Another Column at MyShelf.Com

Babe To Teens, Past
A YOuth Column
By Beverly Rowe

This month:

  • 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

Chowder 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 by 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:

Bev: 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.


Bev: Tell us about developing the exciting characters for Stones of Abraxas.

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 excellent feedback.


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 of world?

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 no fun.


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 can provide.

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 me ( 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 ( 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 more!

Click here to read Bev's review of Stones of Abraxas


December Contest Winners:

Children's picture books: Jean Frink from Hallsboro, NC
Teen Contest # 1: Diane Saenz from Rockwall, TX
Teen Contest # 2: Amanda Kaminskas from Fort Wayne, IN


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K. Osborn Sullivan

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