I missed Random Acts of Publicity for the 1st week of September as I was busy finishing up writing projects and homeschooling. But I’m going to make it up this week by showcasing Mirka Breen’s brand new middle grade novel, The Voice of Thunder, which had its birthday on August 14, 2012. I’ve been fortunate to know Mirka from our online picture book critique group. Without further adieu, I give you, Mirka, and The Voice of Thunder!
Title: The Voice of Thunder
Publisher: WiDo Publishing, Aug. 2012
Synopsis from Amazon’s book description:
West Jerusalem, early June 1967, the eve of war. Ten-year-old Mira Levi and her best friend Gili Moser share an awful secret. They have discovered a new radio station called The Voice of Thunder from Cairo. Broadcasting in accented Hebrew, it threatens the demise of their country, their city, and their families. As the menace beats the drums of war, on June 5th the danger becomes all too real. Mira finds her own voice as she struggles to drown the distant terror of The Voice of Thunder. In these first two weeks of June, not only are Mira and Gili’s lives changed forever, but history will never be the same.
You were born in Israel. How did you come to live in the U.S.?
I was an American citizen from birth, because my mother was an American. So I have dual citizenship of both Israel and the U.S.A. I came to the United States to see the country, and the American border guard who saw my American passport, issued in Jerusalem, smiled at me and said, “Welcome home!” I thought I would be going back to Israel, but that guard was right. America has been home ever since.
When and how did you start writing for children?
I knew I wanted to write for children, but I started only after my first child was born. For the first seven years I wrote not for publication, but personal stories about him and his sister. They were my gifts to my children.
Where did you get the idea for The Voice of Thunder?
I was talking to a friend about our country, the U.S.A., being in two wars and yet it was hardly felt by us, when she said, “I wonder what it’s like to be in an actual war zone, where the bombs are falling.” I can blame her for starting it all… I do thank her first in my acknowledgments at the end of the book.
How long did it take you to write?
I wrote it as a short picture story book a long time ago. But when a fine editor suggested it should be expanded into a middle grade novel, it seemed that first draft of a much-changed story just wrote itself in three weeks. Revisions were another story. There, I lost count.
Although I was in fact in Jerusalem at that time of the Six-Day war, I did have to do research. I had to be sure of the course of the events. For example- at one point the main character finds herself walking at night, and I wanted to know how much light there would have been- was it a full moon? Crescent moon? As it turned out, it was a new moon, which means no moonlight. Even when I changed something slightly, I wanted to be sure the changes were not substantial.
In your book trailer, are those photos of you and a friend?
Yes, they are. I needed to use only photos I had a right to, or ones in the public domain. I searched for days for such photographs to no avail. Then my daughter, who put the trailer together, finally said- “why not use old photos of you?” So this homemade production wound up being even closer to home.
Didn’t the publisher use one of your photos for the cover? How did that come about?
They did. I must say this about WiDo Publishing- I was consulted at every stage and my input was valued. When my editor asked if I had any images I might suggest for the cover, I sent a couple and this was one of them. My editor did like it, but the first designer felt it would not do. I had no final say and I trusted that they would come up with a good cover. A second designer did choose to use it, and obviously, I was very happy about this.
To give us an idea of your submissions process, how long did it take to find a publisher?
I am not a mass-submitter, so going at it one at a time did take time. I also submit directly to publishers, because most of what I write are picture books/text only, and few agents consider these. I might have gotten an acceptance sooner with an agent, but it’s not the route I took. It would take two years from when I finished the last revision to the manuscript being acquired.
How do your children feel to have an author for a mom?
I see no discernible difference. To quote Rosanne Barr, “I still do all the dishes and have all the guilt.”
Will there be a sequel?
I’m not a fan of sequels, but I know better than to say absolutely not. I have considered taking the two main characters into the next major conflict Israel had experienced, but I’m not ‘there’ yet.
What are you working on now?
I just finished the first draft to a new picture book, and it’s in dire need of polishing. I’m also thinking about a chapter book, my favorite sort of story to write. If only more of them were published! But I write what I most feel like writing. I don’t know of any other way.
Where do you write? Do you have an office?
My ‘office’ is a corner of my bedroom, and it is full of distractions. This is one reason I write new fiction when the kids are at school. But that doesn’t stop others from invading…
You write picture books, too. Is it hard to write in both genres? Do you prefer one over the other?
Some parts are the same, but it is a different ‘zone,’ and for me it requires some shifting in the way I work. I love the shortest and the longest and the everything-in-between stories.
What words of encouragement would you like to pass on to unpublished writers?
I would say that if you are writing, you’re already a writer. If, like me, you don’t want to go the self-publishing route- then remember that being published is out of your hands. The joy must come from the writing first.
When I was in 6th grade, we gave our friends fun questions to answer, usually asking about their favorite things. So here are 6 fun favorites questions for you:
I no longer have one favorite of anything. Growing older has meant that my answer has to be ‘it depends’ to all these questions. But I like to play games. So I’ll answer this as my 6th grade self. She still had answers to these, and come to think of it, to almost any question!
Favorite place in the world? Jerusalem
Favorite food? Strawberries
Favorite hobby besides reading & writing? In sixth grade it would have been cooking. Now it’s not a hobby anymore- it’s part of my Mom/Wife job.
Favorite children’s book? The Little Prince. For children ages 7-107!
Favorite children’s author? Even my sixth grade self can’t answer that one.
You can find Mirka at these places:
Thanks so much, Mirka, for this fun interview!