The Polka Dot Banner recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jane N. White, author of The Taming of Corky (AuthorHouse). Read on to learn more about Jane and a little boy who lived in the wild after a plane crash and the death of his parents.
PDB: Welcome to the Polka Dot Banner, Jane. It is a pleasure to have you here with us.
JW: Thank you, Jamie. I'm very happy to be here. Like most authors, my writing necessitates a rather isolated existence of my own choosing, but the Polka Dot Banner has opened new possibilities for me. I had no idea how rewarding it could be to have a dialogue with other writers, and readers as well.
PDB: Jane, you are the author of The Taming of Corky, a story about a young boy living in the wild after a plane crash. Eventually he is discovered by a childless couple who hope to adopt him and "tame" the wild out of him. What was your inspiration for this unusual and delightful story?
JW: The inspiration for this story was a dream I had during a summer vacation. I woke up one morning with vivid memories of a little boy named Corky running through the woods as swiftly as a small, wild animal. My first thought was what a wonderful Disney movie it would make, but on second thought, perhaps a book...
PDB: How long did it take you to write The Taming of Corky?
JW: That is a complicated story. Though it's my first novel, I've published several other books before it. Ironically, Corky was the first book I actually sat down to write. The summer of my dream was a time that I was already teaching full time, and my three children were young and engaged in numerous activities during the school year. I managed to write the first draft, minus the ending, that very summer. I wrote in a spiral notebook, with a pencil, from a convenience store down the road from the beach house where we were staying. When we returned home, I stuck my "manuscript" on a shelf and returned to my life as a mother, wife, and teacher, and forgot about it for a while.
Every once in a while, usually during vacations over the years, I would take it out and work on additions and revisions, but teaching and mothering kept me from finishing the book. One year I pulled it out and read aloud what I'd written to my children and some of my students. They moaned in horror when I stopped, and begged me to finish it, so I went back to work, but struggled with the ending. It went back on the shelf for a long time then, as my children grew up and Corky was in limbo on the shelf. Finally, as crazy as it sounds, I was eating a Chinese dinner one evening and my fortune cookie said, "Finish what you started." It was a sudden reminder to me that I had to finish telling Corky's story, and I did exactly that, once more on vacation, but this time on a laptop computer on Little Camon Island. I typed the whole book, and fleshed out the final draft, in just a few weeks, after having worked on it off and on for too many years. So my answer is, too long.
PDB: Writing a book is often a learning experience. What did you learn from The Taming of Corky?
JW: I learned to finish what I start! But seriously, it taught me that I have to have time designated to completely focus on my writing. Teaching full time, especially when it's English, including all the language arts, teaching young people to write, is very time consuming. I've had to limit my writing projects to vacation times, to avoid feelings of personal frustration. I am so looking forward to my imminent retirement from teaching, which is two years away (or less, if I can manage it), so I can dive into my new vocation, writing full time.
PDB: Tell our audience about your writing process.
JW: Corky's evolution is not a good example of my writing process, since it was so drawn out. My writing crosses genres, so it varies, depending on the book I'm writing at the time. Historical projects lend themselves more to outlines, in my experience, while my fiction and poetry seem to flow more, strongly based on inspiration. I tend to let the characters tell their own stories, with me as the medium.
Since I've edited professionally, and I'm a perfectionist, I do most of my own editing, so there's not much for my editors to do, at least with grammar and mechanics, by the time I finish a manuscript. While I started out many years ago writing first drafts by hand with pencil or pen, I am now much more comfortable composing directly into my computer. I print out the pages I've typed at one sitting, and revise and edit on the hard copy, then correct on the computer before my next session of composing.
PDB: What advice would you offer to others who are just beginning to write their first book?
JW: The same advice I give my students. Get it down on paper. Don't worry about mistakes in spelling, grammar, or mechanics as you draft, especially on your first draft. That only cramps your style, and slows the flow of your thoughts. Your ideas are the most important thing, and you can always make revisions later. Just tell your story. Editing is what editors are for. And don't let other people discourage you from trying.
PDB: I understand you have other writings as well, including poetry?
JW: Yes, the first book I published was a poetry anthology for children, Life and Things Like Rocks. I've received some awards for my own poetry, such as being named a Top Poet of the Year 2000 by Poetry.com and the International Library of Poetry, and an essay of mine was included in Troll Communications' e-book, Doughnuts from the Teachers' Lounge. I've also published some history, plays, and my doctoral dissertation on student motivation.
PDB: What authors have inspired you most?
JW: That's a toughie, since I'm an avid reader with eclectic taste. Some of the writers who've inspired me most include: Madeleine L'Engle, Eugenia Price, Nora Roberts, John Grisham, C.S. Lewis, Richard Paul Evans, Nicholas Sparks, and J.K. Rowling. (I said it was eclectic!)
PDB: Do you have other books planned?
JW: Yes. My next major project may evolve into several books. My father was an Episcopal priest, and served in World War II as one of General George Patton's chaplains. Daddy was awarded the Bronze Star at the Battle of the Bulge, and not too many chaplains have that experience. There are many stories stemming from that, and I have all the letters my parents wrote to each other every day during the war. I've cataloged the letters chronologically, and so far have not even had time to read all of them. (Both my parents are deceased.) Once I do finish reading them, I'll have to decide whether to let them tell their own story through the letters, or perhaps write it in the form of historical fiction or creative nonfiction. There are many possibilities. And beyond those possibilities, my grandfather was a Methodist-Episcopal minister who served as a chaplain in World War I, and was awarded the French Cross of War, and befriended Sergeant York. (a prequel?)
More reasons for me to tamp down my excitement to dive into those projects until I can devote my full attention to writing, as soon as I retire from teaching.
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