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Author Showcase

SUMMER 2006 FEATURED AUTHOR, SABRINA HOFKIN

RT: When you visit the Manzanita Falls Publishers web site, visitors quickly realize how passionate you are about writing (and family and wildlife and flying). You’ve been keeping journals for years; first a personal journal and now a family journal. Was there an Aha moment that drew you away from writing a memoir to writing a fictional novel?

Sabrina: Yes, it’s true. I’ve been keeping a journal since I was in fifth grade when my mom gave me my first diary and I have been writing in one ever since. What I find so great about keeping a journal is that what’s in a journal is all non-edited and unrevised stuff that just comes out of your head and out of your heart. People write with such energy when they write in a journal. The feelings and emotions just pour out. I don’t know why, but I felt for some reason I needed and I wanted to capture everything I was living through: the camping trips with my family, the flying adventures, dating disappointments, hikes with my dog in Wissahickon Park, and the fun and agony of having great girlfriends. Writing about the experiences helped me sort out my feelings. All those years of writing though, I never thought of taking those experiences and writing a memoir. My journals might make great reading material, but some of my memories are just too personal to share with other people. But then again, some of my memories were just busting inside wanting to come out. I’ve always been fascinated with teen fiction so that’s why I wrote a young adult novel. When I started writing Magnolia I read my old journals to remember what I was feeling during the experiences that I wanted to write about in my book. I included many of my adventures, but I also added things that I day dream about; things I haven’t been able to do in every day life or things that haven’t happened to me, but things that are interesting and fun to read about. Maybe some day I’ll write a memoir, but for now I’ll let Magnolia have all the fun.

RT: You freely admit that you are Magnolia Holden, the protagonist in your first novel. Did you find it hard to craft her character? Going back to the journals again, did they offer ideas for events or personality traits for her and/or her friends?

Sabrina: Do I really admit that I am Magnolia Holden? Although I have put a lot of my personal experiences in her character, I don’t think of her as me per se. Some of the things that are different about our lives is that: Magnolia has a different family structure than I do, she has one truly best friend, which is something I never had, and she lives in a different place than where I grew up. Her teen years are different than what mine were in that I traveled a lot, whereas she was born and raised in the same home town. She’s also president of two clubs and I was never president of anything. That is where the day dreaming comes in. It’s so much fun embellishing things and making things up. One thing I can say about both our characters is that I am as adventurous and motivated as she is, but she is much fierier and more ambitious than I am. She puts her mind to something and won’t give up. When I write about her I live through her and I wish I was her. She’s capable of making her hometown a better place to live. She’s achieving things that I can only dream about. I didn’t find it hard to craft her character, because she is someone I would like to aspire to be more like. She’s doing so much to help the environment, more than I have ever done. Most of the personality traits of the characters in Magnolia came from traits of real people that I’ve met or I hate to say it, from traits of characters I’ve watched in movies and on TV. But most of the flying scenes in Magnolia came from my own experiences. Since I am a pilot and flight instructor I have had wonderful, and sometimes scary, moments in the cockpit when I was flying by myself and when I was with my students. For instance, the chapter where I soloed is my own experience. I remember the day so perfectly and I remember being in that Grumman Trainer all alone for the first time. Every pilot I know never forgets their first solo flight. It stays with you forever. Flying is not only physical, but it is so emotional. So many thoughts race through your head right before take-off and right before landing. When you’re airborne though, you feel good. You feel like you’ve accomplished something special just by being up there. All of Magnolia’s flying experiences, from bad landings, to unintentionally getting lost, to flying into unpredicted bad weather, and to the fun memories as well: flying on cross-country flights to go out to lunch and flying to a new town to explore, are all things that have happened to me. If I hadn’t have kept a journal I probably wouldn’t have remembered events enough to have had that part of me to add to Magnolia.

RT: Your bio reflects many of t he same experiences that surface in the plot elements of Magnolia: roughing-it campouts, earning a pilot’s license, and flying with wildlife organizations. Which of these things do you think will be the most valuable for Magnolia Holden over the long term?

Sabrina: Flying with her club, Wings for Wildlife, will mean the most to her. Everywhere you look there are housing developments going up and malls being built, and wild lands are being destroyed. Wildlife is roaming closer and closer to our towns and cities, because the animals don’t have their homes anymore. Bears are being killed because they are venturing into neighborhoods, foraging for food in garbage cans. And this is just one example. Nature is disappearing everywhere. When I drive around my own town and see the manzanita bushes and the oak trees being bulldozed for yet another subdivision and I see the dead skunks on the side of the road because their homes are being displaced by all the building, my heart is saddened. Partly because the subdivision is going in, but partly because I didn’t fight against it. I know people need new homes, but at the same time, there’s just been so much growth. By starting her club, Wings for Wildlife, Magnolia Holden is trying to make a difference in her environment and in her world.

RT: In the story, were there things Magnolia did (directions, decisions) that are different from what you’d do in those circumstances?

Sabrina: Most of the events related to flying decisions actually happened to me, except for flying into a thunderstorm. Thank goodness I haven’t had the pleasure of being in that situation. Magnolia's issues with Ross about the flying competition and wanting to get her private pilot certificate before him actually happened to me. I had a good guy friend who was working on his instrument rating at the same time I was and I treated it like a competition. I don’t know why. I guess it’s the competitive streak in me. We are still friends though, after all these years, so it didn’t ruin our friendship. Some of Magnolia’s personal interactions with others are different from what I would have done. I don’t think I would have taken my first flight if my dad didn’t want me to. He would have been very mad at me for going against his wishes and I might have been grounded. I’d never let a guy come between a best friend and me. I don’t think I would have been brave to visit Mr. McKendrick at his home, even if I had my sisters with me. I never would have stayed in the woods all alone on the stakeout with those mean men. I don’t think I would have had the nerve to talk to Mr. McKendrick and Mr. Warner like she did at the meet and greet. I don’t think I would have been brave enough to land in the field and leave the FAA examiner in the lurch, fire or no fire. She showed a lot more courage than I would have been able to in those circumstances.

RT: When you’re not writing, you are Mom to three young boys (ages 2½ years to 6) . How did you come to write a story for teens … with a girl protagonist, no less.

Sabrina: I read so much when I was going up, especially when I was a teenager, and I identified with the girl protagonists in all the books I read. Plus I grew up in a house full of girls; I had three sisters and one step-sister; so I don’t know as much about how teen boys really are day to day. When I started thinking about writing a book about a character that learns how to fly, I wanted to write about a strong girl protagonist who also fights for what she believes in. I had this book in my head for a very long time before I had the chance to sit down and write it. It was even before I had my boys: Holden and Colby are 4 and Adin is 2. (Since I have all boys, some day I would like to write about a story with strong boy characters.) I wroteMagnolia because I felt I had something important to say and to share with teens. I chose a girl protagonist because I wanted to empower girls and let them know that they can be strong and be whoever and whatever they want to be. If they want to learn how to fly, they can. If they want to be active and help the environment, they can do that, too. I also decided to write for teens because I wanted them to know that they can make a difference in the world. Fighting for something you believe in or fighting against something that you feel is not right in the world can be done. You can make a difference in the world if you put your mind to it. I did most of my flying during my 20s, but instead of writing an adult novel, I wanted to write about my experiences from a teen girl’s point of view. I wanted to write for teens, because I think the teen years are fascinating. You go through so much as a teenager dealing with parents, friends, dating, peer-pressure, just about everything. It’s a wonderful and terrible time all at the same time.

RT: Many of the authors who visit our site and who submit books are self-published. Why did you decide to open your own company rather than using a print-on-demand, self publisher, or larger publishing house? As the author and publisher of the Magnolia Holden series, do you have any guidance you might offer them?

Sabrina: I decided to start my own company and self-publish my book, because I believed in myself and what I had to say in my books. With three small children, I love having my own business and being my own boss, because I can be home with them and also work as often as I can and as much as I want. I have to admit that the best part of the publishing world is writing, of course. But being the only person working in my company, I also have to do all my own advertising, which is very expensive, and promotional work to get interest out there for my book, which is very time consuming. Time that I would much rather spend writing. I have to admit though that I love what I’m doing. Starting your own publishing company is a big investment, in time and money, but if you have the means to do it, it’s very rewarding as well. I’m lucky to be able to have my own company, publish my own books, and make my dreams happen.

RT: Wings for Wildlife, the sequel to Magnolia, will be published soon. Can you give us a hint as to what’s in store for Magnolia?

Sabrina: My second novel Wings for Wildlife starts on the same day where Magnolia left off. At the beginning Magnolia Holden and members of Wings for Wildlife charge to City Hall to speak to the mayor about saving the bears and stopping the new subdivision. In addition to this, Magnolia encounters many new adventures. Not only is she flying with Ross to build up cross-country time, but she also starts her senior year of high school; she recruits new members and new officers for the club; she organizes activities for her club to help wildlife in the community; she develops a new love interest—someone she has known all of her life, which conflicts with her feelings for Ross; and being a horse lover, she fights to protect the American Wild Mustangs! The setting takes place in the same fictitious town of Manzanita Falls, California, in the present time during the fall. Although I try to write three mornings a week and I have a first draft written, I don’t have a publication date yet. I’m enjoying writing this novel very much; especially since I love the fall season. And fall is coming up, so I can really get into the time of year and revise and revise and revise!

Website: http://www.manzanitafallspublishers.com




                 

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