Interview with Author Lee Tidball.
About the Author: I’m a screenwriter and author who specializes in creating exciting, edgy, family entertainment. My day job is teaching 6th graders. When I began, teaching was the last thing I wanted to do, but I quickly discovered that it not only was very personally fulfilling, but it also gave me a unique perspective on the family audience, kids, middle-grade literature, and what works and doesn’t work in family entertainment. After self-publishing two middle-grade/young adult novels (WINDFORK SECRETS, 1998; HIDDEN TALENTS, 2000) that became very popular at my school library (despite no marketing efforts…and no assignments), I began writing screenplays to bring my stories to a more broad, family audience. Two of my scripts, PRINCESS REBORN (based on characters from HIDDEN TALENTS), and SANDI CLAUS (aka Twas the Night Before the Night Before Christmas) have received many Top Ten and Finalist honors in numerous screenwriting contests, most recently winning The Movie Deal 2008 (family category) and Top Ten (family film) in PAGE International Screenwriting Awards 2009. PRINCESS REBORN was also optioned by The Matt Chapman Company LLC.
I also have published PRINCESS REBORN – CHAPTER ONE and TWO, a graphic novel version of my screenplay, which received Honorable Mention recognition in Writers’ Digest Magazine’s 15th Annual International Self-Published Book Awards (middle-grade/young adult category).
I continue to teach, write, and market my works with the ultimate goal of becoming a full-time writer and creator of produced film and/or TV projects and mainstream-published novels/graphic novels for the family/young adult audience. I would also enjoy partnering with others or helping others on a consultant basis who share my passion for quality, edgy family entertainment.
I am currently represented by Agent JoAnn Carol of the Monteiro Rose Dravis Agency in Hollywood. http://www.leetidball.com
Lee Tidball author of Princess Reborn Chapter 1 & 2
I want to thank you for being my guest here on Mymcbooks Blog
What is the last book you read?
I just finished The Bridge to Neverland. It’s the fifth book in Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson’s Peter and the Starcatchers series, an origin story about Peter Pan. It gets lots of stars from me! Next up is Rick Riordan’s The Son of Neptune, second in his new “Heroes of Olympus” series. I’m also currently reading Shannan Sinclair’s soon-to-be-published ebook Dream Walker, one of the most fascinating adult sci-fi thrillers I’ve read in ages.
What were your earliest memories of writing?
I began composing stories sometime back in, like 4th or 5th grade. I loved military history and stuffed animals, so I’d make up worlds for mine and my sister’s stuffed animals and write about their military campaigns; complete with battle maps! What a kick, huh?
What was your favorite teen book?
When I was a teenager, books about rebellion and teen angst and such were all the rage. Not for me, though. Spurred on by the Classics Illustrated comic book series (perhaps the world’s first graphic novels), I read stuff like Howard Pyle’s Men of Iron and Mary Shelley’s stunning classic Frankenstein (unbelievable that she wrote the first draft of that when she was just 18). I also read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy and loved it.
Were you encouraged to write or was it something that came natural?
Writing has always come natural to me, but I also was encouraged to pursue it, both from my mother and from various teachers along the way, and later, knowledgeable friends.
What inspired you to write Princess Reborn and why in comic format?
I actually spend most of my time writing screenplays that I market in Hollywood. PR came about when I read on a trade website a call from a producer for a script about a middle-aged superhero with kids. I thought it sounded like a wonderful concept. I had previously written a book called Hidden Talent’s; Ginah’s Journal’s, Journal #2 about a 7th grade girl named Ginah who discovers she has super-powers that came from her estranged father, an alien king on a faraway planet. So I created the outline for a whole saga of Ginah’s life, and Princess Reborn is the part of that saga when Ginah, now 40-ish and a rusty, retired ex-superhero living a very normal life, has her own kids, one of whom is now secretly experiencing exactly the same thing as she, Ginah, experienced when she was in 7th grade. I subsequently sent a query to that producer when the script was finished and he said it sounded great!…except he was looking for a MALE superhero! Ooops!
I had the Princess Reborn script made into a graphic novel because, despite all the awards it’s won and exposure it’s gotten and how much my agent’s sent it around, it’s still not found a home in Hollywood and I wanted my audience (kids) to be able to read my story. Movie scripts are very easy to translate into comic books scripts, and artists provide wonderful visuals just like a movie does, but it doesn’t require a Hollywood producer to spend millions to do it; just a willing publisher, which I was so fortunate to find in Robert Simon at Zeta Comics.
What is the most difficult part of writing?
For every writer, it’s different, but for me, there’s a couple things. First of all, coming up with a great concept that is fresh and exciting enough to capture my audience, but familiar enough that they can relate to it and not just brand it as “too weird” or something. And the other is constantly wanting to be “perfect” and not allowing myself to just write something and worry about making changes in the rewrite process. The story will need to be rewritten anyway, and I’m very good at that, so it’s most important for me to just get the first draft done, yet I continually shipwreck myself with trying to be perfect the first time through.
You are a Grade 6th teacher; tell us about the Movie Club you created.
Actually, I WAS a 6th grade teacher until just this school year, when I retired so that I could devote all my professional energy to writing. I miss teaching very much, especially just being with students, but being a successful writer has been a dream of mine since I was a kid, but it was never going to have a fighting chance of ever becoming a reality if I continued to do it as a sub-career to teaching. There simply isn’t enough time and energy to do both, at least not the way I did teaching.
The Movie Club was a wonderful experience I had with an extraordinary group of students back in 2009. Most were in my school class, and we’d get together after school to watch movie clips and learn about how books became movies. The kids would also have time to talk about movies and what they thought made them good, or more importantly, not good, so I could use that info to inform other screenwriters and help create better entertainment for kids. Ironically, Hollywood almost never actually asks such questions of their audience. When I asked one of myHollywoodmentors “Just how do producers decide what kinds of movies to make for kids and families?” they sat dumbfounded for a second and finally said, “I think they just guess.” Weird, but all too true, I’m afraid.
Unfortunately, in subsequent years, I didn’t have a similarly interested group, so at this time, while my website is still named Mr. T’s Movie Club, there is no actual, physical movie club anymore. Hopefully in the future, there will be a “virtual” Movie Club, but I’ll need a bigger fan base before launching anything like that.
What do you do when you’re not writing or promoting your book?
A number of things. I’m a real fitness nut, so five days a week you can find me either in the gym working out or out on my road bike putting in my miles at some time or other. I just recently turned over 10,000 miles on my current bike’s odometer (yay!). I LOVE movies and watch at least one in the theater each weekend. Those that would interest kids and families I write little mini-reviews for on my website so parents and kids can get a “from the audience” point of view of what the movie is like and make decisions about whether it’s worth going to or renting or whatever. I still go back to my school and do volunteer work each week, and am around after school writing just in case former students drop by. The school is the one place that they always know they can find me if they want or need. I also love sports, having coached both runners and girls’ soccer for years, and so I go to students’ games if possible, and this year I’m actually coaching a runner again, a student from my school who shows much promise both in her talent and her personal discipline and determination.
How do you react to a bad review and have you ever suffered from writer’s block?
Being a screenwriter, I’ve had so many “bad reviews” of my work (in the form of rejections) that it almost doesn’t faze me at all. Writing is like any art—what people like is completely subjective, and one person’s masterpiece can just as easily be another person’s piece of trash. It’s all part of the biz. I understand this, and try not to take things personal, realize that others feel completely different, and just move on. That said, it’s always going to hurt some, though, so at those times, I turn to friends and fans and get pumped back up again J.
What do you hope that readers will take away from your book?
Though in all of my stories I try to infuse themes and good lessons for my readers to “learn” from them, I more than anything hope that my readers will just be able to escape for a while into another world through my books; someplace that’s more exciting, fun, terrifying, adventurous, or whatever than their usual existence, and ultimately derive not only enjoyment, but inspiration from them to go out and live their own life with a little more excitement or fun or adventure or passion than they may have before they read my story. If that happens, I’ve served them well, and that’s very important to me.
Who are some of your favorite authors you would love to dine with?
Hmm… Let’s see… Around this dinner table would have to be JK Rowling, who I’d ask what it was like writing all those books BEFORE they became such a phenomenon—what was she feeling when she didn’t even know if anyone would even read them, much less publish them. Then there would be Rick Riordan, who I’d have a wonderful time discussing mythology with as well as the downside of having your book made into a movie. Avi I’d love to meet and talk about where he got so many diverse ideas, especially for Charlotte Doyle. I’d like to talk with Gordon Korman, Jude Watson, Peter Lerangis, Margaret Peterson Haddix and Riordan about what it was like doing the 39 Clues series, and finally to Natalie Babbit about how in the world she created a serious story like The Search for Delicious out of something that starts out so silly, and turned a simple little story about a ten year-old girl and a strange family into something as profound as Tuck Everlasting. That’s for the first dinner J.
What author inspires you the most and why?
I think Jo Rowling has to be the most inspiring to me, simply because her process was so much like mine is; toiling away in coffeeshops (for me, it’s bookstores) or at a home desk, living day-to-day, juggling writing with all the other demands of job and life, not ever knowing if anything would ever become of her work, yet continuing to persevere, refusing to give up, and somehow keeping her dream alive, and her pen to the paper, until the big breaks finally came and it all became worth it. The only way a writer with talent can guarantee that they’ll fail is if they quit. Thank God she never did, despite all the early adversities. Think what we’d all have missed if she had! Write on, JK!! And I will too!
What discipline do you impose on yourself regarding schedules, goals, etc.?
Some of this is imposed on me by others; my publisher, my agent, a producer, etc. My agent told me last summer that it would really help her if she had an actual script to give to a producer who was interested in a treatment I’d written, so I cranked that one out in four weeks; very, very intense work, writing 3-6 hours a day virtually every day, etc. At other times, working on a new project, etc., things are much more relaxed. I do, however, try to spend at least 3-6 hours a day accomplishing actual writing and/or marketing work for four-five days a week; working on a project, doing an outline, researching marketing outlets, keeping my website and/or Facebook page up to date, networking with other writers or my agent, a producer, etc., writing this interview J. I also count reading good books and going to movies as a more indirect form of work, but that’s beside the more structured hours. Usually the morning is entirely devoted to writing, then a break for lunch and heading to school, more work there, then doing other stuff like my fitness workouts, etc. before heading home for dinner and some relaxation.
What advice would you give parents on selecting the right books for their children to read?
Hear me loud and clear, parents! Your child’s TEACHER is by far the best resource for what’s good and not so good for them to be reading. Also the school librarian. Get with these people before you go out spending money. You and your kids will be glad!
Book reviews on bookstore websites might also be good (gives good audience reaction at least), and special websites dedicated to kids’ books or certain audiences are also becoming good sources of info.
I used to trust book awards a lot, but lately book awards have become a lot like the movie Academy Awards; artists awarding other artists for their art, without much regard to whether an audience (or a reader) might actually LIKE THE BOOK!
Teachers and school or children’s librarians, as well as savvy website bloggers, can not only tell you what books might be good for your child to read, but also which ones they’d actually want to read that would be good for them, and that’s the whole trick. They may also be able to give you inside info on the content of super-popular books and series that might also be controversial or may have “edgy” material that kids get fascinated with, but parents aren’t so sure about (think vampires, teen horror, romance, very graphic graphic novels, anime, etc.).
What advice you would give to new writers?
First of all, when deciding what story you’d like to write, think about what stories OTHERS would spend time and money reading, not just you. Make sure your concept, whether fiction or non-fiction, is something that will fascinate and/or inform whatever your target audience is, preferably in some unique way. Writing, above all, is about serving an audience, not just self-expression. If all you care about is self-expression, start a blog or a journal or memoir or something.
Second, don’t just dream, but get busy DOING the work. In other words, WRITE!! Every day if possible. Don’t be afraid!
Third, seek out a mentor or a support group to teach and guide you, get some good objective feedback from them, and LISTEN to them. Your family members or best friends, no matter how well-meaning, are almost NEVER a source for good, objective feedback. Local writers’ groups are much better, and there are also professionals who will help for a reasonable price.
Finally, persevere. In other words, DON’T QUIT!
Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers?
Yes! Princess Reborn is a very unique entertainment experience. Despite the “princess” title, neither Ginah nor her daughter Lari are anything like your average Disney princess (aside from being girls). And just because girls are the heroes here doesn’t mean that there’s no guys in the story, or that they’re all wimps. There’s plenty for guys in this as well; action, adventure, a monster or two, aliens, etc., and even stuff for parents, too. The adults in the story aren’t morons or caricatures, they’re important characters who act like real adults and struggle with adult issues. It’s a comic book with wonderful artwork, yet also a seriously fun adventure story for just about anyone in the family. And don’t worry about the cliff-hanger ending. PR Chapter Two will be released before the end of 2011, and Chapter Three early in 2012.
I love fans, and if you wish to keep up with me and my writing world, check out my website at www.leetidball.com. You especially might like my movie review sidebar right on the Welcome page, where you can find out my take on all the latest kid/family-related stuff in theaters, usually by the end of each movie’s opening weekend. You can also “friend” me on Facebook or Twitter (just search my name) or check in on the Princess Reborn Facebook page as well.
Thank you for this interview.
And thanks so much for your interest and enjoy my story!
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My name is Ella Johnson. I started Mymcbooks to promote reading. As a former teacher, I know that making basic education fundamentals interesting to children can be challenging. Education can be fun, exciting and captivating for children with the right learning tools. So my goal is to “make learning interesting and fun” for the children while they learn, by introducing them to fun books with colorful and captivating illustrations.
In 2009, I start the giveaway program giving away free school supplies at random to 2 winners each year. I also started a monthly free giveaways for books and gifts.
August 2010, I extended the free school supplies from 2 to 5 winners at random on my blog and also give away 20 bags full of school supplies to familes in need at Chick-fil-A in Brandon, Florida during their family nights. And in 2012, I beat my that number and gave away a lot of school supplies to needy families. Hopefully, I can continue to do this each year.
In 2011, I started writing reviews on children’s books then giving these books away free on Mymcbooks Blog. I increase the number of books we giveaway free to help support parent. My goal is to give away as many as I can each year. This is also a great way to introduce parents to new books.
Mymcbooks blog is always looking for other ways to give kids free books. So I started Mymcbooks Birthday Library http://mymcbooksbirthdaylibrary.wordpress.com/
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Books Given in 2011: 315
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Read Interview about Ella Johnson, http://melangeofcultures.wordpress.com/2011/07/31/interview-with-ella-johnson-founder-of-memorable-children-books-gifts/ Interviewer: Nicole Weaver
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