I was so impressed with Teresa McKinley’s book, Seek ‘N Find, I reached out to her to see if she’d be interested in doing an interview. She graciously accepted and below is the result:
Judging by your author profile, you’re passionate about projects that encourage children to read and write – something I find most admirable! Can you talk a bit about this?
I found out that I really love to work with children when I was asked to become the Children’s Program Director at my church. I found part of my calling because I purely loved to create, plan and implement the different projects with the kids. Let me tell you, some of those Christmas and Easter Programs were a blast! The kids provided their own tilt to each biblical story, which was purely entertaining and a lot of fun! Children are so free in their thinking. Then, I went on to develop a summer play-writing program for children within our community summer program at the local community center. There, the children ended up writing a small puppet play which they performed for the neighborhood children who participated in the summer program. I also co-wrote and developed a summer poetry reading and writing program for our community center. Each child was encouraged to write their own poetry about their lives and what they thought of the world around them. We even had a poetry café going on every Thursday afternoon with hot chocolate and chocolate chip cookies (who cared if it was hot outside, it was cool at the café!). I know that I learned a lot while working with children and I think that writing this book shows some of that learning process of how children think and how they express themselves.
How long did it take you to write “Seek ‘N Find”?
Well, it took me seven summers to write this book, only because I was working and taking writing classes at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, under the instruction of a very talented professor who encouraged the class to write from the heart, soul and the mind.
Where did the idea for the book come from?
One of the assignments in that class was to write a short story based on a life experience. Henceforth, “Seek “n Find” was based on the short story entitled “The Reading” (which is the last chapter in the book). The professor was impressed by the story, stopped me after class and said that she wanted to discuss this story a little further because she believed that it could be turned into a novel. She offered to work with me during the summer vacation. Well, this was a surprise to me, and I agreed. Never did I dream that this was going to take so long to write. Never did I dream that it would be published. Come to think of it, the entire process was a miracle in itself. I learned so much during that time about character building, description, dialogue, pacing and grammar (ugh!).
Did you use any personal experiences when writing “Seek ‘N Find”?
Yes, I did. Just as Red’s mother died, so did mine when I was about twelve years old. She died from Leukemia and writing about Red’s struggle of coming to terms with her mother’s death was a reflection of what I went through. This was the hardest piece of this prose. I felt that I needed to tell this story because I wanted to share with those children (anyone for that matter) who have lost a loved one that remembering them is the best part of coming to terms with such a devastating loss.
Were any of your characters modeled after people you know?
Of course, I love to watch people, listen to what they are saying, and watch how they react to one another. One can learn a lot about us humans, just by watching and listening. Of course, Great-Grandma Bertie was modeled after my grandmother’s momma. I think Red is probably a small version of me and the rest of the characters are modeled after kids I’ve known in grade school and folks I’ve watched and heard about.
Your book includes references to mysticism and “fortune telling”, where did this idea come from?
The tea leaf reading in “Seek ‘N Find” is based on stories told by my Grandmother about her mother, who read tea leaves for the business folk in the small town she where she lived. I remember Grandma telling us once, that her mother had a black magic book and she used to make potions to sell. I don’t know if these stories were true, but I like to think they were. Of course, Grandma loved to pull a fast one on us listeners. She enjoyed life. Matter of fact, the woman used to play double-dutch rope with us, occasionally when her arthritis wasn’t kicking up! I believe that by listening to her stories, I learned how to tell a good tale every so often to my girls when they were growing up!
Who are some of your favorite authors?
Stephen King. His ability to describe a scene that makes me feel as if I’m right there experiencing the horror and the delight of making my heart skip and chills pop up on my arms.
Maya Angelou. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, left a deep impression on me of how she wrote…from the heart and her experiences as a child and a young woman was intimately expressed. She was an honest author and that is what I hope to be.
Shel Silverstein. It’s the way he expresses himself. His words are filled with joyful ridiculousness – it’s belly-shaking funny with some smidgen of truth in each poem. My two girls grew up on his books!
When can readers expect your next book?
Right now the title is A Girl Named Blue. All I’m going to say is this: This tale is about a girl named Blue, her two sidekicks are Cowboy and Timothy B, and there’s a horrifying place that is shunned by everyone in their town – a certain Wall that leads them to discover their destinies. I’m not too sure when it’s going to come out, but I’m hoping for Fall of 2016. I’m a nut about getting the story right and making sure the characters are life-like. The form is a bit unusual in that I would call it a twenty-first century epic poem-like style, according to Teresa. Hopefully it will get children really interested in reading and writing poetry.
What advice would you give new authors?
Be honest about the words you put on paper. Be true to yourself and don’t get too discouraged when you feel like quitting. This does happen a lot, but listen to that still small voice inside (your muse) and he/she will never steer you wrong. Take it slow and easy, and take breaks from your project, only to return with a fresher outlook. It’s a hard road to walk, there are no shortcuts.
Teresa’s book, Seek ‘N Find is available on Amazon: