Name: Ellen Booraem
Debut Group: Class of 2k8
Debut novel: THE UNNAMEABLES
PJH: Okay, so it’s been three and a half years since you graduated from your debut class. Personally, I miss the heck out of knowing what my classmates are up to. So give us the low-down. What have you been up to in the last few years? New books? New degrees? New pets? What has been going on, and what do we have to look forward to from you in the future?
EB: I continue to be phenomenally lucky—who knew you could start a whole new career in your 50s?
My second book, SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS, came out in January 2011. It’s another middle-grade fantasy, this time about a thirteen-year-old girl who discovers that her family has a thousand-year-old pact with a tribe of Parvi Pennati, or SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS. (They look like fairies, but hate to be called that.) There’s a lost magic ring and an evil real estate agent/plumbing inspector.
Small Persons made “best of 2011” lists for Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, The Washington Post, and the Bankstreet Center for Children’s Literature—all of which was a thrill and a half. It came out in paperback over the winter, and THE UNNAMEABLES is out in paperback, too.
Now I’m in the editing phase of a third book this one about twelve-year-old Conor O’Neill, who has a visit from a banshee—an ancestral spirit who keens when someone in her family is about to die. This banshee is actually a young girl who died around 500 C.E. Conor sets out to prevent the death she’s come for.
Otherwise, my most exciting recent event was a trip to Ghana in January. A friend and I lived in a village for a week doing volunteer work, then traveled all over the country for a couple of weeks. A family took us under their wings, and ushered us to places we’d never have seen on our own. I’m dying to go back, and am trying to persuade my partner, Rob, to go with me. (Fat chance—his biggest thrill is staying in his studio and painting all day.)
SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS (Puffin, February 16, 2012)
PJH: If you could summarize to a debut novelist the best part of being a member of an author group like the “Class of” groups, what would you say?
EB: I would have been lost without the Class of 2k8, not least because I live in rural Maine, far from most clusters of author-types. First-time publication has lots of ups and downs and bumps in the road—going through all that as part of a group, sharing experience and advice, was priceless.
For those of use who weren’t getting a lot of marketing support from our publishers, 2k8’s group efforts in that realm also were invaluable.
I’m still in touch with some 2k8ers (you, for example, PJ!). When 2k8 ended some of us scurried to replace it. You and I and some others now belong to The Enchanted Inkpot group blog for middle-grade and young-adult fantasy lovers. I don’t think I’ll ever want to be without some sort of online authors’ group. It’s a way of keeping your name and news out there, certainly, but I’m really addicted to the moral support.
THE UNNAMEABLES (Harcourt, October 1, 2008)
PJH: Though I absolutely loved being a debut author, I’m really thrilled with all the experience I’ve gained since. What advice would you give to those who are debuting now? What do you wish you had known when you started out?
EB: I didn’t have a clue how to revise a manuscript—or even what “revision” really meant—and I’m only just getting the hang of that. There’s a ton of resources out there to help you get your brain turned in the right direction after you’ve finished the rough draft—Darcy Pattison and the Verla Kay blueboards are just two. I’d definitely try to take advantage of them if I were starting over. When I think of what I put my poor editor through on the first go-round …
PJH: In addition to writing the next mega-million bestselling novel, what do you want to accomplish in the next five years? Do you want to write five more books? Get your black belt in Kung Fu? Walk the Great Wall of China? Let’s hear it.
EB: A book every other year seems to be my speed—if I can rev that up just a little, I’ll be happy. Mostly I just want to keep getting better at this—my long-term goal is to make a kid yell, “No! No! Don’t do it!” at the printed page.
Otherwise, I want to travel more, spend at least a month teaching in a Ghanaian village, and finish our darn house, which we built with our own hands nineteen years. The upstairs still has plywood floors and untrimmed windows, and we still don’t have a screened-in porch. In Maine mosquito season, that’s essential!
PJH: Anything else you want to add? Five reasons to read your book? A picture of your writing space? How you celebrated when you signed your contract? Your choice!
EB: Remember those “this is your brain on drugs” ads? This is my office during revision. Note the plywood floor and un-trimmed windows.
PJH: I love this office!
PJH: Thank you so much for being here! And good luck with everything in the future!
EB: Thank you, PJ! This was fun, and I love the idea of catching up with all our old classmates!
Bio: Ellen Booraem has been writing for a living for nearly forty years. After twenty years writing and editing rural weeklies, she quit her job at the age of 52 to write her first middle-grade fantasy, THE UNNAMEABLES. She lives in coastal Maine with her partner, painter Robert Shillady.
Thanks for helping me celebrate former debuts! And if you are a former debut and are interested in being featured, check out this post here!