It’s time for another Writer Spotlight here on the Mitten! Today’s distinguished guest may be the very first chemist/children’s writer I have ever had the privilege to meet.
Ken Rahmoeller is a true Midwesterner, having grown up in Missouri and Illinois. He moved to Michigan after college with his native-Michigander wife, and has been here ever since. His only two complaints about Michigan are that it’s too cold in the winter and there aren’t enough castles! I guess too cold depends on your perspective (polar bears might think it too warm), but I'll agree with Ken about the castles.
Welcome to the Mitten!
Mitten: When did you start writing for children or otherwise, and how did you know it was something you wanted to do?
Ken: As strange as it may seem, ten years ago I had absolutely no interest in writing. None. It’s so difficult for me to take my thoughts and put them down on paper in a coherent manner, I avoided writing as much as possible. I’ve written numerous research papers and technical articles for work, but I never enjoyed it. But after reading the final Harry Potter book many years ago, I began wondering how Rowling might go about writing another book in the series. I wrote down a few ideas, which grew into paragraphs, which coalesced into scenes, which blossomed into chapters… I suddenly realized how much I loved writing fiction, especially whimsical and humorous fiction aimed at the younger (or young at heart) audience. It’s still a struggle to get the words down on paper, but I enjoy telling my stories so much I don’t care.
Mitten: How did you find out about SCBWI and how long have you been a member?
Ken: While searching for critique groups in the Detroit area, I learned about the SE-
Mitten Meet Up group, so I joined SCBWI so I could attend. I’ve been a member for nearly two years and am quite happy I joined. I’ve met so many wonderful, supportive people.
Mitten: What genres are you most interested in and why? Picture books, middle grade, YA, chapter books, poetry, nonfiction?
Ken: Definitely middle grade and YA. I enjoy writing humorous, quirky stories and I believe those kinds of stories work best in those genres. On the other hand, YA has become kind of edgy these days, and I don’t believe I’d be very good at writing those kinds of stories.
Mitten: Tell us about your publishing journey. Are you pre-published or published, and if so where?
Ken: I’m pre-published, partly because I’m a very slow writer and partly because I’m working on three stories at once. (shakes head) Right now I’m pushing to finish at least one of them by the end of the year. Wish me luck!
Mitten: Many of us have a job other than writing for children. Tell us something about what you do outside of writing.
Ken: I’m a research chemist during the day, and I’ve taught a few college chemistry courses at night. When I’m not interacting with my wife or teenage children, I spend my time redecorating my writing space as an alchemist’s lab.
Mitten: How does this occupation inform your writing?
Ken: I write fantasy, but I think fantasy is best when it draws on, and is enriched by, laws of science. And as a chemist, I have plenty of rules from which to draw. For example, one of my stories involves alchemy.
Mitten: Where do you get most of your writing ideas? Do you write them down, keep them in a computer file or just store them in your memory?
Ken: They come to me at the oddest times, so I have to jot them down immediately, because I’ll lose them if I don’t. Fortunately, my phone has a voice recording option, so I can save ideas that occur to me as I drive to and from work. All these bits and pieces get dumped to a huge file on my computer. I peruse that file every once in a while just to fire up my imagination.
Mitten: We all have favorite writers that inspire us. Name two of yours and why you like them.
Ken: Obviously, J.K. Rowling would have to be one of them. After all, without her books, I never would have begun my journey as a writer. The other would probably be Brandon Sanderson. He writes adult fantasy and his voice is so relaxed and smooth I study his books to learn how he does it.
Mitten: What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received as a writer for children?
Ken: Don’t think you can learn everything you need to know as a writer in a couple of months. It’ll take years of practice and reading books on craft to get where you need to be. And don’t try to go it alone. Nothing is more important than working with other writers. You learn so much that way.
Thanks for having me!
My pleasure Ken! Thanks for stopping by!
To learn more about Ken and his writing journey, visit him at:
hogwartssabbatical.blogspot.com/ or connect on Twitter @chemistken