Author Interview with MG Author Karen Pokras Toz

Hey everyone! Today I’m hosting an author interview with with MG author Karen Pokras Toz. Karen has written two MG novels, Nate Rocks The World and Nate Rocks The Boat.

1) When did you know you wanted to become a writer?
It wasn’t until just a few years ago. In fact, I spent most of my life thinking I was a horrible writer. Math was always my strong subject in school. I’m not sure what triggered my decision to start, but one day, I opened my laptop and began. I’ve been hooked ever since.

2) How did you come up with the inspiration for the “Nate Rocks” series?
I have three children. They all have different talents and are all very creative. My oldest has a sketchpad and when he was younger, he was always doodling. I suppose the original idea of his drawings coming “to life” came from him, but Nate Rocks himself is a combination of all three of my children’s personalities.

3) What made you decide to write middle grade novels?
I actually didn’t set out to write children’s books at first. When I began writing, I had in mind a story for adults. In this story there were several flash back scenes to the main character as a child. I found that those scenes were the most natural for me to write. From there, I decided my “voice” was better suited for middle grade fiction.

4) Why did you decide to go the self-publishing route with these books?
I did originally set out to go the traditional route. I researched and queried several agents, but as I was waiting for responses, I read more and more about self-publishing. The more I learned, the more I felt it would be a good fit for me. There are pros and cons to both sides. For now, I am happy with my decision.

5) What did you find the hardest part about writing these books?
For me, the initial editing process was and still is the hardest part. I do have a professional editor who I work with, but I am a bit of a perfectionist, and I do not like sending out my work, even to an editor, until I feel it is ready. I’ll review the chapters over and over… and over… until finally, I just have to tell myself – enough!

6) What did you find the hardest part about self-publishing these books?
Definitely marketing –I think today even a traditionally published author would say the same thing. At first, I was not prepared for the amount of time marketing was going to require. It was frustrating because all I wanted to do was get started writing the next book. But after some time and experience, I feel I am now at a point where I have a comfortable balance in my schedule.

7) What steps did you take to market your book so far?
I’ve tried a lot of different things – advertising, press releases, press kits, social media connections, live events, swag, and of course, virtual book tours – some work great, some not much so much. The important thing to remember is that not every marketing tool is going to result in instant sales. It’s more about getting your name (& book cover) out there so that when people are shopping for a book, they remember you.

8) Looking back upon it, is there something you would’ve done differently?
On a technical level, yes. I would have used my own imprint and ISBN number and gone with a different printer/distributor right from the start. I wound up doing this about six months in, but it was a costly mistake (not just in terms of money, but in terms of time.) Overall, I’m pleased with my journey.

9) When and how do you find time to write in your daily life?
I’m a morning person and luckily, my kids are not. So, I wake up early, and I get as much done as I can. During the school year, I am also fortunate that I can write during the day while my kids are out of the house.

10) Any advice to aspiring MG writers?
Remember who your audience is and make sure the language is appropriate. Find a teacher in your target age group and ask if his/her class would like to be your beta readers. The feedback from kids will be invaluable!

11) Where can people find you and your books online?
The Nate Rocks books are available wherever books are sold – on-line, in-stores, and in libraries. If your store or library doesn’t carry a copy, you can request that they do! Here are a couple of online links:
At Amazon: Link
At B&N: Link

12) Are you currently working on something new? If so, can you tell us more about it?
Yes! First, I am writing a Middle Grade novel called, “Millicent Marie is Not My Name.” It is about 12-year-old Millicent Marie. Millie keeps her diary on her computer. One day, her little brother finds it, and decided to publish it on the Internet as a blog, under Millie’s pseudonym, Amanda. After the initial shock/anger wears off, Millie (aka Amanda) suddenly becomes her school’s resident on-line advice/gossip columnist. It is a story with lessons about bullying, gossip, and respect. I hope to have it released this fall. For my Nate fans, never fear, the third book: “Nate Rocks the City” is expected in early 2013.

Thanks for answering my questions, Karen!

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