This week’s feature is a middle grade series, THE INCREDIBLY AWESOME ADVENTURES OF PUGGIE LIDDELL, by Karen Mueller Bryson. I met Karen at the Arizona Dreamin’ conference last month, and was very impressed to learn that she is also a screenwriter and playwright.

The first book in the series is TESLA TIME:

When the wise-cracking whiz kid, Puggie Liddell’s modified Gameboy activates a time travel portal, he lands in the 1890s with his sibling rival, annoyingly prissy teen sister, Gigi, who thinks history is like-totally-gross. The kids must learn to work together to find a time travel portal back to the present before the eccentric scientist, Nikola Telsa, or his arch nemesis, inventor Thomas Edison, can steal the Gameboy and use it to complete a death ray machine, an invention powerful enough to disturb the very fabric of space-time and create an instantaneous world disaster.

I also had a chance to interview Karen:

Thank you so much for the interview! I appreciate it! Below I have included the responses to your questions:

Thank you, too! You write “Short on Time Books,” novels for readers on the go. What started this venture and can you tell us more about your journey toward becoming a writer?

I came up with the idea for Short on Time Bookswhen I took a business trip from Phoenix to Los Angeles. I bought a memoir in the Phoenix Airport bookstore that I hoped to finish on her trip. I read as much as I could traveling to LA and then tried to finish the book on my return trip to Phoenix. Unfortunately, I was only able to complete about 60 percent of the book and still hadn’t finished it because I haven’t found the time. That’s when I decided to put my story-telling talent to work creating novels readers could finish in an hour or two and Short on Time Books was born. All Short on Time Books can be completed in one sitting and are great for the beach or airplane.

I can’t really say I had much of a journey toward becoming a writer. I fell in love with books when I first learned to read and I decided I wanted to be a writer when I was four years old. Although I’ve managed to accomplish a lot of other things in my life, I’ve also spent most of my life writing.

Sounds like a good niche in our ever-changing fast-paced world! Your website mentions that you also write screenplays. How is that different than writing a novel and what do you recommend to aspiring screenwriters who want to hone their craft?

A screenplay is like a “blueprint” of a film for a filmmaker, who brings the words to life on the screen. When one writes a screenplay, the screenwriter has to remember that filmmaking is a visual medium, so everything should be expressed in a visual way. The screenwriter can only write what is seen or heard. The screenplay has a specific format and length that needs to be adhered to as well. Finally, the screenwriter is only the first step in the creation of a movie. Filmmaking is a collaborative process, so it’s as if the screenwriter “gives birth” to the movie but then has to “give it up for adoption” to producers, actors and a director, who will “raise the film” to maturity.

A novel is a complete work in itself, so the novelist has more control over the work than a screenwriter. The novelist “gives birth” to the novel and puts it out into the world. The novelist also has more flexibility in story-telling and fewer limitations than the screenwriter. 

One of the best things an aspiring screenwriter can do is to read screenplays. It’s a good idea to read screenplays while watching the films. Also, write scripts; you can learn by actually doing it! 

Very sound advice! I love the premise of the Puggie Liddell series. Where did the idea come from and what do you want readers to take away when they’re finished reading?

When I was a kid, I enjoyed going to “living history” museums. My parents took my brother and I to Colonial Williamsburg and I fell in love with it. I wanted to live there! I thought it would be amazing to travel back in time and actually experience history first hand. I decided to write an action/adventure time travel series for kids that would help them learn about history in a fun way.

Your books are not only fun, but can be useful for a school curriculum–especially for reluctant readers! In addition to screenplays, you also write stage plays. How do you balance time between writing your novels, screenplays and stage plays, and how much time do you devote to promoting each?

I work full time as a university professor, so I write on a part-time basis. When I have an idea for a new story, I write the screenplay first and use the script as an outline for the novelization. The novels I write are short, so they don’t take as much time to complete. I find it extremely difficult to find time to market and promote my work. With limited time, it’s difficult to justify spending all my time marketing when I’d rather be writing and it is equally important to create new products.

We’d all like to spend more time marketing–but it’s good that you put the writing first and it sounds like you’ve found a good balance. What other projects are you currently working on?

At the end of this month, Short on Time Books will be releasing the biography of Roller Derby legend, Cindy McCoy, which I wrote. A graphic novel version of The Incredibly Awesome Adventures of Puggie Liddell will also be released soon. I am also working on a YA science fiction/action story, which will be both a screenplay and novel. My goal is to release the book by August. Additional books in the Puggie series will also be coming soon!

To snag your own copy of TESLA TIME, click the button below:

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