Lisa M. Cottrell-Bentley – Wright on Time

What is your most recent book? Tell us a bit about it.

I am the author of the Write on Time series of children’s chapter books about an RV-living, homeschooling (roadschooling) family who travels the USA. Each book is set in a different state with a fun and unique educational theme. The latest book, “Wright on Time: Wyoming, Book 3″ came out in August 2010. In it, we find the Wright family traveling around Wyoming while discovering interesting “green” facts about alternative energies. They also learn more about their amazing Time Tuner. “Wright on Time: South Dakota, Book 4″ is set to be published in December 2010. In it, the Wright family visits the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, tours a newspaper company, hikes in the Black Hills, and learns of a new ability of their Time Tuner.

Tell us something about yourself.

I was born in Iowa and raised in Iowa and Illinois. I started writing as a small child, and have wanted to be a children’s book author since I was 9 (that was when I won my first writing contest). I strayed from that for a number of years and became a software engineer (with a degree in Mathematics)–I actually have a patent in my name. Once my children were born, my love of fiction writing returned.

I’m now a full-time homeschooling mother of two, a publisher, and an author. I love to travel and research and spend time with my family. I’ve lived in Arizona for eleven years, and currently live out in the desert on 10 quiet acres. I love cats and currently have five.

What inspired you to write this book?

My daughters, now 14 and 10, encouraged me to write the Wright on Time series. When my oldest was 7 or 8, she’d become very disappointed in all the fiction she’d been reading (too many siblings who hated each other, absentee or mean parents, and struggles that she couldn’t relate to). Since my daughters knew I’d written quite a few women’s fiction novels (I’d been writing for as long as they could remember), they encouraged me to write “the perfect children’s chapter book series”. Over months of conversations, we fleshed out what that meant and I’ve been writing them ever since.

How did you choose the title?

This, too, was a collaboration of my family and me. While talking about the book series, my older daughter said something like, “The family should just be doing things right all the time.” My reaction was, “Wright could be there last name!” My husband responded, “Because they are always doing things right on time.” Then it hit me, “How about ‘Wright on Time’?” My younger daughter giggled and we all just knew the title was right.

What obstacles did you encounter in getting this book published? How did you overcome them?

I set about sending query letters just as all writers are told to do when they are ready to become published authors. I spent years querying agents and editors, only to be rejected time and time again. When I asked why, I was told that my writing was fantastic, but that homeschooled characters weren’t marketable (and if I was willing to (1) take homeschooling out of the books, (2) make the siblings not like each other, and (3) have the children not like their parents, then they would consider publishing my work). Since those were the very reasons I wrote my book series, I wasn’t willing to take those points out. I took the statistics that I’d found (that there were more than 2.2 million homeschoolers in the USA), together with a marketing plan and I sought private investors to help me start a publishing company.

I’ve now grown my company to the point that I’m signing on new authors. Since the need for homeschool fiction is so great, I’ve started a campaign accelerate the publishing rate. I’ve been accepting submissions for over a year now, and I have found some real gems that I know homeschooled kids are just going to love and really see themselves in.

How did you know you wanted to be a writer? How did you get started?

I’ve always wanted to be a writer ever since I was a child; I loved good books and read as many as I could find. I loved being transported into new worlds. As an adult, I started writing again as I held and rocked my babies. They loved being rocked in the rocking chair for hours on end, but that bored me. So, I set up a laptop that was accessible to me while breastfeeding and rocking my children. Writing gave me an outlet for my emotions and it felt amazing. As my children grew, they started wanting to know what I wrote about. So, I started writing stories for them.

Do you have any writing rituals?

Not really. I write when I’m inspired, when I’m meeting a deadline, and nearly every day just for fun. If I’m stuck on an issue, I go for a walk with one of my family members and flesh out scenes. I love talking through plot and character ideas with my family.

How do you come up with the names for your characters?

I use a lot of baby name books and websites, as the meanings of names are really important to me. I never randomly choose names. The children in my Wright on Time books actually have palindromic names: Aidan and Nadia. I also like the meanings of their names. :) Savvy readers will be able to find many name themes throughout the series.

Did you learn anything from writing and publishing this book? What?

Oh, my! I could write a book on all I’ve learned from writing and publishing these books. Actually, I have. :) My non-fiction book, “Rich Author, Poor Writer” is due out this winter. It sums up how I came to discover options in the publishing industry. It describes what current options are for authors and writers, how to determine what would be best for each author’s own writing, and steps to get them to their goals.

If you were doing it all over again, what would you do differently?

I would have started a publishing company sooner. I have received a lot of flack about this, and it’s all really silly. Not only are my dreams coming true with my publishing company, but, more importantly: I’m reaching children who have never been reached in fiction before–ever. My books are the first of their kind to have normal, realistic homeschoolers of today.

What types of books do you like to read? Who are your favorite authors?

My reading tastes have changed a lot over the years. I currently love to read YA and women’s fiction, but nothing scary or dark. I love Meg Cabot, Joanne Fluke, Jennifer Weiner, Kyra Davis, Vicky Lewis-Thompson, and many others. While I don’t read them anymore (because I’ve read all their books dozens of times), I love Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume, Paula Danzinger, and many more. At this point in my life, I like books that leave me feeling happy and hopeful.

Are you working on your next book? What can you tell us about it?

Yes! “Wright on Time: South Dakota, Book 4″ is due out in December. It finds the Wright family in South Dakota during the famous Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Their mysterious Time Tuner actually lives up to its name for the very first time, surprising them all.

My daughters and I are going to Minnesota (and a dozen or so other states) in October to finish up the research for “Wright on Time: Minnesota, Book 5″ which is coming out in the Spring of 2011.

I’ve also signed on several great authors with my publishing company. Author bios and book details will be up on my sites soon.

What is the best advice you could give other writers about writing or publishing?

Write what you know, and please yourself first. If you like the topics and characters you write about, that means there *is* a market for it. It might not be an obvious (or large) market, but it does exist. Our own interests are valid.

Write what makes you happy. Use a critique group as well as professional editors. We can’t always see the inconsistencies and errors in our own writing since we’re so close to it.

Never give up on yourself!

Who is the perfect reader for your book?

My Wright on Time book series is perfect for children 5-12 who love adventure books, homeschoolers who want to read about characters they can relate to, and school kids who are tired of books always being about school. :)

Where can readers learn more about you and your book?

My KickStarter campaign to publish more fiction for about homeschoolers
My publishing company
My children’s chapter book series