Monday, November 28, 2011

Karen E. M. Johnston Author Highlight

K.E.M. Johnston

Welcome Karen Johnston. She is an author of two wonderful books for middle grade readers. She is here to share insight on her books and getting kids reading. For a chance to win "Big Boys Don't Spy" all you have to do is leave a comment with your name and email. Offer expires 12/7/12.

Kristi's Book Nook Interview:

How do you promote kids and reading?
Some kids love to read, but many need a little encouragement. With three sons of my own, who had completely different reading tastes, I learned very quickly that where one child may see wizards and want to devour something magical, the other might see wizards and lose himself in a sports magazine keeping up to date with the Washington Wizards. I think the main thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter what a child is reading, as long as he or she is reading.

Tell us about your website? is my tool for informing potential readers about my latest book release. I post photos from my school presentations and my interviews. I try to update it regularly, but do also ask my readers to friend me on Facebook (Karen EM Johnston). I am more inclined to post new info here—like my recent award. I am excited to announce my second novel Big Boys Don’t Spy won the 2011 Silver in the Florida Publishers Association Award.

What are your thoughts on the new technology for reading a book?
Good question, and a very contentious one at the moment. My thoughts are that this is a very exciting time for writers. I believe that within the next five years a high percentage of readers will switch to an e-reader, but perhaps this will get more people reading than before. The e-reader is just an alternative format to read a book. Although personally, I still love a print book, I want to know the history of that book, I wonder who read the book before me (you don’t get dog-ears on a hand-held screen), I can see an advantage of an eReader—especially for traveling, for example. Overall, I do not think e-books should be something we as writers should be afraid of. It’s the way of the future, no doubt.

What advice do you have for parents on getting their kids reading?
Find the child’s passion. Not all children want to read fairy stories, some kids like sports—so let them read a copy of Sport Illustrated Kids. Or get them a biography on one of their favorite sport’s personality. One of my rules was always for my kids to read for twenty minutes every day. I didn’t care when, they just had to read for that time. Now that the boys are older, I do a trade off. Extra screen time can be earned by reading for a half hour for example.

Tell us about your book(s).

The Witness Tree and the Shadow of the Noose –A Civil War Ghost Mystery for kids ages 7 - 12

Jake Salmon’s family has moved to a creepy, cramped house in historic Manassas, on the outskirts of the famous Civil War battlefield. Outside his bedroom window stands an old oak tree where, by night, a street lamp throws a shadow from the tree onto his closet door in the appearance of a hangman’s noose. Late one night, Jake hears footsteps in the basement and is convinced there’s a killer hiding in his house.

But when the previous homeowner confirms dangerous encounters with the ghost of Confederate soldier, Thomas Garnet, Jake, along with his friend Raj, and his younger brother Danny, sets out to uncover the mystery.

Big Boys Don’t Spy – A Spy Mystery for kids ages 7 - 12

Set in the Washington DC suburbs, with the CIA Headquarters around the corner, Will has his first assignment--to save the world, or at least to uncover the mole in his mother’s advertising company. Will strongly suspects his bossy, annoying cousin Penelope, visiting from the UK, is a double agent, and when he finds her diary written in code, he knows he’s onto something...

This kid-sized spy tale takes the reader on a secret, but entertaining mission full of clever codes, surprises and fun.” Tim Roland, author of The Comic Guy series. Scholastic Inc.

The Phantom Army (coming in 2012) A Civil War Ghost Mystery set in Antietam, the location of the bloodiest one-day battle in the America’s Civil War. For kids aged 7 – 12

Have you ever tried attacking your best friend with an 1860’s Civil War saber?
Twelve-year-old Sam Nunn’s advice would be, don’t bother. It’s very long, weighs as much as a shovelful of wet snow, and is impossible to hit your mark. In his opinion, an egg whisk would be more effective and a zillion times more lethal. Sam knows this because he has landed a part in his school’s production of the Battle of Antietam, America’s bloodiest one-day battle, playing the Union General George McClellan. His best friend since kindergarten, Jae Min Kim, is A.P. Hill, a general for the South. For the first time ever, Sam and Jae Min are mortal enemies.
But falling props, a possessed sword and a backdrop that comes to life in the form of a ghostly platoon is jeopardizing the production with a ghostly finger pointing to Sam as the culprit. As Sam learns the facts of America’s bloodiest one-day battle, and meets the ghost of Lincoln’s son, his friendship and nerves are tested. One ghost, Sam could handle, but a phantom army? What do they want, and why now?

How long did it take you to get this idea to where it is now?
I’ll use Big Boys Don’t Spy as my example as this is my most recent, published book. I got this idea when reading aloud to my boys when they were all in elementary school. My eldest, Thomas, was extremely interested in anything to do with spying and he gave me some great ideas for gadgets for my main character. Thomas also helped me plot and ultimately write the book. And it wasn’t quick. I wrote the first draft in around six months, then took another six months rewriting and editing. After this, I sent it around agents and editors, and after a long wait (patience is definitely a virtue in this industry) the book sold to my wonderful publisher, Kitsune Books. It then took about a year to hit the shelves.

What will kids love most about your book(s)?
I hope they will enjoy the humor. I love to hear kids laugh—I love the way they have few inhibitions, and nothing beats the sound of a kid chuckling or laughing out loud. And hopefully, they’ll find the plots pretty cool, too.

What will parents and teachers love most about your book(s)?
I hope parents and teachers alike will enjoy the way a child can learn about the American Civil War without even realizing it with my Civil War ghost mysteries. I also hope that the humor in all three books will grab the kids, especially reluctant readers, and get them hooked on reading.

What's your next project?
I just started a young adult novel about a teenage girl who finds out her crush has a short list for invites to the upcoming prom--she's fourth on the list. Not a happy chappy. I’m at the early stages of the novel, my favorite part, when I start to get to know the teenagers I’m about to spend the next nine months with. I love the drama, the passion, the raw excitement, the hope, the utter despair and the incredible depth of emotion my characters share with me. Give me a teenager any day.

Karen E. M. Johnston, a British author, was born in Gibraltar, studied Business and International Marketing in the UK, and worked in advertising and marketing in London’s Covent Garden before moving to the US. She is widely published in children’s, parent, and business magazines.

Karen’s debut children’s middle grade novel THE WITNESS TREE AND THE SHADOW OF THE NOOSE, a Civil War ghost mystery, came out in 2009, and her second children’s novel BIG BOYS DON’T SPY hit the shelves November 2010.
Karen also writes Women’s Fiction and Young Adult novels.

Ms. Johnston lives in Chantilly, Virginia, on the outskirts of Washington D.C. with her British husband and three American sons who have not the slightest trace of a British accent.

Title: Big Boys Don't Spy
Author: K.E.M. Johnston
Illustrator: John Roberge
Publisher: Kitsune BooksISBN:9780981949598


Will Wand fancies himself to be a secret agent. He has gadgets and gizmos to prove it. When he puts on his black pants, matching jacket and sunglasses he is transformed from invisible middle kid to, Will Wand, Agent 003.5. His current mission is to figure out who is sabotaging his mothers company. Since January someone has been stealing information and ideas and giving them to a British Agency. Will suspects there is a mole.

When cousin Penelope Wimplebottom shows up from the U.K. to spend another summer with his family, Will believes she may have something to do with selling secrets, as a secret agent herself, to the suspected British agency. Has Penelope shown up to gather more in-tel? He will have to keep an eye on her. Will discovers that Penelope, better known as Pen, has a diary with secret codes scribbled inside. He confronts her and she confesses to liking a boy and having a zit.

Realizing that together, along with little brother Tristan, they can pull all of their secret agent resources together and help mom find the mole in her company. This crew of young geniuses have put their differences aside and get ready to crack the case. They already have a suspect, Trenton Gravy, now all they need is proof.

Johnston has created a wonderful middle grade novel for boys and girls. Young readers will have fun reading and decoding the mystery. Kids can have fun creating their own secret codes and perhaps do a little spying of their own.

Thanks so much for stopping by Karen. To learn more about Karen visit her at:
Facebook: Karen E. M. Johnston
Twitter: KemJohnston

She is also visiting The Neophyte Writer. Learn more about her writing process.

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