Author Interview: Dr. Von Thistle’s Curious Concoction by K.G. Wehner

Welcome to Author K.G. Wehner

K.G. Wehner and her younger sister, Michelle, had many imaginary friends, many of whom appear in K.G.’s Amy & Tracy series. When they weren’t coming up with plays, musicals, or stories, they were spying on their neighbors or getting into all kinds of trouble. Much of what will be played out in K.G.’s novels.

K.G. is a creative writing instructor as well as a writer’s workshop facilitator for her local Barnes and Noble bookstore. Besides writing middle grade novels, she writes young adult novels under the name K.L. Gore. Her work has been published in Beginnings Magazine and CICADA.

If you could travel in a Time Machine would you go back to the past or into the future?

I’d go into the past, preferably the seventh grade. Instead of meekly allowing the evil bully to throw spitballs into my frizzy hair or take the chairs from beneath my scrawny butt, I’ll walk up to him, calmly look him in the eye, and punch him in the nose. Hard. As I’m marched to the Principal’s office by the teacher who witnesses this compulsory act of violence, I will feel justified. It will be the first of many victories over my opponents.

If you were stranded on a desert island what 3 things would you want with you?

My children (although technically they aren’t “things”), my Kindle, and it’s a toss-up between my computer and chocolate.

What is one book everyone should read?

Watership Down by Richard Adams. It has everything: Peace. War. Governmental rule. Oppression. Love. Hate. Poverty. Riches. Rabbits. I’ve read it four times, starting from when I was thirteen, and each time I cried at the end. But the message has stayed with me all these years: What would you risk for freedom?

If you were a superhero what would your name be?

Laundry Woman, because I’m saving clothes from dirt and grime on a daily basis.

If you could have any superpower what would you choose?

To read minds. My husband would frequently be in big trouble, but at least I’d be able to figure out what my kids want before they started throwing tantrums. Plus, I’d know whether or not I’m a boring conversationalist. Hm. Then again, maybe I’d rather not know.

What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast?

Pancakes. Preferably from IHop or Perkins. Smothered in maple syrup. A tiny dab of butter on top. What do I really eat? Cheerios in Almond milk. It’s supposed to be a healthier choice and lower my cholesterol. But I’d rather have light, fluffy, golden-brown pancakes. (Is your mouth watering as much as mine right now?)

Any other books in the works? Goals for future projects? 

I’ve written the next book in the Amy & Tracy series, and now I’m working on its revision. I’m also editing the first book of a novel series for boys, which I hope to publish either late this year or early next. The first book is finished, but I need to be sure I have drafts written for the next two. I like to be prepared, or at least feel as if I am.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.

A preteen girl read my book and her parent put her (very flattering) review on Amazon. I was surprised and touched. Especially when she mentioned she wanted to read the next one in the series. Is there anything better than realizing your audience liked you…they really liked you? I think not.

What’s one piece of advice you would give aspiring authors?

Read about and implement the rules of writing. Not just grammar and spelling, but also plot, conflict, and characterization. A book is like a machine. If one gear isn’t turning, the others remain motionless. I know it seems that if one reads books, one can write them, but it’s not that simple. I listen to music all the time, but ask me to play the piano, and you’ll be sorry. All art must be studied and learned, and picking up a “how to” book is only the beginning. Once you understand the basics, you can even break some of the rules. But you need to know what you’re doing first.

If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be?

New York City, preferably Manhattan. I spent a summer in Brooklyn, and I could kick myself for leaving, but I wanted to finish college. And then I moved to Raleigh because I heard there were tons of broadcasting jobs (there weren’t), but then my mom became ill, so I moved back to upstate New York. Then I married and had kids. But my dream job would be to become an agent, so boy do I wish I were living in N.Y.C.

What is your favorite Quote?

“Do more than belong: participate. Do more than care: help. Do more than believe: practice. Do more than be fair: be kind. Do more than forgive: forget. Do more than dream: work.” -William Arthur Ward

How did you know you should become an author?

As a child I loved to create characters. I spent morning, noon, and night writing stories, drawing people, or play-acting. I created my first play when I was five. Wrote my first full novel at 13 (and a sequel after that). A year or two later I attempted to write a novel without using any dialogue. Although I succeeded, I wouldn’t suggest it. Very dull, a lot of telling. Oddly enough, it was in college when I considered writing as a career. I’d always acted in plays throughout high school, so I decided to major in theater. I ended up writing a play, and the college theater department produced it onstage. When I saw the reaction from the audience—laughter and tears in all the right places—that was all it took to hook me. I practiced writing short stories and novels (years and years of practice, hundreds of short stories, seven novels), bought books on how to write, took classes, attended writers conferences. After dedicating half my life to studying the craft, I’ve finally published my first book.

Who are your favorite authors of all time?
Elizabeth Strout, Anne Tyler, Margaret Atwood, Ellen Potter, Kimberly Edwards, Christopher Pike, Joan Lowery-Nixon, Chris Crutcher, Linda Sue Park, I could go on and on.

Can you see yourself in any of your characters?

I firmly believe we write our psychology into our protagonists. The characters in my book, Amy and Tracy, are people my sister and I invented as children. I had to flesh them out for my novel, so I gave them aspects of our personalities, and then exaggerated them. You must exaggerate your characters a little to make them larger than life. If I’d written Amy and Tracy exactly as my sister and I were when we were younger, you’d be snoozing by page five.

What’s the best advice anyone has ever given you?

When I was younger, a stranger asked me a question. Too shy to respond, I said nothing. He shouted, “When someone asks you a question, you answer!” It scared the Kool-Aid out of me, but I learned a valuable lesson. To this day I don’t remember what he asked, but I still recall my humiliation. His advice pertains to writing, as well. If your story raises a question, don’t anger your readers by not answering it.

If you could have a signed copy of any novel what would it be and why?

Actually, I already do! Elizabeth Strout is one of my favorite authors for adult literary fiction, and I had the opportunity to hear her speak. Having come to the event alone, I struck up a conversation with the woman sitting beside me. She asked if I was attending the meet-and-greet afterward. I hadn’t known about it, but by chance I’d purchased the most expensive ticket, which happened to be the one needed to get into the author signing. Not only did I meet Elizabeth Strout and receive her signature on the books I’d brought with me, but I was able to tell her what an influence she’d had on my YA writing, which I write under a different pen name. She is an amazing woman, brilliant and sweet. I’ll never forget meeting her. Seeing her signature in my books still makes me smile.

Which authors have influenced you most how?

I love to read children’s books. By far one of the best authors out there is Ellen Potter. I love her subtle humor and her characters’ complex psychologies. She has influenced me through her amazing creativity and attention to detail. J.K. Rowling has been a big influence on my middle grade work as well. I was reading her novels when I decided to write my Amy & Tracy series. I loved the way she used action to drive the story. But my biggest influence? (And I know this will sound strange.) Charles Schulz. As a child, his Peanuts comics were my favorite serial stories. My characters were born from his work.

What’s your favorite season/weather?

I love autumn when the leaves are exploding with color and the air hasn’t yet made that sharp descent into cold. There’s nothing like wearing jeans and a T-shirt and walking through the woods, inspired by nature’s beauty. Even better is walking with children who help you discover what you would otherwise miss, like the snake curled up at the base of the tree or a beetle camouflaged amongst the branches.

What TV show/movie/book do you watch/read that you’d be embarrassed to admit?

The only shows I sit down to watch are probably the worst time wasters:Big Brother and Survivor. I watch them because they’re filled with quirky characters and amusing competitions. Plus, the shows answer a question I never knew I was curious about: what’s it like to live with people you’re forced to spend every waking moment with whether you like them or not?

Favorite places to travel?

On our honeymoon, my husband and I toured New England, stopping at all the great museums. It was the best vacation ever. I can’t wait until my kids are old enough to appreciate Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe. I plan take them with me so I can see it all again. Rhode Island is gorgeous. The mansion tour is incredible. I highly recommend it.

Favorite music?

I will never tire of Blondie, Pat Benatar, or the Go-Go’s. Plus, I consider Prince and Phil Collins musical geniuses. Yes, I love 80’s music. Some songs were about what it means to love, be loved, or lose love. Others might discuss politics, music, or events from the past. They weren’t written for shock value like so many songs today. Yes, I realize I sound like an old fogey. (A favorite story within a song? “Parents Just Don’t Understand” by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.)

Dr. Von Thistle’s Curious Concoction (The Miss-Adventures of Amy and Tracy)

It’s 1958. Eleven-year-old cousins Amy and Tracy Cimino are burdened by pounding drums only they can hear. Amy feels it’s linked to her recent nightmare. Although Amy often has dreams that come true, Tracy isn’t worried. She’s much too busy coming up with a talent she can showcase on a popular radio show.

When a well-known scientist shows up at their mothers’ big gala, all their guests are smitten with him. Except Amy, who feels he is the man in her nightmare. Tracy thinks Amy is making a big deal out of nothing. What would a famous scientist want with ordinary ol’ them?

Except Amy and Tracy are anything but ordinary. They can speak with each other telepathically. And while Amy predicts the future through dreams, Tracy discovers she has her own amazing talent…one she can’t share with the world. In trying to escape the evil scientist who is intent on kidnapping them, they find time portals that send Amy to the future while Tracy becomes stuck in the past.

Amy’s nightmare does seem to be coming true after all. Can they escape the evil scientist once and for all, or might they be trapped in different time periods separated from each other forever?

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