Monday, November 23, 2009

Guest Interview: Renee Hand, Children's Author

On the tail end of my book reviews from last on Renee Hand's Crypto-Capers Series I felt it warranted to re-run an interview I conducted with Renee a while back. 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.

To learn more about Hand’s writing career visit

Renee, it was a pleasure having you here today...thank you.

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