It is my very great pleasure to host Class of 2k9 debut author, Danielle Joseph, for an interview. Her novel, Shrinking Violet, was released just this week, and you should pick it up, because it’s sweet and funny and romantic. Read my review here.
Tell us about the moment you found out your book would be published. How did you celebrate?
I was visiting my family in South Africa when I read the email from my agent. I was ecstatic! I celebrated by spending the day on the beach with my family. My two sons made me a cake out of sand. It was a beautiful day! The most wonderful thing was that my grandmother, an avid reader, was there to hear the news. She was sick and passed away several weeks later, but I know she was proud of me.
What was the most challenging part of writing your debut novel, and what did you do to overcome the challenge?
Really the most challenging thing was just laying down the plot and making sure all the key elements were there to tell a good story. I belong to two really great critique groups so I had a lot of great feedback along the way.
Do you outline or do you just hold onto your idea and dive right in?
I formulate an idea in my head, jot down some notes and then plunge right into the first chapter. After I get a few chapters down, I then go back and outline the first half of the book.
Best writing advice you’ve received: Just write! Really, if you only have ten minutes a day, then make those the best ten minutes.
Is your main character, Tere, like you?
I am similar to Tere in some ways. I too was shy growing up but not nearly as shy as Tere. We also share the same love of music, radio and the quest to follow our dreams no matter what obstacles might stand in our way.
In your novel, Tere wonders, “…if it’s ever too late to be somebody.” One way that she finds inspiration to express herself is through learning more about the life of Helen Keller. Who has inspired you?
There are many people that have inspired me over the years. I credit my teachers for helping me foster my love of writing by introducing me to the craft and my parents for encouraging me by listening to my stories. I also think Helen Keller is a great role model because she had to overcome such obstacles to become who she was. She really was a remarkable person that didn’t feel sorry for herself. It’s people like Helen, that make it against all odds, that really make me smile.
Shrinking Violet is about making your mark, being true to yourself and celebrating your own talents. What advice would you give to young people reading your book about how to achieve these things in their own lives?
The most important thing is to believe in yourself. If you have confidence in what you do than that’s all that should matter. Nothing happens overnight and things aren’t always easy but just like Tere you can perservere if you don’t give up. Make small obtainable goals and don’t let anyone stop you from dreaming, from being what you want to be.
What’s your earliest reading memory?
My mom used to read to me every night, a time of the day I used to really cherish. I had a book of Mother Goose nursery rhymes and I never tired of her reading those to me. The first book I read on my own was Go Dog Go by P.D. Eastman when I was four because I had it memorized. I was so proud of myself.
Five favourite books of all time: Wow, this is a hard question because I have enjoyed so many books over the years. Here are five that immediately jump to mind: The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand, Tunes for Bears to Dance to by Robert Cormier, White Oleander by Janet Fitch, Born Blue by Han Nolan and Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume.
Most listened to song on your iPod: Hey There, Delilah by the Plain White T’s because my boys really enjoy singing it and it was the inspiration behind my next novel, Indigo Blues (Flux, Fall 2010).
Thanks so much Danielle for offering to do the interview!
And thank you for having me!
Happiness must be a box filled to the brim with your very own book!