Author Spotlight: Alice Kaltman

June 19, 2020

We are excited to feature author Alice Kaltman and her recent middle-grade novel, THE TANTALIZING TALE OF GRACE MINNAUGH! (Regal House Publishing (April 4, 2020).

Enter to win a copy below!

Cover design by Alison Seiffer

Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.

I wasn’t much of a reader, or writer as a child. I was too restless, more of a tree climbing, cartwheel practicing whirling dervish type of kid. I guess that’s why I became a dancer/choreographer, which is really a lot like writing, I’ve come to realize. I didn’t discover how fun writing could be until I was well into adulthood. I like to blame my daughter, since I began dabbling in picture book manuscripts when she was at picture book reading age and I was no longer dancing and choreographing full-time. 

Predictably I suppose, I moved on to writing Middle Grade books once my daughter moved on to wordier fare. That was when I wrote the first draft of THE TANTALIZING TALE OF GRACE MINNAUGH, nearly fifteen years ago. In keeping with my daughter’s age trajectory, I wrote WAVEHOUSE, my YA novel, when she was entering the teen years, and began writing literary fiction around the time she headed off to college. 

Congratulations on your latest MG novel, THE TANTALIZING TALE OF GRACE MINNAUGH. Tell us about the book and what inspired it.

GRACE, as I mentioned, started a long, long, time ago. Even though I’ve published two other books before it, I will always consider GRACE my first, and it will always have a special place in my heart. The story was inspired by my love of the ocean, and mermaids in particular. 

As a young girl I longed to be a mermaid. I was obsessed with the Chicken of the Sea mermaid on tuna fish cans. I peeled labels off to save her image. Every night before bedtime I squeezed both legs into one side of my pajama bottoms and shuffled around the house pretending I was as beautiful as the tuna fish mermaid. Grace Minnaugh, the main character of my book, however, is a bit more reluctant than me about all things ocean-y. Raised in the Midwest, far from any ocean, she can barely swim, can’t even tolerate the feel of sand on her feet. After she moves to a Southern California beach town, she accidentally discovers her second life as a mermaid through a series of fortunate and unfortunate events. And while Grace soon begins to appreciate her mermaid-hood, her preliminary feelings and experiences are, um, a bit off-putting and perplexing.

Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between? 

Definitely long and winding. I had heaps of almost-maybes from agents and editors many years ago, for both GRACE and WAVEHOUSE, but I didn’t really understand anything about how the publishing industry worked, so I missed out on some leads and over-trusted in others. This was back in the day when you actually sent out printed manuscripts with SASE’s. I have to say, things really picked up for me once I (reluctantly at first) joined social media in 2015. Twitter in particular made a big difference. I learned about independent publishing opportunities, alternatives to the big 5 houses, and connected to a whole slew of fabulous fellow writers, in both kidlit and literary fiction genres. 

What are some recent favorite MGs you've read? 

I’m a huge fan of Melissa Sarno’s A SWIRL OF OCEAN (ocean-centric, with just the right touch of magical realism), Laura Geringer Bass’ THE GIRL WITH MORE THAN ONE HEART (urban, poetic, and lovely), and Tara Gilboy’s series UNWRITTEN and REWRITTEN (dark fantasies with great switch-ups of fairy tale tropes). 

What projects are you working on now?

I just signed a deal for publication of my novel DAWG TOWNE (yipee!!!!) with the awesome Word West Press, and am about to start the first round of edits. (Sorry kids, even though this one features a bunch of adorable dogs, it’s written for adults.)

What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

Know that writing and being an author are two separate things. Write if you love to, if your own words transport you, even if only for a moment, to the worlds you’re trying to create. While it won’t always be fun, it should be engrossing and feel important to you. Don’t try to be an ‘author’ unless you’re willing to go through lots of rejection, criticism and self-doubt. Sure, there are those rare writer/authors who get published easily and without the heart-sinking NO’s the rest of us have learned to endure, but chances are you aren’t going to be one of them. 

Get feedback regularly from readers you trust and admire. And while it is good to have critique groups and/or industry savvy folks familiar with the genre(s) you’re writing, I also think that trusted readers CAN be your friends and family also. Just make sure they’re not blowing smoke up your you-know-what. 

Don’t give up! However, if the disappointments keep coming, it is okay to take a break and do something else for a while. Try your hand at landscape painting. Tap dancing. Bread baking. Carpentry. Whatever the substitute, make it something creative. And then, when you’re ready to write again, you’ll have a whole other fun activity to engage in as well! 

What is one thing most people don't know about you?

They know I’m an active, risk-taking sort of person. I’ve appeared on stage in front of tons of people, surfed in gigantic waves, done grueling triathlons, and still, at my advanced age, don’t tend to shy away from most physical challenges. However, here’s the thing they don’t know: I shriek in fear if I come in contact with mice and rats, live or dead. I have literally jumped onto table tops to avoid them, screaming and shaking as if Godzilla has entered the room to eat me alive.

Where can people find you online?

Twitter is my happy place and you can follow me there at @AliceKaltman

I am on Facebook also. I rarely post anything on my Author page, but invite you to ‘Friend’ me on my regular page.

I’m an occasional Instagram-er. I’m not a natural photographer or selfie shooter, but every now and then you’ll see a cute pic of my dog Ollie, or something related to my writing at @alicekaltman

The daughter of a Merchant Marine and a Rockaway beach babe, Alice Kaltman’s life has always been ocean-centric. Now when she’s not in the water she writes about surfers, mermaids, and other odd balls. In addition to The Tantalizing Tale of Grace Minnaugh, Alice is the author of Wavehouse, also from Fitzroy Books, the short fiction collection Staggerwing, and coming in 2021, Dawg Towne, a novel for adults. Alice’s work can also be read in numerous journals, magazines and fiction anthologies. She splits her time between Brooklyn and Montauk, New York where she swims, surfs, and writes; weather and waves permitting.

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  1. I just added your book to my Goodreads. Thanks for the interview and I'm looking forward to reading your book.

  2. I like how the cover shows the connection between both her worlds. Interesting read and will be adding it to my classroom library.

  3. How neat that your childhood love of mermaids resurfaced, years later, as a book!


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