Nov. 13, 2015
Willy Garza: Who or what made you want to become a writer?
Shana Gorian: I write children’s chapter books, for six- to ten- year-old kids. To explain what prompted me to write books in this category, I first must mention that I have two kids of my own, now ages eight and eleven. And as I raised them, I read to both of them every night before bed, from as early on as I can remember.
Reading all these books became an education in writing children’s books like no other. It was completely hands-on, with the perfect test subjects right there next to me. It was easy to see what they thought was a good book and what was not. We read some that were great and some that were not so great and some that were downright horrible. And I decided that, with my background in English writing and a love of reading, I could do this at least as well as the next guy (or gal).
So I started writing a picture book about a dog which had a very human-like personality and whose human-like thoughts played into the story, although he wasn’t a talking dog. The story had a fast moving, easy to follow plot, and short, action-packed pages with realistic illustrations. (The illustrations were only in my head at this point because I’m not an illustrator).
But I was a full time, stay-at-home mom, and life took me away from it for a long time. I set the project aside for about two years, never finishing the book.
Soon, my kids were reading chapter books and even novels–the older one at least– and were quickly advancing toward ever more challenging books. But the summer after my younger child, my son, finished first grade, I finally decided I wanted to get back to writing that book about the dog. I discussed it with a few authors that I knew and they told me they could help me self-publish if I were to turn my picture book into a chapter book. They knew nothing about self-publishing picture books but plenty about publishing novel-length fiction.
This sounded like a great idea to me, since I wanted to write material that would be interesting to kids of my own kids’ ages anyway, and my youngest was no longer into picture books. So I decided I would do it. I would turn my picture book into a chapter-length book for readers in roughly grades K-3.
I added human characters to the book and expanded the story with a great deal more detail. I wove a lot more into the plot, learning (a whole lot!) as I went along. I enlisted the help of friends and family for critiques, and found a great editor to really move the book along.
I decided that I wanted my book to help fill the void that I was finding in early elementary reading choices, which was that there weren’t enough books that were both challenging enough for advanced readers yet also age-appropriate for them. I found that often, advanced readers of only seven or eight years old were given books that were structurally challenging enough for them, but which had subject matter that is meant for a nine- to twelve-year-old (ie. too mature for them).
In other words, the content of the story was not really appropriate for a younger child, even if he could read the words and handle the more complex sentence structure and vocabulary. I decided any book I wrote would fill both of those needs, providing very age-appropriate, G-rated subject matter while also providing a challenging enough read.
Willy Garza: Can you tell us about your books that are available to order and read?
Shana Gorian: I have three books out, all of which are part of a series but which don’t need to be read in any particular order. Once I wrote the first one, I naturally wanted to keep going with the characters that I’d grown to love. So the series was born.
The series is called Rosco the Rascal, and it’s about the dog that I mentioned earlier. Rosco’s a German shepherd, based on my own extremely lovable dog. He’s an overgrown puppy really, and he makes mischief wherever he goes. But Rosco only makes trouble because he’s trying to have fun and sometimes things go wrong. But he always turns things around and does the right thing in the end.
The first book I wrote is called Rosco the Rascal Visits the Pumpkin Patch. It’s a story about Rosco and his people, a brother and sister pair. The family makes an annual visit to a farm in the fall to find the perfect pumpkin for Halloween, and this year, Rosco, who is new to the family, gets to come along. He, along with the kids, gets caught up in a series of adventures all over the farm, first in the petting zoo, then, on a hayride, and finally, deep inside the corn maze. But Rosco sets aside his mischievous ways and becomes a protective hero when trouble finds the kids.
The second book is called Rosco the Rascal In the Land of Snow. In this book we see Rosco and the kids taking a family trip to the mountains in winter, in search of sledding hills and a snow-covered wonderland. But a mysterious visitor interrupts the weekend and it’s up to Rosco and the kids to save the day once more.
The third book, and possibly my favorite of the three, is called Rosco the Rascal Goes to Camp. Here, James and Mandy, the brother and sister pair, are off to summer camp for a week, and Rosco gets to go with them. But it’s seven-year-old Mandy’s first time away from her parents and she’s worried she’ll be too homesick to handle it. And ten-year-old James has been given a bunk mate who is playing pranks and causing all kinds of problems for him and the other kids. Rosco, usually surrounded by friendly faces wherever he ventures, has also found trouble because the dog in residence there wants nothing to do with him. But somehow, during a week of archery, canoeing, campfires, and a lively game of Capture the Flag, friendships are cemented, fears are faced, and obstacles are overcome. Rosco and the kids find a way to save the day once again.
Willy Garza: Which top 3 characters do you like writing for the most?
Shana Gorian: I love writing about all three of my main characters, really: James, Mandy and Rosco. They are all quite different. James is a model child—a great student, athlete, son, and brother. He can be counted on to do the right thing, stand up to bad guys, handle difficult situations and problem-solve well. Mandy is smart and funny, feisty and outspoken, and tough, yet she is also a reliable, well-behaved, well-liked child.
Rosco is my clown and troublemaker, yet he is also my hero (or one of my heroes, really, because the kids always lead the action and solve the problems). I love sorting out his dilemma with each book—what can Rosco do wrong and then, how can he make it right? And for what purpose? Because I don’t want him making mischief for no reason at all.
As readers, we are able to read Rosco’s thoughts in the books. He’s not a talking dog, but he thinks like a human, and inside his head he is quite mature and well thought out. So everything that he does, he actually does for a reason. Sometimes he does things only out of instinct, like chase a ball or a squirrel, but then he thinks about his actions and moves forward based on decisions regarding right versus wrong.
Also, in each story, along with whichever character is most involved in the main plot, I also try to give the other two characters his or her own subplot. This makes the books easily relatable for both boys and girls.
Willy Garza: Which genres do you write? Which ones would you delve into?
Shana Gorian: I only write children’s chapter fiction for 6-10 year olds right now, (mainly for 6-8 year-olds) and plan to continue this series with many more titles. But I’ve thought about also delving into middle grade fiction in the future, for slightly older kids (ages 9-12). I like to write more complex stories, and I enjoy how older children are better able to comprehend and appreciate the details in a plot.
Willy Garza: Have you ever thought of putting your books on film?
Shana Gorian: Of course I have! A gal can dream, can’t she? My books would be great in a movie not unlike this summer’s release of Max, yet I think a Rosco movie would have more of a kid-only appeal, and not appeal as much to adults and kids. I can see it now, Rosco the Rascal. We love him for his imperfections, his undying loyalty and his unwavering heroism. Something like that.
Willy Garza: Which Celebs would you cast as your characters?
Shana Gorian: A very well-trained German shepherd;)
A charming yet unassuming, red-headed, ten-year-old boy.
A spunky, smart seven-year-old brunette-haired girl.
7) Where can we purchase your books?
Shana Gorian: All of my books are available in Kindle ebook and paperback format on Amazon.com at the following links:
Rosco the Rascal In the Land of Snow
For Ages 6-10
$4.50 paperback | $2.99 ebook
Released February 2015
Rosco the Rascal Visits the Pumpkin Patch
For Ages 6-10
$4.25 paperback | $2.99 ebook
Released September 2014
Rosco the Rascal Goes to Camp
For ages 6-10
$4.50 paperback | $2.99 ebook
Released July 2015
Willy Garza: Anything you’d like to tell your readers in closing?
Shana Gorian: Yes! I recently received a review that really sums up nicely what I’ve tried to do with this series. So, I wanted to share it here:
“I’m a retired elementary teacher. I loved her book. This is the type of book I’d always have available in the classroom for the class to sign out and read. Her chapters were well written, clear and would hold their [the students’] interest. I also liked how the children in the story made a decision to help another child and give up winning a prize. I always found those parts of a story great for discussions with kids about the choices they make in life. It makes the kids aware of their own growth too. I like to give these kinds of chapter books to my nieces and nephews and any kids I interact with as gifts for their birthdays, etc. I loved the book especially because it is based on real life situations that children have and can easily relate to while discussing the book. Great story.”
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All illustrations by Ros Webb ©copyright Shana Gorian.