Interview with Mir Foote

What are your five favorite books, and why?
Ooh...must I hold myself to just five? Well if I must, in no particular order for absolute favorite:

1. The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien. The other books in the series as well, of course, including the Simarillion are brilliant. But The Hobbit has a special place in my heart because it is the book my dad used to read to me and my brothers when we were little. It's the first proper chapter book I had ever been read or read for myself and it will always be a favorite.

2. The Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. Perhaps naming an entire series is cheating, but really it would be impossible to single out one to be on the list. I enjoy his world building, his understanding of what it is to be human, his sense of humor, and the way many of his books don't divide into chapters. This was especially nice when I was younger and my mom would tell me to stop reading and I'd say 'Can I finish the chapter?' because of course that would mean finishing the entire book.

3. E. Nesbit. Another unfair answer since I didn't even name a book, but again I'd be troubled at choosing one. For those who don't know her, she wrote many children's books in the late 1800s/early 1900s. I love them because its a bit like being given a time machine to that era and seeing it through the eyes of a child. That they're mostly fantasy stories is just the icing on the cake.

4. Diana Wynne Jones. Perhaps I should just give in and rename this 'favorite authors'. Like E. Nesbit, she mostly wrote for young adults and children. Like with Terry Pratchett, I love the world building and her understanding of her characters. Like E. Nesbit, I love her understanding of children. She writes the world of fantasy like it is real, and I love her stories.

5. Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I know this covers several books but at least I named more than the author this time! He is a new addition to my list of favorites. Growing up, I developed a vehement dislike for the mystery genre, and considered Sherlock Holmes to be a 'boys book' and kept well clear of it. I don't know where I got either notion. I have, throughout my life, read any number of books with male main characters, and most books that I enjoyed the most had an element of mystery to them. Still, the only book I ever deigned to read by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was 'The Lost World' and that's only because it had dinosaurs in it. Then a few years ago I was teaching in Korea. The city where I lived was rich in culture and Asian life...but rather empty of things like English movies. When I was vacationing in Seoul for Christmas, I jumped at the chance to see a movie in English. At the time, I was so cut off I knew nothing about what was coming out. I had seen no previews. I was presented with four options. One was a toddlers film, so that was out. One was Twilight. Even if I had been tempted my brother, who had come to visit me for Christmas, definitely wasn't. Then there was Avatar and Sherlock Holmes. I knew nothing about either. Avatar was just about sold out. Sherlock Holmes still had a couple of seats together. We chose that.

After seeing the movie, I dived into the Sherlock Holmes genre. I found the books online. I found tv shows. I found a new favorite book.

So those are my top five. Today. At this moment. It leaves out Jurassic Park, and Dinotopia, and The Secret Garden, and Pride and Prejudice, any number of other favorites. But if I was going to name all my favorite the list would probably be a hundred books long, so I suppose its best to just leave it. At the very least, those five are a good start.
How do you approach cover design?
A couple of years ago, the prospect of designing my own cover seemed impossible. If asked, I would have said I can't draw, and the fantastical themes of my stories don't lend themselves towards Earth photography.

Then something rather unexpected happened. It started with being a teacher in South Korea. I was new at teaching English and I wanted to play to my strengths: storytelling. So I started making PowerPoint presentations featuring English fairy tales. The students got to practice their simple English phrases and they learned a bit of Western culture at the same time. But of course these were children studying a foreign language. The stories needed pictures.

Of course the easy solution is to go searching online and find free pictures and clip art. And that does work...to a certain extent. What I mostly ended up with was a myriad of Snow Whites, all looking different from each other, with the necessary poses or expressions to match the text. At some point, some of the simpler bits were just easier for me to draw myself. So I started drawing. And I tried everything I could think of to 'cheat' so that I could get away with my lack of skill. I used copy and paste. My brother introduced me to Gimp. In the end, I drew quite a lot. And after about a year or so of this, one day I actually looked at what I was doing. I was drawing. Me. On the computer. A skill I swore I'd never have. It turns out, constantly practicing a skill really does improve it over time! Who knew?

So, in answer to the question, I approach it in one of three ways:

1. I draw the art myself on the computer using Gimp. In actual fact, only two of my covers have been done this way: the first (but not second) version of The Wishing Stone, and Mathew Maria

2. I find a relevant photo and use that. This is what I did for my poetry book, Dance against the Wind.

3. The final and, in my opinion, best method is a combination of 1 and 2. I find a relevant photo and then I add my own touch to it. Mountain of Stars, for instance, started its life from a photo of an actual tree. Almost Earth is mostly a photo from my trip to Pompeii...but if you look closely you will notice a few changes. And the Wishing Stone cover art features not one, but two different photos: the ocean and the plant. The spaceship and the flower were drawn in by me.

As my art skills continue to improve, who knows? Perhaps I finally publish one of my picture books!
What is your e-reading device of choice?
Whatever I have in hand at that particular moment. I will say the Nook was my first e-reader...at least the first device I ever owned whose soul purpose for existence was to let me read books. I like the way it isn't back-lit. My mom's Kindle seems alright too. As someone who travels the world on occasion, I approve of being able to carry my library with me. In fact, I probably read on my laptop or my phone the most, using whichever app allows me to read the particular book I've opened, and that usually depends on where I got the ebook from.
Describe your desk
It is small, rectangular, and wooden. It also has a green plastic storage container turned upside down on top if it where I can rest my computer screen and keyboard to turn my very normal desk into a standing desk. I spend far too much time on the computer; there's no need for me to make it worse by spending all that time sitting in a chair. It also has various items scattered around, like pens, scrap paper, and things I play with when I'm thinking.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in Texas. More specifically, I grew up in the country, in a small community my grandparents started. They were big believers in 'green living' long before it became popular. My dad built an earth-sheltered ferro-cement house for us to live in. Basically, it was like a hobbit hole.

It greatly influenced my writing because it greatly influenced my creativity. We never had great TV reception, but we did have a great big woods, a creek, and lots of space to run and explore and dream. It also helped to open my eyes to all the different ways people can live. I went to church, but I also went drumming, and to Universal Dances where I learned songs and dances from all religions all over the world. How could I possibly write about alien planets if I can't see past my own small world into someone else's?

I used to go to sleep to the sound of drums in the distance, and coyotes' calls. I rode back in time on my bicycle with my friends and fought dragons from the back of our flying red wagon. I read a thousand books and imagined a thousand stories. My writing is my childhood imaginings and thoughts made real.
When did you first start writing?
I don't know. When I was young, I made up stories. Grown ups said 'you should be a writer'. So I said, 'Ok, I want to be a writer when I grow up'. And I started writing.

I suppose I started writing around the age all children learn to write. If I recall correctly, it was probably around the fourth grade that our teachers first started asking us to write stories, so maybe when I was nine years old?

I don't think that I was remarkably gifted at writing when I first started. I had a really good imagination and a relatively good grasp on how to form a story. I also had some really good friends and really encouraging adults in my life. The really important thing, I think, was that I kept at it, year after year. Whether I was good to start with or not, I do think that if you practice any skill for twenty years or so, you're bound to get really good at it.
What's the story behind your latest book?
That would be Pirate Perdita and the Time Travelling Zombie Dinosaurs...from Space!

Quite a mouthful, isn't it? In fact, that particular book started with the name. I tried to think of the most uber cool awesome epic ideas that could all be crammed together. It was, and probably still is, a bit of a joke. Pirates, dinosaurs, zombies, time travel, aliens? How could that not be awesome?

Once I had that title, joke or not, the story began to come to me. Bit by bit and piece by piece, sometimes in a character, sometimes in a name, sometimes in a place. I spent hours looking up dinosaurs and the late Cretaceous period, listened half a dozen times to Beethoven's Ode to Joy on YouTube, read about the origins of zombies and searched out history on really awesome women trying to find just the right name for Perdita's time ship. I also spent a lot of time going to various friends and relatives asking 'if you had an army of zombie dinosaurs, a time/space machine, and were evil...what would you do?' Then when I finally knew exactly what I would do and where I wanted the story to go next, I had to do even more research into Stonyhurst where someone very imporant to the story went to school in the Victorian era.

So basically, it started with an awesome title, turned into a ton of research, and ended up being a great deal of fun. If it's even half as fun to read as it was to write, I think its still something everyone can really enjoy. It was so much fun, I already have a sequel in mind.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
What I love most is uncovering the story. Or possibly world building. Or, really, it's when I get to make words dance.

When I'm writing a book, I usually either have a beginning, a middle, or an end. That is to say, I do not, usually, have the entire story wholly plotted out in my head when I start writing. When I do have it plotted out, quite often the characters will refuse to cooperate and will go off in a completely different direction.

Of course, sometimes I write myself into a corner. When I was writing The Wishing Stone, I wanted the pirates to behave sensibly, not blunder on stupidly and give the children an obvious means of escape. Then I got to the end of the book, and suddenly it seemed like the pirate was going to win, because I had no idea how the children were getting out of that one. Until I did.

That sudden flash of inspiration, that sudden knowing what is going to happen and how and why, that is the most brilliant sensation in the world. Its like the story is telling itself to me and then I'm sharing it with you. These flashes can come from anywhere. Sometimes from my research, sometimes from my walking myself through the story and finding corners I'd never noticed before, sometimes the characters themselves insist that they must act in a certain way. However it happens, it is brilliant.

Of course, there's also a great deal of fun to be had in plotting out a world, or finding a way towards the grand finale that I thought up before all the rest. And when I write poetry, finding the write words and letting them dance into the right place is fantastic. Even if the right word is not, according to my spell-check, a real word. The best thing about learning all the proper grammar and spelling rules is that you are then allowed to break them. If you think it works better that way. Like sentence fragments.

So, I suppose what I'm really trying to say is that the greatest joy of writing for me is in the story and in the words. I simply love writing.
What are you working on next?
A great number of projects are in the works. There's book four in my series The Chronicles of Evrion. A second Mathew Maria book is halfway written. There are several ideas for books that haven't gotten past the planning stage yet. I have a new poetry book in the works as well. There's a play I've been sitting on for a while that I think I might polish for publishing. There are a few picture books that just need the art completed.

Really, though, the one project I'm working hardest on at the moment might never be put on sale for the public; a picture book for my two year old nephew. It's going to be a Christmas present.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I start by searching my favorite authors. Then I start looking for really good deals. Some of my favorite authors are old enough to have their books be in the public domain, and with sites like the Gutenberg project there's no reason to pay for any of them when they can be found online for free. Sometimes I'll remember an old favorite and suddenly want to read it. For finding new authors, a really good deal is definitely in their favor...why not try a new book if it's free? A general search for my favorite genres usually turns something up.

Sometimes a new interest will be sparked by an outside source. I started reading Sherlock Holmes novels because of the new movie. I learned about Harry Potter because...well, how could I not have heard about them? In fact, they were so popular it took me ages to give in and start reading the first one. At the time, I'd also been under the vague impression that it was a story about an adult wizarding school. The cover art did nothing to disabuse me of this notion. Of course they turned out to be exactly the type of story I love best. And most recently I learned that a new favorite tv series, The Paradise, is based off of a French novel. How could I not seek it out to read?
What do you enjoy that isn't writing?
I love reading. I have been an avid reader from a young age.

I love languages. I know French, I have studied at various times Latin, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, German, and Ancient Greek. I am now working on refreshing my knowledge in all of these languages but I am really making an effort in Spanish. When you live in Texas, if someone is searching for someone who is bilingual they don't mean in French.

I love exploring the world. When I was a child, I always wanted to find some magical doorway that led to an enchanted land where I'd go on wondrous adventures. Now, as an adult, I love travelling around the world. I spent a year of my life teaching English in South Korea. I've also taught English in France, and I got my teaching certification from a TEFL school in Prague. I have hiked up Reichenbach Falls to where Doyle says Sherlock Holmes and Moriarty fought, faced the Treacherous Bicycles of Amsterdam, survived a (admittedly minor) forest fire in Wyoming, walked on the Great Wall of China, and got lost in the ruins of Pompeii. This is only what I have done so far. There is still a lot of world for me to explore.

Finally I love teaching. Teaching English, watching my students grow and learn about my world while learning a bit from theirs...that is a truly fulfilling job. If I can't be a writer full time, I think I might like teaching. Or perhaps becoming a librarian. How can a job that involves dealing with books all day not be brilliant?
Published 2013-11-08.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Mountain of Stars
By
Series: The Chronicles of Evrion, Book 3. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 38,330. Language: English. Published: November 13, 2013. Category: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Sci-Fi & fantasy
Deserted on an alien planet, chased by pirates, haunted by a prophesy, and left on the doorstep of a mountain with no doors. The Chronicles of Evrion continues when Jinx and his friends face a mountain.
Almost Earth
By
Series: The Chronicles of Evrion, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 38,210. Language: English. Published: November 29, 2013. Category: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Sci-Fi & fantasy
Their wish got them there. Can their map get them home? Or will the pirates find them first?
The Wishing Stone
By
Series: The Chronicles of Evrion, Book 1. Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 32,140. Language: English. Published: November 28, 2013. Category: Fiction » Young adult or teen » Sci-Fi & fantasy
Everyone has heard the warning to be careful what you wish for. Fewer know to be careful of the interrupted wish.
The Storykeepers
By
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 37,780. Language: English. Published: November 19, 2013. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Fairy tales & fables
There are stories not told to the children, stories that must not be told to the children, of times when evil won. Four orphans must make sure their story isn't one of them.
Pirate Perdita and the Time Travelling Zombie Dinosaurs...from Space!
By
Price: $3.50 USD. Words: 20,710. Language: English. Published: November 3, 2013. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Science & Technology
What would you do if you had a dinosaur army, a spaceship, and the ability to travel through time? The zombie dinosaurs are among us. Run.
Dance Against the Wind
By
Price: $6.45 USD. Words: 4,770. Language: English. Published: October 20, 2013. Category: Nonfiction » Art, Architecture, Photography » Fine art
"If there is one activity in this world that I love, it is to make words dance." Mir Foote has been writing poetry for over twenty years. Now at last, her award winning poetry has been collected together into this single volume. Partnered with beautiful photography gathered from her travels around the world, these are poems to delight, captivate, inspire, and enthrall. Enjoy the dance.
Mathew Maria
By
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 8,960. Language: English. Published: October 20, 2013. Category: Fiction » Children’s books » Family / General
In the Martin household, the stairs are never for walking, bubbles are only for emergencies, and the door must never ever open when the music plays. Come join Mathew Maria and her family, where the extraordinary triumphs and the smallest child can save the day!