Mariah: Tell me a bit about yourself.
Heather: The best way to describe myself is as a Transformers fanatic, Geek Girl, avid reader, dog, cat and parakeet owner. I’ve always had a very active imagination and love making up stories in my head. The more I think about them,the more they play like movies, and then I write them. I love getting lost in amazing worlds of books or imagination.
Mariah: You've published two middle grade novels through Writers AMuse Me Publishing, A Dog of War and Billy and The Gargoyles. What drew you to write in this genre?
Heather: My niece, Josephine. I originally began writing historical romance novels under a pseudonym, but when my sister was expecting I started writing picture books and easy readers. I don’t live near my niece and wanted to be able to tell her stories, so writing them for her was the best option for me. As she grew, my stories grew with her. The more I became involved with writing middle grade the more my love of the genre grew.
Mariah: What unique challenges are there in writing a middle grade novel?
Heather: One of the biggest challenges is keeping things age appropriate without talking down to kids. Kids know a lot today and have been through many different things, good and bad. In A Dog of War, the story is set during the Holocaust and I had to balance the truth without being overly graphic or too frightening. In Billy, he deals with being abandoned by a parent and ignored by the other. I needed to be able to put myself in Billy’s place so he reacted as a kid would, not an adult.
Mariah: Where did the inspiration for these books come from?
Heather: A Dog of War was inspired by several documentaries I’ve seen about WW2 and the Holocaust and my late dog, Chelsea. I was watching one documentary when the Germans forced the people in one village to leave. As they were walking down the road with all they could carry, their dogs were walking along with them, tails wagging. I looked at Chelsea, who was such a sweet, gentle natured girl, and wondered what would she think if something like that happened to us.The more I thought about it, the more the story began to develop.
Billy and the Gargoyles was inspired by my love of gargoyles. I think at times we have all felt alone even within our families and that we don’t fit in. Not all families are happy and close and kids live this, they need to know they are not alone in it. It’s okay to make a family other than the one we are born into, as long as we feel loved and supported by them. That includes a family of gargoyles.
Mariah: How hard was it to write a book from the point of view of a dog?
Heather: It wasn’t too hard. I just had to remember that Tierza wouldn’t understand what was happening, so that allowed me to tell the story of the Holocaust from her point of view without having to be political or too graphic.I could say what she saw and her confusion, frustration, and naiveté. It was easy to write about her steadfast belief that as long as she and her Aaron are together everything would be all right, no matter what they faced. Those of us blessed to have dogs in our lives know that feeling.
Mariah: Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
Heather: I’m currently learning to play chess against my computer and not having the greatest success, but keep trying. My biggest challenge is seeing the whole board and each piece’s possible move. I’ve been learning to knit as well.
Mariah: What was the hardest scene you've ever written?
Heather: I wrote the death of one of the animals in A Dog of War and it was so painful. I teared up when I wrote it, and again when I had to go back over it in editing. It still hurts my heart to this day. A Dog of War was a painful book to write, but I am so proud of the story and it was worth the pain.
Mariah: What can your readers look forward to seeing from you in the future?
There will be a sequel to Billy and the Gargoyles as well as a new fantasy, The Dragon Sword.
Thanks for the wonderful interview, Heather.
Be sure to follow her on Twitter @TierzaChels
Stop by her website and say hello
Or visit her author page on the Writers AMuse Me Publishing Website.