Monday, 20 June 2011

‘The Next Shakespeare’ – An interview with Wanda Ernstberger


Today, I am delighted to be able to chat to Wanda whose YA story, ‘The Next Shakespeare’ has just been published by Etopia Press.
 If you haven’t read it yet, here’s a bit of background to the story:

Who thought a poem would trigger World War Three?
Tristan Gunner—skateboard fanatic, junk food junkie, award-winning poet. But you’d think he just got detention instead of the school’s grand prize for poetry. And even though Chris won five Math and Science awards, the next Einstein is crying because he’s not the next Shakespeare. Astra wants them both to cut the drama, and caught between a mortified winner and a crybaby loser, she hopes Chris can get over his attitude before World War Three erupts in her kitchen.


Catherine:  Welcome Wanda and congratulations on publication of ‘The Next Shakespeare’.
Wanda:  Thanks so much, Catherine.

Catherine:  What made you start writing and when did you begin?
Wanda:  I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, based on an urge to rewrite my favourite stories, to explore an undeveloped plot, or to continue a story I didn’t want to end. I started as a fanfiction writer before I even knew of the phenomenon. My first serious attempt at writing came after I saw “Return of the Jedi” and I wanted to write a sequel. The story evolved, and thankfully so did my writing. 

Catherine:  I know that you are a prolific and versatile author who has written in fantasy, YA and comedy. This is quite a broad spectrum, do you find yourself working on different projects simultaneously?
Wanda:  Yes, I’m always working on more than one project, so I’m writing every day. I can write a gut-wrenching dramatic scene in my fantasy novel, and then work on a hilarious part in a comedy. Variety keeps my creativity in balance. 

Catherine: Which genre do you find the most challenging and why?
Wanda:  Fantasy is the most challenging, because it’s the most intricate, and based purely on imagination. I have to keep a log so I don’t break my own canon.

Catherine: I can empathise with that! When you start to write a story, do you begin with a blank sheet of paper and just dive on in there, or are you more of a planner?
Wanda:  I never go to the computer and say “I need to begin a story now.” Inspiration strikes me, characters are born and they demand to be written down. That’s how all my stories begin. Afterwards, I make a rough outline so I don’t forget key scenes. That’s the process for all of my stories, no matter what genre.

Catherine:  It’s interesting how we all work differently. Thank you for sharing your approach with us. What are you currently working on?
Wanda:  I’m working on several projects. One is a YA fantasy series called Infinity Blue, about a girl who discovers she is a goddess. Book One is finished, and I’m writing Book Two. In a way it’s a sequel to “The Next Shakespeare,” because the narrator, Astra, is the protagonist of the series. And I’m also working on the final edit of my fantasy novel To Catch a Ripple, about a woman who falls in love with a man bound by a family curse. 

Catherine: I’m glad I’m going to meet Astra again. I enjoyed meeting her in “The Next Shakespeare”. Now, what advice would you give to anyone who wants to get their story published?
Wanda:  My advice is to write a story from the heart, then edit it relentlessly until it’s as perfect as it can be. When it’s ready to go out, the best resource for writers is Duotrope’s Digest http://www.duotrope.com/index.aspx. Follow each magazine’s submission guidelines. That’s how I found publishers for all my stories.

Catherine: I’ve not heard of that resource before, so thank you for that. Now, a light-hearted question.  If you had your own TV chat show and could interview 3 people (living or dead), who would they be and what would you want to talk about?
Wanda:  1) Walt Disney:  Where did you get your inspiration? Did the characters keep you up at night?
2) Joan of Arc: You go, girl! Where did you get your guts and determination?
3) Adolf Hitler: What made you so twisted? Were you ever human?

Catherine:  Thank you very much for joining us today. Where can we find out more about you and, crucially, where can we find your book?  
Wanda:  You can find out more about me and “The Next Shakespeare” here:

Etopia Press: “The Next Shakespeare”
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Here’s an excerpt to give you just a flavour of ‘The Next Shakespeare’:
    I laughed as Tristan sneaked into class. He tossed me a muffin and dove into his rib sandwich. His period one teacher, Mr. Reynolds, had a strict “no food and drink” policy. The drama teacher, Mr. Pantazopolous, was more laid back. “What’s so funny?” Tristan mumbled around a mouthful of bread and meat.
Tristan Gunner, the next Shakespeare.”
He stopped chewing, a sign that he was either thinking or upset.
“Chris is really ticked that you won the poetry contest.” I shook my head. “That guy! He wins five awards in math and science, but he’s crying because he’s not a poet.”
“I don’t care about that stupid award.”
“Why? It’s the first time you’ve ever won anything. You’re one up on me now.”
Tristan put down the sandwich. This must be serious. He wasn’t the kind of guy to talk about his feelings, so I had to take the subtle approach. “What’s your poem about, anyway?”
“Nothing.” He stuffed the sandwich in his mouth and after swallowing, he groaned. “They’re going to hand out that stupid poem to everyone on awards night. Aw, that stupid contest.”
I kept fishing. It was annoying sometimes, having to play these games, but if I asked him a direct question, he’d either shut down completely or make one of his goofy jokes. So I asked, “Mrs. Owala had your permission to enter it, right?” Mrs. Owala was Tristan’s grade eleven English teacher last year. She’d taught me grade ten the year before. She was tough, but always fair.
Tristan moaned. “Yeah, but I never thought it would win.”
I placed a hand on his shoulder. “Don’t stress over it.”
He smiled his lopsided grin, but it faded as he mumbled, “Stupid contest.”
We’d been friends since we were four. Few things ever bothered him, but he was as wound up as Chris about this award. Offering him the top of my muffin, I tried again. “So, what’s the poem about?”
Silently, he stuffed the muffin in his mouth.
“Don’t worry. No one’s going to laugh, and if they do, you’re the one laughing, because you won, right?”
“I guess.” He shrugged but didn’t look at me. He was eyeing the rest of my muffin. I handed it to him. Tristan rarely had anything to eat. As far as I knew, he never had.


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