Today, I welcome award winning middle grade children's author, Connie M. Huddleston.
Please tell about your background.
I have had many different careers including elementary school teacher, archaeologist, director of exhibits and interpretation, historic preservation consultant, and finally author. As an Army wife, I often had to reinvent myself as we moved frequently. I loved the changes these moves brought about and each and every one of my careers; however, I like writing the best.
How did you decide to become a children's writer and what steps did you take to make that happen?
After a move in the late 1980s, I found myself unemployed and decided to combine my love of archaeology and writing. So I wrote my first children’s book. My goal was to interest kids in prehistory and archaeology. I couldn’t interest a publisher and put it aside when I was once again employed. In 2013, my daughter self-published her science fiction novel and encouraged me to look at my book again with self-publishing in mind. Several first readers encouraged me to work on the manuscript, to give Greg character, and to proceed.
Tell us about your book(s), especially about the one you are promoting now. (I will list your books/covers in the blog.)
My "Adventure in Time" series takes Greg, a middle school student, back into history as he accidentally time travels first to 3,500 B.C. in the first book. And then, in the second book, to Kentucky in 1778. All of the series' books combine facets of archaeology and accurate historical settings and events. While Greg may be fictional, most of the characters and events encountered during his time travel are real and accurately represented. The third book in the series, due out in late 2016, introduces new characters including his friend Rose, who can also time travel.
What is a typical writing day like for you?
I have a home office and work during the weekdays from about 9 until 5. I keep a regular schedule and work on various books throughout the week. I also write histories for adults, so I have many projects in the works at any given time. I spend part of my evenings reading for background or other children’s books for insight into what other authors are writing. I often leave notes to myself around the house when ideas pop into my head. My husband, now retired, loves finding these on the grocery list. He does the shopping.
What is the most difficult part of writing for children?
Dialogue and humor!! I want to make it real, so I spend time listening to how my grandsons communicate. I watch to see what things make them laugh. I find this is harder with girls, which may be why I enjoy writing male characters. Also, my books are written in first person. Greg tells the story in the first two books, but Rose contributes to book three; therefore, I have to keep it at a certain level to make it believable. However, I have noticed that my grandchildren often speak words that they can’t spell (and sometimes don’t entirely understand), so I don’t feel bad about throwing in some good vocabulary builders. I also have a glossary at the end of each book.
What do you enjoy most about writing for children
Telling stories! I love making up stories and finding out that children enjoy them. One young reader told his mother (also my friend) after the first chapter, “Well, it’s not awful, can we read another chapter?” To me, that was the ultimate compliment!
Do you make school visits? If so, please describe a typical school presentation.
I would love to; however, I can’t seem to get invited. Previously, I often did presentations about archaeology to children and always kept them very interactive. I would love to be invited to talk about my books, archaeology, and history. I would have the children participate, give prizes, and converse about what they want to know about archaeology and history.
I have teaching materials and fun activities posted on my website for each book. These include a full teaching program to reinforce the history and archaeology presented in each book. However, many of the fun sheets can be used independently.
Do you have a website? If so, please give the URL.
Tell us about your marketing process. What do you do to market and sell your books?
I try to do one thing each weekday to publicize my books. It might be only a new announcement on Facebook or other social media. It’s sometimes a trip to a local independent bookstore, although local for me can be well over 100 miles. Sometimes, it is just reading about how to market my books in new and unusual ways. I join sites that work with Indie authors like Bookworks, Alli, and Support Indie Authors. Occasionally, I enter contests. I’m hoping that winning a gold medal from Children’s Literary Classics for Greg’s First Adventure in Time will be a great marketing experience.
What are you working on right now?
Greg’s Third Adventure in Time is finally complete in draft form, so I am editing! Next, I’ll send it to my editor. I also just finished another history for adults that will be released on 5 October, so I am doing advance marketing for it. I have another draft waiting for re-writing and editing, plus an idea for another children’s series waiting on my desk. I have three more adult histories in the works.
What is your best tip for aspiring children's book authors?
Actually I have two best tips. I learned the first from personal experience. Don’t rush to publish. Edit, hire an editor, edit, get first readers, correct, and then publish!
READ children’s books. Learn what is selling and what is not. Be an active reader of all sorts of juvenile literature. If you plan to be an Indie author, be proud of it, and promote self-publishing by review books by other Indie authors. I try to do at least one book review a week. I post these on Amazon and Goodreads. I am considering adding a page for reviews to my website. (Oh, by the way, I never post negative reviews. If I don’t like the book, I just keep it to myself.)
Thank you so much for sharing your writing life, information about your MG series, and your tips for aspiring writers.
Greg's Adventure in Time series, C.M. Huddleston, time travel, history, archeology, middle school, middle grade.