Category Archives: Author Interview

Author Interview: Christopher Llewelyn

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tyrannosortofrexcovergiraffeworkcoverChristopher Llewelyn is the author of the fabulous Tyranno-sort-of Rex, one of our favourite picture books, as well as How Does the Giraffe Get to Work?

I set out to learn a bit more about this budding children’s author, and he kindly agreed to be interviewed!

 

 

First, a bit about yourself, your family and home?

Not a lot to tell really, no super-powers or exotic ancestry. I’m from Wales originally (born in Merthyr Tydfil, brought up just outside Llandrindod Wells) and after living in a variety of places around the UK (during which I studied for a History Masters and worked at too many jobs to list), I moved out to New Zealand in 2003. I now live in Christchurch with my wife Holly. No children, no pets – unless you count the single sleepy fly that is currently trying to see out the winter in our bathroom.

 

What is the first book you remember falling in love with? What made you love it? 

As a child I had two particular favourites; one was Flat Stanley and the other was Winnie the Pooh (I’ve always felt a strange affinity with Eeyore). However, the first time I remember getting that feeling where you physically struggle to put a book down was with Alien by Alan Dean Foster. I was fourteen when I read it and wasn’t able to watch the film as it was an 18 Certificate (and it was back in the day when hardly anyone had a video recorder… or at least that was the case in mid-Wales), but I loved the fact I could read the book. The book did scare me silly; but I guess a book is only ever as frightening as your imagination allows it be. It was also the first time I put music together with a book, almost as an accident, because I played a bootleg tape somebody had given me of the The Cure live in concert over an over while I was reading, and even now whenever I hear the song A Forest I’m transported straight up to the Nostromo (the spaceship in Alien). I still have a habit of coupling music with books, especially when I buy a big chunk of a book like The Kills by Richard House, which I read while listening over and over to World to Come by Maya Beiser (I’d recommend both).

 

What was the last book you read?

I buy most of my books from second hand stores so I end up with quite an eclectic collection. I like the feeling of walking out of a shop with six or seven books to read, which I couldn’t afford to do with brand new books. Buying books like this means I’ve never really been loyal to any one author, as I just pick up things that look interesting (and I do tend to judge a book by it’s cover). The last book I read I did actually buy new in a bookshop, and it was Bring Up The Bodies by Hilary Mantel. I really really enjoyed it, in fact I don’t think I can recommend it highly enough. The writing is amazing, just at another level to anything else I’ve read recently. You know it’s a good book when you get to the end and wish there were another 300 pages. I usually have two books on the go at the same time, one fiction and one non-fiction. The latest non-fiction book I’ve read is Upright Thinkers (the human journey from living in trees to understanding the cosmos) by Leonard Mlodinow, which I would also say is definitely worth a look (if you like that kind of thing).

 

Is there a special place you prefer to write from?

I do all my writing at home, but I tend to go for a walk early in the morning before I start. I have a good memory, so I’m able to work a storyline through in my head while wandering along the beach, or up in the hills, and retain it all until I sit down and put pen to paper (or fingers to keys). I find this a good way of working as it means you’ve already got something ready when you sit down to write, rather than trying to come up with an idea while staring at a computer screen (very uninspiring).

 

How did you choose your illustrator, Scott Tulloch?

I didn’t choose him. Scholastic put us together, which I’m grateful for as Scott’s work is fantastic, and I think his illustrations lift the text to another level. I’ve only actually met him once, but we got on well and seemed to have the same ideas of what we want to achieve.

 

How do you work with the illustrator on your books? Is he part of the creative process from the start?

Scott only gets the books once they’ve been written, and then it’s all down to his imagination. He does send the sketches through at each stage, and is pretty receptive to feedback… though to be honest he’s the one with the experience and is very good at what he does, so any suggestions from me are usually just if I’d had an idea for a particular line in the text.

 

Did you want to be a paleontologist as a child? Do you have a passion for dinosaurs?

I think I had the normal amount of passion for dinosaurs as a child… which means a huge amount. They’re just so amazing and, like 99.9% of children, my favourite would have been the T-Rex. However, now that I’m older I don’t really understand why it is that children seem obsessed with the animals they should be most scared of, like the T-Rex and Tigers. You’d think there would be an evolutionary response to steer clear of any creature with teeth bigger than your head. As an adult I still have an interest in dinosaurs, but more as part of an all encompassing fascination with the history of life on earth.

 

I understand that you are just starting out in the world of picture books. Are there more in the works?

I hope there will be more books. I have a stack of completed stories, but at the moment it seems that what I want to write and what the majority of publishers are looking for is quite different. But who knows, maybe somebody out there will see the reason in my rhyme.

 

Well, I certainly hope that more of Christopher’s books get published! Tyranno-sort-of Rex is an adorably funny picture books that any little dino fan will love. Check out the read along videos on Youtube for even more fun.

When a ship full of dinosaur bones gets caught in a storm it leads to a mix-up of tyrannosaurus proportions! Will the museum’s curator piece together this fossilised …
Who knew that the animals only worked at the zoo, and that each morning they make their way to work, just like the rest of us! Some ride public transport, while …

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Author Interview: Grant Goodman

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IMG_5897Talented teacher and author, Grant Goodman, has taken some time out from his holidays to share a bit about himself with us. His first book, Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve in Tiger Trouble, is an engaging, action packed spy and ninja book perfect for middle to upper primary school children. Read my review and get ready for the next book in the series! I’m just a little excited!

 

First, a bit about yourself, your family and home?

I’m a former martial arts instructor, a current middle school English teacher, and a fan of imagination and wonder. My absolute favorite writer is Ray Bradbury, my favorite songwriter is Glen Phillips, and my favorite animated movie is a tie between WALL-E and Spirited Away.

I grew up in Maryland and my younger brother now lives in San Francisco, where he conducts a classical music group called Elevate Ensemble.

I’m a resident of Washington, DC, which is a pretty cool place to be. I’m never too far away from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (dinosaurs!), the Lincoln Memorial (inspiration!), or Kramerbooks book store (they’re open 24 hours on Fridays and Saturdays!).

 

What is the first book you remember falling in love with? What made you love it?

The first book that really opened up my world was The Fellowship of the Ring. I read it when I was in 6th grade and the scope of it was amazing: the huge map, the deep history, and the final desperate journey to defeat evil…I had never read a book like that before.

But the first book that I loved–that I obsessively read and re-read–was actually a manga. When the Dragonball Z manga first came out in the US, it was a monthly comic book. Every month, I made my parents take me to the little comics store in town for the newest issue.

Dragonball Z pulled me in because it was full of martial arts action, characters who could fly, villains who were capable of destroying planets, and plots that took you to other galaxies. Plus, the characters could throw fireballs and I thought that was the greatest thing ever.

 

What was the last book you read?

I finished Welcome to Night Vale a little while ago. Night Vale is a fictional desert town that is full of monsters and weird magic. If you like strange, creepy stories, this one will deliver. The book is based on a podcast of the same name, which is hands-down my favorite podcast.

 

Is there a special place you prefer to write from?

I’ve found that I can write in a lot of different places. While I do a lot of my writing at a desk at home, I’ve been able to write in coffee shops, in my classroom after school, and while on vacation. I can’t write very well in a car or on a plane, though, because I get motion sickness when I do.

 

You are a middle school teacher, aren’t you? Did teaching inspire you to become an author?

Being a middle school English teacher played a huge role in reigniting my love for writing. When I first started teaching middle school (I taught high school for 2 years), I started up a classroom library for my students. I didn’t know much about YA lit at that point, so I started checking out Goodreads reviews and built up my collection. I wound up getting hooked on Scott Westerfeld, Rick Riordan, and Suzanne Collins. The more I read, the more I realized I wanted to write my own novel.

If I hadn’t moved to middle school, I don’t know if I ever would have pushed myself to write a novel.

 

What do your students think of Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve in Tiger Trouble?

My students are such big fans!!! One of them wants to write a musical version, one of them has drawn several issues of a comic book series. They make all kinds of fun fan art, and the majority of my Amazon reviews were written by my students! I have some die-hard fans who I get to see every day and it is the best.

 

Are Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve based on real kids in your life?

I would say that they are based on a blend of real people. When you’re a teacher, you learn about the struggles that your students have and that helped me to form my characters.

Darcy is the kind of girl who sits quietly in class, always does extremely detailed work, and doesn’t like to show off. If she has insecurities, she does everything she can to hide them, but sometimes they break through.

Steve is a guy who always has people assume things about him because they know his genius older sister. I’ve taught students and then later I’ve taught their brothers and sisters. I do my best to make sure that I never compare them to their siblings, because that just isn’t fair. Not everyone, however, is aware of how hard it can be when you get stuck in your older brother’s or sister’s shadow. We’re all different, we all have our own different talents that we should be recognized for.

 

Being a ninja or a spy sounds a bit dangerous, yet extremely exciting! Would you prefer to be a ninja or a spy, and why?

I love this question! Both of them involve a mix of martial arts, acrobatics, and danger. In my novel, the spies have access to extra-powerful technology and the ninjas can learn to use magic spells. I have always wished that magic was real, so I’ll have to go with “ninja” on this question.

 

I hope that there will be more Agent Darcy and Ninja Steve adventures soon. When can we expect your next book?

Thank you!!!

Book two, Robot Rumble!, will be coming out on Saturday, April 30th, 2016.

Darcy and Steve are going to have to deal with new danger and adventure as they both find themselves traveling to the robot kingdom of Botsylvania.

I can’t say too much without revealing spoilers from the first book, Tiger Trouble! But…I can say that this book is going to have more spin kicks, more gadgets, and more danger!

 

If you’d like to find out a bit more about Grant or Ninja Steve and Agent Darcy, check out his website, or follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Author Interview: Stephanie Mayor

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GoldenLocketcover copyI loved reading the charming adventures of Stephanie and her cat Angel in Nobody’s Story: The Golden Locket. I am now eagerly (and perhaps just a little impatiently) awaiting the second book, which hopefully will be out early next year.

Stephanie Mayor has been writing from a very young age, and The Golden Locket is her first novel (read my review here). I was impressed with the story and keen to find out a bit more about the author. Luckily this very talented lady could fit in an interview with me!

 

First, a bit about you, your family and your home?

About me… I’m Nobody special? Seriously though, I’m just a girl with a couple of cats and a hyper heeler puppy. Stories and music are my favourite things in life. I have three brothers and a lovely sister by marriage. My parents are divorced, but amicable, fortunately. I live in a small town in Canada, which isn’t as cold as it sounds.

 

 What is the first book you remember falling in love with? What made you love it?

The very first? I have fond memories of being read Dr. Seuss when I was young. The first book I read and truly loved was most likely Charlotte’s Web. Only E.B. White could make me sad over a spider!

 

What was the last book you read?

One of the ‘William’ books, by Richmal Crompton. I have quite a few of them, old hard-covers that belonged to my grandfather when he was a boy. My grandfather gave them to my dad, and then he gave them to me, so they’re family heirlooms! Mostly though, I’ve been stuck reading my own books. It seems like I need to read them about a thousand times during the proof-reading and editing process. (It’s amazing how many times you can miss the same mistake.) Right now I feel a little guilty reading somebody else’s work when I’m behind on my own.

 

You started writing when you were quite young, didn’t you? Did you always want to be an author?

Actually, no. I really wanted to be a singer… but I started writing in school and just fell in love with it. Once I started Nobody’s Story, that’s when I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I do still enjoy singing and song writing, though.

 

Is there a special place you prefer to write from?

Pretty much anywhere, depending on the circumstances. I do have a fairly comfy writing chair I have to fight Angel for, and a well-aged little laptop for long writing sessions.

 

What was your inspiration for the name of your fantasy world, Metilia?

I wish I had a good story for that, but it just popped into my head when I started the book. But fun facts I learned when looking it up later: lex Metilia is a Roman law about regulating luxury. (It is also a type of mantis, but I prefer to dwell on the former!)

 

The character Angel is based on your own cat, isn’t she? Could you describe the real Angel?

She certainly is! The real Angel is much the same as the one in the book, save the ability to talk. She’s feisty, protective, and very much my best friend. She has also been a part of my writing since she was just a tiny ball of cream coloured fluff. The shelter billed her as a ‘Siamese X’, but as she got bigger (and bigger), her markings changed considerably. One day, I found a picture of a Birman that looked almost identical to Angel, down to the ‘Roman nose’ and signature white socks. So I’ve been calling her one ever since. She always looks at me as if she’s known the whole time.

 

What is your favourite animal? Would you really like animals to be able to talk?

I love animals in general, but my very favourite are obviously cats, big and small. I have always had and loved cats. Yes, I definitely would. I think we could learn a lot from each other.

 

The Golden Locket is the first book in your Nobody’s Story series. When can we expect the next book?

Originally the book was supposed to be out in November 2015, but my Grandfather passed away recently and so at this point it looks like it will be sometime in 2016. Still hopeful for early 2016.

 

If you would like to find out more about the Nobody’s Story series, head over to Stephanie’s website, or follow her on Facebook or Twitter.

Author Interview: Kandi J. Wyatt

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dragonsfuturecoverRecently I was very lucky to read an advance copy of Dragon’s Future by Kandi J. Wyatt, and then I had the privilege to interview her via email. I loved her book and I am very pleased that it is only the first in an exciting new series called Dragon’s Courage. Dragon’s Future is due for release on the 10th August 2015; read my review here.

 

First, a bit about yourself, your family and home?
I am a wife, mom of five, teacher, artist, author, and photographer’s assistant. I have been married to my knight in shining armor for twenty-three years and without his love, encouragement and support, I wouldn’t be all the things that I am. I have five children, ranging in age from 13 to 26, two are girls. Yes, I had three teenagers in the house at once, yes, food was scarce. I received my elementary teaching degree from a private college in Iowa. I taught 1st through 3rd grade and 3rd through 7th grade in one room in small private schools. I now teach junior high and high school students Spanish in a small town on the Southern Oregon Coast. I live in in an even smaller town that is on the northern border of the school district. I can hear the Pacific Ocean at night.

What is the first book you remember falling in love with? What made you love it?
It would have been either Nancy Drew or Trixie Belden mysteries. I loved the interaction of the characters and the mysteries that they got into. I also enjoyed the fact that they were both part of families and went to someone older when they needed help.

What was the last book you recommended to someone?
That would have been Disenchanted by Janet Ursel. It released on July 14 and I was able to do a pre-read for her. At first I was very confused as to what was going on, but then as the end drew nearer, I started to see the puzzle pieces. It was wonderful!

Did you always want to be an author or did your first book surprise you?
As a teenager, my sister and I were best friends. We would spend hours either creating our dream home, drawing, or writing stories. I never dreamed I would be an author though, I just loved to write. Most of what I wrote was short stories, nothing elaborate. Then in 2002 or 2003 I read one of Timothy Zahn’s Dragonback novels. In the back was a study guide for teachers to use with their students. One of the questions was to create a story from a place you already knew. I began writing and a novel came. Still, I didn’t think to publish it; I wrote for my kids. In 2009 Dragon’s Future was born. I let it sit on my computer until this past February when two of my children and I went to a writer’s conference where we met Tess Thompson of Booktrope who said her publishing company was accepting manuscripts. I debated and without telling any of my family, I clicked send. It was later I realized I had submitted a rough edit and not my refined edit! Booktrope liked it and put it into their new imprint, Updrift–books for parents that they want their kids to read and that kids love to read. It was a perfect fit! Since then, I’ve submitted the four other books in the Dragon Courage series and a historical fiction that will be released in October under the Vox Dei imprint with Booktrope.

Is there a special place you prefer to write from?
Not really. I usually write in the mornings when there is no one else up or around yet. However, most of my best ideas come while I am driving. I play the scene over in my mind. Later, when I sit down to write it I often can’t get it exactly like it was while I was driving.

I’ve read that you are also an artist, could you describe your art?
My sister taught me the basics of charcoal and pencils when I was in high school. Since then it just pretty much sat dormant for twenty years or so until I wrote the Dragon Courage series. As I wrote, I began to want to illustrate scenes. So, I picked up the pencils and started again. Eventually, my critic (my husband) said I was good enough to put work up on DeviantArt to get feedback. That was probably the best move I did. I learned so much from several of the artists on there.
I mainly draw using pencils and colored pencils. I am learning to use my watercolor pencils as a supplement to my normal work. My newest media is soft pastels. They are basically chalk but they spread and blend and are something you can work really quickly with. Most of my pictures take twenty hours or so to complete; therefore, having a medium that I can finish a drawing in an hour to an hour and a half is wonderful!

What is the most unusual person or animal that you have drawn a portrait of?

Drawing by Kandi J. Wyatt.

Drawing by Kandi J. Wyatt.

The photo that the drawing was created from.

The photo that the drawing was created from.

There isn’t really an unusual person or animal that I have drawn, but I do have a favorite. My nineteen-year-old daughter spent what would have been her senior year on Rotary Youth Exchange in Finland. Right around her eighteenth birthday when she had been there for six months, she posted this photo of her at the school ball. I loved it so much that I decided to draw it. As I was working on it, it was as if she was in the room with me. It is my best drawing to date.

There is much in Dragon’s Future about twins. Do you have twins in your family?
My mom has a set of twin cousins and miscarried twins when I was six. My dad has two sets of identical twin brothers. He was the first born and only single birth for his mom. The doctors told her if she had any more kids they would be multiple births. Grandma believed the doctors and didn’t have any more. (Five boys was more than enough for her!) We jokingly say that our eighteen- and nineteen-year-olds are our twins. They are sixteen months apart. So, twins have been a big part of my growing up. My sister and I always wondered which of us would get the twin gene.

Why do most of the names in Dragon’s Future contain the letter ‘y’?
When I was designing the story, I wanted something that would define the people from that area. So, all the people had a ‘y’. The dragon names all begin with ‘Wy’ or ‘Wry’ because I was using the old English version of wrym for dragon. Once we move away from Three Spans Canyon the names will be different. I designed each section of the world after places I knew or knew of.

Have dragons always been a passion for you?
If you would have looked in my sticker album that I collected as a teenager you would have found unicorns, pegasus, and horses. However, as I grew older I met my husband. He loved the medieval time frame and I was drawn to the dragons that went with the theme.

When can we expect your next book?
My next book will be an historical fiction, The One Who Sees Me. It will be released on October 3.
The next in the Dragon Courage series, Dragon’s Heir will be released on December 8.

 

If you would like to find out more about Kandi J Wyatt and her books, visit her blog, facebook page, Google+, her art site or follow her on twitter and instagram (@kandijwyatt). You can also find out more about Booktrope Publishing by visiting their website.

Author Interview: Rachel Meehan

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Water's edge cover VFWater's EdgeIMG_4626 (1)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I recently had the pleasure of conducting an email interview with Rachel Meehan, author of the fast-paced eco-fiction Troubled Times series. She has also authored a stand-alone novel, Eternal Inheritance. These young adult novels are wonderfully told with strong and complex characters. Read on to learn a bit more about Rachel, and then head over to my reviews of her books, Water’s Edge, Power’s Out and Eternal Inheritance.

 

First, a bit about yourself, your family and home?

I live in the south of Scotland – you can see the English Border from my house! It is a rural area, very green and quite sparsely populated. I come from a large family and we are all keen readers. I can remember my father taking all of us to the library at the weekends and we would take out a pile of books each.

I live with my husband and my main passion after writing is the garden.

 

What is the first book you remember falling in love with? What made you love it?

The Silver Crown by Robert C O’Brien. People may be familiar with him as the author of Mrs Frisby & the Rats of NIMH (which is also pretty good) but The Silver Crown is my favourite from early childhood. It’s fast, thrilling, full of danger and it has (like all good books) a strong female lead! His teenage novel Z for Zachariah is also a favourite along with anything at all by John Wyndham……. Basically I love end of the world stories.

 

What was the last book you read?

Just finished The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.. I really enjoyed it, strange and dark and complex.

 

Did you always want to be an author? If not, what did you want to be and why didn’t you follow that path?

I always wanted to do something creative and I trained as a fine artist, specialising in printmaking. I still draw and make things and do my own book covers. There is always a project on the go. When I look back I guess my art work was always full of stories so writing just seemed like the next step……… in between times I have worked for many years in a much more mundane job to pay the bills but I try to dedicate time to writing whenever I can.

 

Is there a special place you prefer to write from?

We have a tiny office space in our house, known as the cupboard! Much of my writing, including this, is done in there. I used to imagine sitting in the summer house looking over the thriving garden and penning the next bestseller but the truth is I would be out gardening within a few minutes…..

 

If you were a character from one of your books, which one would you be, and why?

This is a hard one, I guess Nairne from Water’s Edge (Troubled Times #1), as she is my creation I have put in character traits that I admire. Having said that she can be impatient and a bit too direct sometimes (both things I know I suffer from as well!) I like her self-confidence, which I think is a trait that many female characters lack and I like the fact that she does not rely on her looks at all but on her intellect. Plus by book two, Power’s Out, she has a gun!

 

Are you an eco-warrior at home? What do you do to be kind to the environment?

Yes, I guess I am. We generate some of our own power (when the sun shines… which in Scotland can seem like a special event) and we try to grow our own food. I think about the actions I take in relation to the environment and I get really annoyed by the concept that technology will solve all the environmental issues we face.

 

Do you think that climate change can be slowed or even reversed?

I think it can be slowed if drastic action is taken but I think we are already seeing the effects of it (much like the plot of Water’s Edge). The difference is those effects are being felt in poor countries so the world is prepared to look the other way. I recently saw a comment on social media blaming the Chinese for using too many resources because there are so many of them…. A pretty remarkable opinion when the consumption of raw materials in developed countries per head of population is so much greater. I think it will only be solved if we all make a decision not to need so much stuff…….

 

Have you ever found any signs of Triffids in your garden?

Not yet ….. but I live in hope and at this time of the year they could be lurking in the denser parts of the garden……

 

When can we expect your next book?

The final book in the Troubled Times series, Earth’s Descent, will be out in October, if I get my head down. The whole book is written, now I just need to do the rewrites and rewrites and rewrites….. but then today I had this really good idea for another book!

 

For more information and updates, please have a look at the Cherry House Publishing site or their Facebook page.