Most readers probably think that their favorite authors spend all their time alone behind a computer, typing away and drinking prodigious amounts of coffee. While we do that, most of us find networking with other authors and belonging to writers’ groups to be beneficial. That used to happen in person only, but more and more, writers are finding each other and networking online.
I met Pamela Witte last year via a Facebook group called A Path to Publishing. Several of us who were working on YA novels formed a critique group—also online—where we share feedback on each others’ manuscripts. Since then, Pamela has published her first middle grades novel, Jet Lee: Dragon Warrior. Pamela stopped by The Writer’s Desk to talk about her book.
Kindred Spirit Author: Thanks for stopping by The Writer’s Desk today, Pamela. You’ve just published your first middle grade novel. Tell us about Jet Lee: Dragon Warrior!
Pamela Witte: JET LEE DRAGON WARRIOR is an awesome reluctant reader designed for kids ages 8-12 who get intimidated by complex plots and humungous words. It is a fast-paced action adventure that even parents will love, and it makes a terrific read-aloud. It’s lightly illustrated by an amazing, young media artist, Laurie Tisdale who really nails the characters and action!
Here is the blurb on the book jacket: Born in the year, month, day and hour of the dragon, JET LEE DRAGON WARRIOR, is destined for karate-kicking greatness. Too bad he’s such a loser. Bullied on a daily basis and working in the Wu’s fish shop to earn his allowance, twelve-year-old Jet thinks things can’t get worse—he learns how wrong he is, when a beast-man attacks his mom and vows to take over New York City.
Saving the city is tough for anybody, but it’s nearly impossible when you’re in sixth grade. Bullies, detention, principals and girls… friends keep getting in the way. It’s a whirlwind week of subway chases, demon spit and samurai swords and time’s running out.
Jet must connect with his mysterious inner animal before Friday’s field trip to save his friends, family and the world.
KSA: Where did the idea for the book come from?
PW: I was in the dojo with my kids. We were all working on our Karate belts. I was pretty new to the sport and was preparing to test for my yellow belt. The dojo was filled with cool martial art stuff— weapons, posters of Bruce Lee, books, and lots of kids kicking and shouting Kiai! I fell in love with the kids, the athletic process, and the idea of kicking butt. However, I knew the only butt worth kicking had to be the evil kind. Around the time I thought about evil butt, I realized I wanted to write a book. While at an SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference I fell in love with NYC and China Town. I had a butt-kicking idea and an amazing location. All I needed were characters. Evil demons soon arrived in a dream along with Jet Lee’s sidekicks Jimmy, Uly and Cordy.
KSA: You decided to publish independently. Why did you choose this route, and how has this experience been?
PW: I’ve been working as an author advocate for quite a while, always taking stock of how new authors were being published. Recently, I was struck by the amazing phenomena that had become self-publishing and e-publishing. For the longest time the concept had been a murky, ambiguous way for authors to get their words out. Now it’s plausible and popular. I thought of Jet Lee, who had been stuck away in my computer because an editor friend had said that as a reluctant reader, it would be difficult to market, and knew I had project brewing. Knowing that any project worth doing is worth doing right, I decided to approach e-publishing with an ALL IN attitude and I’ve really enjoyed the experience. I’ve learned tons about the process and even conquered many aspects of social media necessary for self-promotion. The project led me to new friends and amazing advocates!
KSA: Have you always wanted to be a writer?
PW: MOST DEFINITELY I have a very active imagination and I’ve always loved making up stories. The crazier the better! Sadly, I learned that my writing wasn’t as mesmerizing as my storytelling. I needed to educate myself! I needed to learn the art of crafting a great story, the complexity of plotting, developing wonderful voices and how to put it all on paper. So, I began taking classes whenever and wherever I could. I began networking with writers and editors. It has been a winding road, but all of my efforts to learn the craft of writing have been worth it because I totally LOVE it.
KSA: What’s your writing process? Do you have a particular time and place that you write?
PW: I have a particular place, my desk in my office overlooking the meadow and mountains that make up my backyard. Time? I write whenever I can, and that’s not always consistent. My process is mostly— sit at the keyboard and let my characters lead the way. My characters always have big voices, great ideas and elaborate plans. It takes me hours upon hours to work my way through them because they come flooding out of my brain like a tidal wave. So, when I’m in story mode, I write a lot. Then, I edit out the ideas and plans that don’t work (there’s usually lots). My process is a journey for myself and my characters. My characters are usually very talkative, day and night so I write whenever they speak.
KSA:What do you like to read?
PW: I like to read everything, but deep-down, I’m a kid who hasn’t grown up, so I especially like to read kids books. All kinds. MG, YA, picture books, you name it. The stories I love most are big adventures set in cool locations. Bonus points if they are filled with incredible action and mystery!
KSA: What advice do you have for kids who want to be writers?
PW: Read lots of books, observe life around you and write, write, write, Anything and Everything! Keep a journal. Take note of the good, the bad, the funny, the gross, the happy and the sad stuff. You can find inspiration everywhere, on the bus, in school, at soccer practice, even at the mall! When you read books, get in touch with their elements, setting, characters, problems, and solutions so you really understand the structure—the bones or roadmaps of how they’re written. Join up with other kids who love to write. Write for anything and anyone, blogs, school newspapers or even your local paper. Check out kid’s writing blogs and websites (there are lots of great ones. I really recommend Kids Are Writers. Honestly, if you want to write, just do it!
KS: Finally, if you could give a writing prompt to a young aspiring writer, what would it be?
PW: Oh gosh… there are so many wonderful choices! Here’s a fun one I use when my creativity is blocked. Take a look at some recent photos; they can be from a photo album or from your phone (or mom or dad’s phones). Phone photos are usually pretty fun and spontaneous, so I like to use those. Pick one with people in it. Then, change the location, change the names and add an exciting element like placing it in outer space or on a deserted island or sometime in the future. Think up a conflict for the characters, maybe they are out of food, or can’t find the bathroom… then, let the story unfold!
PAMELA K WITTE is the author of the debut novel Jet Lee Dragon Warrior, a thrilling, magical, action adventure for middle grade readers who love karate-kicking excitement and all around ninja awesomeness.
A former psychiatric nurse and adrenalin junkie, Pamela is really a thrill-seeking kid who never grew up. She enjoys skiing (is a professional instructor), martial arts, yoga, hiking, sailing, exploring and spending time with her husband and two children. She lives and writes in a cabin in the middle of the woods in southeastern New Mexico.
Visit Pamela Witte to learn more about Dragon Warriors and the mystical powers of friendship, and check out Jet Lee’s Facebook page. Pamela Witte’s author advocate blog can be found here.
Jet Lee Dragon Warrior is available for purchase on Amazon.