Monday, April 4, 2011

Interview with author Karen Cioffi

Today, my guest is children's author, Karen Cioffi. She's here to talk about her latest book, Walking Through Walls.

1.     Please tell me how long you've been writing, and why you decided to become a writer.

As with most writers, I’ve been writing since grade school and in high school I wrote poetry. I didn’t begin to write seriously or for publication though until several years ago.

2.     Are you a full-time writer or a part-time writer, and how do you organize your writing time?

That’s a tough question. I really can’t say I’m a full time writer because keeping up with marketing strategies, social networks, emails, and continuing to learn the craft of writing takes up so much time.

3.     What influences your writing?

I love writing for children, so I guess I’d say my grandchildren influence my writing. They’re a great source of inspiration and ideas.

I’ve also been influenced by other books, such as The Single Shard, ancient tales and folktales.

4.     Is this your first published work?  What other types of writing have you done?

No, Walking Through Walls is my second children’s book. My first is Day’s End Lullaby, a children’s bedtime picture book. I have also ghostwritten a number of other children’s books, and I ghostwrite business and health articles. In addition, I’ve written several non-fiction e-books on writing and marketing.

5.     Why did you choose to write a children's story?

Originally, writing for children came about because of a lullaby I wrote for my first child who didn’t like to sleep.

6.     What was the process of creating this book from the first idea to the final published book?

Writing Walking Through Walls was a long process. I began working on the story in the Spring of 2008. It wasn’t until the end of 2009 that it was polished enough and found a home with 4RV Publishing.

The very first step toward writing this book was being given an outline of an ancient Chinese tale about an unscrupulous man. I had already written Day’s End Lullaby and was a member of the Children’s Writing Coaching Club, and a children’s critique group, so turning the story into a children’s story seemed like the thing to do.

I rewrote the story, revised it, submitted it to my critique group, and keep up the process for quite a while. When I thought it was ready, I asked Lea Schizas to edit it. Then, I started to submit it to publishers.

At the October 2009 Muse Online Writer’s Conference I had the opportunity to pitch the story to 4RV Publishing. It was accepted and after a couple of months the publisher’s edits began.

Then, the manuscript was bumped up to be published in March 2011 instead of the end of 2011, and things went into high gear. I just received the ARCs and started submitting for reviews. The book will be available for sale sometime in June 2011.

I was asked to create an additional six pages. I added an Author’s Note, reading comprehension questions, information about 16th century China, and a bit about the Chinese dragon.

The cover was created, which I love, and as of the end of March, the interior illustrations for the beginning of each chapter are being completed.

7.     What are your thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing?

I’ve done both. My first children’s book was self-published. I did go the traditional route at first, but I grew a bit impatient and decided to self-publish. I published that book in 2008, and I have to say there is such a huge change in the self-publishing market since then. It is a viable alternative to traditional publishers if the author knows marketing.

But, all in all, whether right or wrong, there is still somewhat of a stigma attached to self-publishing. I think the reason is because of all the authors who don’t take the necessary steps to learn the craft of writing and jump in too soon with unpolished products.

As a reviewer, I’ve read a number of self-published books. While some were well crafted and polished, others were noticeable in dire need of editing.

With self-publishing becoming easier and cost-free with services such as Lulu, Smashwords, Kindle, and CreateSpace, I think there will be more and more books and e-books that hit the market before they should.

This is a shame because there are also some wonderful self-published books.

8.     What is your marketing strategy?

My marketing strategy is the basics: blog posting, article marketing, guest posting, virtual tours, press releases, social networking – processes to increase visibility and generate traffic back to my site. I also intend to do school visits; possibly book signings, although I’ve been reading that this is not really an effective marketing strategy anymore; I’ll visit my local library and ask them to carry the book; contact my local papers, seek reviews; and enter contests.

I also created a blogsite for Walking Through Walls.

In addition, I’ll be sending out a number of Advanced Reading Copies of the book.

I’ll also make sure to have bookmarks, postcards, and other necessary items for book promotion and school visits.

9.     What are your thoughts about children's writers needing an agent or not needing one?

Agents have their benefits - they can open doors most authors normally can’t get to. And, if they’re ‘good’ they’ll help you get a contract and oversee the publishing process.

 But, you don’t actually need an agent to get a book published.

I do think though that it’s worth the postage stamp to seek one.

10.  Where can people find out more about you and your writing?

People can find out more at: (my central site with media page and writing/marketing info) (offers writing and marketing tips) (writing services site) (info about books, toys, and safety for children)

11.  Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children's literature?

The first tip I have to new children’s writers is to learn the craft. Writing for children has more rules and tricks than writing in general, it’s best to learn what they are as you’re starting off.

The second tip is to be part of a critique group. The experienced critique members will help you hone your writing skills. And the ‘eyes’ and perspective of all the members will help keep your story structured and focused.

The third and final tip is to persevere. Chicken Soup for the Soul received 144 rejections before it was finally accepted for publication.

12.  Please give us a brief synopsis about your current book and when and where it will be available.

Walking Through Walls is based on an ancient Chinese tale and set in 16th century China.  It is about a 12 year old boy who dreams of becoming rich and powerful.  He studies the legend of the Eternals, a group of mystics who are well known for their amazing magical feats and power. When he is sure they are real, he journeys to their home in the Loa Mountain and begins an apprenticeship with the Master Eternal. 

It is scheduled to be released for sale in June 2011, and will be available through the 4RV Publishing bookstore, Amazon, other online retailers, and bookstores.

For up-to-date information on its availability readers can visit:

Thank you so much for featuring me on your site!


  1. Penny, Thank you again for featuring me today. I'll stop by on and off - will be running errands quite a bit today.

  2. Karen, your new book sounds really nice. I used to love reading folk tales to my kids when they were little -- one of my favorites was a picture book story about a little Chinese boy who falls into a well.

  3. Great interview. I am excited to see the new book cover. Blessings for success with the new book.

  4. Hi Penny & Karen, Great interview! I liked all your helpful advice, Karen. When you need a reviewer or a VBT for Walking Through Walls, you can count me in.

  5. Karen, it was so exciting to hear more of the "story behind the story." Plus, your insight into the children's publishing industry is very helpful! Great interview, Nancy Sanders

  6. Karen, it's my pleasure. Sorry I've been away from the computer and just had a chance now to moderate the comments.

  7. Margaret, thanks for stopping by and commenting. Folk tales never seem to lose their appeal.

  8. Terri, thanks for stopping by. I love the cover as well.

  9. Peggy, I love folk tales also, and they're great fodder for ideas.

    Terri, Thanks so much!

    I've been running errands all day also. :)

  10. Deb, thanks for stopping by. I'm betting Karen will be in touch with you. That's kind of you to offer.

  11. Nancy, thank you for stopping by. It is always interesting to me to read how other authors craft their stories.

  12. Good interview. Best of luck with marketing, Karen!

  13. Deb, thank you so much. I've already contacted you! hee, hee

    Nancy, thank you for your kind words. I also like to know how others got published.

    Penny, thank you again for the wonderful interview your prepared. I'll stop by later tonight or tomorrow also.

  14. Karen, congrats on your upcoming book. Love the cover!

  15. Heidi, glad you enjoyed the interview.

  16. Karen, it's just wonderful to see so many people stopping by to see what you've been up to.

  17. Beth, thanks for stopping by. I agree, the cover is fantastic.

  18. Great interview with lots of good advice. I wish you lots of sales for Walking Through Walls.

  19. Penny, thanks for this interesting interview.
    Karen, best of luck with your book. Historical fiction is my favorite, especially when presented at the YA or MG level. A Single Shard is one of my top favorites.

  20. Victoria, glad you enjoyed the interview.

  21. Barbara, thank you. It's great to see so many of Karen's fans here today.

  22. Great interview. I always learn so much from you Karen.
    Love the book cover.
    Martha Swirzinski

  23. Heidi, thank you for your success wishes - I can use them! :)

    BETH, thank you. Aidana WillowRaven did an amazing job on the cover and interior first chapter illos.

    VICTORIA, thank you also, I'm so glad you liked the interview. I'll take all the good wishes I can get. LOL

    BARBARA, It's always rewarding when other authors find your advice or insights of interest. And, thank you for your good wishes too!

  24. As the cover artist, and the one who is almost finished with the illustrations, I am very glad to see that the cover is a hit.

    Aidana WillowRaven

  25. I saw mentions of the cover for Walking through Walls, and Aidana WillowRaven is the person who should get credit for the cover and the internal illustrations.


  26. Martha, thanks for stopping and commenting.

  27. Aidana, thanks for stopping by. I would love if you did my 4RV covers...hint, hint...

  28. Lol.

    Actually, Penny. I think that can be arranged ... lol.

    Being the Art Director, plus the VP of Operations at 4RV, all I need to do it note your preference in the schedule.


    Aidana WillowRaven

  29. Vivian, indeed she did. She did an excellent job.

  30. Thanks, Aidana. Being in charge has its perks :-)

  31. Super interview, Penny.
    Congratulations on your book, Karen. I'm looking forward to reading it. Love the cover.

  32. Bev, great to see you here and I'm glad you enjoyed the interview.

  33. Aidana, Thanks for stopping by. I do love the cover.

    Beverly, Thank you!