Interview with middle grade author Karen Pokras Toz

Today’s guest is MG author Karen Pokras Toz to talk about the second book in her Nate Rocks series. 

Karen will be
awarding a $25 Amazon gift card to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour, so if you’d like to be entered in the drawing leave an e-mail address with a comment. You can also follow Karen’s tour and comment at other stops to increase your chances of winning!
Bio:
Karen Pokras Toz is a writer, wife, and mom. Karen grew up in Orange,
Connecticut and currently lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband and
three children. In June 2011, Karen published her first middle grade children’s
novel for 7-12 year olds called Nate Rocks the World, followed in 2012 by the
second book in the Nate Rocks series, Nate Rocks the Boat. Karen is a member of
the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI).
Welcome, Karen. Please
tell us about your current release.
I
recently published Nate Rocks the Boat, which is the second book in the Nate
Rocks series. For those unfamiliar with Nate Rocks and the first book, Nate
Rocks the World
, Nathan Rockledge is your average 10-year-old boy – that is
until he starts drawing. He then becomes Nate Rocks – 10-year-old
extraordinaire, saving the day in all sorts of adventures ranging from rock
star to dinosaur wrangler. In Nate Rocks the Boat, Nathan finds out he is
spending his summer at overnight camp. While the books are in chronological
order, they can each be read as stand-alone books.
What
inspired you to write this book?
So
much of my inspiration comes from my kids, including the character Nathan
Rockledge. He’s just this ordinary kid on the outside, but inside he is truly
extraordinary (as most kids are.) All three of my children are very creative,
and so I pulled a little bit from each one of them to create Nate Rocks. As for
the summer camp theme, well, once again that came from my two older children
who go off to overnight camp every summer and come back with some fantastic
stories.

Excerpt:

Dad drives
down the bumpy dirt road toward a group of wooden cabins. We look for the one
with the “Welcome Hawks” banner, park, and start to unload the car.
Mom walks
over to me and throws her arms around my body, in front of everyone…
EVERYONE.
“Oh, Nathan!”
she wails, “I’ve never been away from you this long! I’m going to miss you so
much!”
I try to
break free, but her clutch is too strong. The other kids have stopped what they
are doing and are now all watching us.
“Now don’t
forget,” she continues, still using her my
voice gets louder and higher pitched whenever I get upset
voice, “make sure
you write home and don’t drink too much water before you go to sleep.”
“Yeah,
Nathan,” Abby blurts just as loudly, “you know what happens when you drink to
much water before bedtime. I just hope for the sake of the other Hawks that you
don’t get a top bunk!”
“That’s not
funny, Abby!” I break away and try to take a swing at her, but she jumps into
the van too fast for me to get her and slides the door shut.
I look over
at the other boys, who are now staring at me. Even Tommy has taken a few steps
back, seemingly trying to disassociate himself from me.
“Now,
Nathan,” Mom continues, only this time in a low voice so no one else can hear.
“You know that’s not what I meant. I just know how sometimes you get the
hiccups and can’t fall asleep.” Mom kisses the top of my head one more time and
gives Tommy a normal hug. “You boys have a great time.”
“Thanks, Mrs.
Rockledge,” Tommy replies.

What
exciting story are you working on next?
Right
now, I just finished the first draft of Millicent Marie is Not My Name. This
book is about 12 year old Millicent Marie. Millie, as she prefers to be called,
keeps her diary on her computer. One day, her little brother finds it, and
decided to publish it on the Internet as a blog, under Millie’s pseudonym,
Amanda. After the initial shock/anger wears off, Millie (aka Amanda) suddenly
becomes her school’s resident on-line advice/gossip columnist. It is a story
with lessons about bullying, gossip, and respect. I hope to have it released
this fall. For my Nate fans, never fear, the third book, Nate Rocks the City is expected in early 2013. For those who can’t wait, a couple of chapters will
be published as a short story in the Anchor Group’s new anthology titled
“Paranormal Days Gone Awry” coming out this fall.
When
did you first consider yourself a writer?
It
wasn’t until just a few years ago. In fact, I spent most of my life thinking I
was a horrible writer. Math was always my strong subject in school. I’m not
sure what triggered my decision to start, but one day, I opened my laptop and
began. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Do
you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and
how do you find time to write?
Well,
I write as much as time permits. Most days, I’m able to get in some writing
time. I also have to budget time for marketing and house stuff (you know –the
dreaded laundry that never ends when you have three kids!) Four months out of
the year, I work part-time as a tax accountant, so it’s always harder to get
writing in during those months, and then it usually takes a week or two to get
back on track. Generally speaking though, I think I’m able to get in a good
balance of writing and other activities.
What
would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
Well,
I don’t know if this qualifies, but I always have to have coffee by my side.
(It can be decaf after the initial cup of hi-test – it’s more of a smell,
taste, and texture thing with me I think.) Also, even though I have a lovely
office to work in, I prefer to use my laptop either on my bed or on the couch.
One other thing – I get a lot of ideas for story lines in the shower. Don’t ask
me why, I know it’s weird. Anyway, I found a waterproof pad & pencil set
that attaches to the shower wall – it is the greatest invention ever, because
if I don’t write down the thoughts as they come, they’re gone.
As
a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I
went through a LOT of stages. As a child of the 70’s, I of course wanted to be
Marie Osmond! After that (thankfully) wore off, I wanted to be a teacher, an
interior designer, a fashion merchandiser (to be honest, I had no idea what
that meant other than I thought I would get free designer clothes.) Then I saw
the movie Wall Street and decided I wanted to be a securities lawyer and work
for the SEC to get rid of all the corruption on Wall Street. I did actually go
to law school, although I never did work for the SEC. Then of course there was
accounting (which I just sort of fell into) and – ta-dum – a writer.
Anything
additional you want to share with the readers?
Yes – the importance of encouraging children to fall in
love with reading is so vital, especially in this world of electronics. I hope
all who are young at heart will experience as much enjoyment reading the Nate
Rocks books, as I did writing them.

Thanks for sharing so much great stuff about yourself and your writing, Karen. Happy touring!

Readers, don’t forget about the giveaway. If you want to be entered to win, leave an e-mail address with your comment below, and/or at any of her other tour stops. 🙂


14 thoughts on “Interview with middle grade author Karen Pokras Toz

  1. Dawn says:

    Thank you for this post! Looking forward to Millicent Marie! Can you tell those who love writing, but don't know if what they have is good enough to be published into a novel, how did you take that first step. Did you know while you were writing Nate that it was "publishing" potential, or was it really a wait and see game?

  2. Karen Pokras says:

    Hi Dawn – thanks for your comment. The key for me was to find beta readers that were in my target market (kids) I have a friend who is a 4th grade reading teacher & he generously offered to have his students read my manuscript. They gave me lots of great feedback which truly helped me fine tune my story. I also have all my manuscripts professionally edited which I think is so important. Basically, you just want to make sure it is the best possible product you can put out there.

  3. Rita Wray says:

    I agree with you about the importance of encouraging children to read. Both of my children started reading when they were very young. They are both avid readers like me.
    Kit3247(at)aol(dot)com

  4. Karen H says:

    I'm enjoying reading more and more about your books. I especially like the sounds of Millicent Marie.

    kareninnc at gmail dot com

  5. Anonymous says:

    I hope kids get to enjoy books as much as I did, so you're on a very important mission! Thank you.

    eai(at)stanfordalumni(dot)org

  6. Karen Pokras says:

    Yes – reading is so great isn't it? I'd hate for kids to miss out on all the adventures they can go on.

    Karen H Thank You! – Millicent Marie is slated to be released on October 11th. We're having a big release party on 10-11-12. Details on my website (www.karentoz.com)

  7. Chelsea B. says:

    Hi, Karen! Thank you for sharing about yourself and your wonderful sounding book! I adore the title– and the excerpt!

    justforswag(AT)yahoo(DOT)com

  8. Carol L. says:

    Another great interview Karen. I totally agree that getting our kids to love reading and the Hope that inspires. Thanks Karen for another giveaway opportunity.
    Carol L
    Lucky4750 (at) aol (dot) com

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