Thursday, January 17, 2008
Spotlight on: The Blonde Duck
Miranda Koerner is a witty, charming and entertaining writer whom I have the privilege of knowing. Known as The Blonde Duck on her blog, she writes women's fiction with romantic elements. As yet unpublished, I know one day someone will see the talent she has, for she is truly an original.
If you don't believe me, just visit her glug…uh, I mean, her blog.
Miranda, tell us a little about yourself.
I am a women's fiction and young adult fiction author who is certifiably nuts. I live in San Antonio with my husband. Currently, I work as a magazine editor and spend my days sneaking in time to write my novels and nagging my husband for white Chihuahuas. I desperately want puppies and torture myself by going to a pet store once a month to smell hot puppy breath. I dance three or four times a day, am obsessed with peanut butter and have a fascination with sweets and waffles.
Tell us a little about your work.
I tend to write women's fiction stories with strong female leads in zany situations. I aim to inspire and enchant readers. For instance, my novel The Dog's Tale is about a couple falling in love from a dog's perspective.
My goal is to write humorous stories that make people laugh. I think when women become wives and mothers and employees that they lose the silly part of themselves. I get so tired of women's fiction that's depressing and saturated with emotional crap. It's always about a single mother or woman who's had a dreadful life and how she's on a journey to find a better life, only at the end she's achieved "a level of contentment." It makes me want to gouge my eye out with a spoon and fling it at people. Where's the joy? The frivolity?
Essentially, I want to make women happy. I want to make them smile, laugh and forget about their demonic mother-in-law, their kids and their evil bosses. My stories let women indulge. For instance, I might write a story about a single mother. However, the single woman in my book would wake up one day to see rabbits wherever she goes--in her house, at work, at school...everywhere! Being a deeply religious and neurotic woman, she takes all the rabbits as a sign from God she has to give her child a sibling. She sets off on a frenzied search to find a suitable mate. Chaos and hilarity ensue.
Would you like to share an excerpt of you work?
Sure! This is actually a post from my blog that is quite popular with my Invisible Friends who read my blog. Readers can find it under the September archives at www.aduckinherpond.blogspot.com
"Hot Puppy Breath"
My fate as a dog owner has been sealed. Forget the Yorkies, the masses of terriers, the golden retrievers. Forget the German Shepards, the Siberian Huskies and the cocker spaniels.
I have fallen in love with the Chihuahua. As soon as that tiny white puppy was placed into my arms and I looked into his tiny brown eyes, I was hooked. Finished, finito, done. Never to venture out into the world of dabbling dog breeds again. While I still have a list of dogs I'd love to own, my first puppy purchase has been decided--the Chihuahua.
It all started at work yesterday when everyone was fluttering around in high spirits because of a going-away breakfast we were having for one of the employees. Their arms filled with cinnamon rolls, strudels, muffins and fruit, the cynical journalists were on a sugar high and actually pleasant for once. One of the new girls brought up her dog and asked about local dog parks, and that lead me to my most favorite subject besides food: puppies. As I babbled away about my love for puppies, she interrupted me.
"There's a store over on The Road that sells puppies," she informed me as I clasped my hands in delight. "You can take them out and play with them and hold them. And on weekends, they have adoption days."
While my liberal colleagues began to all try to one-up each other on how many dogs they'd rescued and whose dogs had the most problems, therefore making it the most compassionate rescue, I was too busy looking up the puppy store. When I found the website, I squealed in excitement. For the rest of the day, adrenaline pumped through my veins. The only thing I could think or speak was, "Puppiespuppiespuppiespuppiespuppiespuppiespuppiespuppies."
Puppies consumed my thoughts for the entire day. As Libby and I perused cuteoverload.com, I dreamed of what kind of puppies I might pet. I fantasized about their delicate skin, their soft fur, their tiny little tongues. I couldn't wait to feel a squirming mass of fluff in my arms and the delicious heat of puppy breath on my cheek. I desperately needed to hold a puppy. Ever the causal one, I informed Ben of this on the way home.
"BABY!" I screeched into the phone. "There's a store on the Road and they have PUPPPIES! And you can pet them and hold them and love them and snuggle them and cuddle them and oh my God they have puppies! Puppies puppies puppies puppies puppies! Do you know how long it's been since I've seen a puppy? Do you? I need a puppy! I need hot puppy breath on my face, kisses on my nose! I need to pet a furry fuzzball!"
Ben, to his credit, wisely stayed silent.
As soon as I got home, I demanded that we go to the puppy store (again, and immediately). Scarfing down dinner (I do have my priorities) I bounced impatiently until we got in the car to drive over there. The drive seemed to take an eternity, with Ben taking an extraordinary long time to dawdle with unnecessary things like stopping at red lights and trying to find a parking space. Rushing into the store, I stared in horror at the mass of chaos before me. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who wanted to pet a puppy. I was going to have to tackle twenty children and their idiotic parents to pet a puppy. Obviously, I was the most important person here. Priorities, people.
Flinging myself against the plastic cage windows, I ignored the tentacles of doubt curling in my tummy. Several puppies looked sad as they stared out of their wire and plastic prisons. Several were asleep. Several were energetically bouncing around and eager to come out and play. I scanned the windows, noting poodles, labs, shiz tzus, an abundant amount of Yorkies...but where were the Chihuahuas? They had promised me a Chihuahua.
"There he is!" Ben pointed to a tiny white Chihuahua nestled in a little girl's arms. "Why don't you ask her if you want to pet it?"
"I'll wait," I demurred, eyeing the little twit who was holding the only Chihuahua in the store. I am ashamed to say visions of tackling her or ripping the puppy out of her arms did occur to me. Instead, I distracted myself by cooing at a Alaskan snow dogs and envying his beautiful blue eyes.
"Look, honey!" Ben cried, knocking an elbow into my side. "The keeper's got the dog now! Go ask if you can hold it!" I made a beeline for the keeper, who handed over the tiny dog. And that's when it happened.
As soon as she handed me the tiny white Chihuahua, I felt a sense of peace come over me. The dog, no bigger than my palm, looked up at me adoringly. I held him to my chest, right underneath my collarbone, and he immediately snuggled into me. As I looked down at him in awe, his tiny head swiveled around and looked up at me.
"Hi baby," I cooed, ignoring the chaos swirling around me. "You're just as sweet as you can be, aren't you?"
The dog delicately reached up and licked my lips, once, twice, three times. Satisfied, he burrowed into my clasped hands and promptly fell asleep. As I stroked his tiny back, shivering as he sighed in happiness, I knew at that moment there was no other dog for me. This tiny creature had just cemented my fate to a lifetime of tiny Napoleonic dogs who would be forever mistaken by my father as an overgrown rat.
While my childhood dog of a Pug would always be dear to my heart (and I'll own one, don't worry about that) and my dream of a cocker spaniel like in Lady of the Tramp may never be realized, I knew that Chihuahuas would be prancing in my life and heart for many years. While Princess and Rascal have brought me great joy, love and delight, this minute canine stole my heart as no dog ever has as he lay breathing softly against it.
I suppose it only appropriate to thank the original white Chihuahua who won us over, Ace the Chihuahua. For although I had to give back the tiny sleeping dog, I know that I at least have one every time I go to Shreveport. Until then, I'll continue to ignore the now hollow feeling on my chest, and the lack of warm puppy breath against my cheek.
It won't be long until I have two Chihuahuas of my own.
When did you decide you wanted to be a writer? How long have you been writing?
I was always writing and illustrating books when I was a little kid. When I was in fourth grade, I scribbled cheesy stories in journals and told everyone I was going to be a writer and illustrator when I grew up. I even wrote plays for my seventh grade theater class that my teacher (bless her heart) had other students perform. As far as genres go, I've written everything. I've been through a bad poetry phase, a bad songwriting phase and a bad short story phase. I hit my stride when I received a lot of encouragement from a collage professor. She helped shape my writing and gave me the confidence to pursue becoming a published author.
What are the biggest challenges you face as a writer?
Having a zillion ideas and marketing plans and no access to a publishing company or agent. (Hint, hint.)
What do you enjoy most about writing?
Honestly, it's something I have to do. When I was in high school and college, I only wrote sporadically. My husband encouraged me to take me more seriously. I found the more I wrote, the calmer and happier I was. I can only go about a day without writing now. Otherwise, I snarl and cry and gripe at people until they plop me in front of a laptop with a jar of peanut butter and evacuate the premises. I'm so addicted to it I scribble dozens of ideas on scraps of paper and post-it notes wherever I am, even while driving. I haven't hit anyone. Yet.
What do you dislike most about writing?
Editing. I despise editing. Yet I work as an editor. Have I mentioned I enjoy torturing myself?
I also get really frustrated about the process of becoming published. I've talked to authors who have had dozens of books published and still struggle with getting their ideas published. Just because you win awards or sell millions of copies doesn't guarantee your next idea will make it. Whether you're in journalism or the book publishing business, it seems like writers will forever struggle to get their stories heard.
Do you have a writing schedule?
I write early in the mornings twice a week before I work out and for about two hours early Sunday morning. I also write at work during my lunch hour on my laptop two to four times a week. If my husband is distracted with some kind of gadget, I can sometimes get stuff done in the evening.
What do you enjoy in your spare time? What are your hobbies? Collections?
I'm a huge bookworm. If there's something sitting in front of me, I read it, even if it's a car magazine. I love getting new books and ignoring my husband for days at a time while I devour him. Strangely, he's not as excited as I am when that occurs. I'm also a fanatic about working out and love taking walks outdoors. Recently, my husband and I have really gotten into cooking on the weekends. I'm not a food snob though. We make things like homemade oatmeal cookies, fresh baked bread, meatballs....I love meatballs. And hamburgers. And Chicken Fried Steak. And Apple Pie. And Peanut Butter Pie......
I have a tiny obsession with food.
Are you a reader as well as a writer? What do you enjoy reading?
I like reading all sorts of things. My favorite authors are Madeline L'Engle, Bruce Coville, Roald Dahl and Emma Sanders. I like reading children's literature, particularly YA, romantic suspense novels, mysteries (I love the Elizabeth Peters Egypt series) and women's fiction novels.
I despise reading very dark, depressing or violent novels. I'm all about sunshine, puppies and happy endings.
What is one piece of advice you'd like to share with other writers?
Given that I'm not a published novelists, my advice is for those seeking to write magazine or newspaper pieces. If you're at all interested in writing for magazines/ newspapers/ journals, you should do three things:
1) Know the magazine and it's style
2) Know how to write in the style the publication requires. News stories are written very differently then feature pieces and magazine pieces are completely different than newspaper features.
3) Be professional, but be persist ant. Unless someone threatens to call security on you, always look for a way to get your work into the paper. Just be polite and charming.
4) Don't ever tell an editor you're a Republican. Even if you're the most brilliant Republican in the world, they'll brand you. All Republicans in journalism learn to hide their opinions to themselves.
5) Be polite and courteous. Don't call an editor up and argue with them about a story if they say it's not what they're looking for. They won't appreciate it and they'll never work with you again.
Do you have a writing necessity, i.e. do you have to have music in the background, candles burning, or can you write just about anywhere?
If I had a candle burning, I'd knock it over and burn down the house. The only real things I require are music and a room by myself. I can't write with people hovering around or talking. Some people can work with the TV on, I can't.
What is your biggest writing annoyance, i.e. too much noise, not enough light, or can you write just about anywhere?
Usually, it's people talking. If I've been writing for awhile, I'm pretty good at tuning them out. But if I'm trying to start or struggling, it's really distracting.
Where do you get your inspiration? Ideas?
To quote Madeline L'Engle, " . "When I wake up in the morning, I find it hard not to trip over them." I tend to get a "brilliant idea" and jot it down. Whichever idea is calling to me the most, I write. While writing, the plot twists and changes so much it hardly looks like my original idea. It is a better idea.
Who is your biggest supporter? How does he/she support you?
My husband. Anyone who can listen to my dozen "brilliant ideas" a day patiently without wanting to choke me is a saint. Additionally, he has supported and encouraged my writing from day one, even when I wasn't working to pursue it.
My family is also incredibly supportive and encouraging. I'm very lucky. I also have two great friends that I'm constantly bouncing ideas off of who help me a lot.
Do you have any pet peeves? How about when it comes to novels?
I can't stand it when people try to steal my food. I also despise tackiness. It really irritates me. There's a difference between funny and tacky.
When it comes to novels, I can't stand it when women throw in raunchy sex jokes or references to be quirky. A lot of the times, it's more weird than funny. I'll grant you that sometimes it can be hilarious. To be honest, I've got some funny romantic scenes in The Dog's Tale. But I've read some stuff where I just want to bash my head in, such as genitals being used as murder weapons. I'll admit I'm pretty reserved, but even I don't want to read a penis joke on page two. Gross.
If money were no object, what kind of vehicle would you drive?
1) A pink pick up truck with leopard seats and high gas mileage
2) A pink Jetta with leopard print seats
If you had to pick a vegetable most resembling your personality, what veggie would you pick and why?
Until I got older, I never liked vegetables much. Now I just cover them in ketchup so they're tolerable. I'd have to pick a fruit. I'd say an apple. It's sweet, reliable and can add flavor to a variety of foods.
What is your favorite food?
Bacon Cheeseburger with apple or peanut butter pie. Don't ask me to share.
What is your favorite color?
Pink, because it's cute and cheerful!
Besides your blog, is there any other way readers/writers/agents can get in touch with you?
My E-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I accept all agent offers, book deals, pies and Chihuahuas.