Friday, March 14, 2014

Interview: Penelope Dyan

Greetings humans, half-breeds, and everything in between. A while back, I had the pleasure to interview a wonderful author named, Penelope Dyan. A good time was truly had by all and here’s how it went down.
image provided by author

Hi there Penelope! It’s so awesome to have you here at the ECS Blog. Don’t worry about the darkness, your eyes will adjust.

So tell me, who is Penelope Dyan?

I am an author, vocalist, former teacher, attorney, and publisher with Bellissima Pubishing, LLC (19 writers and 370 tites.)  Two of my books for kids are on display at the Saison Poetry Library in the UK, chosen by the UK Arts Council.  My book ‘SurferGirl,’ winner of the 2008 New York Book Festival and the 2008 Hollywood Book Festival (Best Teen Book), is in the Surfing collection at the SDSU Library (along with the entire Surfer Girl Book Series) and is listed on the Pukeke recommended reading list for girls in the AU. It is also in the Girls’ Voices In Literature Database, Miami University Florida.  I have been granted other awards, but there are too many to mention now.

Well, I see I have quite a Renaissance Woman with me at the moment. This should be quite an entertaining and enlightening interview.

So whacha got for me today?

The Jan & Jenny Mystery Series is new, so we don’t have any reviews yet.  The series begins with the first book, ‘The Mystery On Burgundy Street”, and the story line is about two very precocious girls who discover something mysterious going on across the street from Jan’s house.  Wanting to do the right thing, Jan and Jenny visit Mr. and Mrs. Hufflefinger, who (they discover) are retired FBI agents recently called out from retirement.  Coincidently, they were called out of retirement to investigate the very crimes that young Jan and Jenny stumbled upon across from Jan’s house.  Filled with Mr. Hufflfinger’s delicious cookies, the girls leave the Hufflefinger’s house outfitted with everything they need to become true undercover agents.  You can view the books at and, of course, they are Ingram listed and can be purchased anywhere.
I like the sound of this series. Young girls going undercover with the aid of retired FBI agents…what’s not to like.

So who’s starring is this 2 dimensional script read of ‘The Jan & Jenny Mystery Series’?

I think you would say Jan & Jenny are more multi-dimensional than 2 dimensional.  Each book is different and the girls simply stumble onto new adventures.  Jan is outgoing and adventurous while Jenny is a bookworm filled with facts about things, clumsy and awkward.  In fact Jenny is the kind of girl who would have never left the house if Jan hadn’t prodded her to do so.  The girls have a lot of family interaction as well. Jan’s dad is in the military, which has helped to shape her character. Jenny’s father is a musician, an artistic and studious type, which has helped to shape her character and outlook on life as well.  Together Jan and Jenny make the perfect combination as young sleuths, because Jan is the organizer and Jenny comes prepared with the facts.  My goal is to get this into script form and send it to our agent.

I like the descriptions of these girls and am glad there is family interaction in the story. Not that there are many instances of this, but I have found a few books for young readers that sometimes leave me wondering, “Where are these kids’ parents?”

Past, present, future, is there a rhyme or reason to your writing?

Okay I write all the time, mostly at night and sleep during the day. I write everywhere. I have been writing since I was six.  The first thing I ever wrote and actually sent in was published, so I have been out there.  But this is different.  Ever since I was six I wanted to make books, and now this is what I am doing!  The Jan and Jenny books are fun because I write a chapter and then Pam Hillan (my lifelong friend and co-author) writes a chapter so neither of us ever knows where the book is going.  I was a teacher, so the idea behind these books is to get kids to pretend again.  When I go to book signings I tell kids this was how the book was written and why, just like I am telling you here.

I never considered writing with a co-author, but you make it sound fun. I like that your goal of writing is to encourage children to pretend. Sad to say it, it does seem as though in this world of technological advancements and abundant visual stimulants, that the everyday use of imagination is dwindling. Kids just don’t know how to pretend anymore.

What author(s) has most influenced your writing? Why or how?

Hemingway and Dorothy Aldis.  DorothyAldis’s  “Everything and Anything” was my first real book, given to me by my father.  It was used.  I still have it.  He gave it to me when I was six and sick with rheumatic fever, which I had for a year.  This is what began my interest in writing.  Then came Hemingway.  When I was in high school I wrote a story and my dad looked at it and started laughing and then red-lined half the words and told me to read Hemingway and to write like I talked.  I have read everything Hemingway has written.  I think about what I write now.

Another wonderful story from your life; I’m sorry to hear you had to suffer with Rheumatic fever for a year, but I’m glad to know that a love of reading developed from it.

Whose brain are you just itching to scratch?

WilliamShakespeare—I would like to know how he came up with all those wonderful phrases that we now use in everyday life.  I would love to be profound.  I have one writer who I think is profound, Robin Rendel.  He is a lyricist and has written a children’s book for Bellissima Publishing, LLC. When you talk to him it’s like taking to Socrates. His book is ‘Jordanand the Magic Tiger.’

I’m not one to follow the crowd and whatever secrets history holds, I guess we’ll just have to learn to accept some things for what they are. Many question the creativity of Shakespeare claiming he didn’t write many of his most popular works, but I find it hard to believe that others just let him take credit for their efforts. This is a gray area for me and for the moment, I think it would be cool to hear what he has to say about writing.

Who is so you and why?

I am an original.  But I am most like Temperance Brennan on ‘Bones,’ and my co-author in the Jan & Jenny Series is most like Angela.   

What a cute comparison. I like that show and try to catch episodes of it online when I’m not buried in a book.

What’s your ideal reading spot for your next highly anticipated read?

I used to read a lot, but not anymore.  I am too busy writing, editing and publishing books now.  I am also a lawyer, so I read a lot of case law—but that doesn’t count.  Right now my ideal read is the next chapter I get from my co-author, Pam Hillan.

I know life gets busy and then you still find time to publish. I can understand how reading for pleasure can get put aside from time to time.

What was your favorite book or story, pre-teen years?

My favorite book series pre-teen years was the NancyDrew Series. I don’t have any reviews posted on Amazon.  Because I am a publisher, Amazon won’t allow it—not on anything, not even cat litter. My co-author and I used to pretend we were Nancy Drew and friend.  This is why we started the Jan and Jenny Mystery/Adventure Series, to which I now say, “Move over Nancy Drew! Jan and Jenny have arrived!”

Ha ha, I like it. You’re taking on Nancy Drew because you’re such a big fan. Cool...Now this is where the questions get a little kooky; are you ready?


Alright then, here we go.

If you could only watch one movie for the rest of your life, what would it be?

I would watch ‘Gone with the Wind’ because I am a romantic and that movie has everything in it.

This is a good movie and a classic. I very much appreciate classics; they are almost a completely different genre of movie.

What makes you geek out?

I like to watch ‘The Big Bang Theory’ re-runs, again because it is about geeks and the characters make me feel normal, especially one female character . . .  hint: Not the one named Penny, even though that is my name.

I like The Big Bang Theory too. I think is nice how, at least on the surface, geek culture is becoming more acceptable and embraced by the masses.

So what’s testing your patience right now?

I am waiting to finish the sixth book in the Jan and Jenny Mystery/Adventure Series, ‘The Crown Jewels.’  But it’s really not testing my patience.  I love doing this!

What I am waiting for is a real break out book, not for selfish reasons, but so I can help others.  I think world hunger is a big issue and there are hungry kids right here in America; so if I can get a break out book—and I am hoping it will be Jan and Jenny—to make it big, then I will be in a better position to help others. 

I’m half Italian, and Italians really enjoying giving.  I want to give more.  I’m not sure I have a personal life other than my work.  My work and my writing is basically my life.

I feel you on this point. Sure I’d like to be able to pay my bills writing, but I don’t write for selfish reasons either. I want to do what I can to make the word a better place. You are quite an inspiring person.

When the soundtrack of your life is playing in your head, what songs express your glee and what songs bring out your rage?

I love all music.  I especially love old time jazz.  I sing.  You can hear me on My dad was a trumpet player, so he taught me to love music. There was always music in my house growing up, and now I am making my own music.  To me, even the musical scales are music! (Also see videos of Penelope Dyan sing at youtube.)

That’s wonderful. I really like meeting fellow music lovers. I too like old time jazz and big band music. One of my most cherished vinyl records is my Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee album.

What’s the most fun experience you’ve ever had, to date?

Every experience in life is good, but recently I sang with a street performer in Vancouver, a sax player.  He just put the mike in my hand.  After I sang two songs he said he knew I could sing the minute I walked up; and it was a big surprise because I had always wondered what it would be like to be a street performer.  I am still smiling about that! 

Wow, that’s crazy…in a good way. I can’t image someone just stopping me on the street to sing, but then I can’t sing. :\

Not that you can see into the future, but in your opinion, what does the future hold?

I hope I will be the Martha Stewart of kids, sell tons of books, and that the Jan and Jenny series will flourish, along with all the other Bellisima Publishing, LLC titles. Then I can give money away to those who need it.  You see, I really am out to save the world, just like Jan and Jenny!

This sounds like a wonderful plan and I hope it all comes to fruition.

Ok humans, half-breeds, and everything in between, that’s all for today. Be sure to follow this blog to see who will be visiting next time. For more from Penelope Dyan, check out these great links:

Facebook: PenelopeDyan
Twitter: Penelope Dyan @1Bellissima2

Purchase links for ‘The Jan & Jenny Mystery Series’: Barnes& Noble, BellissimaPublishing

Thank you for taking the time to read this post. Click below to share your Reactions and more. See you next time, Toi Thomas. #cursescanbebroken