Author Chat with Kerry O'Malley Cerra, Plus Giveaway!
Today we're excited to chat with Kerry
O'Malley Cerra, author
of Just a Drop of Water!
Below you'll find more about Cerra,
her book, plus a
YABC: What surprised you most while writing your latest book?
KERRY O'MALLEY CERRA: Probably how long it took to write. I started with the idea for JUST A DROP OF WATER in 2008, and though I worked on it only a few days a month, I still didn’t complete it until 2013. Luckily, all that hard work and revision led to a very quick sale, and the book came out one year later. People ask all the time how quick I got an agent or how quick this book sold, and it sounds super fast. But what they never ask is how long it took to write. The process was very, very long when you consider everything together.
YABC: If you could live in any fantasy world, which one would it be?
KERRY: No doubt, I’d want to live in Harry Potter’s world. I long to attend Hogwarts, even if only for a day or two. The world-building involved with that series blows my mind. One of my most favorite details is that people in the pictures can simply go off to visit people in other pictures. Brilliant. It’s such a small inclusion, and yet it makes the setting so vivid and unique.
YABC: Do you have a mantra that gets you through the drafting phase?
KERRY: Literally, I repeat just keep writing out loud so much that my dogs recognize it and know that I’m not getting up for anything! Whenever I’m stuck in the “what in the world should happen next?” moment, I set timer for 3 minutes and brainstorm all the possible things that could occur. It never fails that I always figure it out, but I have to push myself each time I hit that low point not to get up. Not to walk away.
YABC: What is your favorite hobby when you're not writing?
KERRY: I have three kids, and even though two are in college, we spend as much time as we can with them—which involves some traveling. One son plays college football and one plays high school football, so with it currently being fall, my weekends are filled with games, either in person or watching on TV. Thankfully, I love sports, so I enjoy seeing them do their thing. My daughter—my oldest—is quite outdoor-sy, so I try to join her for adventures as much as I can, even if that means driving a few hours to her school for a day or two. I love that she’s so fearless, and she inspires so many characters in my books.
YABC: Which character gave you the most trouble when writing your latest book?
KERRY: Definitely Jake’s mom. When my kids were little, I was super protective. I never turned on the news while they were around. We didn’t get a newspaper delivered to our house. I wanted them to be kids and not worry about the ugliness in the world before they needed to. I wrote Jake’s mom much like this, but took her a step further because she’s also experiencing PTSD following the attacks on 9/11 in the book. My critique group hated her. They tried to convince me to tone her down, but I was adamant that her character was strict, and I was convinced she wasn’t at all mean. When I secured my agent, she loved the book but also couldn’t relate to the mom, so I had to do some revision, and again had to “fix” the mom once I sold the book and got notes from my editor. Even now, many people say they don’t forgive Jake’s mom by the end of the book, despite the fact that all is revealed about why she is the way she is. So, yeah, she was the toughest character for sure.
YABC: Do you enjoy writing to music? If so, do you have a go-to playlist?
KERRY: I wish I could, but I have to have complete silence to write. If not, I’d just get up and dance. I wouldn’t be productive at all.
YABC: Is there an organization or cause that is close to your heart?
KERRY: My husband and I take local kids on a mission trip each summer to random places in the United States, so any type of mission work is close to my heart. The last two years we’ve worked with Habitat for Humanity on these trips, and I’m growing more fond of it with homeowner we have the pleasure to meet. Habitat does really great work, and I’m always so impressed with the kids we take and how hard they work. Gives me great hope for our future.
YABC: What's a book that you've read recently that you would recommend to your readers?
KERRY: In YA, I just finished reading and arc of SPIN THE SKY by Jill Mackenzie. I’d read early drafts of this novel, but not the final version after edits, and man, this book will stir your soul. Magnolia is sure to dance her way into your heart as you witness her enter a reality TV competition in hopes of winning the prize money to move her and her sister of the small town in Oregon filled with people who think the worst of her and her sister. The writing is beautiful and the story gut-wrenching.
In middle-grade, I just finished reading THE FIRST LAST DAY by Dorian Cirrone. It’s a cute story about a girl who, on the last day of summer at the Jersey Shore, comes across magic paints and wishes for summer to never end. When she wakes, she discovers that she’s stuck in a time-loop and will relieve that last day over and over for weeks, until she realizes that time does have to go on, even if it means dealing with things you wish you didn’t have to deal with. It’s such a clever premise with an awesome main character!
YABC: Which part of the writing process do you enjoy more: Drafting or Revising?
KERRY: Neither! Ha! Writing doesn’t come particularly easy for me. Ideas will hit me with no problem, but the rest is so much work. Hard work. Drafting is fun, but it can be frustrating too, because there’s so much to keep straight. So many threads to keep weaving. But I do love discovering what comes next. As for revising, I used to despise it. (Just ask my HS English teachers!) But I’ve always loved puzzles, and I’ve retrained my brain to think of revision in this way. Sometimes the pieces are all there, but they need to be moved around a little. Or a piece is missing, and I have the opportunity to insert it. To make something whole. I’m always so impressed when a story that I already love after a first draft becomes even better—stronger—with subsequent drafts. It’s safe to say I love and hate both equally. And yet, I value both immensely.
YABC: What would you say is your superpower?
KERRY: I have a great sense of direction. I completely geek out over maps and love figuring out the best way to get from point A to point B. You could literally blindfold me and spin me thirty times, and I’d still be able to tell you what direction I’m facing when I open my eyes. My inner compass is somewhat of a gift.
Meet Just a Drop of Water!
Ever since he was little, Jake Green has longed to be a soldier and a hero like his grandpa, who died serving his country. Right now, though, he just wants to outsmart—and outrun—the rival cross country team, the Palmetto Bugs. But then the tragedy of September 11 happens. It’s quickly discovered that one of the hijackers lived nearby, making Jake’s Florida town an FBI hot spot. Two days later, the tragedy becomes even more personal when Jake’s best friend, Sam Madina, is pummeled for being an Arab Muslim by their bully classmate, Bobby.
According to Jake’s personal code of conduct, anyone who beats up your best friend is due for a butt kicking, and so Jake goes after Bobby. But soon after, Sam’s father is detained by the FBI, and Jake’s mom doubts the innocence of Sam’s family, forcing Jake to choose between his best friend and his parents. When Jake finds out that Sam’s been keeping secrets, too, he doesn’t know who his allies are anymore. In the end, Jake must decide: either walk away from Sam and the revenge that Bobby has planned, or become the hero he’s always aspired to be.
A gripping and intensely touching debut middle grade novel by Kerry O’Malley
Cerra, Just a Drop of Water brings the events of September 11, which shook the world, into the lens of a young boy who is desperately trying to understand the ramifications of this life-altering event.
Meet Kerry O'Malley Cerra!
Kerry O’Malley Cerra is a former high school history teacher who often enhanced textbooks with historical fiction to bring time periods to life. Just a Drop of Water, her first middle grade novel, was inspired by a deeply personal reaction to the tragic events of September 11, 2001. She lives in Coral Springs, Florida.
Just a Drop of Water
By: Kerry O'Malley Cerra
Release Date: September 20, 2016
The cover is awesome, and I look forward to reading the book and seeing how 9/11 ties in. I also want to see what the mother is like!
I was really interested by the Crystal Kite seal on the book cover. I haven't heard of that before. The story sounds like something that would be uplifting in this time of social conflict.
The cover is so beautifully illustrated and as an amateur artist myself I appreciate the emotions it conveys. The story sounds like it will bring you on a journey down an road full of twists and turns. interested to see what 9/11 has to do with this all too
The cover is just ok, but the synopsis is riveting. This book tackles a lot of big issues such as terrorism, racial discrimination, and bullying. I can't wait to read and review this book.
The cover wouldn't make me pick this book off the shelf. But the synopsis is Wow! I haven't read a book from a kid's POV on 9/11 and this sounds really good.
What an intense story and from the perspective of a middle school student must be fairly emotional. I like the cover as well very nice.