Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Meet MG Author J. C. Whyte

Carpinello's Writing Pages welcomes Middle Grade author J. C. Whyte. J. C. is a fellow MuseItUp author celebrating her first book Karmack.

J. C. tell us how you started writing.

When I was eleven, my 6th grade teacher gave the class an assignment to write a poem dealing with an American sport. I knew my classmates would probably choose a popular sport like baseball or football, so I decided to compose a poem about golf. To my surprise, the teacher found it comical and encouraged me to keep writing. So I did.

Then over summer break, students were told to choose 26 books from a reading list and write a book report on each. BLAH! I wanted to enjoy my summer, not spend it reading! Back then, I was a very slow reader and didn’t much enjoy the experience. Plus, kids didn’t have the fun books which are on the market today. But that wise teacher told my mother I could write 26 stories instead of reading them. That was absolute genius. Although I didn’t actually write 26 stories (perhaps six?), I submitted one which made my teacher laugh out loud in class. And that teacher gave me an “A” on my summer reading assignment. I’ll never forgot that wise and wonderful teacher who let me play to my strengths.

So I knew from age eleven that I wanted to be a professional writer. Yet when I reached college, I also understood that writing stories seldom paid the bills. So I got degrees in Journalism and Communications Management. Then for many years I channeled my creative energies into the field of Public Relations.    

Marriage, kids, and several more degrees and occupations later (including stints as a travel agent and paralegal), I entered law school – mostly for the challenge of writing creative arguments for the court. But while in law school, I became a columnist for the student newsletter, writing humorous pieces on the strange and quirky life of a law student. I was thrilled when one of these articles was chosen for publication in The National Jurist, a magazine distributed to law students throughout the US.

But after graduating and passing the Bar, I realized within a few years that creative writing was still what made my heart sing. So now, as a grandma, I’ve returned to writing for children. And with the publication of Karmack, I’ve come full circle, back to where my writing journey truly began.

Why did you pick to write books for Middle Grade?

Actually, I tried writing in the Young Adult genre first because that’s so popular these days; plus, I thought I had an interesting slant on teen suicide. But no one wanted that story. So while waiting for agent and publisher rejections to pour in, I wrote Karmack. That was pure joy from beginning to end. And when I sent the manuscript to Muse It Up Publishing, the editors accepted it right away. So here I am!

What types of books do you like to read?

Just as I’m a picky eater, I’m also a picky reader. I like getting a “taste” of a book by reading the first few pages; if I connect with the writing style, I’ll continue reading.

That said, I like a lot of today’s popular books like The Help and Water for Elephants, but also classics like East of Eden and The Once and Future King. And I’m always up for a griping true story, especially based in the last century like Laura Hillenbrand’s Seabiscuit and Unbroken. I also adore anything written by Ken Follett or John Steinbeck. I like some thrillers too, ala Michael Crichton.

When you are not writing, what do you like to do?

That’s easy: travel! (Remember, I used to be a travel agent.) My husband and I are now on our bucket list. Last May, we traveled to the Canadian Rockies on the Rocky Mountaineer, a luxury train experience from Vancouver to Calgary. It was a dream come true! Since the start of our marriage 40 years ago, we’ve visited most of the National Parks throughout North America yet still needed to check off Banff and Jasper in Canada.

Next on our list: South America’s Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands!

Tell us about Karmack and how the story came to be.

I got the idea for Karmack while I was not sleeping one night (getting old will do that to you – not sleeping, I mean). And the next day I just began writing. I had a hero in mind, someone I actually knew in elementary school. He was always getting into trouble although he had a good heart. My character Sully is based on him.

Here's a peek at Karmack:

Everyone knows Curtis "Sully" Sullenburg is the toughest kid at Higgins Elementary. For years, he and his gang have tormented students and teachers alike with their pranks. And for the most part, they’ve gotten away with it. But all that changes when a strange little creature appears on the scene. From that point on, pranks start coming back like boomerangs, smacking Sully's gang right in their fifth grade butts!

Sully is the only one who can see this creature, which he names Karmack. The little guy claims to be a nature spirit whose job is to balance all the bad karma the boys have amassed over the years. If Karmack fails, these boys will undoubtedly suffer "dreadful, awful doom." Just like that kid who shot at crows with his BB gun – one day he crashed his bike into a pigeon coop and emerged as the Abominable Snowman of bird poop! That kind of doom.

Sully soon realizes he must save not only himself, but also his gang from Karmack's doom, even though his friends have no idea why they keep getting boomeranged. Of course, calamity and hilarity follow. But in the end, Sully and the guys learn a valuable lesson about the consequences of being a bully, and what it takes to be a true leader.

Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.

Sorry, don’t wanna do that. The books I wrote before Karmack will stay in my computer where they belong because they stink.

What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

I recently finished a novel which was inspired by my husband. As a scientist, he’s pondered for years over dark matter, the invisible glue which astrophysicists say holds the universe together. Well, I drop a couple of characters into dark matter. Uh-huh. While they’re on a trans-Pacific cruise, two octogenarians become trapped in dark matter and they don’t know how to reconnect their spirits with their lifeless bodies. Talk about being in the twilight zone!

What advice do you have for other authors?

I think the most important thing is to make writing fun. You must enjoy what you’re doing to do it well. So take a subject you adore and write about it. Every day. Until you know it’s right. On days I don’t feel like writing, I read over the last few chapters and immediate I start to edit and rewrite; since I’m a bit of a perfectionist, that always gets me in the proper mood.

Anything else you want readers to know?

Yeah. Karmack may be a fictional story for kids, but the concept is based in reality. Anyone who’s been on planet Earth for any appreciable amount of time knows that what goes around, comes around. So watch out, everybody! (That includes you, Anthony Weiner and Paula Deen.)

Where can readers find you and your books?

The only social website I’m on is Goodreads.

My website which also has free teaching supplements for Karmack.

Readers can find Karmack at these online stores: 

Muse It Up Publishing


Barnes and Noble




  1. I relate to a LOT of J.C.'s background with writing. I was a Journalism major at Indiana University (go Hoosiers!) and now work in Public Relations. Nice to meet you, J.C.!
    Thanks for once again hosting the KLBH, Cheryl!

    1. Nice to meet you too! I got my BA in Journalism from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, then joined my soon-to-be husband at the Univ. of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (go Illini!) : )

  2. What an interesting life J.C has lived. That in itself was truly inspiration and Karmack I know has had some great reviews, so I must pick it up soon. Your dark matter book sounds fantastic. Thanks so much for joining us on the Kid Lit Blog Hop

  3. Hi Jambo. Just wanted to say that the paperback of Karmack should be out by the end of Spring. Hope you enjoy it!

  4. Cheryl that was an interesting read. I like the moral of the story very much! So true :)
    thanks for sharing and hosting Kidlit Bloghop!
    -Resh @Stackingbooks

  5. What an interesting life, so full and well accomplished!! Thank you for sharing on Kid Lit Blog Hop!

  6. Karmaack was one of my favorite books from last year - that's a must-read!! Ok, I'll say it - I was literally LOL reading Jacquie's plot around the dark matter. I think it is absolutely hilarious!!! Thanks for another great interview with Jacquie and for helping spread the word about Karmack in the Kid Lit Blog Hop, Cheryl.