Welcome to another Musa Monday. Today I have the lovely Wench Rita Monette visiting.
Your debut release is The Legend of Ghost Dog Island published by Musa (congratulations!). Can you describe this book for us?
This middle grade fiction is set in the Louisiana bayous in 1956. The story is based on my childhood, and the heroine, Nikki Landry, even shares my birth date. Nikki lives in a houseboat and seems destined to move several times a year as Papa searches out new fishing spots to support his family. Nikki’s only wish is to have a house that stays in one place so she doesn’t have to keep giving up her friends. At least she has her companion, Snooper (a beagle that doesn’t track). As she faces her new home in a bayou near Morgan City, she finds the place to be spookier than your normal eerie, gator and snake infested inlet. Papa tells her about a legend surrounding a nearby Island. She’d heard Papa tell lots of swamp stories before, but this one is different. It involves stealing the souls of dogs! But is it just an old tale? Nikki has to find a way to learn the truth behind the legend before it’s too late for Snooper.
Please tell us a little about your road to publication.
I finished the first draft of The Legend of Ghost Dog Island in 2008. While working on edits, I attended conferences and workshops and read lots of books on writing. I entered it in a few contests and got some valuable feedback. Legend won second place in one contest in 2010. I had started submitting it to agents and publishers in 2009, and by 2011, and after 20 or so rejections, I started getting requests for full manuscripts. I had a couple of editors sitting on it when Musa offered representation. I considered it for a few days wondering if I wanted to go with an e-book. Musa was developing a great reputation. I liked what I saw in them, and signed the contract. I have been happy with the results.
What is it about Middle Grade fiction that attracted you to the ‘genre’?
When I first got the idea to start writing for children, it was picture books I had in mind, since I am also an artist. After writing a few stories, and not totally happy with any of them, I decided to write about my childhood and living on the bayou. It started out basically about bullying, and I had titled it The Levee Rat. The characters in my story decided to take on new adventures, and the story grew into The Legend of Ghost Dog Island. Once I began writing it, I fell in love with creating something with plots and subplots. I also fell in love with the age of my character. I realized I’d found my genre. Middle grade is an age of discovery, of innocence, and of trust.
I love the illustrations on your website. How did this come about?
Illustrating The Legend of Ghost Dog Island was an afterthought. I think the book was due to be released in a matter of weeks when I asked could I include illustrations. Then I had to rush to get them done. I wanted to include more, but time was running out. The idea came to me because of a teacher who used the first three chapters of my not-yet-published book for a literary circle in her classroom. She shared with me the students’ comments and their drawings. I realized that children nowadays might not know what a kerosene lamp looks like, or a houseboat, or even a swamp scene. So I jumped in and showed them.
Are you a plotter? Pantser? Or somewhere in between?
I am definitely a pantster, although I keep trying to be a plotter. I’ve taken excellent plotting workshops and the whole nine yards. But for me, the plotting and planning thing gives me writers block. I feel my characters are just sitting there waiting for me to turn them loose.
What are you working on now? And what’s in the near future for Rita Monette?
I have a couple more middle grade novels in the works. One is a sequel to Legend. Of course Nikki Landry needs another mystery to chase down. The second one is one that I started a few years ago. An excerpt won first place in a local writing contest, but I can’t seem to finish it. I think I’m trying to plot too hard.
What is your favourite part of the process of writing?
My favorite part of writing is watching the story unfold and watching the characters get so carried away in their story they leave me trying to catch up and making sense of where they are taking me.
What are you currently reading?
I had started reading Sharon Ledwith’s Last Timekeepers, and Clarissa Johal’s Between, before the holidays. At that time my Nook became missing in action (I’m wondering if there’s something supernatural going on? So...I am starting on First Frost, by Liz DeJesus, because I have it in my HP tablet. Technology! I got too many new gadgets for Christmas it seems.
The Legend of Ghost Dog Island
Behind every legend lies the truth.
Moving is nothing new for ten-year-old Nikki Landry. Her fisherman father relocates their raggedy old houseboat several times a year in search of better crabbing spots. However, their latest move has brought her to a mysterious bayou where she feels something is watching her from a nearby island.
Nikki learns of a local legend about something sinister inhabiting those swamps, stealing the souls of dogs…which would explain the strange howling sounds. Papa reassures her there’s nothing on the island but gators and snakes. He would know. He’s spent his whole life trapping and fishing those bayous and swamps. But Nikki and her new friends uncover strange happenings from years ago that may have started the old legend, and town folks aren’t talking. Then her beloved beagle goes missing.
Join Nikki as she seeks to discover the real truth behind the legend of Ghost Dog Island…before it’s too late.
Rita has a great blog, Tales from the Bayou, where her love of the Bayou comes through. You can also catch her at her website.
And check out the book trailer.