M.P. Kozlowsky was a high school English teacher before becoming a writer. Juniper Berry
is his first book. He lives in New York with his wife and daughter.Hello, M.P., thank you so much for joining us!
1. First things first, as a debut author, can you tell us a little bit about your path to publication? I’m guessing it wasn’t all rainbows and cupcakes.
MPK: Within the text of Juniper Berry
there is actually a veiled commentary on the publishing industry and the often tumultuous path to it. In a way, Juniper’s journey mirrors mine. This is intentional. For many, you are one person before publishing a book and another person after. To maintain one’s true identity, that is key.
2. What drew you to tell the story of Juniper Berry and her eccentric, illustrious family? MPK: Juniper Berry
was a culmination of a variety of things all coming to a head at once. It could have only been written at this particular point and time in my life. I was lost, at a daunting crossroads, of which every direction seemed bleak, and was suddenly inspired to write something immensely personal but told in a universal way. By creating Juniper and her family, I was able to tackle several issues that I find deeply important and mix them into what is, hopefully, a very chilling and inspiring tale.
3. You have a knack for delightful character names. (I still chuckle at Kitty.) Do you mind sharing how you came up with one or two?
MPK: I wanted opposites, a world of opposites, as described in the opening line of the book. There had to be two sides to everything. Juniper berries are relatively bitter, and yet, even with her world falling apart all around her, Juniper Berry, the character, is not bitter at all. She is rather sweet and optimistic. In keeping with this theme, Kitty, of course, is a dog, and Neptune, whose name represents water, and thus life itself, happens to be a raven, a predator, one who takes life.
4. One of my favorite lines is found at the beginning, where you discuss Juniper’s penchant for spyglasses and lenses: “Discovery and exploration were her salvation; if she couldn’t go out into the world, she could bring the world to her: the stars, the insects, the unsuspecting distance.” I love Juniper’s passion for her backyard, which almost becomes a character in and of itself. She learns her way through thick trees, a clearing, to her friend Giles’s house, in good weather and bad. She even knows the behavior of a certain bird. What made you decide on a raven?
MPK: Of course you can go back to Poe, which is fitting in a story such as this one. In his poem of the same name, the raven is a dark messenger, a communicator from beyond, just as it is inJuniper Berry
. There had to be a link between the two worlds. And, to take it even further, in mythology, particularly Norse mythology, ravens have been known to represent thought and memory, as with Odin’s pet ravens Huginn and Muninn. I felt this, too, was appropriate as Neptune perpetually preys on the thoughts and memories of others.
5. I have to gush for a moment on the brilliance of your cover – even the drawing on the dedication page – in light of having finished the book. What did it feel like to see Erwin Madrid’s renderings of your characters for the first time?
MPK: I thought he captured them beautifully, and this with minimal direction from me. Juniper looks exactly like my wife as a young girl, which is why the red hair was essential. I have to talk to Erwin about acquiring one or two of the illustrations; I would love to hang them on my wall. True works of art.
6. Balloons play an important role in Juniper’s story, as does knowing your deepest longing. If someone were to offer you a balloon right now, what color would use choose, and what would you wish for?
MPK: If I were being true to the text, and a bit of a sagging wet blanket, I would say that to take a balloon would be to give in to temptation and is completely unadvisable; therefore the answer would abruptly end there. However, for the sake of the question I will oblige. Because I do not have a favorite color, I would pick what seems to be my daughter’s favorite: blue. And, right now, I suppose I would wish for a bright and successful future in writing. (I could see Skeksyl writing away on that blue balloon right now, a wicked grin on his face.)
7. I have a nagging curiosity, you have a few references to acting, movies, theater, screen-writing… something I know little about. Do you have a background in stage or have you completed a script?
MPK: Actually, I attended NYU for screenwriting (films are a passion of mine, and I have a few great scripts tucked away for a later date), and there’s nothing I would love more than to write a play and have it performed. If only there was more time. Perhaps I need to change what I would wish for in the previous question.
8. In closing, what books/ authors had a significant impact on you as an early reader?
MPK: I tended to stick to the classics as a child. Authors like Roald Dahl, Ray Bradbury, Shel Silverstein, Charles Dickens, C.S. Lewis, and books like Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh, Watership Down, Charlotte’s Web, Treasure Island, The Hound of the Baskervilles, Alice in Wonderland,
and Wizard of Oz
, among hundreds of others.
Thank you for your time, M.P. I wish you all kinds of success. You may learn even more about Juniper at www.mpkozlowsky.com
, where the publisher is hosting a writing contest
for readers ages 9-14. The winner, chosen by Mr. Kozlowsky, will receive not only an i-Pad but a library of Walden Pond Press books! Be sure to check it out.**Don’t forget to comment below for a chance to own your very own JUNIPER BERRY.**Juniper Berry Blog Tour: Part II