Virtual Book Tour Guest: Jody M. Mabry, author of 'The Treasure at Devil's Hole'

Born at Great Lakes Naval Base in Illinois, Jody has had the opportunity to live in places such as Cuba, St. Croix USVI, Mississippi, Illinois, and Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he spent the teen years of his life in an 1800’s farmhouse that was, of course, haunted. At fourteen Jody first heard the story of Arizona’s “Lost Dutchman Mine,” sparking an interest in adventure, ghost towns, and lost treasure. Always prone to telling a good story, Jody now passes on the tradition to his children who will no doubt find their own treasure someday. Jody and his family live in the charming Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis, Minnesota.

His lastest book is the middle grade novel, The Treasure at Devil’s Hole.

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About the Book:

How would you feel if you knew you had a legendary treasure right in your own back yard? Francis “Bug” Mosser knows, and will do nearly anything to find it, even if it means defying the most
villainous person he knows—Mom!

Standing in Bug's way is his nemesis Tad Pricket, the red headed, pock-holed bully who’s suddenly been seen walking Bug’s girl, Melanie, home from school—worse, the walk ends with a kiss. Then there is the mysterious bald stranger and Miss Julia Brandon’s boyfriend who seems a little “too-classy” for the town of Possum Trot.

With the help of his brothers, and best friend Billy—along with his not-so-secret desire to impress Melanie Grainger—Bug goes off in search of fortune and glory, thwarting bad guys, stolen clothes, and explosions to find the one surprise about the treasure that he would have never dreamed of...

“Jody M. Mabry's "The Treasure at Devil's Hole" is a refreshing return to classic adventure, a genuine stand-out among modern YA fare. It calls to mind works such as "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," right down to the requisite treasure hunting, villains, expansive caverns, complicated young love, and rule-breaking exploits intelligent, free-spirited boys simply can't resist. Well written and wonderfully paced, it keeps you on the edge of your seat from start to finish, with a clever resolution you never saw coming. I found this to be a delightful read, and in fact completed the book in one sitting, unable to put it down. Looking forward to Mabry's next work, I hope one is in the works.” – Amazon reviewer

For More Information

  • The Treasure at Devil’s Hole is available at Amazon.
  • Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.

Q: Welcome to The Writer's Life!  Now that your book has been published, we’d love to find out more about the process.  Can we begin by having you take us at the beginning?  Where did you come up with the idea to write your book?

Well, first, thank you for speaking with me. The idea for The Treasure at Devil's Hole started where the book begins and ends-digging a well. This is a true story my dad had told me dozens of times growing up. In fact, when I started writing I had no clue what I was writing about. I just knew I wanted to write something about digging a well with dynamite. I had written the first chapter many times, always from the older brother, Tom's, perspective. But, it was only when I began to write the story from the perspective of Bug Mosser, putting the well in the background, that the story began rolling. Sometimes if something is not working, it helps to look at the same story form a different point of view.

Ideas for the story were everywhere. Many were based off my dad's stories growing up on a farm in the Ozarks. I picked 1946 as the year because the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series that year and I wanted to toss that in there somewhere. I was an Indiana Jones fan as a kid (still am), and I fondly recall donning my fedora and heading out to caves and places I probably shouldn't have been exploring on my own. I was always in search of treasure. So, the character of Bug Mosser came naturally to me.

I am not the type of writer who can plan things out. I've tried...I've tried so many times. To this day I have two novel writing programs on my computer, and seven books on my desk on how to plan writing a novel. They are great for inspiration, but I never practically apply them. In The Treasure at Devil's Hole, I had to hide myself in a closet under the stairs with a computer. This isn't a take on Harry Potter. At work, I literally snuk into my manager's cramped closet-office in the middle of the night and forced myself to write 10 pages a day. As long as it was all part of the same book, I didn't care if I was writing something amazing, or something horrible. My goal was simply to write and get the story out there. The editing would come later. In doing this I found characters I could have never planned out, such as the gun-toting teacher Miss. Julia Brandon (my favorite character). The story took on a life of its own, and pulled from me feelings and ideas I'd had when I was that age. For me, simply sitting down, with little planning, and just writing fits my need for flexibility.

Q: How hard was it to write a book like this and do you have any tips that you could pass on which would make the journey easier for other writers?

I can't say the book was difficult to write. Once I started, the ideas were everywhere. The hardest part about the writing was deciding what should not be in the book. Anytime you write you want to put so much information in the book that it is important to step back and look at the story from your reader's point of view. Do they need that information? Does the information slow the story?

The other obstacle I had was writing for a much younger age group. I chose to write middle grade books because it is such an inspiring age. I can write about adult themed material children are likely to see, but I can also develop my world into anything I want it to be. I've had adult friends who read a book and say, "Oh, that could never happen." But, children don't do that. They say, "Wow! That would be awesome if that could happen!" I remember reading the Prydain Chronicles by Lloyd Alexander when I was in the 7th grade. I bawled when they were over because I felt a friend-like connection which I didn't want to end. Since then I knew I wanted to influence others that way. I bring this up because you need a drive to write; something that vests you into your work and your readers.

The biggest tip is to simply write. I think any writer will tell you that. Think about it for a minute. Even if you write 3 pages a day (that could be as little as 20-30 minutes), you would have over 1,000 pages written a year. That is five middle grade books, or 2-3 adult novels. The more you write, the better you of a writer you become. It's such a simple idea. Editing, now this is a different beast. I tried editing  on my own first. Big mistake! If rule one for writers is to write, then rule two should be, hire and editor. I hired four editors until I was happy with the end results. I'm pretty sure editing took four times longer than writing, maybe more.

Q: Who is your publisher and how did you find them or did you self-publish?

I self-published. It was not my first choice to self-publish, but as I become more familiar with self-publishing I find the flexibility an enticing alternative. I had a series of events which drove me into self-publishing. First, my grandmother was ill and I wanted her to see the book published before she passed away (although, now, she is still kicking hard). Literary agents are busy, and the agents I've spoken to are friendly, but with this book I had two agents who requested full manuscripts and then left their agency without saying anything. I had one agent who wanted to sign, but unfortunately passed away. I had one agent who said she was interested, but then said she wanted to focus on nonfiction instead of fiction. Several other similar events brought me to think about self publishing. Of course, I would like to publish traditionally. But, self-publishing has taught me more about publishing and marketing than I think I would have learned being traditionally. In fact, I have a much higher respect for traditional publishers and agents because of this.

Q: Is there anything that surprised you about getting your first book published?

When you start writing, you think writing is the hardest thing. But then, traditionally or self-published, you think publishing is the hardest. Then the truth sets in and marketing, you realize, is the most difficult. Please don't confuse difficult with not fun. All of these steps are fun. I love writing, learning about publishing, and connecting with readers. Learning how to use social media correctly, was my biggest challenge. Like many people I thought you could send  billions of tweets to the world marketing your book, and it would sell. It wasn't until I began to learn how to connect with readers, run blog campaigns, book signings, book giveaways that I began to see serious sales.

Q: What other books (if any) are you working on and when will they be published?

I'm putting out several shorter books for middle graders The Ghosts of Jasmine Bogs and The Pirate's Lighthouse, among others. The Strange Circus is a sequel to  The Treasure at Devil's Hole. This was unplanned, but I received so many emails from readers asking when the next book will be out, that I couldn't help myself. Strange Circus is slated for June of this year. In November, Orphan Train, will be coming out which is independent from the other books. Then I plan on at least two books a year, with several shorter ones mixed in.

Q: What’s your favorite place to hang out online?

This is such an easy question. Pinterest! This is by far my favorite social media. It's like slicing my brain and organizing it on a pin board. The recipes and ideas I can pull from there are amazing! Second, Goodreads. I have to admit, I was late to the party with this site, but I love browsing it, and I'm always doing book giveaways on there. It's a great place to find new books and authors.

Q: Finally, what message (if any) are you trying to get across with your book?

I don't think I wrote this book in regards to giving a message. What I have found is many older readers will read The Treasure at Devil's Hole and then I receive letters about how nostalgic they became about their own childhood. I had a woman who told me she bought the book for her grandchild, but read it first. She then gave it to her son and they spent the next couple hours talking about growing up on their farm. Stories like that make me wonder if I did have something to say, but more to the adults than children.
Q: Thank you again for this interview!  Do you have any final words?

I appreciate taking these few moments to spend with me. Writing has always been something I was drawn to. For writers out there, make sure you write. For readers, please take the time to connect to your favorite writer. I know most writers will respond back quickly, and a quick note from a fan always makes my day better. Thank you for reading, and enjoy your day!

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