MY INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR DEBBIE MANBER KUPFER!
What’s your name and what genre would you consider your books to be?
I’m Debbie Manber Kupfer and my main series is YA urban fantasy. I also like to dabble in short stories in different genres including horror, sci-fi, comedy and children’s. Oh, and I also write puzzles for magazines and published a book of logic problems with my son.
Tell me about your book. How did you come up with that (story, angle, idea)?
P.A.W.S. is the story of a young girl, Miri, who receives a silver cat charm from her grandmother on the day before she dies. Little does she know but the charm holds a special magic that saved her grandmother from the Nazis and brings Miri into the secret society of P.A.W.S. (The Partnership of Animagi, Werewolves and Shapeshifters.)
If always been fascinated by the idea of shapeshifters, but wanted to go further. I wanted to know how it felt for the shifter to change and how an animagus actually studied to become one. How did they choose their animal? Was the process hard? Were there mistakes? All of these questions led to the creation of P.A.W.S.
How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (historical novels, mysteries, sci-fi, children’s books, etc.)?
I’ve always adored fantasy ever since I was a child, so I made sense that when I started writing my own stories this is what I would choose to write about. In particular I love urban fantasy because I want to believe that the magic is really out there but hidden from us mundane folk.
What kind of research did you do for this book?
Only a little. Mostly focused on getting the dates and historical details right as a part of my series deals with Vienna in the time of the Second World War.
Can you tell me about your Series?
While Miri is the central character running through the whole series each book has its own flavor and helps to build the world of P.A.W.S.
In Argentum (book 2) we visit Ireland and Wales and the P.A.W.S. Institute in New York City.
In Umbrae (book 3) we follow Miri to Israel where she meets a magical orthodox Jewish rabbi and we also learn a lot about Miri’s grandparents and how they escaped the Nazis (and the werewolves).
In Londinium we travel to the P.A.W.S. Institute in London and meet the magician Precipitous Brew, an animagus camel called Shirley and a wereduck called Xavier.
I’m currently writing book 5, Cotula, and hope it will release sometime next year.
Do you have a favorite book out of this series?
Yes, Londinium (book 4). Although today I live in the US I grew up in London and that’s where my heart is, so it was inevitable that one of my P.A.W.S. books would go there. I loved writing the scenes in London. Also the character of Shirley the camel was created for my mother, who recently read the book and approves of her character.
Was it always meant to become a series?
Not really. I just started telling the story I needed to tell. It was only after writing “The End” on the first book that I realized there was so much more.
What’s a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
I work best in the mornings when I’m least distracted by folk around me. I try to do some creative work each day, but that’s not necessarily always writing. I could be editing or working on my puzzles. (I write puzzles for Penny Press magazines and my website, Paws 4 Puzzles.)
During NaNoWriMo months (November, April and July) I do set myself a daily writing goal and make sure I finish it each day before I go on the internet. The internet and Facebook in particular are my biggest distractions.
Mostly I work on my computer at home with a nice mug of tea by my side. But occasionally when home is too distracting I’ll take my puzzle work out to a local café and work on paper.
Do you have a new book in the making and if so, what’s the name of your upcoming book?
Yes, I’m currently working on my fifth P.A.W.S. Saga book which will be called COTULA. I recently finished my first draft which is the longest thing I’ve ever written as it’s 143K long. I plan to have Cotula out some time in 2019.
How important are character names to you in your books? Is there a special meaning to any of the names?
I love names and enjoy coming up with unusual ones. So I have the alchemist Precipitous Brew (whose name comes from a cryptic crossword clue that I once wrote), the chef, Hugo Hogsworth, and the healer Beatrice Bumsqueak to name a few.
I also have several characters in my books that were named for family members. I already mentioned Shirley the animagus camel (named because my mum, like a camel she enjoys the heat and only needs to take small sips of water, whereas I need gallons!), but there’s also Joey Marks, the animagus kangaroo who was created for my son, Joey, who shares a lot of his characteristics. (Bouncy, intelligent and curious).
Then there are Miri’s Omama and Opapa, Celia and Max, who were named for and based on my own Omama and Opapa (grandparents). Even the name Miri is based on someone I once knew and I virtually never create a character without giving the name a lot of thought.
Where do your ideas come from?
The idea fairy – they sprinkle me with magic story dust! Or so it seems. Seriously my mind is a very strange place and my oddest thoughts sometimes turn into stories. I’m also very fond of people watching. And oftentimes folks I see out or little snippets of conversation I overhear end up in my stories.
Is there a genre that you’ve been wanting to experiment with?
I’d love to try my hand at a mystery sometime. I’m in awe at mystery writers who can weave all the clues together.
Also as I mentioned before I write puzzles when I’m not writing fiction so I’d love to write a book sometime that weaves puzzles in with the story.
What is the hardest part of writing for you?
Staying on task. I get really distracted, particularly by the internet. I basically have to shut it off to write.
What do you think of book trailers? Do you have a trailer or do you intend to create one for your own book?
I think book trailers are fun to have. I have a couple for my P.A.W.S. series and an awesome one for my children’s book, Adana the Earth Dragon. All of my trailers were created by Rachel Bostwick who also makes my covers for the P.A.W.S. Saga.
What do you consider to be your best accomplishment?
Finishing P.A.W.S. I’ve been writing stories all my life but never finished a novel until I challenged myself in 2012 to try NaNoWriMo and write P.A.W.S. I kept going through the month and lost myself in the story. There seriously is no better feeling that reaching the end of a novel and writing “The End”.
What’s the best thing about being an author?
I get to create worlds for a living and make magic!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Hopefully I’ll have finished my P.A.W.S. Saga by then and maybe started another series that’s rolling around my head – a fun little story about a kid who grew up in Hell!
Have you always liked to write?
YES! I’ve written stories since I was really small. In elementary school I wrote a series of “books” set around the school. Also I was bullied as a kid and in my stories I could escape from that.
What writing advice do you have for aspiring authors?
Try NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this November and just write! Don’t second guess yourself. Just get those words down.
Do you read reviews of your book(s)? Do you respond to them, good or bad? How do you deal with the bad?
I don’t seek out my reviews on Goodreads very often, but I do read my Amazon reviews and I NEVER respond to them. That’s a no-no. I don’t let bad reviews get my down. Even JK Rowling has a gazillion bad reviews. It’s really par of the course when you’re a writer.
What is your least favourite part of the writing / publishing process?
The marketing. I’m not a natural sales person, being an introvert and all, and the business side of this publishing thing is definitely not my favorite.
What are you working on now?
Dividing my time between editing Cotula (P.A.W.S. 5), editing for my clients, and writing my puzzles for Penny Press.
Can you give us a few tasty morsels from your work-in-progress?
Sure – here’s a sample from an early chapter in Cotula when Danny and Miri are touring Camden Town (my favorite area of London) with Francis Ryder (the horse shapeshifter) as their guide.
It was Sunday morning, market day in Camden Town and the streets were already filled with weird people. As they walked over the bridge a man with a huge pink Mohawk and a safety pin stuck through his nose growled at them and then laughed. Miri laughed too. She wasn’t sure that was the reaction he had wanted, but with her power she could feel he wasn’t really malevolent, just playing a roll like an actor on the big stage that was Camden on a Sunday.
As they made their way through Camden Lock to The Stables Market to see Francis, Miri let her mental shield down and took in the multitude of emotions surrounding her. She was getting better at this, she thought. When she’d first discovered her power four years ago taking in so many emotions at once would have all but shut her down, but today she felt she could sample a little here and a little there and enjoy the many-faceted auras around her.
She reached out and searched for magic. She assumed that’s how they would find Francis, but was surprised when his equine aura was not the only magical signature in Camden Town that Sunday. She looked around again with open eyes. So many weird people—and what a perfect location to hide yourself if you had magic. Odd-colored hair, strange clothing, tattoos, all could easily mask a stray leprechaun or sprite, and Miri swore she saw Silas Sniffins up at one of the market stalls looking at an array of long thin flutes.
Finally they reached The Stables Market. At the entrance to this market stood a statue of a proud black horse. “That was my father, Ulysses Ryder,” said a voice.
Danny and Miri looked up to see Francis leaning on the side of the statue polishing it with a soft brown rag. “Glad you fellows could make it. I assume you’d like the tour.”
“Yes, please,” said Miri. “If it’s not too much trouble?”
“No trouble at all,” answered Francis with a whinny
“Now this area used to be a horse stables and hospital back in the day,” said Francis. “I’m too young of course to remember that first hand, but my dad, told me all about it. I miss him I do,” he said giving the statue a pat. “Come along then, let’s see what I can show you.”
They walked from the market out to the side of the canal. “Horses were used to pull the barges, you see,” said Francis. “And the ones that got hurt would be taken to the Stables horse hospital. My dad worked in there as a healer. He was good at calming the horses that were in pain. I guess it was because he could empathize with them being equine himself.
“Hospital’s a club now. They call it Proud Camden. Well, you need to be proud of your heritage, right?”
Miri nodded and touched the cat charm around her neck. Danny looked away for a moment and Miri took his hand in hers.
For the next few hours they wandered around the many twists and turns of Camden listening to Francis. Miri decided that she loved markets and would be very sad when they were back in St. Louis. She knew the generic shopping malls of America wouldn’t hold much appeal.
At the end of the tour Francis took them back to his own little stall of horse memorabilia. He picked up a small bracelet with a horseshoe charm hanging from it.
“For you, Miri,” he said fastening it around her wrist.
“Oh thank you so much. It’s beautiful,” said Miri.
“Please when you see Sandy and Sean, tell them about me,” said Francis.
“We will,” said Miri.
“Maybe you can come visit some time?” said Danny.
“Oh, no I don’t think so,” said Francis. “The Stables need me. My father needs me. But perhaps Sandy and Sean can come here some time when they have finished their studies.”
“Perhaps,” said Miri, smiling. “I’m sure they would like that.”
Francis walked Danny and Miri back to the High Street and sent them back to P.A.W.S. on the bus for their last night in London.
“I’m going to miss this place,” said Miri as they boarded the bus.
“Me too,” said Danny.
Where did your love of books come from?
My parents who both loved to read, and in particular my father who used to read to me every night. I remember him reading me Charlotte’s Web, The Chronicles of Narnia and E. Nesbit and Edward Eager’s magic books.
Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Of course: Douglas Adams, J.K. Rowling, Neil Gaiman, Terry Pratchett and Cornelia Funke to name a few. Plus there are some wonderful indie writers out there who I love: Michelle Proux, RR Virdi, E.A. Copen, N.M. Ray, Robert Franks, and Jen Ponce – all names that really need more attention.
Of all the characters you have created, which is your favourite and why?
I’m going to go with my wild Welsh warlock, with a fondness for pea soup, Gromer the Green. Probably the most endearing of all my characters, he first appears in Argentum (P.A.W.S. 2) and keeps coming back because I love him so much.
Do you try more to be original or to deliver to readers what they want?
I don’t try to be either. I write the story as my characters tell it to me!
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Huge shout-out here to my beta readers, Larry Miller, Diane Riggins, and Kayla Matt and my editor, Rebecca Jaycox.
What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
I want to be asked what my favorite dinosaur is. And the answer is Stegosaurus!
Where can your fans find you and follow??
Paws Post (Newsletter) – http://eepurl.com/cRhORP
Twitter – @CiciCat42
Thank you for taking your time to do this interview ❤️