BIW Member Interview
Candie Moonshower’s The Legend of Zoey (Delacorte) won the SCBWI “Sue Alexander Most Promising New Work Award.” The book was inspired by the legends her great-grandmother, a Creek Indian born and bred in Tennessee, told her about Reelfoot Lake. Candie grew up in Okinawa and in Tennessee, and she lives in Nashville.
Moe: When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Candie Moonshower: I realized I wanted to be a writer pretty much simultaneously as I learned how to read. As I read my first book–my first book read solely by me with no help from Mom or teachers–I knew in my gut I wanted to write, too. That book was How Joe The Bear and Sam the Mouse Got Together by Beatrice Schenk De Regniers. When I finished reading that book for the first time, I sat there, on my stone front porch, absolutely astounded by the pure magic of those twenty-six symbols–the alphabet–being put together in such a way as to make a story! It was one of those rare moments of sheer bliss. It took me two years (laughs), to “seriously” begin to pursue a writing career. That was the summer I was eight years old, and I taught myself how to type on my mother’s old Smith-Corona Selectric typewriter (which, at the time, was pretty newfangled). I used a college typing book and taught myself to type because on TV, writers were always typing, and if I’d seen it on TV, it had to be true, right?
Moe: Describe three lessons you have learned about writing?
Candie Moonshower: Wow, only three things, huh? Over the years, the things I’ve learned about writing have changed and ebbed and flowed, depending on what I was writing, but, overall, here are three constants that I can say about my writing and the way I work at it:
1. Writing is rewriting.
2. The smallest word can pack as much of a wallop as the longest, most contrived description.
3. Failure to plan is planning to fail.
Moe: What are you working on now?
Candie Moonshower: I’m working on several things right now, as I always do. Two are pieces that are due imminently–short pieces for a business magazine I write for monthly. I’m also finishing up a biography that is under contract with Enslow for their “Authors Teens Love” series–a biography of the wonderful and prolific Young Adult author, Vivian Vande Velde. On the fiction end of things, I just finished a Young Adult romance, and I’m currently working on a related book. My agent has two novels of mine that she is pitching right now–a Vietnam-era Young Adult and a contemporary middle-grade novel.
Moe: Do you have a favorite writing related book?
Candie Moonshower: I’d have to say Dick Perry’s One Way to Write Your Novel because in it, dear Mr. Perry describes how, if you put your nose to the grindstone and just stick with it, day after day at just a page a day, you, too, can write a nice-sized novel in one year. This one is meaningful to me because, more than anything, during all the times when I was starting and never completing manuscripts, his book showed me a practical way that, yes, it could be done. I never did it that way (laughs), but his “plan” was like a carrot dangled in front of my desperate face.
Moe: What is your favorite writing website?
Candie Moonshower: My fave writing website that is not my own would have to be… well, gee, that’s a hard question… Okay, Harold Underdown’s Purple Crayon.
Moe: Do you have an important BIW tip you’d like to pass along?
Candie Moonshower: The motto says it all: BUTT IN CHAIR. More than anything else that I’ve learned from Book-in-a-week, it is that nothing gets written if you’re not in the position to write (laughs). I never wait for my muse–she ran off a long time ago with a purple unicorn, I think (probably about the time I taught myself to type)! If I waited for my muse, nothing would get done. I force my brain to put itself to the task of putting words together. They’re not always great words, but you can’t revise what you haven’t written. I think a lot of people like the idea of “having written something,” but not the idea of writing something. Book-in-a-week is about writing. A goodish bit of my middle-grade novel, The Legend of Zoey, was rough-drafted during Book-in-a-week weeks!