Today I’m over at Marva Dasef’s blog with some world building tips. Here I have the pleasure of hosting fellow Muse author Kathy Sattem Rygg and her middle grade fantasy ANIMAL ANDY. Kathy was kind enough to answer a few questions (some of them a little silly) and provide us with an awesome excerpt of ANIMAL ANDY. Welcome, Kathy!
What made you want to become a writer?
I’ve always written in some form, but it wasn’t until after I had kids that I tried writing for children, and I was instantly hooked! I have a real comfort zone with the younger middle grade voice (probably because I’m around it all the time with my own kids). And there’s nothing better than going on a school visit and hearing a room full of children tell you how much they love your book!
What books had the most influence on you while you were growing up?
Growing up, one of my favorite book series was The Borrowers by Mary Norton. I loved the creativity of little people living in the walls who borrowed household objects. To this day, whenever I misplace an item, I always say, “The Borrowers must have taken it!”
I also loved the Mrs. Piggle Wiggle books by Betty MacDonald. In fact, my children’s chapter book, Tall Tales with Mr. K is my modern-day version of Mrs. Piggle Wiggle. I love the premise of an eccentric, magical mentor who helps children with common problems using fun, quirky, “adventurous” methods.
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring two books and one movie, what would you bring?
I’d bring a survival guide book, something I’ve always wanted to read but never have like Gone With the Wind, and for a movie I’d bring any one of the classic John Hughes 1980s comedies.
What is your favorite part of the writing process? What is your least favorite part?
I love the revision process—it’s such a great feeling taking something you think is good and making it so much better! My least favorite part is when I don’t have time to write. My day only feels complete if I’ve been able to write—it’s relaxing, fun, and put me in a great mood!
What is the single best piece of advice you have for aspiring authors?
The best advice I have is the advice I once received from a well-known author—read as many books as you can in your genre. You should devote just as much time each day to reading as you do to writing. If there’s a book you really enjoy, identify why that is—is it the writing style? The voice? The characters? Then try to apply it in your own work. I also believe practice makes perfect—writers get a little better each time, so don’t ever stop!
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
To be able to fly—there’s nothing better than a good flying dream, and whenever I wake up from one, I always wish it had been real.
What is something funny/weird/exceptional about yourself that you don’t normally share with others in an interview?
I have bionic ears—okay, maybe not bionic, but I have incredibly good hearing. I can hear frequency ranges that adults aren’t supposed to be able to hear!
About ANIMAL ANDY:
Ten-year-old Andy Ohman is spending his summer working at the Aksarben City Zoo where his dad is curator. There are rumors the city might close the zoo due to budget cuts. An anonymous donor has given the zoo an antique animal carousel, and Andy’s dad is hopeful it will help boost attendance. Andy’s doubtful that an old kiddie ride will make a difference. He doesn’t see what’s so special about it. But when he takes it for a spin, he unlocks the magic that will help save the zoo.
Andy’s knees wobbled and buckled as he stumbled off the carousel’s platform. He thrust forward, collapsing into a heap on the ground. Shaking his head a few times, he flinched when a snort escaped his mouth.
A flash of turquoise caught his eye. He scrambled up as a skinny-necked bird with short legs and a long, plump body strutted over. It stopped a few inches away and let out an ear-splitting squawk. Only a peacock could make that sound.
“What are you doing over here?” the bird asked. “Are you out of your mind? Don’t you know this is the kind of thing that gets all of us into trouble?
Andy froze. He was sure the peacock had just spoken to him.
“Well, don’t just sit there, zebra, we need to get you back to the pen,” the bird snapped.
Andy whipped his head from side to side. Nobody was around, and he didn’t see a zebra.
“Did you just talk?”
“Don’t get all high and mighty on me,” the peacock said. “It’s socially acceptable for a peacock to speak to a zebra.”
“Why do you keep calling me a zebra?” Andy narrowed his eyes at the bird.
“Well, I don’t see any other escaped animal standing in front of me,” the peacock said.
Andy lowered his gaze and saw four black and white striped legs beneath him. He craned his neck and saw a thin, black tail swishing behind him. Puzzled, he glanced at the carousel and saw an empty brass pole where the zebra had been.
He stumbled backward. “No, no, no,” he said, shaking his head. “How…it can’t be,” he breathed.
“There’s just no way. I…I…I’m a zebra!”
View the ANIMAL ANDY book trailer!
Kathy Sattem Rygg is Editor-in-Chief for the children’s online magazine Knowonder!, and an active member of SCBWI. She earned a degree in magazine journalism from Iowa State University and has worked for the McGraw-Hill Companies’ business publications division in New York City. She was also the editor in chief of Women’s Edition magazine in Denver, CO. She currently lives in Omaha, NE, with her husband and two children.