Jul 27

Tenner Tuesday with Kate Milford!

Welcome to the final week of Tenner Tuesday! And to end on an extremely high note…kind of like the grand finale fireworks on the 4th of July, I have with me fellow critique partner and amazing writer and just a wonderful person all around, Kate Milford and her book The Boneshaker which is making quite a splash in the world of Children’s Literature!

Here’s a little bit about Kate! She is the author of children’s and adult fiction, several plays and a couple of screenplays, and an assortment of scholarly articles on subjects as diverse as self-aware ironmongery and how to make saltwater taffy in a haunted kitchen. She is also a contributing writer for the Nagspeake Board of Tourism and Culture and a passionate shutterbug.

And here’s a tiny teaser for The BoneshakerThirteen-year-old Natalie Minks loves machines, particularly automata—self-operating mechanical devices, usually powered by clockwork. When Jake Limberleg and his traveling medicine show arrive in her small Missouri town with a mysterious vehicle under a tarp and an uncanny ability to make Natalie’s half-built automaton move, she feels in her gut that something about this caravan of healers is a bit off. Her uneasiness leads her to investigate the intricate maze of the medicine show, where she discovers a horrible truth and realizes that only she has the power to set things right. Set in 1914, The Boneshaker is a gripping, richly textured novel about family, community, courage, and looking evil directly in the face in order to conquer it. Set in 1914 and brimming with magical and steampunk elements, “The Boneshaker” is a gripping, richly textured novel about family, community, courage, and looking evil directly in the face in order to conquer it.

And now onto my interview!

When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?

The earliest I can remember (and I only remember this because it’s documented on a poster with construction-paper balloons that my mom still has framed back home) was in first grade when I was writer of the week at my elementary school and I claimed when I was “interviewed” that people had always told me I should be a writer and I was seriously considering it.

How long does it generally take you to write a book from those first words to the very last?

Hard to answer—the first draft of The Boneshaker took two weeks, but that draft was like 150 pages long and had a long way to go. The first draft of the current book I’m working on took two months, but again, I’m having to do a ton of rewriting.

What was the inspiration—that first spark of a story—behind your amazing book?

There wasn’t one single spark that I remember. There was sort of a cluster of things that suddenly made sense together: an article on the Jamaica Ginger epidemic (Jamaica Ginger was a patent medicine that was a popular drink substitute during Prohibition and that turned out to have been made with a potent neurotoxin), some research I’d done into antique medical technologies, a whole collection of cool stuff belonging to my neighbor Ray Rupelli, and my first encounters with Something Wicked This Way Comes and His Dark Materials. I guess that’s how stories come together for me: I start to figure out connections between bits and pieces of things I think are neat and then I start to write.

What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?

Well, right now I still have a full-time job, so 40-60 hours a week I’m managing a store. I get my reading time on the subway on the way to and from work, and then I write in the evenings and on lunch breaks. On my days off, my goal is 3000 words if I’m trying to plow through a draft, plus I try to post to my website once a week (and sometimes I manage it and sometimes I don’t).

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk…come on…I know you have one!

I probably do, but I have no idea what it is. Let me ask Nathan if he has any insight on this.

What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Cooking and baking—particularly when those include messing around with liquor and spices I haven’t used before; photography (I love used cameras and shooting with reversal film), running (I’m not good at it and I’m slow as paint, but I’ve run four races with my sister Stephanie and our friend Alexa. We’re working up to a marathon one of these days), and muay thai (thai boxing—although I haven’t managed to practice that for about six months and I’m missing it a lot right about now).

What do you think makes a good story?

A cast of complex characters in a well-drawn and consistent world, at the center of a conflict with high stakes. The unexpected—I find it really satisfying when something happens that I didn’t foresee.

Without giving us any spoilers, how did you choose the title for your book?

It was originally called Gingerfoot, which was one of the names for the effects of Jamaica Ginger poisoning. The folks at Clarion thought the name wasn’t evocative enough, so we came up with The Boneshaker. The new title refers to Natalie’s bicycle, which behaves a lot like an old velocipede and which Natalie can’t ride (much to her shame, since her dad’s a bicycle mechanic and she basically begged him to fix this particular bicycle up for her).

Are there any tools that are absolute must-haves for writers?

Dropbox! It’s like a remote USB drive, and it saves me from ever having to worry about losing an external drive or not having the most recent draft of a project with me. Also my little netbook; it’s small and light and it starts up and shuts down so fast I can actually write on the subway if I want to.

What kind of research went into writing your book if any?

Oh, lots—on bicycles, all the weird medical stuff, the Wright Brothers and Flyer I, early motorcars, and the tales of Jack. I actually love research, because I’m such a geek for details. My problem is I procrastinate with it. It’s easy to put off writing for research, and a lot of times no matter how much you know about something, you don’t know what you need to know until you get to the actual writing. Does that make sense?

Have you ever had someone try to matchmake for you and if so, how did it go?

Hmm…actually, no, I don’t think I have! I’m too neurotic and socially awkward to think it could possibly have gone well if anyone had, though. That kind of thing terrifies me!

Because I think you should always save room for dessert, as a child, what was your favorite dessert? And what is your favorite dessert now?

Oooh. It was cheesecake for a long time, and then tiramisu. Pumpkin pie is always a hit at my house because it’s Nathan’s favorite and because I make a mean pumpkin pie (I dose it with like five kinds of alcohol, among other things). My favorite thing to make for dessert, though, is to take a homemade pie crust, fresh fruit and fresh nutmeg and whatever other spices and alcohol look good at the time (I mentioned that I like messing around with spices and alcohol, right?), and improvise a pie with spiked whipped cream. Oh, and plum pudding. I make a mean plum pudding, too. Basically I like desserts I can liquor up.

What do you hope to leave your readers with once they’ve finished your book?

That’s a good question. Selfishly, I hope they’ll want to read more about Natalie and Arcane, for one thing. But more seriously, this book wound up being a little bit about the spectrum that falls between absolute good and absolute evil, about death and what comes after, about the importance of family and being brave and making hard choices. I don’t want to leave readers with any specific message, because I don’t always know what I think about any of those things. I just know that I do think about them, and I think it’s good to think about them and question them, even if there aren’t easy answers to be found. Does that answer the question a little?

What question would you like to ask me?

I want to know if you were the matchmaker, or if you were part of the matchmaking attempt. I feel like there has to be a personal story there.

Fortunately, the only matchmaking that I’ve done–and I’ve done a lot–has all been in my head. I’ll pick people for each other and see quite an elaborate love story unfold like a movie in my head complete with first date all the way up to the wedding cake and, fo course, the “thank you so much, Lindsay, for bringing us together.” But then *PooF* I magically wake up and find out that thankfully I really live in a place called reality, and all my potential couples would fail miserable. So I have always kept my mouth shut tightly. And actually, the only time anyone played matchmaker for me was in college for what everyone called “get-your-roommate-a-date.” A friend set me up with a great guy who ended up marrying one of my best friends.

Thanks so much for visiting me, Kate! You can visit Kate Milford on her website at www.clockworkfoundry.com and to order The Boneshaker…which you really MUST, click HERE!

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