Book Nerd Interview
M.P. Kozlowsky was an English teacher before becoming a writer. Juniper Berry is his first book. He lives in New York with his wife and daughter.
Why is storytelling so important for all of us?
Our history, both personal and global, has been recorded in stories for as long as we have existed. Whether fiction or nonfiction, fantasy or children’s literature, all storytelling reveals something about the author, about the reader, about the times we live in. In short, storytelling tells us who we are, and there is nothing more important than that.
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
People are usually taken aback when they learn of my childhood and youth, the difficulties I endured throughout them. It is a troubling story and one I plan on telling in detail sometime in the future.
Was there a defining moment during your youth when you realized you wanted to be a writer?
No. I never took writing as a career seriously. I always thought it was out of my grasp, a dream, something along the lines of being a professional baseball player or rock star. It wasn’t until much later that I decided to take a chance.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
I don’t converse with many authors, so the best advice I receive is through their writing. Even if it’s fiction, whenever I read a great author, I feel I am being advised on how to become a better writer; it is there in each line, in every bit of dialogue and narration.
What are some of the common challenges that new and experienced authors face and what advice do you have for over-coming them?
Many inexperienced authors have to scratch their way into the publishing world and their fingers may get bloody, their nails broken. Without a “name”, selling a book can be quite difficult, particularly if you have a singular vision that does not fit into a certain box and challenges the reader in ways they are not used to. We are in a world of marketing and mass consumption and groupthink – sometimes even the best stories don’t sell. But don’t ever sacrifice vision.
In your new book; Juniper Berry, can you tell my Book Nerd Kids Community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
Juniper Berry, a modern fairy tale of sorts, speaks to the classic belief that greatness can come through something other than hard work and discipline. Juniper finds out, in a truly horrible way, that even those closest to her can succumb to such temptations – no one is immune to it. Because of this discovery, she is thrust into a nightmarish underworld, ruled by the most wicked of creatures, to save her illustrious family and her new best friend. The story can be quite frightful, especially once the reader realizes that such Mephistophelean bargains are being made every day.
For those who are unfamiliar with Juniper, how would you introduce her?
Juniper was written as a character for young girls to look up to and admire, a girl that young boys would consider themselves lucky to be around. She is a role model, a girl who takes pleasure in the intricacies of life, the beauty of nature and science and literature. She is a girl who questions all and sees the world few others do. If more girls grow up to be like her, the world will become a much better place.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
A great question with so very many possibilities. I would be curious to see how Skeksyl would get along with Milton’s Satan, or Juniper with Huck Finn or it might be a great arc to see Giles get his heart broken, like Pip did, by Estella and to use such an experience to explore his world in greater depth, although it probably would come out like something very close to Great Expectations. So many options. But maybe best of all would be for Juniper to join Christopher Robin in those very special woods where there roams a Pooh bear and an Eeyore and a Tigger.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
I would ask them to take a page out of Juniper’s book – not literally – and look at the world in as many different ways as possible, with as many different lenses, while asking questions about it all, never to be satisfied until you explore it from every possible angle. And then question it some more.
What book are you reading now?
I just finished reading Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis and plan on starting Mason & Dixon by Thomas Pynchon very soon.
Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?
I had a magical time in Prague, including a moment, in thinking back to your previous question, when I knew I had to write; there was no longer any choice. It came as I was crossing the magnificent Charles Bridge.
What is your favorite room in your home and outside environment?
I don’t have a library in my home yet, but when I do that will undoubtedly be my favorite room. Outside my home, a walk through Central Park can be downright transformative.
What's the worst summer job you've ever had?
I always tried to pick jobs that I wouldn’t absolutely despise.
When was the last time you cried?
As my wife has pointed out, it’s been some time. I tend to internalize everything, perhaps releasing it only on paper, as a writer should.
What is your favorite food?
“Favorite” is a tough word. I’ve always given people a hard time about it. I cannot pick a favorite anything; not a favorite movie, favorite song, favorite book, and, in this case, a favorite food. I am so very sorry. This idiosyncrasy, which borders on affliction for me, has plagued me far too long now.
Where can readers stalk you?
As much as I love my audience, I believe there should be a separation. There should be some mystery and contradictions and slight reveals every few years only. There are few pictures of me out there, I don’t have a facebook page or twitter account. Feel free to stalk – in a sane way – and if you track me down, I’d love nothing more than to sit somewhere quiet, away from social media and TVs and handheld devices, and talk.
Be careful what you wish for.
Young Juniper Berry knows her mother and father aren't the same people they used to be. Of course, they're no longer struggling actors—they're now the most famous movie stars in the world. But it's more than that. She can't shake the feeling that something isn't quite right with them. And one rainy night, in the shadowy and sinister woods behind their mansion, she discovers she's right.
Now, it's up to Juniper to overcome her own demons in order to save the ones who couldn't.
One of the most important elements in a middle grade book is its characters. M.P. Kozlowsky’s debut book, Juniper Berry, certainly have unforgettable characters that are tied within a world of fantasy and mystery. It encompasses an influential message about the importance of being careful of one’s desires and what is wished upon.
M.P.’s character development is simply wonderful. He manages to display the Juniper’s innocence and provides readers a detailed glimpse of her unique view of the world. Readers will feel an immediate attachment with the protagonist. Secondary characters are uniformly elaborated that gives them importance in the story. Even the villain is perfect in such a way that he defines the word evil. M.P. has a natural talent of giving his characters so much personality.
The story setup is bold and strong. It carries powerful themes of addiction to power, enticement, and salvation. The mystery that clouds over the story is unlike anything ever written before. Even with its dark scenes, they were effortless to envision. The rich descriptions of the world, scene, and characters are like a work of art that naturally appears inside the head of readers. Juniper Berry is a powerful story that will challenge young readers’ minds.
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