- Great Reading
- K. Osborn Sullivan and The Stones of Abraxas
.What's New in great reading? Here are a few things that I found.
by Peter Brown
is not like most bulldogs. Have you met him yet? Instead of
burying bones, he busily arranges them into a skeletal formation,
as an archaeologist would. He would rather read the newspaper
than carry it in. Chowder by Peter Brown is a hilarious and
heartwarming story that introduces an endearing new character
to the picture book market. Grades 4-8 will love this book.
(Newbery Honor Book)
by Alan Armstrong, S.D. Schindler
You'll love this wonderful novel that weaves together animal
fantasy and family story with a retelling of the English folktale
“Dick Whittington and His Cat.” This story reads
aloud beautifully for family time fun that will make everyone
smile with it's extended happy ending. Ages 9-12.
I was thinking back to my own teen reading preferences. As I remember,
I was going to be a cowboy someday, and read all of Zane Grey's
novels that I could get my hands on. They would still be great reading
for kids...lots of wild west action, no profanity, no sexual scenes,
and though some bad guys got killed, there was no graphic violence.
My next choice for western action would be Louis L'Amour, the action
was faster than Grey, and they have a bit more modern language...if
any of you are going to be a cowboy someday.
Have you checked out The ultimate teen reading list as compiled
250 titles that cover just about any reading taste. I don't agree
with all of their selections, and you probably won't either, but
there is definitely something for everyone here.
Many of the selections on the list are classics, and they are
still great reading for teens and pre-teens. They don't have the
action and realism contained in books like What
Happened to Cass McBride, Ribbons
of the Sun, or Thick.
Most of the classics have trouble comparing to the excitement of
modern fantasy novels like the Harry
Potter series or The
Stones of Abraxas. I had a chance to ask K. Osborn Sullivan
some questions about her great new fantasy series. Here is what
she had to say:
Could you give us a short autobiography of yourself. What has your
life been like up to now?
Kim: I was born on the Southwest side of Chicago. We lived
in the city because my father was a Chicago Police officer. At 18,
I went to Northern Illinois University where I later met my husband.
After we got married, we lived in the tiny town of Malta, Illinois
for more than ten years. Now we live in the suburbs outside of Chicago
with our teenage son and a bunch of formerly stray cats.
When I’m not writing, I teach political science at a college
nearby. It’s pretty much your basic story of “Girl meets
boy. Girl marries boy. Girl and boy dream that girl will make the
New York Times bestseller list.”
Bev: What authors have been the greatest inspiration to
your writing, and why?
Kim: This is the hardest question! I read so many different
things that it’s impossible to identify influences. I love
YA fantasy of course, like Harry Potter and Bartimaeus, but I read
adult fantasy, too, and occasional mysteries, and some things that
are just hysterically funny, both adult and YA. I also enjoy a little
old fashioned romance sometimes, like Jane Austen. The stack of
books next to my bed is huge and threatens to drown me if it were
to tip. They each must have an element of fantasy or humor or romance
in them to make it to the bedside table.
Bev: When did you first start writing? Tell us about your
road to publication.
Kim: Of course I had to do a lot of writing in college.
Most of the time I was in school, though, it never occurred to me
to write for fun. The first “fun” writing I did was
when I put together some essays years ago when my son was a baby.
No "serious" fiction writing happened until years later.
The old essays are still cluttering up the bottom of my desk drawers,
I'm sorry to say.
Stones of Abraxas is my first book, and I hope it’s
the first of many. It was published in July 2006 by Medallion Press.
It took three years to write the book, then another year to find
a publisher, then another fourteen months of anxious waiting for
it to be released. Holding a published copy of Stones of Abraxas
in my hands for the first time was a tremendous thrill. The closest
thing I can compare it to was holding my son for the first time.
Bev: So tell me, Dr. Sullivan, how this bridge works. I
have trouble mentally combining a college instructor with a PHD
in political science with someone who writes juvenile fantasy. How
did you come to choose fantasy?
Kim: Well, it’s not that huge a leap. There’s
an awful lot of overlap between politics and fantasy in America.
But, seriously, when I come home from work, I don’t want to
think about political science. It’s great to have an interest
that’s got nothing to do with the work I do during the day.
I’ve loved fantasy literature my entire life, so it seemed
natural to start writing it.
Bev: Do you outline before you write or just "go for
it" from start to finish? Tell us about your working methods
when you are writing.
Kim: With Stones of Abraxas, I wrote little bits
at a time. A scene would come to me and I’d write it down,
or a conversation between characters or maybe just a funny line.
I wrote little disjointed bits for about two years, until I realized
that I had the bones for a good story. The third year of writing
is when I got serious. I had to knit together all these parts into
a cohesive tale that said what I wanted it to say. Since then, everything
I’ve written has started with a general outline in my mind.
I don’t start a story now unless I know how it will end. Looking
back, I can’t believe that I “flew without a net”
so much with I wrote Stones. Today that would make me crazy. I still
don’t do any firm outlining. I’ve tried, but find it
stifling. But I have to know the ending before I start, and I have
to have a general plan for how I will get from start to finish.
Tell us about developing the exciting characters for Stones
Kim: First, thank you for calling them exciting. I tried
to make the main characters, David and Amanda, into typical American
kids. They bicker with each other, they’re kind of nerdy at
school, they have a drippy cousin who their mother makes them spend
time with, etc. I wanted readers to be able to understand and identify
with them. That way, when David and Amanda are thrown into extraordinary
circumstances, the readers can more easily imagine themselves in
that position, too. As for the other characters, I wanted every
one of them to have some likeable quality. Even evil Adrian the
Deceiver. He’s a cruel sorcerer bent on dominating two worlds,
but he has a wicked sense of humor. I didn’t want any character
to ever show up and cause readers to groan and say, “Oh, no,
not him again!” I wanted everyone to be funny or exciting
or interesting in some way.
Bev: Do you belong to any critique groups? Who reads your
work as you go along?
Kim: No one reads my work as I go along. I don’t
want anyone to see an incomplete story. I actually broke this rule
recently and shared a partially finished story with a creative writing
group I belong to. It didn’t work out very well. I guess I
hadn’t clearly explained that it was just the first couple
pages of a short story, so multiple people ended up saying they
didn’t like the ending. I had to email them and explain that
it WASN’T the end.
Usually I wait until I have a finished manuscript, then I get my
husband and son to read it. Once they’ve given me feedback,
I have a few friends and family members who are willing to read
manuscripts that can be up to 100,000 words long. It’s a huge
favor to ask someone to read an unpublished pile of papers that’s
so long. I’m very lucky to have people close to me who are
willing to make that effort. For shorter works, like essays or short
stories, I belong to three writing groups and the members offer
Bev: I see from your web page that you are anticipating
a five book series about Abraxas. How far along is your writing
for this ambitious project?
Kim: Book Two is called Heroes of Abraxas and it’s
been done for some time now. It’s currently in the hands of
a couple agents who are considering representing it. Unfortunately,
Medallion Press (the Stones of Abraxas publisher) announced
over the summer that they were ending their young adult line. That
means they won’t be publishing Heroes, so I’m trying
to get another publisher squared away for it. I’m currently
writing the third book, Rulers of Abraxas and I have short outlines
and a few scenes written for the last two books in the series
Bev: Was it difficult for you to create a whole new kind
Kim: I’ve read fantasy for years and it was tremendous
fun to create the world of Abraxas. In fact, I delighted in finding
facts that I could incorporate into the book to make the fantasy
world seem more real. For example, I learned about an event called
the Cataclysm of 535. This was an environmental catastrophe that
occurred in 535 A.D. in which the sun was blocked out in parts of
the world for weeks or months at a time. The details are sketchy
because historical records at the time were not very good. Anyway,
during this time, there was global climate change and crops died
in parts of the world, causing famine. Scientists today suspect
this was caused by a massive volcanic eruption of Mount Krakatua
in Indonesia. It spewed so much ash into the atmosphere that it
actually blocked the sun for awhile. But I used that event and suggested
that maybe what caused the cataclysm was when one world split into
two and created the magical world of Abraxas and the nonmagical
world of Terra.
Bev: What's the best part about writing a book like this?
Kim: I love having people read it. I love creating a picture
in people’s minds and telling them a story. The first time
I ever got to see what my words looked like in someone else’s
imagination was when I saw my book cover. Medallion Press had hired
an artist to paint the cover and all he had to go on were the descriptions
in my manuscript. When I first saw the finished product, I couldn’t
believe it. The artist, Arturo Delgado, had it just right. That
was so cool!
I also love doing book signings. Everyone is so nice, and I get
to talk to lots of interesting people about books and movies and
TV and everything. I did dozens of signings and book presentations
in the summer and fall to promote Stones of Abraxas, and I’ve
come to love them. Now that I’m taking the winter off to write
and hibernate, I find myself missing the bookstores and the readers.
Bev: What's the worst, or hardest part?
Kim: The rejection! I have different manuscripts (two
YA novels, a few picture books, some magazine articles, etc.) floating
around out there trying to find publishers, and I hate getting rejection
letters for them. I have a big file full now. Every time another
rejection comes in, I try to tell myself it’s a “rite
of passage” or something philosophical like that, but it still
hurts. Almost every author has experienced A LOT of rejection before
enjoying success, so my situation isn’t unusual. Still, it’s
Bev: Do you have any advice for fantasy fans that want
to write one?
Kim: First, read the kind of material you want to write.
It’s important to know what’s out there now and what’s
currently being published. I also recommend joining a writing group
so you’ll have people to help keep you motivated, to discuss
the business with, etc. I’ve met so many terrific people through
writing. Other writers are so generous with their advice and help,
it would be a shame not to take advantage of the assistance they
Also, if you want to write to get published, expect rejection.
Some writers spend more than a decade writing and waiting for their
first acceptance. There’s an old saying that goes something
like this: “The only difference between a published writer
and an unpublished writer is that the published one never gave up.”
Bev: Do you have any other thoughts that you would like
to share with your fans?
Kim: First, THANK YOU for reading Stones of Abraxas.
I love sharing this story with readers and I hope you will email
and let me know what you think of the book.
Also, if you’re looking for some other fun books to read,
please visit the “Stuff to do” page on my website (http://www.kosbornsullivan.com/page4.html).
I only recommend books that have some humor and excitement in them.
There’s not a bad book in the bunch.
Finally, read books you enjoy. There are so many wonderful titles
out there, that there really is something for everyone. Happy reading.
Bev: Thank you so much for sharing your ideas and experiences
with us. Keep up the good work...I'm sure that Stones of Abraxas
will bring you armies of fans that will be impatiently waiting for
here to read Bev's review of Stones of
Children's picture books:
Jean Frink from Hallsboro, NC
Teen Contest # 1: Diane Saenz from Rockwall,
Teen Contest # 2: Amanda Kaminskas from
Fort Wayne, IN
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