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Author Showcase

Award-winning Author Nancy Gee visits with Terry Doherty

RT: Bonjour, Nancy! Welcome to the Reading Tub! What a year its been since The Secret Drawer launched in October 2014. First a Mom's Choice Award, now you're going international! What's next?

Nancy: Yes, it's going to be Paris in the springtime! Even though my visit isn't until Spring 2016, I've been promoting the book signing on my Facebook page as a way of sharing that the book has gone international!

What's next is getting ready for book two, The Secret Path. We just announced the title this week!

RT: On your Facebook page you posted a note from a young reader that specifically talks about how The Secret Drawer had “very, very, very good rhymes.” Getting that rhythm right isn’t easy. How much of your writing time (would you estimate) was spent on selecting word pairs?

Nancy: I wanted The Secret Drawer to capture the hearts and imaginations of my readers. Rhyming stories are fun to read, especially for children. Making sure that I didn't lose the direction of the manuscript flow took a lot of additional hours of writing so that the words would flow in rhyme. Every time I share the book with children I see how much it was worth that extra time! Rhyme is the magic of the manuscript and it captures the spirit of the book for my listeners.

RT: In sharing this adventure story, you incorporated lots of factual information about flying squirrels. How hard was it to “translate” your research into rhyming text that young audiences could understand?

Nancy: In the beginning building the rhyming pattern took a lot of patience. Over time it began to flow easier. My husband and I would converse in rhyme as part of our daily conversation. We spent so much time rhyming words and creating that rhythm!

Now that my husband has perfected his talent in rhyming, I am enlisting his help with book two, The Secret Path.

RT: There is a true story behind The Secret Drawer that involves a contractor leaving a door open at your house. Does he know about your book? And if so, what was his reaction?

Nancy: Oh, yes! The painter has been working for me for many years and he definitely knows his role in this amazing adventure. He thoroughly enjoys the adventure becoming an award-winning book that is being shared with children everywhere.

RT: When we chatted on the phone about the story-behind-the-story, you said that you knew right away that you wanted to write a book about your cat Odis and the flying squirrel, but that it sat for a long time. Did you prepare for that by writing notes or journaling, or did you rely solely on your memory of the day’s events?

Nancy: The real event was pretty amazing. The story delighted my grandchildren Grey and Blain, and we were telling the story over and over again. That gave me plenty of practice to keep the details fresh.

I work full time, and for more than 30 years I've owned and operated my own company. May Wood Industries is open 24/7, so writing a book seemed out of the question. Until I received The Challenge!My grandchildren challenged me to write a book about the event.

"GiGi, you always told us you can do anything you want to do, so we challenge you!"

I'm not one to step away from a challenge - especially from my grandchildren - so I set out to write the book I had said I'd wanted to write for many years. In addition to my grandchildren, my mother was also an inspiration. She was never without a book in her hand, and The Secret Drawer is dedicated to her.

RT: What was your favorite part of adapting the story from life to fiction? What was the least favorite / hardest?

Nancy: The events of that day are something our family will never forget. And as I mentioned, we had many requests to re-tell the story of that adventure. I don't have a "least favorite" or "hardest" part. I was so determined to bring this story to light that every moment became a reward toward my goal. Adapting a real story into the pages of a children's book is a journey I will forever cherish.

RT: There are a number of directions your story could have taken, but you chose the friendship between Al and Sal. Why was that most important to you?

Nancy: In the "real" adventure, it was easy to see how Al and Sal (the flying squirrels) bonded during their difficult situation. Sal waited outside for Al, trapped in that drawer, for three days. They gave me the direction for the story. I wanted my readers to understand that the bonds in life are important. Working together to solve a problem and being there for your friend in both good and bad times is true for animals, too. Al and Sal helped me convey that lesson to my readers.

RT: In doing the research about flying squirrels, what did you find to be the three most interesting (and little known) facts about these animals?

Nancy: When Odis trapped the animal many years ago, we had no idea what these creatures were! When they were discovered after those three long days in the sock drawer, I decided that I wanted my readers to learn all about flying squirrels, just like we learned. We found these creature fascinating and I knew my readers would be curious, too, so I added the educational content into the adventure. These were the most interesting facts to me.

* Flying squirrels are nocturnal animals. [It was daylight when they came into our house!]
* Flying squirrels have a flap from their front paws to their back paws which gives them the ability to glide.
* A flying squirrel's tail is designed to work like a rudder; it moves up and down, side to side. Similar to a beaver.

Whenever I read The Secret Drawer the children are so excited to learn more about flying squirrels. I am now a wholesaler for flying squirrel puppets and during my reading when Al jumps out of the secret drawer, I introduce the flying squirrel puppet. I don't need to tell you how engaging that moment is for the children. After we finish sharing the book, I pass out lots of flying squirrel puppets so the children can touch and feel them.

RT: Raye Ann’s illustrations are colorful, fun, and exude humor. Do you have a personal favorite from the book?

Nancy: A favorite? Can I just say I love them all?! It was very important to me that the rhymes tie the story and the illustrations together. I drew every illustration in pencil, first. Then I would show Raye Ann what I wanted her to capture. She took my vision and transformed it into the magical drawings in the finished book.

It took hours and hours of development. We started with the characters. Each character took back and forth drawing development; sometimes as long as four months. After we finished the characters, we went through the same process with the scenes.

I wanted watercolor as it is magical. I wanted the illustrations to be so powerful that a child could read the story just by looking at the illustrations, even if an adult wasn't there to read with them.

During a reading at a Barnes and Noble, a young girl asked if she could pretend to be me, the author. Of course I said yes! She sat in my chair, held up the copy of The Secret Drawer, and read to the audience. The girl was too young to read, but she was able to tell the story through the illustrations. That is when I knew I had accomplished my goal.

RT: The Secret Drawer is dedicated to your Mom, whom you describe as an avid reader. Did you inherit her love of reading? And if so, what kinds of books do you like to read?

Nancy: Mom read book after book; at times she would read two at a time, which I found to be amazing. I enjoyed my mother reading to me as a child, but my own love for reading came later. When I got to be a young adult I became a reader.

I enjoy basically mystery, business, financial, and a splash of various educational readings. Reading at night is my personal quiet time, and I read before bed every night. Right now I'm reading Code of Conduct by Brad Thor and Memory Man by David Baldacci. Two books at a time - I guess I really am like my Mom!

RT: How would you describe your reading preferences: I’m an all paper girl; I’m all in for e-readers (no paper); or both? If “both,” what drives your choice between selecting print v. digital, and vice versa.
: I had always been a paper book person, but now I am a eBook girl. It took a while but over time it got very easy. Plus, I like that I don't need a light at night to read along.

RT: Thinking back on your own favorite books as a child, what titles would you put in your “must have” home library for kids today?
: All the Dr. Seuss books were a favorite with my children. When I decided to write, I wanted to follow that same style and give my stories a that whimsical feel. Reading for me developed as an adult as it was not a strong area as a child.

RT: Thanks for stopping by, Nancy. It was such fun to talk about writing for children and connecting with readers. We wish you all the best with The Secret Path and your trip to Paris next spring. Readers! Our interview continues on the Family Bookshelf, where Nancy talks about the business of book marketing.

Website: http://www.anancygeebook.com


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