Saturday, January 2, 2010

Author Interview with Marlayne Giron

Today I have the priviledge of chatting with author and friend Marlayne Giron who has written the wonderful book, "The Victor". Please see yesterday's post to read a review of her book.

1. Have you always loved reading stories about medieval times?

At least since the age of 12 when I finally read the Lord of the Rings. I read the entire set (including The Hobbit) in a single weekend. Before that I used to love to watch movies like the Adventures of Robin Hood and other swashbucklers set in medieval times. After Tolkien I discovered Stephen Lawhead and of course I loved fairytales.

2. The language was spot on. How difficult was it to write using Olde English?

I didn’t study or do research other than my love for books and movies of that genre. I tried not to overdo it and thereby lose the reader with too many thee’s and thou’s. Now that I think back on it, I should have included a glossary at the end to define what a lot of the words were describing (like bailey and portcullis for example).

3. How did you learn so much about that time period?

Well besides the movies and books I loved to read, I also invested about $15 in a book titled “Life in a Castle in Medieval England”. It wasn’t a whole lot of help because the reality of life back then was wretched rather than glamorous or romantic. For example, when men were really “knighted”, they were actually whacked with the sword as hard as possible and the trick was to stay upright, not “tapped” on each shoulder as so many movies depict. The most help I got was food description and explanations for important parts of a castle and the different roles people played.

4. What was the most difficult part of the writing process?
No one wanting to read my book for 30 years.

5. What was the most satisfying part of the writing process?

Writing a really good scene that just takes on a life of its’ own as well as characters that come to life and start to “live” in ways you did not anticipate. Also having total strangers read my book and tell me they couldn’t put it down!

6. If you had to give advice to someone wanting to write a book, what would you tell them they needed to do to prepare for that book?

I honestly cannot answer this question as I am not a typical author and have only done the one book. Anything I said I would just be making up as I went along.

7. How much actual research did you have to do for this novel?

Not as much as people think I did! Just reading books of the same genre and watching similar movies.

This section relates to your Study guide/lesson plans .

As a teacher I am often discouraged by the books that dumb down the vocabulary. I was very impressed when looking at your study guide/lesson plans at the vocabulary lists for each chapter. One of my students came in telling me she didn't understand the book because she didn't know the words. I gave her a copy of the vocabulary lists with definitions for each chapter. As a student whose English is a second language she was doing quite well. I also enjoy a book that has vocabulary that is challenging for me. Some of these words I could figure out using context clues. There were several that I actually had to look up for myself. The fun part was using the words in class and having students ask me what it meant and to use it in another sentence. One young man came up with his own sentence to make sure he had it correct and then said, "Cool, I need to find a way to use it in each of my classes today." The word was scrutinizing. He tried it out with different endings. His math teacher called me laughing. She asked him if he had finished the bell work and he said to her, "I have not yet finished scrutinizing my answers". She said he grinned real big and said he had learned the word in my class. He was so proud of that word.

8. How did you decide on which words to add to the vocabulary list and the number of words.

I developed the Teacher’s Guide with the assistance of a friend who is a public school English teacher in middle school. She was the one who gave me the suggestions as to how many vocab words I should have per chapter. After that I just went through chapter by chapter and picked half of the words because I knew that most people would not be familiar with them (the medieval terms) and the rest because I figured they were just a bit higher level than the average vocabulary used by kids in middle school. I never went to college and am only a high-school graduate so it goes to show you that you can still master the mother tongue and impress people just by reading a lot of good books! Also, as part of my career as a secretary, I have had to proof read scientific white papers, and technical reports written by PhD’s with Greek equations in them as well as creating Investment Offerings for commercial real estate investments from scratch. I may not be well educated but I know when a sentence doesn’t make any sense!

9. Often times teachers try to teach Character traits, hand out some sort of graphic organizer and expect the kids to figure it out; however, you included a Character Trait Guide. In your opinion, why do you consider this to be of value instead of “hoping” the student will figure it out?

I want the student reading my book to concentrate more on the message of The Victor rather than trying to keep straight who is who. I figured if I provided the chart, they could make a mental image in their head to keep the characters straight and focus on the story. I remember when I read the Lord of the Rings for the first time I was overwhelmed by the names, races, realms, languages, etc., but I kept plugging away because I loved the story.

10. I enjoyed the fact that you included chapter summaries.

Has any other teacher told you how they are using them? No, because so far you are the only teacher who has gotten the guide. This was again suggested by the teacher I worked with to develop the guide.

I will add here that I have used part of Marlayne's guide. Since I teach remedial reading, often my students need some front loading so that they will understand what they are reading. By reading the chapter summaries first the students were able to focus on the details that made up that chapter. We also reviewed the vocabulary for the chapter before reading it. This way they were not stumbling along trying to figure out the meaning while trying to keep up.

11. Another area I want to touch on in your Study Guide was the page on Literary devices. I am assuming you had a teacher help with this. Did they use state testing guidelines for this page? I ask because I could see where this meets our state standards.

Yes, she brought over a book that had a complete list of all the literary devices that can be used in a novel and I picked several that applied to The Victor.

12. If you wanted individual teachers or schools to purchase the lesson plans to accompany your book what would be the most important thing you could tell them that would sell them on it?

That the book is worth 15 AR points, ATOS Level: 7.7 and Lexile score: 1060. That it will make the students really think, 2) elevate their vocabulary (per your example) and reduce the amount of work they have to do as teachers to teach off The Victor by having it done for them already. I am also in the process of getting Renaissance Learning to create a quiz. If that fails, I have two other teachers who are willing to help me create a quiz. The revised Teacher’s Guide will also have the answers to the chapter questions in red.

I am pleased to have had the privilege of reading this book and the opportunity to use the study guide with some of my students. The questions included with each chapter were excellent questions and easily adapted to higher thinking questions that made the student stretch their comprehension.
Thank you Marlayne for allowing me to interview you.

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