Author Interview With Peggy Purser Freeman
Sharing a finished story with an audience can be one of the most terrifying moments for a writer, even though that is the purpose of writing in the first place. Writing for children can ease this a little since they won’t pick your work apart like a critic, though they can still be brutally honest. However, Peggy Purser Freeman’s books have been well received by both adults and children. Through her writer’s workshops and author visits, she has been able to expose her work to her target audience, stories that draw from her home state and personal experiences. Below are Freeman’s answers to my 10 questions about her books and writing. Be sure to check them out!
1. How many books have you written and where can you buy them?
The Coldest Day in Texas, (TCU Press) one of three finalists for The Texas League of Writers Teddy Book Award, presented by First Lady Laura Bush. Available at the following locations: Barnes and Noble, TCU Press, Texas A&M Press Consortium, Amazon, and PeggyPurserFreeman.com.
On the coldest day in Texas—February 12, 1899—Shyanne Jones and her twin sister, Shenandoah, are snowbound in their schoolhouse in the Panhandle, along with the teacher—Shyanne’s adored Miss Gibson—and Josh Paul Younger, the cutest boy in the county. Before rescuers can dig them out, Shenandoah’s frail heart is weakened by the severe temperature. Gravely ill, she whispers her only wish. Bracing against the storm, Josh Paul and Miss Gibson cut the one tree within miles to grant her wish, and the four celebrate Christmas ten months early. When Shenandoah dies, Shyanne bitterly regrets the harsh last words her sister ever heard from her. Shyanne’s father, having lost his property in the Civil War, drowns his sorrows in drink, and after Shenandoah’s death, deserts the family. Then, to Shyanne’s disgust, her mother makes her annual announcement—another baby is on the way. It will be the eighth child in the family. Guilt over Shenandoah’s death, a nervous stomach around Josh Paul that can only mean love, and rivalry with snippy Priscilla Babcock, the town’s rich girl, all combine to make Shyanne unhappy and pessimistic. Will she have to quit school and take care of her brothers so her mother can work, or worse, move to her grandmother’s house and become a lady? Or could Josh Paul be right? Do miracles happen and is there really a happy-ever-after? The Coldest Day in Texas is alive with excitement and drama, from a blizzard to a prairie fire, reunion picnics and a great jackrabbit hunt to a wagon-trip to the Palo Duro Canyon, from the death of one child to the birth of another. And Shyanne Jones is one of the spunkiest girls ever to race through the adventures of growing up in the Texas Panhandle.
Spy Cam One – White House Security (TanMakAli Press) Dec 2014 - paperback, ebook, soon to be audible - Digby thinks he’s more than the First Family’s Dog. He is White House Security and does a great job for President Jonathan Landry, in spite of P.C. the cat and the White House Staff. He even goes to work on the President’s approval rating by starring in the on-line video, Digby Cam One. Digby’s instant star status is quickly disrupted when he overhears a couple of radical veggie-protecting terrorists who plot to harm the first family. People for the Ethical Treatment of Vegetables (PETV) has a national membership of two, but a master mind criminal has enlisted these two bungling radicals into his cause for cash. Through many false alarms, international crises and embarrassing situations, Digby fails in his struggle to protect First Kids, Ryan and Gracie. When they are kidnapped, Digby's paws are tied and he's muzzled in his attempt to rescue them. Even with the help of his arch enemy, P.C. and his remote camera, Digby races against time. Will he save the first kids and prove he is White House Security, or lose everyone he loves?
Swept Back to a Texas Future – a historical play for children, depicting an overview of Texas history. (Hendrick-Long) Everything's included to put together an enjoyable performance for parents and guests: script, suggested music, dance and set directions. The play incorporates history and the spirit that makes Texas great. Guides for the 4th and 7th grades include units in fine arts, social studies, language arts and physical education.
Cruisin' Through Life-Dip Street and Other Miracles (TanMakAli 2014) Celebrates the 50s and 60s, inspires readers of all ages. Family values and transports the reader back to home and heart in a Lewis Gizzard fashion.
2. What famous books can you compare to your own?
Shyanne in the The Coldest Day in Texas reminds the reader of the spunky Laura on the Little House on the Prairie series.
In Spy Cam One, Digby resembles a mix of Hank the Cowdog and White House Kids.
Swept Back to a Texas Future brings the history book to the play book and the combination creates an entertaining history lesson/ program.
Cruisin' Through Life – Dip Street and Other Miracles brings Chicken Soup-type stories to the kitchen table, where families can share laughter, tears and tips on how to handle the dips in life.
3. Why do you write for this particular age group?
As a magazine writer I write for all ages, but usually no matter what I start to write, it turns into a middle-grade novel. Although, I'm working on a middle-grade novel that has turned into a Young Adult.
4. How autobiographical are your books?
All books contain a bit of my life. If not, the reader probably can't relate to the characters. Feelings and experience that are true to the character are mine. An example is in The Coldest Day In Texas. I was never shy a day in my life, but like Shyanne the main character in that book, I didn't get to say good-bye when my sister died. I also lived in Swisher County and understood being poor. A bit of me is like Josh Paul, the cute boy next door. I am always hopeful and believe in happy-ever-after.
5. What’s the best compliment that you’ve ever received about your writing?
The second best compliment would be meeting Laura Bush and receiving an award in the Texas League of Writer's Teddy Book Awards. There were only three Texas Children's authors who received an award that year. The honor is one I'll never forget. The very best compliment came from a third grade boy in Swisher County. I was there the week of February12 that year (the date of the record setting temperature of 23 below zero) for an author visit and student writing workshop. The children had read the book. The boy handed me a hand made heart and said, “When you get home give this to Shyanne.” I smiled and reminded him that Shyanne was a fictional character, that I made her up.” He gave me a sideways smile and answered, “I know, but when you get home give her this anyway.” Wow, what a compliment! It doesn't get any better for a writer than to have your character live in the heart of the reader.
6. What has been your greatest moment as a writer so far?
Being able to bring honor to my family and my hometown is rewarding. And one day in a writing workshop a boy who had never written more than a small paragraph asked if he could write on the back of his paper.
7. Where do you get your covers?
TCU Press created the cover for Coldest Day. The author really doesn't have any say in the cover in traditional publishing. However the artist was kind enough to send me a preview. I was pleased but there were a couple of big problems. The cover had mountains and trees in the background. I explained that Swisher County (setting for the book) had no mountains or trees, that it is flat. He answered with another preview and there were hills and shrubs. I explained that there are no hills or shrubs in this part of Texas and he said there had to be something. But there isn't--it's flat. Thanks to the book designer who had attended Texas Tech in Lubbock, the picture was changed to flat land, big sky and a prairie full of color. Covers are really important.
With Spy Cam One, I've had the chance to plan the cover, but I had a wonderful graphic artist to design it. With a dog as cute as Digby and a cat as mischievous as P.C, it wasn't too difficult and the oval office is a perfect setting. Then a good friend did a portrait of Digby for the back.
Cruisin' was the easiest. I saw a picture a friend took of Dip Street at night and knew right away it was the only cover that could be on this book. The cover entices the reader to read the book blurb.
8. Who is your biggest fan?
It was my sister before she passed away. Now it's probably some fourth grade teacher that uses it every year and my husband. He wasn't that supportive at first but over the years in reading my magazine articles, I've earned respect and he has grown very proud of my work.
9. What is next for you?
I'm scheduled for several Writing Workshops in the Austin area in January. And I'm writing a mini-book of Tips for Teachers on how to teach writing and have fun doing it. This is a passion for me.
My Sister the Cheerleader, the first in the CHEER CLUB series will be out this summer. I am finishing a YA time travel called The Devil's Left Ear and beginning another book in the SPY CAM ONE series called, The Dog and Cat Constitution.
10. End with a quote from one of your books.
"Miracles are not only great events that rarely happen, but small events that happen everyday—the birth of a baby, a damaged root pushing through hard soil to form a tender shoot, and surviving the coldest day in Texas.”