Rhonda Hayter’s debut novel, The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams, drops today! I am really hyped to get my copy from Amazon, and I’m even more geeked to have Rhonda as a guest on the blog today.
Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.
Confounded as to figuring out how many words that is. Spaces…no spaces? Do dot dot dots count? With all my fabulous qualities, how can I condense them into a mere 14—
Can you tell us a little bit about your debut novel, The Witchy Worries of Abbie Adams.
So glad you asked. It’s a funny, Middle-Grade novel for ages 9-12 about a normal, contemporary fifth-grader who also happens to be a witch. This magical element to her life causes some obstacles to stuff like, oh say, getting her social studies diorama project in on time. Hey, just try getting your homework done when you’re busy coping with a little brother who turns into a werewolf and tries to eat his first grade teacher…or maybe trying to find out what renegade witch could have enchanted your cat, who might actually be a legendary inventor from the past.
How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?
I have two sons, and the younger one was the most cherubic, sweet-natured, adorable little angel you ever saw…except when he wasn’t. Let’s just say he wasn’t very adept at managing big feelings yet…and there’d be monstrous meltdowns. When we were in the middle of one of those one day, I turned to my husband and whispered, “My God. It’s as if he turns into a werewolf.” And that gave me the idea for a little boy who really did turn into a werewolf when he couldn’t manage his anger…and all of the other characters, including his big sister Abbie, just grew out of that. By the way, my son is twelve now. He grew out of the meltdowns and he’s back to being an angel.
Have you learned anything about yourself through your characters?
That’s an interesting question. Some of the characters like Abbie herself and her mom, are really different sides of me… and I guess in writing the mom who has very defined ideas about parenting, I realized how many child-rearing books I must have desperately read in those difficult early years.
What has been the most challenging aspect of writing the book.
The book was a joy to write and a joy to revise…now getting anyone to read it… that was hard.
Can you share your experiences finding a publisher? What was the process like?
Like a horror movie with a happy ending. First I sent queries to…well I believe it might have been every American literary agent born in the last century…and nobody would read the manuscript. I happen to be Canadian born though and I had a very good friend who was having an adult memoir published up there. She spoke to her agent about me (may she live a thousand years in uttermost bliss) and that got me an agent at last. She sold the book to a Canadian publisher within a month. Just as it was going to the copy editor though, the publishers went out of business and I was orphaned. So my agent, Lise (may she dance the foxtrot of ecstasy on clouds of cotton candy) shopped around for an American publisher. We got passed on A LOT and I was sure my dreams were shattered (sniffle)…but good news finally came from Harcourt…which shortly afterwards developed all kinds of financial problems too. But in the end, my editor Kathy Dawson (may she float everlastingly on seas of undulating joy) took me with her to Penguin and my tortured path to publication finally culminated.
What’s the most gratifying aspect of having your book published?
Showing it to my kids.
Who was your biggest supporter when you were working on your book?
Oh that award most definitely gets given to my husband Stephen, who made sure I got the time to work on it, read it a billion times while laughing in all the right places and gave me fantastic ideas to help me get out of corners I’d painted myself into. But the best part of all is that I can feel how proud he is of me.
Can you share some of your favorite books when you were a kid?
I had a little bit of an unusual childhood in that there was no TV where I lived. It was up in Northern Canada and it wasn’t until I was in sixth grade that we finally got one channel…but the programs were split up between French and English. It was too cold to go outside and play a lot, so reading was the only game in town. I loved Pippi Longstocking and the Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Beldon, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Oz books…I could go on and on.
What are you working on next.
I am manfully wrestling with Abbie 2. She’s on her fourth revision but I have about four other novels begun that I hope to get to one day. I really want to write an action adventure book for my boys.
Spring is coming. What’s your favorite flavor of ice-cream.
That one with the peanut butter cups in it. It’s evil genius pure and simple.
Congrats on making it to publication day! Thank you for dropping in and answering some questions when you probably have a million other things to do today!
Wow! Rhonda proves how important it is to keep chasing your dreams! Her book is out today, and you can pick it up from Amazon or your local bookstore. If you want to learn more about Rhonda, her website is here. Ok, gotta go! I have to go wait for the UPS guy to bring me my copy of Abbie Adams!