I’m interviewing Wanda Kay Knight, author of middle grade fantasy “The Peacock Door” today. Welcome to my blog!
- When did you know you wanted to be an author?
You know that feeling that you had when you were a kid—that feeling that there are a few things that you have to get done during your lifetime or you won’t feel like you finished whatever it is you’re supposed to do. Well, for me, I always felt like I had to write something.
That feeling got even stronger after I read Little Women. In the book, Jo, one of the main characters, is writing her own book. In one scene, Jo’s sister gets mad, tosses Jo’s manuscript into the fire, and (since they didn’t have back-ups or thumb drives or computers in the 1800’s) destroys it. I was beyond devastated with that scene. Then, to make matters worse, even in the next book, Jo didn’t appear to continue writing. Again, devastation. Ultimately, Jo married well, was a teacher, and had a good life, but she didn’t write her book. (Actually, she did continue writing because Jo’s real-life persona is Louisa May Alcott, but I didn’t know that at the time.) So, I decided that I would write a book but, I wouldn’t let anything (including bad sisters) get in the way. So, here we are years, marriages, life, and lessons later, and I finally decided that if I was going to keep that childhood promise to myself, I better get started and just do it.
- What inspired you to write The Peacock Door?
I have always wanted to write an allegorical tale for young people—because those types of stories mattered to me when I was young—and they still do. I also wanted to consider some of my own questions about life and the journeys we take as well as the consequences of the paths we choose. You know, those question like what happens if we make the wrong choice when we are making important decisions? What happens when we decide to get lazy and take the easy way out? What happens when we misunderstand the purpose of a certain path?
Now, quite frankly, I am not a philosopher and certainly don’t have the answers to those questions. I’m just a person who wonders how in the world I got from Point A to Point C without passing through Point B when my intension was to go in another direction altogether.
So, in an effort to consider these questions, ideas, and mishaps, I took eight cousins on a journey. Now, I don’t think the story line is an obvious allegory—it is my hope that it is simply an easy to read tale of magic and adventure—but, for me, while I was writing—I was also considering the impact of the journeys we take and the paths we choose.
- What is your editing process like?
My editing process took several different and rather haphazard forms. Some sections came out almost exactly as they are now in the book, but, I struggled over many sections and ideas for days or even weeks.
For example, one day, I was sitting in front of an old bookstore in a small coastal town. The sun was creating sparkles on the water and it was simply beautiful. I happened to have my mini-laptop setting on the back seat. I pulled it out, wrote a brief description about the place, and saved it with the idea that someday I might be able to use the description in some piece of writing or, worst case scenario, have the description as a reminder of that precious scene. That ended up being the first couple chapters in the book without any changes at all.
There were other times as I was driving or taking a shower or going on a walk that a few words, plot ideas or character motivations suddenly came to me and I quickly wrote them down and put them away in a folder without really knowing if I would ever use them.
By the time I decided to get real about writing my book, there were bunches of little pieces of paper and jotted down notes in a binder or saved in a folder on the laptop. I bought a binder, and some really smooth writing pens, compiled my notes and pieces of paper and began to put ideas together—those pieces or descriptions ended up all over the place within the book.
For most of the book; however, I had to set goals for myself and just keep on keeping on. I found it best to write one small section or a few pages per week. On the first day of the writing week, I typed out the general idea for the section without worrying about grammar or punctuation. The next day, I took that section or chapter and began cutting unnecessary ideas and/or rearranging/replacing words. Finally, by the third day, I was generally ready to tidy everything up—put that small section or chapter through spell and grammar check, print it off and add it to the binder. Even then, however, most of it was not really written in chronological order.
In the end, I took all those sections, rearranged some more, made loose ends go away, filled in holes and put it the entire book through spell and grammar check over and over and over. I think it might possible to spend a lifetime fixing and changing and putting your work through spell and grammar check; but, at a certain point, I simply decided that I was done. There is a story of a poet who kept working on the same poem for 20 years and was never totally satisfied. I can see how that is very possible because there is always feels like something could be better and it always feels like there are more mistakes to be fixed. But, for me, in the end, I also came to a point of accepting some imperfections and just being happy that I had accomplished my goal.
- Is this your first book?
Yes, it is my first book. I have written several full-length plays and skits for young people and students, but this was my first book.
- Did you set any writing goals for 2017?
I began 2017 with the goal of finishing this book. It actually took longer than I thought to put the finishing touches on it, but I was finally finished in May of 2017. I have spent the summer going to local bookstores, creating posters, and bookmarks and learning how to promote The Peacock Door. Once school starts, I will be doing readings or presentations in the local schools.
However, now that most of the initial promotion work is underway, I am ready to begin another book during the month of September. After all, I have another little blue folder sitting on my desk with a disorganized bungle of notes inside of it waiting to become a part of something.
About the Book
Title: The Peacock Door
Author: Wanda Kay Knight
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
In a magical tale of adventure, eight cousins sneak through forbidden treehouse doors, only to find themselves separated from each other and lost in strange worlds. In their quests to return home, they must unravel mysteries, escape snares and villains, find one another, and search for the elusive Oracle. The Peacock Door is a rich story of camaraderie, loyalty, love, and determination with a bit whimsy sprinkled throughout.
Wanda Kay Knight lives in the Pacific Northwest, teaches literature, strives really hard to keep up with her adventurous/competitive family, makes things out of yarn (mainly unique hats), enjoys collecting pretty rocks, and writes a lot.
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