Jodie Brownlee: The Ruby trilogy is a fantasy adventure series for middle grade children.
Granny McQuirky uses the traveler’s telescope to teleport into another world. While she is away, Ruby’s house-proud mother gives the telescope a polish and knocks the settings out. Ruby and her friends try to put it right, but accidentally zap Mrs Pinkus and her poodle into the other world. When they follow to retrieve her, they bring back more than they bargained for and Granny McQuirky is blamed for the resulting crimes. Ruby and her friends must find the real criminal before Granny is sentenced to life in a bottle, but at every turn, a mysterious enemy threatens Ruby’s life.
Terry C. Simpson: What inspired you to write this particular story?
Jodie Brownlee: I wrote the kind of story I would have loved to read when I was ten. It’s a blend of mystery, adventure, comedy, light horror, the real and the magical. I also wanted a strong female protagonist who inspired girls to live bravely, to be a loyal friend, and to explore.
Terry C. Simpson: What writer influenced you the most?
Jodie Brownlee: It’s hard to narrow it down to one, but I will go with Tolkien. Bilbo’s transformation from a homey hobbit to a hero, his adventures and impossible quest, and Tolkien’s well crafted world, had me reading The Hobbit over and over again.
Terry C. Simpson: Tell us a little about your main characters. Who was your favorite? Why?
Jodie Brownlee: There are three friends; Avalon a genie, Jaffa a well-read Persian boy, and Ruby the protagonist from a suburb in the western world. They each have their talents and weaknesses, but together they are formidable, though they don’t realize it. Their friendship and loyalty, and Ruby’s ability to unite different people to a common cause, is what saves the entire genie population.
My favorite character is Ruby. She doesn’t seem to have any talent at all, is not always obedient, and is often plagued with self-doubt, but she has courage, loyalty, leadership qualities and a good heart.
Terry C. Simpson: How long did it take you to write your book?
Jodie Brownlee: One year from beginning to publication.
Terry C. Simpson: How much of a story do you have in mind before you start writing it?
I toy around with a few ideas on paper first, but I wouldn’t call this writing. ‘Sketching’ out ideas is more apt. I research the subject and sketch out the key points – a problem, an inciting incident, the climax, the ending – then I jot down twenty or so key scenes. Once this is down I have enough to work with and I start to write the story, continuing to jot rough scenes and research as I go.
Terry C. Simpson: What is your goal for the book, ie: what do you want people to take with them after they finish reading the story?
I want children to value friendship and loyalty. I want to encourage them to live bravely, to be curious, and to live life as though it were a big bold adventure.
Terry C. Simpson: What was the most difficult part about writing the book?
Jodie Brownlee: The most difficult part was in knowing whether my writing was any good or not. Self-doubt is the writer’s number one enemy. It is the culprit behind writer’s block, the reason for not prioritizing your time to include writing, and is the root of a million other afflictions.
Terry C. Simpson: What’s your writing schedule like? Do you strive for a certain amount of words each day?
Jodie Brownlee: I write a plan which includes goals, key performance indicators and deadlines. Goals are what I call big things like ‘complete book X by this date’. Key performance indicators are the small achievements which act as stepping stones towards my goal: For example ‘draft one complete in six months’, ‘final draft in 8 months’, ‘query letter to 5 literary agents by this date’, and so on.
I don’t have a word count or specified hours to work, as long as I meet my deadlines. Sometimes this means working nights and weekends to get it done. I don’t have a problem with wasting time because it is my habit to wake up and sit at my computer until 5.30pm. I clear my emails and set up my tweets in the first two hours. After that I try not to let social media distract me until the following morning. (‘Try’ being the operative word!)
Terry C. Simpson: What’s been the most surprising part of being a writer?
Jodie Brownlee: The reaction of other people when I tell them I am a writer. It varies from complete indifference to almost celebrity worship. No other occupation (and I have had many) has elicited such varied and extreme responses.
Terry C. Simpson: What advice would you give to an aspiring author?
Jodie Brownlee: 1. You spend a year or so on your manuscript. Spend extra time on your query letter, too, so that agents will want to see that manuscript.
2. Where you are now as a writer, will not be where you are in six months or a year from now. You will grow as you master your craft. Just because one manuscript is roundly rejected, does not mean the next one will be.
Terry C. Simpson: What advice would you give other novelists about book promotion?
Jodie Brownlee: Set aside time for promotion and time for your writing. Don’t let promotion take over and prevent you from writing the next book. Balance is essential.
Join a supportive network so that you can all cross-promote. There are many on Facebook and I am a member of Author Central, Amrita, Indie Authors International, Kindelmojo, and Celebrating Authors. Of course, I only have enough time to interact on one or two of these.
Interact before shameless promotion. Don’t drop into a group broadcasting your new book. The group doesn’tknow you yet, and you don’t know them. It’s rude and no one will pay any attention to you. Interact first. Tweet other people’s books. Retweet their promotional tweets. Then they’ll do the same for you. It takes time but it’s worth it, both for the friendships and the promotion.
Terry C. Simpson: How have you marketed and promoted your work?
Jodie Brownlee: I network with other writers on Facebook and Twitter. We participate in Tweet Fests, tweeting one or two members each day of the month. When your turn comes around and you get tweeted all day by 50 or more people, it’s a great feeling! It’s also good to know you’re helping to give that feeling to others when it is your turn to tweet them. We also participate in launching each other’s new releases by blogging, tweeting, and by ‘liking’ their author pages and book page on Amazon.
Terry C. Simpson: What words would you like to leave the world when you are gone?
Jodie Brownlee: I’m moving into new themes with the YA books which address death, change and the acceptance of change but without getting too heavy. The words I would like to leave the world have actually already been left by Lao Tzu “What the caterpillar calls the end, the rest of the world calls a butterfly.”
Terry C. Simpson: Have you written any other books
Jodie Brownlee: I have written three for middle grade readers: The Magic Carpet, The Traveler’s Telescope, and The Doomsday Curse.
I am part way through two YA coming of age novels: Liberty Smith, set in Mississippi, and The Gown and Globe, set in London.
Terry C. Simpson: Where can people learn more about your books?
Jodie Brownlee: My website http://www.jodiebrownlee.com
From here visitors can connect with me via email, twitter, goodreads, and facebook.
Twitter name: @JodieBrownlee
Amazon USA: http://amzn.com/B005H8B97I
Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B005H8B97I