Today we are joined by author Rose Kent.
Originally from Long Island, Rose spent much of her childhood writing poems and stories in Kings Park and in a cabin in Maine. Straight out of high school Rose entered the Navy. Later she honed her writing skills as a freelance journalist. She found her way into writing for kids after she adopted her own son Connor. To hear more about Rose Kent and her work go to www.rosekent.com.
EEM: Did you always want to be a writer? If no, what was your initial dream and what led you to writing later?
RK: I dreamed of many different grownup me’s. I wanted to be Batgirl, a firefighter, a pediatrician, an Olympic gymnast like Nadia Comaneci, and – believe it or not – a backup singer to Bobby Sherman. (He was that ‘70s heartthrob-singer whose face was always on Tiger Beat magazine.) I wrote about all of my dreams. Writing was the way I expressed these young girl wishes, the constant in my childhood, going back to when I first learned to form letters. It was also how I entertained myself and escaped.
EEM: When you began writing, was it instant success and riches or did you find you had to work other jobs in order to continue your dream of being a writer?
RK: I didn’t start my early professional life as a writer so I didn’t encounter instant success or juggling jobs. I attended the U.S. Naval Academy and, upon graduation, took a commission as a naval officer for five years. That was a tremendous learning experience – about the Navy and life. From there I entered corporate America and worked in public relations at Kraft General Foods, the folks who make blue box Macaroni and Cheese and Velveeta. Later, I did freelance writing for corporations and universities. Throughout these years, though, I always wrote stories and poetry on the side. It was after I started a family that I began working hard at the goal of publishing a novel for children.
EEM: Which job was the most challenging or strange to you?
RK: I’ve found challenge, satisfaction, and quirks in all the work I’ve done. Being on active duty in the Navy and spending some time aboard a ship was challenging. I can recall spending the summer during my senior (First Class) year as a midshipman at the Naval Academy aboard an amphibious assault ship. The ship was about to deploy so the crew spent weeks conducting readiness drills. It’s an enormous task to get a ship seaworthy, and I was so impressed with the crew’s dedication, both officers and enlisted. There was a drill for everything and a right and wrong way to do things. I remember we had to practice putting on a protective mask very quickly, in case there was a chemical weapon attack. It had to be put on my face precisely, in less than ten seconds, so the seal wasn’t broken. This was a humbling experience. It took me several attempts before I got mine on and secured. Thank goodness some seasoned sailors gave me extra help.
EEM: How did you come across this job?
RK: Remember that Village People song popular in the early 1980s that went,
“We want you, we want you, in the Navy?” I decided I wanted them too! Attending the Naval Academy and later serving in the Navy was a terrific experience. I was in one of the first classes with women and this presented unique challenges, but I’m grateful for it all. I learned so much about staying strong and focused. These were lessons that have served me well in writing novels, too.
EEM: What was your favorite thing about this job?
RK: I loved the esprit de corps, working with men and women who took such pride in their work and sacrificed so much for their country. Working with them made me a better officer, and I believe, a diehard patriot.
EEM: Did your day job(s) allow you to write regularly? Or did you have to get creative to get those word counts in?
RK: It was tough getting word counts in during my Navy days since I worked days and I was getting a master’s degree at night. I kept a journal – even when I was aboard ship. That way even if I didn’t have enough time to write stories I would capture the story ideas for a future time. I also believe that reflecting time – when you are actively thinking about your writing, whether it is scenes, dialogue, plot – also counts and I did that when I was working other jobs.
EEM: Any fun stories from the job(s) that inspired your stories?
RK: Serving in the Navy and working for a major food corporation both influenced my work. My time at Kraft General Foods made me appreciate the role that food plays in all our lives, not only the obvious in terms of nourishing our bodies but also nourishing our spirits. My first book, Kimchi & Calamari (HarperCollins publishers) is about a wise-cracking Korean adopted boy in an Italian-American family who jokes that he feels like a combo platter of kimchi and calamari, which is Korean and Italian food, so you can see the influence. And as a naval officer I got to work with many terrific senior enlisted personnel who held the rank “Chief.” Some could come across as crotchety and gruff, but underneath it they were always rooting for the sailors, and they were always dedicated to the mission. In tribute to them, I have a retired Navy chief in my newest book, Rocky Road (Knopf Books), which is about a girl who moves to upstate NY with her family to open an ice cream shop with the last of their savings. Here is the Rocky Road book trailer: http://vimeo.com/11357915
EEM: Have you ever based a loved protagonist or an evil villain on one of your co-workers?
RK: I think some of my characters are composites of people I have known but never one real person. I’ve always felt like I couldn’t take the soul of a real person and replicate it in fiction because I couldn’t completely understand their ways or inner workings, and I need to do that when I create a character.
EEM: What are you working on now and is the process any easier than your first work? If so, in what capacity (people noticing it, the writing itself, the confidence?)
RK: I’m in the midst of writing a middle-grade novel about eleven-year-old Mimi, a petite stubborn redhead who longs to be good at something and decides to set a world record. I’m having a ball writing this because this character is quite unpredictable and unconventional. I’d love to boast that the writing process has gotten easier, but the truth is, each story is a mountain to climb. There are comfortable, even pleasant, stretches of writing along the way, and there are steep ascents when the words don’t come or plot problems set in. I liken it to raising children: no two are the same, you lose sleep from all of them, it’s hard work, and it is worth every bit of the effort.
EEM: Would you change anything if you could begin your writing journey over again?
RK: I think we are all passengers on our writing journeys, not necessarily driving them. To change the past significantly would change the writing that we produce, and I wouldn’t want to do that. I will say that I wish I had done more of what I try to do now: to celebrate each small success. Sometimes that means finishing a chapter, getting through a first draft, sending a manuscript off to an editor, whatever. Toast the glass or have some chocolate! We all get caught up in the worry mill. What if I can’t finish this draft? What if an editor doesn’t like it? Will it get good reviews? Will I market it enough? Worry never helps create writing. It’s like adding a fifty-pound pack on our backs as we climb the mountain.
EEM: Thank you for taking the time to answer these interview questions!
RK: Thank you, Erin! I believe we learn so much from listening to fellow writers, and your blog allows us to do this. It takes a village to raise a writer too, so thanks to all in this village. And to those looking for inspiration to finish that chapter, that first draft, or to finally send something out to an editor, I say go for it. Believe!