Interview with Mother/Daughter Writing Team of Children's Book 'Toto's Tale'

K.D. Hays and Meg Weidman are a mother-daughter team who aspire to be professional roller coaster riders and who can tell you exactly what not to put in your pockets when you ride El Toro at Six Flags. Meg is studying art in a middle school magnet program. For fun, she jumps on a precision jump rope team and reads anything not associated with school work. K.D. Hays, who writes historical fiction under the name Kate Dolan, has been writing professionally since 1992. She holds a law degree from the University of Richmond and consequently hopes that her children will pursue studies in more prestigious fields such as plumbing or waste management. They live in a suburb of Baltimore where the weather is ideally suited for the four major seasons: riding roller coasters in the spring and fall, waterslides in the summer and snow tubes in the winter. Although Meg resents the fact that her mother has dragged her to every historical site within a 200-mile radius, she will consent to dress in colonial garb and participate in living history demonstrations if she is allowed to be a laundry thief.

Their latest collaboration is a wonderful book titled Toto’s Tale.

You can visit their website at www.totostale.com.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life, Kate and Meg. Can you tell us how long you’ve been writing and how your journey led to writing your latest book, Toto’s Tale?

Kate: I started writing fiction seriously in 1999 when Meg was a little over a year old. I finally had an idea for a book I thought I could finish! The first draft took about two years, written mostly at night when Meg and her brother were asleep. As the kids got older, it became easier to find time to write for a while, but now everyone’s schedules are so busy that it’s just as difficult to make time for writing as it was when they were small. I’ve written five historical novels and two contemporary mysteries – the historicals under my name, Kate Dolan, and the contemporaries under the pseudonym K.D. Hays. Toto’s Tale is my eighth book and my first children’s book. It’s also my first book with a partner.

Meg: It’s my first book, period.

Q: I love your title…can you tell us why you chose it?

Meg: It’s all about the dog.

Kate: We can’t remember when or how we came up with the idea, but we started working on it together as something to do during her brother’s basketball games.

Q: Why did you believe your book should be published?

Meg: We wanted people to know what really happened in Oz.

Kate: Our dogs insisted that it was only fair to tell Toto’s side of the story.

Q: We all know that publishers can’t do all of the publicity and that some lies on the author. What has your publisher done so far to publicize the book and what have you done?

Kate: First Zumaya helped us make the book the best it could be. The editor suggested changes that were difficult, but really essential to the story. This is the first book where we used some outside help with marketing and publicity, so the publisher helped us find good partners to work with. The publisher has sent the book out for review and any time we want review copies to go out to someone who’s requested it, they handle it for us. Zumaya also set up a Facebook fan page and any news or events we post there get republished in numerous other places on the web. We’ve been trying out various promotional items for a few months, trading ideas. Zumaya sent us a box of custom promotional items such as tote bags and key chains.

Meg: And they sent us Toto!

Kate: Yes, most important, my editor found a stuffed Toto that looks just like dog on our cover. We take him with us to book events and then post pictures on “his” Facebook page.

Q: What book on the market can it compare to? How is it different? What makes your book special?

Kate: Well the most obvious comparison is with the original book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. We started with the book and wrote each scene as it would seem to Toto. But then we started to make changes. By the time the characters get to the witch’s castle, our story differs from both the book and the movie.

Meg: We have lickloes who work in the witch’s castle. And the wolves are a lot more fun in our version than in the original.

Q: Open to a random page in your book. Can you tell us what is happening?

Kate: Toto is trying to get the witch wet so he can melt her. But he can’t carry water and can’t tell anyone else to do it. So he’s trying to get his tail wet to drip water on her. But he keeps shaking it all off before he gets to the witch.

Meg: It’s really cold and he can’t help himself.

Q: Do you plan subsequent books?

Kate: Yes. A few years ago, I started writing a book for Meg about kids who develop super powers and fight demons. Now she’s old enough that she can help me finish it.

Meg: It will be so much fun. I love super powers!

Kate: That’s why I started writing the story. You used to go around at parties asking people at random what “superpowers” they wanted. Like you were a game show host handing out prizes.

Q: Thank you for your interview, Meg and Kate. Do you have any final words?

Meg: What superpowers do you want?

Kate: That way we can be sure to include them in the next book!

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