Thursday, April 8, 2021

Meet MG Author Kathleen Jae

Carpinello's Writing Pages is excited to host Kathleen Jae on her Pump Up Your Book Tour for her very first novel, but not her first book. Please welcome her and be sure to leave encouraging comments. Don't forget to read all the way to the end for something special.

First, a bit about Kathleen:
Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery is Kathleen Jae’s first novel. She has been writing in one form or another for over twenty years. Her greatest success story is her daughter, and their autism journey is chronicled in Kathleen’s first book, From Prompting to Shaping to Letting Go: My Love Affair With ABA and How Being a “Bad Mom” Helped My Daughter With Autism Succeed. Two of Kathleen’s short stories made it to the finals of the 2017 Florida Writers Association Royal Palm Literary Award competition.
Why did you pick to write books for middle-grade readers?
I never set out to write for middle-grade readers. In fact, I did not realize there was such a label when I began Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery. I knew my protagonist would be a chipmunk, and in the beginning, I had no idea the book would surpass 150 pages. It kind of evolved, so that when it was finished I knew the readers would probably be about ten years old to fourteen or fifteen. But in reality, middle-grade readers range in age from about eight to twelve.
What types of books do you like to read, and what do you do when you’re not writing? 
I can find so little time for reading strictly for fun! When I am reading, it’s something historical to research for the sequel to an upcoming book, Island Times Three (a historical detective mystery that takes place on Manhattan and Sanibel Islands) or browsing the internet to search for material to use in the sequel to Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery. The book I am reading for Island Times Three is The NYPD’s First Years by Bernard and Jon Whalen. When I’m not writing, I am outside as much as possible, gardening or hanging with our dogs.
Tell us about Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery and how the story came to be. 

My family and I have visited Sanibel Island in Florida a lot over the past 20 years. About five years ago we decided to take a kayaking tour in Tarpon Bay. At one point, our guide began to talk about the red-mangroves and how they are destroyed to make room for development. While I sat listening, I pictured a chipmunk standing on a red mangrove branch, and I came up with a premise: a young chipmunk protects the red mangroves from destruction.
Here's a peek at Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery:

Dangers lurk both high and low,
Marauders, curs, moggies too.
When darkness comes, we must not go,
And wait for light’s renew!
Elanora’s mother uttered the verse daily, just as her mother’s mother had told it to her, so who was Elanora to question it? It gave her shivers when she heard the serious way her mother told it, as if every menacing creature mentioned in the verse were waiting just outside their burrow, ready to pounce on them for daring to leave the safety of their home. The first time her mother recited it, Elanora was busy studying the stripes on the back of her sister Vala. All of them had these same stripes, even her mother, but Elanora thought them quite unnecessary.
“One…two…three…” she counted, poking hard at each line, until her sister screamed for her to stop. Elanora was quietly scolded, as it was normally a time for rest. She promised herself to ask her mother about the stripes at feasting time, for she had an almost vital need to know things.
“Please tell me now—why do we have these silly stripes on our backs?” Elanora asked her mother this question after they arrived at the edge of a clearing where the cobbings grew on the popple trees. She pulled a piece of cobbing from the tree and shoved it in her mouth. Her sisters and brothers foraged around her, and she had never heard them complain about the ugly and slimy things. But Elanora thought they tasted like dirt, and their shape reminded her of the lily pads she had seen in the pond that was not far from their home. Elanora accepted the tops, but she had long ago rejected the stems for she thought they made her tummy hurt. At least that is what she told to all who would listen.
Her mother smiled at Elanora’s question. “Hava has used her wisdom once again with the creation of our stripes. You noticed they are different colors, yes?”
Elanora nodded.
“That is so we are one with everything else she has created.”
“Look at your brother there,” she directed, pointing to Calum. “You must use your eyes skillfully to see him among the leaves and the twigs and the ground.”
Elanora tried to observe the scene in an open-minded way and decided that her mother was right: when Calum was still he seemed to disappear.
Elanora nodded. “I agree, Mother. But if Hava has done this good thing, why did she also create the defyers—those awful creatures who watch for us and take us away with their sharp claws?”
Her mother stopped eating and frowned at Elanora. “You are asking too many questions! We will leave that for another outing!”
She had been told such things before, like when she would ask why the water fell from the sky or why the brightness left and the darkness arrived at the same time. She knew her queries annoyed her family, but she could not help herself. That was why she loved to talk to Damhan. He answered her questions thoughtfully and always welcomed more.
That eventide, Elanora asked if she might explore the nearby pond the next brightness, and her mother agreed. Just as the light pushed through the tops of the trees, Elanora’s mother received a report of a cur wandering near the rock wall. After securing a promise from her daughter that she would not be away long, Sorcha gave Elanora permission to leave the nest.
She peeked from the opening of their burrow. Elanora loved the cozy home she shared with her family, and her mother once told them that she had lived in the same burrow when she was a youngster. The tiny entrance was at the bottom of a tall honey tree, and once inside, Elanora had to turn to the right, climb up two steps, and turn left. A feathered creature had bored a hole through the bark at this point, and Elanora loved to watch the brightness of the moon push through the opening and into their burrow, and it was the last thing she saw before falling asleep.
The other part of the burrow, one that Elanora did not like, was under the ground. Its entrance was just beyond the steps, and the tunnel that led downward was narrow. They sometimes slept in a nest in one of the larger pockets, usually after hearing the cries of a moggie.
Dangers lurk both high and low,
Marauders, curs, moggies too.
When darkness comes, we must not go,
And wait for light’s renew! 
How do you go about researching for your stories? 

During my initial online research for Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery, I discovered chipmunks are not naturally found in Southwest Florida, and at the same time I found out that the other main characters, namely the round-tailed muskrats, are not normally found in red mangrove forests. I had to pick up my characters and move them someplace else, and since salt marshes are sandwiched between freshwater marshes and red-mangrove forests, it was a logical place for the book’s setting. In the course of additional research, I found a site that explained how to drain a salt marsh and how it affects the water and, therefore, the animals who live there. I bought a few books online that explained the salt marsh ecosystem, and they were helpful.

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

The first book I published is called From Prompting to Shaping to Letting Go: My Love Affair With ABA and How Being a “Bad Mom” Helped My Daughter With Autism Succeed. It’s about the journey my daughter and I took after we received her autism diagnosis at the age of three, her ensuing behavioral program I set up and her many achievements over the years.
What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

I’ve started the sequel to Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery, and Island Times Three should be released in August.
What advice do you have for other authors? 

If an idea comes to you, and you think it will make a good book, just start it. Do some research—enough to get some pages down. I find that when I start writing, the ideas about where my characters go and what they say just flows. Write until the ideas slow. Then walk away for a little while. Think about what you have written. I have worked this way many times, and I might be cleaning or gardening and thinking about the story, and an idea will just pop into my head.
Anything else you want readers to know? 

I want to thank illustrator Lori Taylor, Editor Lisa Gilliam and Graphic Designer Peter Chiappetta for their hard work and skills in bringing Elanora to life.
Where can readers find you and your books? 

To purchase a print version of Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery, click here, and From Prompting to Shaping to Letting Gohere.
Readers can email me at and




Kathleen Jae is giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card
One Printed Canvas Bag
(Canvas Bag Includes one plushie muskrat (Beathas, Lachi and the rest of the colony); one plushie chipmunk (Elanora); one plushie gray squirrel (Nara); one roseate spoonbill photo transfer hanging by Etsy shop owner FeelinGroovyPhotos (Moira and Muirreal); one framed manatee art print by Etsy shop owner SammWehmanArt (sea cow); one cormorant printed tea towel by Etsy shop owner HearthandHarrow (Pelles); one yellow-crowned night heron signed printed note card by Etsy shop owner BlueHenCraft (Morven); one set of 5 vintage bobcat postage stamps by Etsy shop owner AxmxZ (bullycat); one red-tailed hawk applique iron-on patch by Etsy shop owner PatchParlor (defyer); one reusable shopping bag adorned with assorted forest animals including red fox (oppect), white tailed deer (Damhan), rabbit (quidge) and owl (maurauder); one bird-watching notebook with blue jay (Jae) on front; two signed copies of Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery and two Elanora bookmarks.)
Terms & Conditions:
By entering the giveaway, you are confirming you are at least 18 years old.
One winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter to receive $50 Amazon Gift Card & one winner will be chosen to win tote bag.
This giveaway ends midnight April 30.
Winner will be contacted via email on May 1.
Winner has 48 hours to reply.
Good luck everyone!


  1. Thank you very much for participating as host for my Virtual Blog Tour for Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery. Many of your questions were unique and thoughtful and I enjoyed our interview immensely!

  2. Hi Cheryl! Thanks so much for participating in my virtual book tour for Elanora and the Salt Marsh Mystery with Pump Up Your Book. I enjoyed our interview and thanks so much for posting my info!