Kev’s Author Interviews Presents:
New Glarus, WI, USA
A Short Bio
Christine is a writer, reader, author, editor, book designer and publisher. But her main loves are writing and helping others publish the book of their dreams through her publishing company: CKBooks Publishing. She offers editing, book formatting and design, and writing services. She started writing stories in college (a while ago!) and hasn’t stopped since. She had published 6 novels to date and is working on number 7. Her first book: Rosebloom, won a national IPPY award for historical fiction and her latest book: Will the Real Carolyn Keene Please Stand Up is a finalist for a Midwest Book Award for historical fiction. Her publishing company is at http://www.ckbookspublishing.com. Her book blog is at http://www.ckbooksblog.wordpress.com.
Kev: What is your latest book about?
If you always wondered how the plucky, intelligent, resourceful, and famous girl sleuth we affectionately call Nancy Drew came into being, “Will the Real Carolyn Keene Please Stand Up” will give you an entertaining view of the lives of the three primary creators of Nancy and her pals and the controversy that still rages today about who really created the Nancy that millions of readers across the globe have come to know and love.
Kev: Who or what influenced you to write it?
I know a lot of people have read Nancy Drew but I think a lot of people don’t know that there are many writers of Nancy, though there were three primary creators, and there is a controversy that still rages today about who is Nancy’s real creator.
Kev: Did you do any specialised research for your story?
Research is my thing. For this book I was able to contact the great-great-granddaughter of Edward Stratemeyer – the man who came up with the idea of Nancy Drew (though he originally called her Stella Strong), the person who had personal contact with Nancy’s first ghost writer – Mildred Wirt Benson – and a couple of people who have made it their life’s work to learn everything thing there is to know about Nancy. I also read numerous books and had access to the Stratemeyer collection at the New York Public Library.
Kev: What challenges did you face while writing the story?
The most significant challenge was to get the ok from Simon & Schuster to use an excerpt of one of Nancy’s original stories and the name, Nancy Drew, which is copyrighted.
Kev: Who is the protagonist?
The three main characters are: Edward Stratemeyer, Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams (Edward’s daughter).
Kev: What would you say is the protagonist’s greatest weakness or obstacle and why?
Edward was the creative genius behind Nancy, but because he was so busy thinking up stories and running his book company he had to farm out his writing, in his later years, to ghost writers.
Mildred Wirt Benson wrote 25 of Nancy’s stories and most of the first ones. She had lost of obstacles in her life – a sick husband, a child, keeping a day job as a journalist and writing her own stories.
Harriet Adams and her sister took over Edward’s company when he died. This was in 1930 and a woman running such a big company was not typical, and she had 3 kids and hadn’t been associated with the company for years. She was a stay at home mom before that.
Kev: What would you say is the main antagonist’s greatest strength?
The strength of all of these people was their love of writing.
Kev: Could you provide a short passage from your book to give us a taster?
“May I call you Harriet?”
“I prefer Mrs. Adams, if you please,” Harriet said, a bit put off at the man’s presumption.
“I’m sorry,” the man said, suppressing a grin. “Mrs. Adams, can you take a look at a copy of this article for me?”
The man in the impeccable, navy, pinstriped Brooks Brothers suit and tie walked over to Harriet Adams in the witness box and handed her a sheet of copy paper. She was just as dressed out. Harriet never went out of her home without the proper outfit for the occasion: hose, shoes, and purse that matched her dress. She had gotten out of wearing hats but still felt naked without one. The man stepped back a respectable distance and looked down as if he was examining the floor, giving Harriet some space and time to examine the paper he had just given her.
Harriet adjusted her glasses. Perspiration was causing them to slip down on her nose, and if they did sit just right, she had difficulty seeing through her bifocals. She examined the paper as requested then looked back up.
“Can you tell the jury, Mrs. Adams, the title of the article you just read?”
Harriet looked slightly perturbed at the man for his seemingly inane request but complied, reading off the top of the first sheet. “ ‘Nancy Drew’s author – she’s no mystery.’ ”
“Can you tell us when that article was written and by whom?”
Harriet pursed her thin lips, her coral colored lipstick cementing her lips together for a split second. Harriet glanced over at the judge, who nodded for her to follow the lawyer’s request. She looked back down at the paper once more. “San Antonio Express News, August 7th, 1977.”
“Do you remember being interviewed for this article, Mrs. Adams?”
“Well, of course I do,” she said, her indignation rising further. “I may be eighty-seven, young man, but I’m still the principal owner and operator of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, and I have been for fifty years!”
“That’s quite a feat.”
“I should say so. I took over my father’s company at a time when a woman in the publishing business had never even been heard of.”
“You and your sister Edna, that is.”
“Yes, yes, my sister helped for a time,” Harriet replied, waving off the notion as something insignificant. But it wasn’t insignificant and Harriet knew it. In Harriet’s mind this young man was being insolent, and she wasn’t going to quibble with details. “But our mother was an invalid at the time, and Edna primarily took care of her while I ran the company.”
“But initially, Mrs. Adams, you tried to sell the company, did you not?”
Harriet looked at him and blinked repeatedly, initially flustered by the comment; apparently this young man had done his homework. Harriet quickly regained her composure. “You must understand the circumstances at the time; I was married and had four children, the youngest just five. And as I’ve said, my mother was basically incapacitated. She had suffered a stroke a year earlier and had suffered from migraines and other ailments for years. She needed someone at her constant beck and call. It was the logical thing to do.”
“So when was the last time you had worked in your father’s company, before his death, I mean?”
Harriet looked at the man sideways, eyes slit in determination. “What are you implying, young man?”
The lawyer strode confidently over to the jury box, letting the two rows of men and women sitting behind the rail think over the implication of his question before he spoke.
“What I am saying is that in 1930, when your father died, you knew nothing of the book business or how to write books,” he said directly to the jury.
He turned accusingly in Harriet’s direction. “In fact the only work your father, Edward Stratemeyer, allowed you to do for the Syndicate was some editing of already written stories. And that was fifteen years before his death! He thought the company would die with him, didn’t he Mrs. Adams?”
The lawyer leaned in toward Harriet and grasped the rail in front of her. She could see from the faint sheen on his skin that he was perspiring too. “Didn’t he!” he repeated for emphasis.
There was a murmur in the gallery, as the implications of his words traveled through the rapt crowd.
This court case, of course, was the most anticipated legal proceeding in the book world in 1980. And this witness, geriatric or not, was whom everyone was waiting to hear. Grosset and Dunlap, a firm that had been in the book publishing business for eighty-two years and thus a big weight among the New York book publishing houses, had leveled an unprecedented $300 million lawsuit alleging breach of contract and copyright infringement against Mrs. Harriet Stratemeyer Adams and the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Everyone who was anyone in the book world wanted to hear what Harriet had to say because this case was focused around the most admired, read, and productive girl sleuth in the literary world: Nancy Drew.
The suit actually started after Harriet had finally had enough. Harriet’s junior partners, Nancy Axelrad, Lorraine Rickle, and Lieselotte Wuenn, had convinced Harriet to drop Grosset and Dunlap because of what they viewed as the highway robbery that was being perpetrated by the New York publishing giant ‒ and had been taking place for years, in fact. Grosset and Dunlap (G & D) had worked with the Stratemeyer family since 1910, and it was, in part, because of this sixty-nine year history, and the fact that they were willing to work with Harriet and her sister after their father’s death, that Harriet was loath to push the issue. But Nancy’s 50th anniversary was just a year away, and Harriet’s junior partners knew something had to be done to keep the company solvent. The company was down to three major publications compared to twenty-two at the time of Edward Stratemeyer’s demise.
The issue was royalties. The junior partners in the Syndicate encouraged Harriet to negotiate with G & D, as she had done numerous times in the past, but with one trump card up her sleeve: change the royalties the Syndicate received from the current paltry rate of four percent, the same rate they had given Edward Stratemeyer seventy years before, to the graduated rate ‒ the percent increasing as the number of published books increased ‒ that was part of any current publishing contract, or there would be consequences.
G & D called Harriet’s bluff, so in 1979 the Syndicate signed on with Simon and Schuster to publish all future Bobbsey Twins, Hardy Boys, Dana Girls, Tom Swift, Tom Swift Jr., and Nancy Drew series.
The Syndicate lawyer stood from behind his table. “I object, your honor. The prosecution is badgering the witness.”
The judge looked at the defense attorney then to the prosecutor and gave him a stern look. “I concur, Mr. Williams. As important as this case may be to you and your client, you are not trying a murder case. Mrs. Adams and her family are respected, long-time residents of this community and should be treated as such. Please keep a civil tone when addressing the witness.
“Yes, your honor.”
Harriet’s eyes danced with satisfaction. His Honor had one thing correct; they were long time, respected residents of the area, New Jersey to be exact, but the Stratemeyer Syndicate had maintained an office in Manhattan from1910 to 1930, and her father was the most prolific, successful creator of stories for young readers that the publishing world had ever known.
What he didn’t have correct, however, was that this was a murder case, or at least a case tantamount to murder in Harriet’s eyes. If she lost this suit with Grosset and Dunlap, her family’s business would die, a business that not only brought up millions of girls on the adventures of Nancy Drew and had fans the likes of Barbara Walters and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, but also popularized the boys’ book adventure series with the likes of the Rover Boys in 1899, Tom Swift in 1910 and the much loved children’s series the Bobbsey Twins in 1904, plus innumerable others. This included the hijinks of Frank and Joe Hardy: the boys’ mystery series Edward first published in 1927 that, right along with Nancy, was still going strong, thanks to Harriet. Wasn’t Nancy’s popularity proven at the gala, fiftieth anniversary party put on by Simon and Schuster for Nancy Drew just this last April? It took place at the chichi Harkness House on Fifth Avenue in New York, no less.
Kev: When you write, do write off-the-cuff or do you use some kind of formula?
Definitely off the cuff. I usually have a very rough outline and a very thought out/mostly written down character development and much reading research.
Kev: How do you deal with writers-block?
I find that if I don’t feel like writing, there usually is a reason for it, so I don’t worry about it. I look for why I’m not ready to write, usually because I need to wait or I need to do more research so I know what direction to go.
Kev: What is your process for editing your work?
I edit every time I sit down. I re-read much of what I’ve written and make changes as I go. It also helps me get into the story and continue on.
Kev: How do you come up with your book covers?
I usually ask for professional help. I might have an idea but artist really are good at coming up with the best ideas.
Kev: Do you think the book cover is important?
Kev: Which publishing platform do you prefer and why?
Do you mean print or e-publishing? I do both.
Kev: Do you face any daunting obstacles during the publishing process?
Nothing daunting, no. It’s a matter of priorities.
Kev: What methods do you use to promote your work?
Anything and everything I can think of and what seems reasonable time and effort wise. Of course, the most fun is getting out and meeting people at libraries, bookstores, craft and book fairs…
Kev: Do you have any advice for new authors?
Don’t get discouraged and don’t try to do too much. Do what you have the time and energy to do and don’t worry about what other say you’re supposed to do. Writing and publishing shouldn’t be a burden, it should give you energy and excitement.
Kev: Which social media platforms do you use the most?
Linkedin – http://linkedin.com/pub/Christine-keleny-craven/12/8a3/a74/
facebook – http://www.facebook.com/ckbooks
twitter – http://twitter.com/cmkbooks
book blog – http://www.ckbooksblog.wordpress.com
writer’s blog – http://www.ckbookspublishing.com/blog
pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/keleny
Kev: Is there anything else you would like to add?
Currently my latest book: Will the Real Carolyn Keene Please Stand Up was a finalist for a Midwest Book Award for historical fiction, so I currently have it on sale for .99. Along with this book, you can get Rosebloom, the first in my Rose series (another historical fiction) for free on Smashwords!
I’m excited because I have a new page that give people access to all my books and all my book links all in one place. It is: christinekelenybooks.com