Where did you grow up?
I grew up in the 1970s and 80s in suburban Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I spent a lot of time outside as a child playing with my sisters and the other kids in the neighborhood.
Did you read a lot as a child?
Yes. I absolutely loved reading from the moment I knew how and read a lot as a child. It was a treat to read, not a task.
What were some of your favorite authors and books?
Some of my favorite books as a child, in no particular order, were Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, The Black Stallion by Walter Farley, Otherwise Known As Sheila the Great by Judy Blume, The Littles series by John Peterson, The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden, The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, and The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was a child, I wanted to be an artist when I grew up.
Tell me about some of the jobs you’ve had before you became a writer.
Before I became a writer, I worked as a web designer, starting in the late 90’s. So I did become an artist of a sort. I was also a junior reporter at a business newspaper right out of college following an internship. And as a teenager, college student, and twenty-something, I was never without a job! Over the course of those years, at various times I delivered pizzas, bussed and waited tables, worked as a restaurant hostess, served frozen yogurt before it was self-serve, made coffees at a French pastry shop before there was a Starbucks on every corner, and nannied for a few families, part-time in between classes and homework. And I started working early in life! As a 12-year-old, I delivered newspapers and started babysitting. But my favorite job ever, besides being a full-time mother, was being a camp counselor. I worked at summer camps during my high school years and for several years during college. I taught arts and crafts and archery, among other things, and met people from all over the world who’d come to work there.
How did you get started writing?
I kept diaries as a kid, was the writing editor for my high school yearbook, majored in English Writing in college, and unlike most kids, I always preferred essay questions on tests! I still prefer explaining anything on paper rather than out loud. But I got away from writing for many years when I decided to pursue a career in graphic design. Later, after I’d married and had children and had taken my kids to the library on a weekly basis for years and years for books and storytimes, I decided I definitely had gained some knowledge about what makes a good children’s book. So I tried my hand at writing them. By 2013, I had almost finished what was supposed to be a picture book but didn’t really know what to do with it. Almost a year later, when my youngest was off to first grade and I had a little more time on my hands, I decided to turn that story into a chapter book so it would appeal to him at his current reading level. With some help, I began to dip my toes into the sea of self-publishing. Then, once I’d written and published one book, I realized I was hooked and decided to turn my ideas into a series.
Why do you write books?
I first wrote because I wanted more books for my then first-grade son and other fast readers like him to read—academically challenging novels with content that’s entirely appropriate for an innocent 6- to 8-year-old mind. Today, there are a lot more titles in this realm but I couldn’t find enough of them at the time. My kids were both very fast readers and tore through series aimed at their levels in first, second, and third grade, so I started writing books for their type of advanced young reader. When I eventually learned that children as young as four and as old as eleven were enjoying my books, my desire to write books for them only intensified.
Now, with my latest two titles, I continue to challenge readers with the use of a slightly more complex sentence structure laced throughout the text, some more advanced vocabulary than you’d usually see in books for this age group, and multiple points of view for the characters. But I provide a glossary in the back of the book, and I try to explain new ideas within the context of the story so most readers will understand what’s going on without help from an adult. I want a child to feel a sense of accomplishment when he or she has finished one of my books, as well as a sense of having loved the story.
What do you like best about writing?
I like that it gives me something positive to contribute to a child’s life. I also like the freedom of writing fiction—you can create a whole new world of any sort and make things turn out however you want! What other job lets you do that? I also love attempting the mastery of it—writers can always, always get better at what they’re doing and I feel like I’m always making progress in little ways, with a greater goal in sight.
What do you find the most challenging about writing?
How much time it takes to write a great story! It really takes a great deal of time and great focus. And even just reaching that focused state each day takes a lot of time!
What makes a good story?
For a children’s novel, I think several things are required to make a good story. 1. A main character that deserves the reader’s admiration, yet isn’t perfect so that he or she is relatable and real. 2. A difficult problem with a clear motivation to solve it. 3. A dramatic build in tension. 4. A happy ending that ties up all the loose strings.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Since the title character in my series is based on my real-life dog, a German shepherd who is so intelligent and aware that I’d swear he’s really a person inside, I’m constantly seeing things from his perspective, and what I imagine is often rather comical, like when he chases a squirrel down the driveway as if his life depends on it. Yet he’s such a big, strong, protective dog that I can imagine things from the heroic angle, too. This contradiction between goofball and fearless leader provides me with a steady stream of new material. Rosco the Rascal always manages to find trouble in every book, but then he always turns it around to become the problem-solver.
Tell us about your latest book.
My latest book is a Christmas-themed story released in December 2018. The story centers around a neighborhood holiday lights contest which the main characters’ block has won, so they will be hosting hundreds of visitors every night throughout the month of December. (I have three main characters—the dog, and his owners, a ten-year-old boy and his seven-year-old sister, so the stories are actually just as human as they are canine.) The families now have to pull off a seamless opening night of the holiday lights tour and everyone is in high gear to do just that. But when Rosco misreads a situation while trying to make up for a bit of trouble he created earlier that week, things backfire and chaos ensues. The story is adventurous yet real and dramatic yet humorous. It’s my longest book yet and weaves together a story for each of the main characters, each one from his and her point of view.
What’s next for you?
Right now I’m writing my sixth book in the series, a Wild West adventure in which Rosco and the kids visit a ghost town! I hope to publish it by the fall of 2019 if not sooner.
Is there anything we didn’t ask that you’d like people to know about you and/or your books?
Yes, and thanks for asking. I want people to know that the series is written so that the books don’t have to be read in any particular order, and I have a book for every season of the year with more in the works. I also offer free short stories on Wattpad.com so kids can keep up with Rosco between releases.
For more information about Shana Gorian and her books, visit shanagorian.com