RoZita Berry is a prolific writer with nine books to date and more in the works. She has self-published her books on Amazon KDP, but her young adult (YA) novel, Moonshine Lullaby was recently accepted by RhetAskew Publishing. I had the privilege of reading Moonshine Lullaby during its creative development stage at RhetAskew, and really enjoyed it.
Let’s Get to Know Rozita:
Q: After self-publishing Moonshine Lullaby, why did you decide to query a traditional publisher?
A: I published it on KDP two years ago, and when a friend told me he had submitted one of his to publish with RhetAskew Publishing, I decided to go for it. I figured it might get more leverage that way.
Q: Please tell us a little about your book, and how you came up with the idea/plot for it?
A: Moonshine Lullaby is a YA romance set in the Blue Ridge Mountains at the present time (i.e., the time in which I wrote it.) The daughter of a famous country singer has to go stay with her father while her mother goes on a world tour, and meets a handsome young man who happens to be a moonshiner. I’d long wanted to write a “pastoral romance,” and my original thought was to have a city guy meet a country girl. Then I decided, why not reverse it, have a city girl meet a country boy. I’d previously written one about a country girl coming to the city to visit cousins, so thought to reverse that also, city girl goes to the country.
Q: It looks like you have published several books, can you tell us a little about those as well? Are they all in the young adult genre? Are any of them part of a series?
A: Five of them are YA. One of them, Watchers & Dancers, is a modern-day retelling of Alcott’s Little Women, part one. The next one, The Girl from Dreamcatch, is also based on an Alcott novel, An Old-Fashioned Girl, but set in a present-day midwestern town with all the names changed and from the city girl’s point of view instead of the country girl’s. Then there’s A House of Peace, in which a girl witnesses a murder that may have been committed by her best friend and her boyfriend. Nella is about a family with four young boys who meet the foster daughter of their famous aunt, a former movie star who has suffered a nervous breakdown, set in the early 1930s. The girl, Nella, turns out to be half fairy. It’s my first try with the fantasy genre. The Other Pearl is about a runaway orphan in the deep South in the 1920s. My first completed novel, Pillars of Smoke, is set in the Ozark Mountains in the 1920s and 30s. And Two Wild Swans is a romantic historical novel set in Europe at the time of World War One. It’s not specifically aimed at teens but is suitable for older ones. It starts out when the protagonist is an old woman visiting Germany in 1990, and then goes into the story of her first love from the year of 1917. And there’s one volume of poetry, Angels Happen. The title comes from one of the poems in the book.
Q: Why did you choose to write for the YA audience ?
A: Long ago I wanted to write children’s books, and tried it, but somehow I never could get off the ground with it. I may still try it someday. Then I got an idea to re-write Little Women, which I originally published on Fictionpress. It went over well with readers there, so I decided to try to get it published traditionally. An author friend told me about CreateSpace (now KDP) on which she had published her book, so I went with that. Then I wrote another YA book, The Girl from Dreamcatch, and decided maybe YA was my genre after all.
Q: Are there lessons to be learned and/or morals to your stories? Is there a message that you like your readers to derive from them?
A: I think my books are all about finding the beauty in yourself and others. Learning to discover and use your gifts for the good of all seems to be a recurring theme in all my books, although I don’t consciously set out to moralize at readers. When I start out a book, I often don’t know what the message will be. It forms itself in the course of the writing.
Q: Do you do any other type of writing?
A: I’m a poet and composer and singer-songwriter. I’ve been writing music since 1990, when I was in college and discovered I had a gift for it.
Q: What or who inspired you to start writing and how long have you been writing?
A: It may have been my best friend in junior high school. She wrote stories and I decided to try it too. I found that I enjoyed it. I wrote a completed novel when I was in high school. But it wasn’t until my freshman year of college that I decided I had the gift, and I set out educating myself in writing, reading classic books and every book on writing I could get my hands on. I wrote Pillars of Smoke in the 1980s and Two Wild Swans in the 90s. I tried to get those published without success, so I turned to music instead. Then I started writing fan fiction, mostly in the Lord of the Rings books, and my interest in writing re-awakened. The advantage of writing fan fiction is that there’s a wide readership and you can get all kinds of feedback you wouldn’t normally get.
Q: Do you have a writing routine/creative process? Where/when do you usually write?
A: I have no routine at all, sad to say. I try to write one chapter per week, but sometimes I get blocked for weeks at a time. It usually takes me about 9 months to complete the first draft.
Q: What do you enjoy the most about writing?
A: I love looking back on my book and thinking to myself, “Did I actually write this??” I discover things about myself and others I hadn’t been aware of before in the course of writing, and best of all, I create wonderful people I didn’t know existed before, who take shape before my eyes and almost independently of me.
Q: What is the most difficult part of the writing process for you?
A: Writing the first draft, not knowing what all is going to happen, getting stalled from time to time, reassuring myself that it was like this for every other book I’ve written and yet I got it done. It’s sort of like riding a bike uphill. Have to keep telling myself that the fun part will happen when I get to the top of the hill and can experience the thrill of soaring effortlessly downward.
Q: What advice do you have for those who are thinking about writing a book and getting it published?
A: Read a lot, especially in your genre of choice. Read books on writing. Live your life. Observe people. And write, write, write. Don’t expect success. Just write, join writing groups, take a course in creative writing, and don’t get too big for your britches, i.e. don’t think that you can do it all without help from others. (Learned that for myself.)
Q: What do you think makes a good story?
A: Imperfect characters I can fall in love with, discovering things about themselves they never knew before, having wonderful adventures, learning life lessons, having relationships, getting redeemed, growing and changing and discovering. Teaching me things I didn’t know before. An interesting setting and/or situation, a distinct writing style, a powerful conclusion. But above all, characters.
Q: What are some of your favorite books/authors to read?
A: J.R.R. Tolkien, Kurt Vonnegut, Elizabeth Goudge, Conrad Richter, Louisa May Alcott, Robert Newton Peck, J.D. Salinger, Charles Dickens, Stephen King, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, S. E. Hinton, Anne Rice, P.G. Wodehouse, Belva Plain, Maya Angelou, Fannie Flagg, L.M. Montgomery…to name a few. As you may have guessed, I like variety. 🙂
Q: What other interests do you have besides writing?
A: As I mentioned, music, composing/arranging, art, animals, crafting, all that good stuff.
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