Ann Eisenstein is a teacher, psychologist, author and cancer survivor with a passion for mentoring and molding the minds of children.
She grew up on a farm in Sidney, Ohio, where weekly trips to the library made it possible to explore and dream about the world beyond. She attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, graduating with a BS degree in Education, with an English and Journalism minor.
Ann taught elementary school in Ohio and California before obtaining her MEd. in School Psychology from Wright State University, Fairborn, OH.
As a psychologist, she served in school systems in Texas, California, Michigan, and South Carolina, in adolescent psychiatric treatment facilities, in private practice, and for the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice.She taught college level Psychology in Columbia, SC, where she currently resides.
Ann continues to mentor at Logan Elementary, where the inspiration for her debut novel, Hiding Carly, and the Sean GRay, Junior Special Agent Mystery series began. Fallen Prey, published in 2013, is the second in the series.
Q: When did you first start writing?
AE: I think I was born writing! No, seriously, I had a love for books and words before I could read. I would sneak into my father’s library, fascinated by the glass doors leading to the musty odor of his old medical books, my uncle’s mysteries, I would lift one out and – much to his chagrin – add my own “words” to the pages with a crayon! I wrote hundreds of short stories, poems and sonnets all throughout my school years. I was editor of the school paper, and I wrote the senior class play and song.
Q: How long did it take to write your first book?
AE: I spent a good deal of time thinking about and planning Hiding Carly and researching and interviewing FBI agents before I actually began to write. The actual writing process – including editing and revising – took about a year.
Q: Are you a panster or plotter?
AE: I am a happy mix of both, I think! I didn’t outline Hiding Carly. As I stated above, I did quite a bit of note-taking and researching – but when I sat down to write – words just began to flow! About half way through, I wanted to visualize the story structure, so I put scene ideas on index cards so I could lay them out and move them around. I also did character sketches and setting foundations in my Sean Gray journal – which I always take with me!
I really like the idea of storyboarding and utilized that technique in Fallen Prey. I still use magnetized index cards on a whiteboard so that I can move them easily if I feel a scene needs to move to another chapter. I also have an Index Card app on my iPad.
I guess in writing a series, I realize the importance of keeping with the integrity of the story line and have become more of a plotter.
Q: Do you have critique partners?
AE: I belong to a writer’s group, Savvy Wordsmiths. I also have an in-house critique partner/editor!
Q: Are you a member of SCBWI? Do you think it helps?
AE: Yes, I have been a member of SCBWI since around 2000. More than anything I know it helps! I have met some very brilliant and talented writers, illustrators, editors, publishers and agents – many of whom have become good friends and some are in Savvy Wordsmiths. SCBWIC always offers the most wonderful workshops, sessions, intensives and panel discussions. No course or degree in writing could have given me as much as my attendance at these conferences! And throughout the year, our members are always there to offer support, congratulations, and advice!
Q: Where do your ideas come from?
AE: Everywhere and everything! I have always been an intense people watcher – so much so that my best friend often slaps me and tells me to stop staring! But nothing interests me more than the intrigue of people – who they are, what they are thinking, what they are doing. That’s the reason I became a psychologist – I love watching and studying the behavior of people!
I have always worked with children – as a teacher and a psychologist – and their families. And I have an intense interest in behavior – of children and of other’s toward them. Missing kids. Mistreated and abused kids. Social interaction – the media.
Ideas bombard me at every turn. If only I had the time and energy to capture them all!
Q: Are you an introvert or extrovert?
AE: If you asked the people who know me best – and I have had this discussion with many of them – they would say I am an extrovert.
But I think sometimes I am an introvert. I value my time alone. I cherish it. I seek it.
I don’t know – I’m a Libra – I might just be a balance of both!
Q: What is your writing routine?
AE: I don’t really have the “from 5:00-10:00 in the morning I will write” routine! Maybe I should!
I try to write when I can, where I can – on the beach, in the car (I use a micro-recorder), at Starbucks or Panera. I do have an office in my home that is my writing space (when I’m not paying bills, returning calls or filing an enormous amount of stuff).
And I try to pay attention to my writing mantra: “If you are not writing – you are not a writer”.
Q: Do you have a favorite topic to write about?
AE: I write in many genres. But my favorite is MG/YA fiction. My published works of fiction are about contemporary real life situations involving youth.
I love writing mystery and adventure.
As far as a topic, I love to focus on social issues affecting kids of today – internet use and abuse, child predators, abusers, and traffickers, drugs and alcohol, relationships, family, gangs and crime.
Q: How many drafts do you typically write before submitting to your critique partner, agent or publisher?
AE: For my first book, I wrote a banker’s box full of drafts. I had a critique partner working with me, but I had at least 8 drafts before submission to an agent. But that was before I had a publisher.
I had only 3 drafts for my second book before submitting to Peak City Publishing.
Q: What word did you delete the most from the last draft you revised?
AE: Ha! I spend a lot of time revising and attempting to find unique words for “said”. But I learned a while back (from an SCBWIC conference) that sometimes “said” is the best choice! Attempting to insert “shouted”, “whined”, and “whispered” to spike things up is akin to over salting a bland dinner! Yech!
The important thing is the content and delivery of the dialogue itself.
Q: How do you keep self-motivated?
AE: That’s tough. Because lately, writing the final book in the Sean Gray series, I have been less than motivated.
On days that I lack the desire to put my butt in chair (BIC), I set the ambience in my office. I have a couple play lists that I use. I also enjoy scents – candles, incense, fresh flowers. But nothing motivates me more than the kids (and adults) that keep asking me when the next book is coming out!
Q: How do you cope with rejection?
AE: With wine! No, seriously, the human spirit rejects rejection as we all want to be wanted! And with artists – whether through art, music, theater or the written word, we are opening up our personal thoughts and ideas – our very lives to the world. We labor with love and the put ourselves out there and say: “Look what I made!” We want everybody to love it!
I believe because of that creative and sensitive self we don’t have a natural thick skin – so we must learn how to accept that rejection is part of this game. The first few times I had agents and editors read my manuscript and respond with the “It’s really good, but not right for our list”, I was confused and, admittedly, crushed.
But then I had to step away from the personal rejection and realize that the “not right for our list” was analogous to my choice of asparagus over broccoli, pizza over steak, red wine over white.
Q: How do you cope with reviews?
AE: If they are good reviews – I enjoy the wine more! If they are not – pretty much the same way as rejection! (Still with wine!)
Q: How has the industry changed for writers over the last ten years?
AE: I think in some ways for the good – self publishing is no longer the pariah it once was. But the industry has also become smaller in some ways – the big houses are less open and approachable for new writers. On the other hand, there are many more small publishers/presses that are open to new writers. Unfortunately, many of those very same small publishers don’t make it and then those authors are left out in the cold.
If you enjoyed Ann’s interview, you may also like to read my interviews with Tricia Skinner, Sarah Davies, Alan Gratz, Lisa Mantchev, Monica Hoffman, Betsy Thorpe, Karen McManus and Nicole Ayers.