I had the chance to ask M.P. Kozlowsky about his inspiration behind the book and his trick for writing a good mystery...
Tell us about your path to publication.
My father died after a very long and arduous battle caused by a severe head injury and the various illnesses and disabilities that evolved because of it – the majority of my childhood was spent caring for him and my four brothers under this and other very dire circumstances. When he passed, I was just weeks away from beginning my third year teaching high school English and my mind was not in a very good place. That school year, I realized I wasn’t happy with what it was I was doing for a living. I always wanted to write and, like many who enter the teaching profession, thought I would have time in the summers and during vacations. However, teaching is such a difficult and demanding profession that it sapped all motivation from me. Reflecting, I knew what I had to do. My father left me with a small sum of money, enough, I decided, to quit my job and focus on my dream. I managed to scrape by for three years. I wrote a novel and a memoir, but felt they weren’t ready for publication just yet. My funds were low. I knew I only had one more shot. I put everything I had into a story about a little girl faced with great difficulties. Juniper Berry had what seemed like easy ways out; all she had to do was sacrifice her character and integrity to get what she so badly wanted. It was a story I had to tell. I eventually found representation with a wonderful agent, Elana Roth, and soon after discovered the book was picked up by Walden Pond Press. Actually it happened to be the very week the bank closed my account, sending me a check in the mail with my final fifteen dollars.
How did being a high school English teacher help shape your literary career?
Well, teaching English made me realize what I did and didn’t want to do with my life. I fully respect teachers and admire what they do, but it is definitely not for everyone and should not be pursued lightly. Every time I taught a classic book, falling in love with it all over again, I realized I, too, wanted to write something equally as powerful that people would read and, hopefully, one day learn about in school. Teaching helped reignite my passion.
What was the inspiration for Juniper Berry?
Juniper Berry was a combination of everything above, and it all came to a head at once. It could have only been written at this particular point and time in my life, when I was inspired to write something immensely personal but told in a universal way. By creating Juniper and her family, I was able to tackle several issues that I find deeply important and mix them into what is, hopefully, a very chilling and inspiring tale.
What is the trick to writing a good mystery?
One of the best things to do is purposely leave out details and make certain aspects of the story ambiguous. I enjoy letting the reader’s imagination run with the lead I give them. Although there are very deliberate reasons for each mystery, an explanation is not always immediately necessary – whatever the reader imagines is most likely far more powerful than anything I could ever write. The mystery is in the not-knowing.
Is there one craft book you refer to when writing a novel? Why?
When I first started writing, I referred to one or two craft books that professors recommended, but didn't ever really take to any. I enjoy the spontaneity of writing without a set structure and feel the best results come this way -- it may be just what sets a particular author apart from the rest. The greatest craft books, I find, aren't craft books at all. They are the novels and stories and poems of our best writers, and they should be read as often as possible. Every day, every night. Never stop reading and you'll learn almost through osmosis.
Be sure to visit the other stops on the Juniper Berry Blog Tour and enter my giveaway to win a hardcover copy with a signed bookplate!
Juniper Berry Blog Tour: Part I
Tuesday, May 3rd – Guest Post at My Friend Amy
Wednesday, May 4th – Review and Giveaway at Reading Vacation
Thursday, May 5th – Interview at Literary Asylum
Friday May 6th – Guest Post at Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers
Saturday May 7th – Review and Giveaway at National Examiner
Sunday May 8th – Interview at National Examiner
Monday, May 9th – Review, Guest Post and Giveaway at The Book Smugglers