Book Summary: Everyone needs their own special corner…
It’s 1969 and ten-year-old Davy is in a predicament. With two weeks remaining of the summer holidays, he’s expelled from the public pool for sneaking into the deep end and almost drowning. How will he break the news to his hard-working single mother? She’s at the diner all day, Davy has no friends, and he’s too young to stay by himself.
The answer lies in his rescuer, mysterious thirteen-year-old Ellis Wynn. Visiting her Grammy for the summer, Ellis offers to babysit Davy. She teaches him about “corners”–forgotten or neglected areas fixed up special. Together, the kids tackle several “corners” and Davy learns what it means to bring joy to others. Davy begins to wonder, though. Why does Ellis want to be his friend? Why doesn’t she ever smile? And is Davy just one of Ellis’ “corners?”
Where did the idea for your book ‘Corners’ come from?
My mother’s house and garden are filled with beautiful, quaint corners. She is a Dutch lady, and the Dutch are “corners specialists.” I have been a “corner” designer myself since I was child. I always had to share a room with my sister as I was growing up, and craved a little space of my own. I would pester my mom to give up a little corner of the house somewhere so I could have a place to write and draw and paint. My mom let me have a hall closet when I was around thirteen years old. I put all my art supplies and notebooks and pens in there, and then I’d open the door half-way and sit on the floor, pretending the door was a wall and the closet was my room. I think anyone with creative interests needs a special spot to call their own.
On a different note, I have always thought that positive changes do not have to be big, in the grand scheme of things. When individual people focus on creating beauty and kindness in their own little corners, there is a chain effect that can have a huge impact.
Why did you choose to set the story in the year 1969?
I grew up in the 1960’s and have clear memories of that time period. It’s been said that authors should “write what they know.” I am not sure that is always the rule, but in this case, my memories created a solid foundation for the setting of “Corners.” The public pool, the diner, even the noisy fridge in Davy’s apartment are all artifacts of my own childhood and I was “seeing” them as I wrote the story.
Davy is quite a mischievous and inquisitive character. Was there a real-life inspiration for him?
I was an elementary school teacher for thirty-one years. Davy is not modeled after a particular student, but rather a conglomeration of several little characters who came and went over the years. Children often carry burdens of sadness that they try to hide from others. In my mind, Davy represented those kids.
What were your goals and intentions in ‘Corners’? How well do you feel you achieved them?
I wanted to write a book for adults who were looking for a more “pleasant” read, devoid of gratuitous and graphic violence and foul language. I didn’t want to sugar-coat anything and there are definitely issues for the characters in “Corners,” but I was hoping to ultimately produce a “feel good” story overall. As Davy was narrating the story as an adult and a father, I wasn’t really thinking of a target audience of Middle Grade children at the time I was writing the book. When Lesley at Dancing Lemur suggested Middle Grades as a target audience, I was kind of surprised that the book had come off that way. I see now that it makes sense. Lesley tells me that there is a substantial amount of adults who read Juvenile fiction, and it makes me content to think that my reading audience could potentially be larger than the one I originally imagined.
What was the hardest part of writing ‘Corners’?
I have written several manuscripts. One of my novels was so challenging that it took me eleven years of “on and off” writing to finish it. I have to say that “Corners” was nothing like that challenge. Maybe because the setting was so vivid for me, the story formed itself quickly. I took a year’s sabbatical when I was still teaching (two years before I retired) and “Corners” was born in that time. As it’s not overly long and cumbersome, it took me only two months to write.
What did you enjoy most about writing ‘Corners’?
I loved the time travel–the music, the food, the furniture and appliances, the clothes. Revisiting those things brought me right back to my childhood, which was a happy time in my life. I also enjoyed creating the house that Hannah lived in—I’ve always loved those old brick houses with enormous front porches and crammed attics to explore. Developing the characters also brought me a lot of joy. I had the “end game” in mind as I wrote, and it was fun to steer the plot towards that.
Ellis appears to have a mysterious and interesting background. What inspired you to create her thoughts about corners and the need to address forgotten or neglected areas?
As a writer and a reader, I know that a sense of mystery can be intriguing and I wanted to include this element to engage my potential reading audience. Ellis’s interest in creating corners is inherited from her mother who did the same thing as a young girl. Although creating corners began with her mother’s influence, it continues on as an effort to heal from a traumatic event in Ellis’s life. People who struggle and have difficulties in their lives don’t have to wait until “everything is okay” to find something to offer the world.
Does ‘Corners’ have a lesson or moral to be learned? If so, what?
Traditionally, heroes and heroines are known to engage in enormous quests or overcome massive challenges and adversity. In real life, heroes are often ordinary people, even though their quests appear to be small or inconsequential. People do not have to create a masterpiece or cure a disease or produce some monumental invention to be heroes. The real heroes are people who use their gifts and talents to make their own little corner of the world into something that can enhance the lives of others around them. If everyone did that, the entire world would be impacted. It has to start somewhere. Why not with a thirteen-year-old girl?
What made you want to become a writer?
I was about eight years old when I knew I wanted to a writer. I was playing outside in my yard and climbed into the low branches of the willow tree. It occurred to me that I was sitting “in the willow’s lap.” It was such a cool thought that I decided to write it down and make a poem out of it. Once I connected to the thrill of the written word, I wrote constantly. I would write on gummed paper pads, the backs of old calendars, in the left-over pages of used notebooks. I was writing novels by the time I was twelve. I would go to the homework room at school during recess and write instead of going outside to play. Really, writing wasn’t ever a decision, just more of an aspect of my “self” that could not be ignored.
What is the toughest criticism given to you as an author?
On occasion, I have received some feedback from the publishers who’ve taken my novels to editorial review, but then declined to publish them. Often, the feedback about my writing has been positive, but the common reason for the rejection is “it’s just not the right fit for us.” Although I appreciate that these busy editors found the time for a few comments, I find that tough criticism, because it’s vague. I am quite open to criticism and improving my skills as a writer, but specific suggestions are hard to come by.
What is the best compliment?
Editors have expressed that my use of description brings the reader into the story, and that my characters are well-developed. I have also been told that my use of dialogue between the characters sounds natural. The best compliment a writer can get is an offer to publish. I thank Dancing Lemur for that one!
What do you love most about the writing process?
I usually have the end in mind before the rest of the story materializes in front of it, and it is a lot of fun to build the plot with the end framing everything. But, I would have to say, bringing a character to life gives me the most pleasure. These characters become real people to me. When I think of them after finishing a story, I often think of them as being out there in the world somewhere, and I wonder how they’re doing since I saw them last.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
That is such a difficult question because I love so many writers. I don’t think I would want to be mentored by anyone rich and famous, or I’d be too star-struck to really focus on what he or she was trying to teach me. I read a book by Annie Barrows called “The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” which told a beautiful and heart-breaking story all in the form of letters written between the characters. It was brilliant and brought me to tears at the end, which very seldom happens, as I read so critically. The author passed away before she had the novel finished, and her niece completed it for her. I would love the chance to be mentored by Annie Barrows.
Are you currently working on another book? If so, how soon can your fans expect its arrival?
I always have a novel in progress. I have five manuscripts in various stages of completion that I have vowed to return to at some point. The one I am focusing on right now is told from the perspective of a six-year-old boy who is living in the aftermath of a terrible event. I hope to finish it in the next few months. As far as publishing goes, that could take much longer. But I will do my earnest best to find a publisher.
Do you have any advice for other writers?
As cliché as it may sound, don’t give up. Getting published is not easy. Persistence will pay off, somewhere along the line.
Write solid proposals and synopses for your manuscripts. Most publishing companies will ask for one or both of these things. Google some samples first and study them. Keep your proposals and synopses on the brief and concise side, but make sure that what you write is interesting and engaging.
Pay attention to what presses are asking for when submitting. If they ask for a synopsis and three sample chapters, then that is exactly what you need to send. You will make a good impression when it is obvious that you have read and respected the submission guidelines. Every publisher has different requirements, so do your research.
Release date – March 6, 2018
Author: Corrina Austin
Publisher: Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Genre: Juvenile Fiction/Boys & Men / Friendship
Price: $10.95 (Trade Paperback) $3.99 (eBook)
Available at: Amazon.com
Corrina Austin is a retired elementary school teacher, living in beautiful South-Western Ontario, Canada. She has Bachelor’s degrees in both English and Education. Corrina has published several short stories and essays and was twice the recipient of grants for a novel in progress from the Ontario Arts Council. “Corners” was inspired by her experiences as a child growing up in the 1960’s and contains many artifacts from her memories of those times.