna,
    Thank you so much again for having me on your blog. I appreciate it. I had a great experience!

  18. Renee, it's nice to meet you. Sounds as if you've developed some really neat promomotion ideas!

    Carolyn Howard-Johnson
    Blogging at Writer's Digest 101 Best Website picks,

  19. Great interview and great idea for a MG series!

  20. Renee: It was a true pleasure hosting you. It was a lot of fun.

    Best wishes for your continued success!


  21. Hi Donna,

    I had left a lengthy message yesterday, but I don't see it, so I'm not sure what I did. :)

    Thanks for hosting Renee yesterday. I absolutely loved these books and my girls were battling with me to finish my reviews so that they could read them, even though the youngest is too young for them.

    I had never solved a cryptogram before, but I found even without the key, the clues given in the second book made it easy enough to figure out.

    I am impatiently waiting for Book 3.

    Renee, you're doing an excellent job commenting at these blogs. Keep up the great work!


  22. Great interview and wonderful information. I look forward to getting the books and reading them with my grand-daughter. Donna, you always provide information that is inspiring to other writers as well as helpful. Thanks.


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