Sam is a ten-year-old mad scientist, but she doesn't blow up stuff or change kids into cats that bark. She just has a little trouble keeping a lid on her temper, and she “ab-so-lutely” loves science (especially rocks). But science isn’t all that helpful when it comes to the big questions like, why does she get into trouble, why is her sister so annoying, and why won’t anyone talk about her dad. When Sam’s mom announces a trip to the
Samantha Hansen Has Rocks In Her Head is a hilarious and touching debut that introduces middle graders to an exuberant new character who joyfully studies the
world around her, and her own heart.
Why this story? What about Sam made you write a book about her?
Well, Samantha Hansen didn’t start out as a character in a middle-grade novel; she was a chapter book character. I was doing research on chapter books and easy readers, thinking I’d like to try my hand at writing one. I noticed that most of these characters, although spunky and charming, seemed pretty dated (and rather well-behaved). I wanted a character who was contemporary and true-to-life—one that talked back to her mom, fought with her older sister, didn’t always excel in school, and many times acted on things before she thought them through. My agent felt that this was a lot to handle for a chapter book and encouraged me to expand it.
What’s your favorite non-writing hobby?
I asked my daughter what she thought my hobby was because I think of a hobby as a relaxing, quiet activity, and I’m not fond of relaxing, and rarely am quiet. She said I should say “reading” because I do love to read, but I think that’s a “given” for writers. So, I’ll say travel is my favorite hobby. You can throw a dart on a map, and tell me I’m going to that place, and I’ll be packed in five minutes. I love to explore small towns, national parks, unpopulated areas, and cities (to a lesser extent). I’m not in a hurry to leave the good ‘ole USA, and I still have a few states to see before I can say I’ve been to them all. (If my long-time writer-friend who just moved to Alaska is listening in…I’m waiting for my official invitation to come see you!)
How do you celebrate when you finish a draft?
I’m always thinking ahead to the next thing I need to take care of (revision, marketing, my kids!), so the lines blur between draft and complete project. That being said, I celebrate every morning in a pretty weird way. I wake up and say to myself, “I’m still here! Hooray!” My dad, who suffered so much in the last months of his life, met each day with a dimpled smile, a sense of humor, and relentless optimism. I try to do the same.
Describe Samantha Hansen Has Rocks in Her Head in ONE word. :)
What was the process like for you from draft, to agent, to publication?
Like I mentioned above, this book started out as a ten-chapter, chapter book. I sent that book to Dan Lazar at Writers House, and he loved it. Dan subbed it to a few editors who confirmed his thinking that it should be expanded to middle-grade. This made me freak-out at first because I never considered myself a novelist. But once I got “permission” to add 20,000 words, it took on a life of its own. After a few months (with editorial guidance from Dan), we sent it out again. This time Abrams/Amulet signed the book for their Fall 2008 list, calling it “their Ramona.”
What’s one book by another author that you wish you’d written? Ooh, tough question. It would have to be a book that ignited my passion for reading early on. Maybe Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White or The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
Give some advice to teens and young adults who strive for publication.
If you have the opportunity to take a class in creative writing, that’s a perfect place to start. If not (and this piece of advice is for everyone, but it’s sometimes easier for teens/young adults), absorb any info about writing you can find on the Internet. Join a forum, network, blog, enter writing contests, be part of an online critique group, and sign up for conferences. Finally (and this is the hard part for all of us), carve out time in your busy schedules to write. Practice, practice, practice!
What are you reading right now?
Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale
This is so different from anything I’ve read, but I like it!
Nancy Viau has worked as an elementary school teacher, a counselor in an after-school program, an instructor for reluctant readers, and a freelance writer. She now specializes in writing for children, and along with her debut middle-grade novel, Samantha Hansen Has Rocks In Her Head, her stories, poems, and activities appear in: Highlights for Children, Highlights High Five, Babybug, Ladybug, and many other magazines for children and adults.
Web site: http://www.nancyviau.com
Class of 2k8 Web site page: http://www.classof2k8.com/index.php?id=73
And now, for the giveaway straight from Nancy!
"I’ll give away a beach pail and shovel (because that’s what Sam uses when she collects rocks) filled with yummy rock candy, favorite rocks, and a Samantha Hansen notepad (for making lists just like she does)."
Okay, guys! Leave a comment on Blogger or LiveJournal or BOTH spots to enter. You have until 11:59PM on Sunday, August 10. I'll announce the winner on Monday morning. If you're the lucky winner, you'll have until Wednesday morning to e-mail me (jessica [at] jessicaburkhart [dot] com) your name and address so I can pass them onto Nancy.