Thursday, May 5, 2011

From the mind of M.P. KOZLOWSKY sprouts JUNIPER BERRY

I don't know about you, but when I find a book that I love I want to selfishly keep it all to myself. Then you realize that you can't keep it tucked away in a dark corner for your eyes only. You know that everyone else needs to read this book. JUNIPER BERRY by M.P. KOZLOWSKY (Walden Pond Press, 2011) is one of those books. It dug its hooks into me and hasn't let go.A haunting and whimsical tale with delightfully dark elements, this book is sure to please. Just watch the trailer and you will see.

Awesome. I know. So let's get into it with M.P. already and see what he has to say about this wonderful book.

Can you tell us about your background and what brought you to writing for children?

M.P. - My goal had always been to write. I never considered myself a children's or adult author or even an author of a specific genre. I take great pride in the fact that I am able to write in various styles and mediums, something I practiced from a very early age. I now plan to continually shift and dabble in different areas of the writing world, resisting confinement. When I decided to write Juniper Berry, however, I happened to be at a crossroads. My father had died after a very long battle with various illnesses and disabilities caused by a severe head injury. With his passing, he left me a small sum of money - money that I wanted to use to honor him and not stuff away in a bank account or waste frivolously; I didn't want his death to be in vain - and so, I quit teaching high school English after three years and set about writing a novel and memoir, neither of which, upon completion, I believed were quite ready for publication. But, I was running out of time and money - there had to be something else. And then I thought of Juniper Berry. The book could only have been written at this urgent point in time. There were certain issues I wanted to tackle, certain themes, and I felt a children's story would be the best way in which to do it. Staring failure in its harrowing and pallid face, I persevered at the very last moment.

A lot of writers make a transition from being teachers to authors. Why do you think that is?

M.P.: Speaking for myself, my childhood was spent mostly in poverty, and so, instead of taking a huge risk, my mother always advised me to acquire a degree with which I could always fall back on and a secure job while pursuing my dream on the side, which teaching allows one to do - or so it seems. I actually believe there are even more teachers out there who wish to be authors or, perhaps, something else, but the profession is so difficult and demanding, that the time they once believed would be used to pursue this passion becomes something else: much needed rest and relaxation, of which I don't begrudge them one bit.

Juniper is a wonderful debut novel and I love the dark elements to your story. Can you talk to me about your influences and why you chose Juniper as your first book to write?

M.P. - My influences tend to run dark - most likely the effects of a troubled childhood, the things I was witness to. Most days, I found life to be quite dangerous and confusing, sad and tragic. Fairy tales, such as Grimm's before they were filtered down by Disney and the like, really spoke to me. I enjoyed children's books and movies with a darker, more mature edge to them, such as Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, The Dark Crystal, and so on. My childhood had a tremendous effect on Juniper Berry and everything else I write today. Sometimes pain can be used in a positive way. I channel it whenever I can.

This book resonated with me because I work in Hollywood and the theme of losing yourself really connects to this business. Do you know your theme before writing or did it evolve during your writing?

M.P. - I figured Hollywood would serve as the best example, though losing one's self can refer to many different paths in life. The theme of the story definitely existed before I set about writing. As a writer entering the world of publishing, the rigid structure of it, the particular guidelines, I was all too wary about being consumed. Sometimes, the desire to succeed can be so strong that one is willing to do just about anything to achieve it. In a way Juniper's journey reflects my own.

What have you learned about the steps of publishing since your journey to becoming a published author?

M.P. - First, there are the rejections. Every writer speaks on this, but it is never enough to prepare you - I kept an entire log of them. To me, the most important step was in finding an agent, which I succeeded in doing by accepting Elana Roth's wonderful offer of representation. After this, she made it seem easy to get published. Of course, from there, the road is much longer than most may think. From the amount of drafts and rewrites to line editing and emails back and forth about design and illustrations and marketing - by the time the book sees print a few years have passed since writing the very first word. The common perception is that it is not difficult to write - one sits at home, behind a desk, writes a few words, maybe takes a break, gets back to it, grabs something to eat, etc. - but unless you actually go through the entire process, all the research, all the edits, all the stress and pressure, the constant tug and pull, most people will never realize exactly how much blood, sweat, and tears (no exaggeration) really go into it.

If you could give new writers advice about the craft, what would you tell them to do? What would you tell them not to do?

M.P. - Among other things, I think Juniper Berry is a sort of commentary on the path to publication. It is easy to sell out, to write formulaically with the specific goal being to make money. I would advise against this at all costs, as it will not lead to the self fulfillment one may hope for. Always write for yourself. And, of course, read and write as much as you can - there shouldn't be much time for anything else (free time should be a thing of the past).

If you were trapped inside a room beneath a tree in the forest with only one book to read, what would it be and why?

M.P. - It would have to be something of great length while simultaneously being beautifully written, a book that begs to be reread over and over again, a book ripe for deep analysis. Perhaps, Don Delillo's Underworld.

I want to thank M.P. for stopping by the Asylum and hanging out with us. I would also like to give a ginormous thank you to Kellie at Walden Pond Press for all her help and continued support. 

There are still plenty of stops left on the Juniper blog tour. Be sure to stop by and check out them out. 

Friday May 6th – Guest Post at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Saturday May 7th – Review and Giveaway at National Examiner
Sunday May 8th – Interview at National Examiner
Monday, May 9th – Review, Guest Post and Giveaway at The Book Smugglers


  1. Absolutely wonderful interview. I love M.P.'s thoughts regarding publishing, specifically how they apply to the theme of Juniper Berry. Very honest and also pertinent, definitely something to remember when traveling that path. Thank you both for sharing!

  2. So intriguing to learn about M.P.'s childhood and the writing path that led to Juniper Berry. Thanks for the great interview. I'll have to look for the book!

    BTW -- thank you for the Magic Finger! Can't wait to read it.