I write and produce picture books. I call them that because they are not necessarily for children. My slogan is ‘for kids aged between 6 & 99yrs old!” I’m interested in stimulating a dialogue between adults and children about their experience. I hope that’s what my books make the readers want to do. Talk and discuss and reflect on their own experience. I love art and literature so picture books are the perfect medium for me. Some of my books are not even ‘stories’ rather than concepts.
2. Do you draw from your English background and upbringing?
I guess I do, but almost inadvertently, so not directly. However, Spaceball uses the city of Manchester England as a theme for location and Old Trafford is mentioned. Perhaps in the way I express myself in the books. I do have another book planned which is based in London England.
3.Where did the idea for Spaceball come from?
I wanted to write an exciting book using the dynamic themes of soccer and space. I think all ideas just come from challenging your own understanding. i was reading about Einstein and gravity and i thought this might be a cool way of understanding an aspect of gravitational force, amongst other things. The book is actually about how we understand our own histories and the ‘forces’ that influence that aswell.
4. What message does the book give children?
See question 3 above. I’m interested in bringing the reader to a point where they want to consider their place in history and how their social history differs from other cultural perspectives. The whole book pivots on the expression ‘the history of everything’. The child telling the story stops to consider what that means.
5. How long did the process of writing Spaceball take?
About a month. Not long at all once I knew what I wanted to do. I let the planets guide me! The illustrations took longer but it was so much fun to do, and I wanted to create images that especially children would feel were organic, to encourage them to make their own books with collage and crayon and whatever they can get their hands on.
6.How does writing a book, short stories and writing poetry differ?
For me with picture books there’s always an idea you’re developing and revising constantly, editing while writing but also afterwards, going back to it again and again is important, checking for fluency, ‘sense’ and whether what you’ve done honours your intention. Projects can change a lot as well. The research phase is always very interesting and so much of the spontaneity of my writing happens when I’m reading around. I think it’s not so much genre but authors that have different processes. Books have personally taken me longer to produce though. A short story can be 500words. I don’t write much poetry but when I do it’s almost like a wave of energy, so it’s quite quick for me. Whether it’s any ‘good’ is another matter!
7.Where do you get ideas from?
From Walmart. 🙂 They have them on special right now. Just kidding. I think you can train your mind to be receptive. Ideas are everywhere I think, it’s not difficult for me. I have a to-do list on my wall of the next ten picture books I want to do, but there are loads of ideas on scraps and memos in various places. I think you have to have a type of curiosity that isn’t easily satisfied if that makes sense, and a willingness to take a ‘fact’ and explore what might have been or what another perspective might bring. I think the imagination is a way of connecting and exploring one’s understanding and associations from different perspectives and perhaps extending that understanding. I have ideas that are years old and I like to leave them in my head for a while, pickling and marinating! I think you can tell I like cooking 🙂
8.Do you have a project(s) in progress?
Yes I think I answered this in question 7 above. More specifically I’m just completing a picture book now called ‘What’s your favourite colour’ illustrated by Stella Avolio. Another project has been planned and will start soon called ‘Farewell’ with a different illustrator and I have a book I really want to do, the London-based one I referred to above, but I want to both write and illustrate that myself.
9.What is your view on reading and writing for children?
Reading for children is very important. I was read to as a child and I loved the experience. I haven’t done an audio book yet but I’d love to get round to it. It’s great to have a book animated by real voices.
As I said (if I understand your question) I don’t write for children necessarily, but more for the social interaction between generations, to generate discussion between adults and children.
10.Where can readers find you and your books?
All my books are online. Google Matthew Bennett Young and you will see!
1. How did the idea for the Thyrein’s Galactic Wall Series come about?
Thyrein’s Galactic Wall was born in my classroom. I taught 6th grade English language arts and social studies for 15 years. The curriculum in social studies was the study of world cultures, which presented me with a great way to thematically connect all my subjects. We learned about the influences of geographic features on the developments of people in social studies, and then created our own planets building in geographic features that would influence the stories we would write in language arts, while reading about survival adventure stories in book clubs for reading and exploring man v nature. Across the school year, we drafted myths and legends and all manner of stories that happened on our planets. Thus the intergalactic alliance of planets was born as I modeled in my own writing for the students.
2. What were your influences in creating these stories?
My biggest influence as a world builder is Tolkein, who created a vast world with so many people and cultures. I also love the world building in Star Wars and in Star Trek. I love the way that CS Lewis built in moral and allegorical elements into his stories and I love the way that fiction can bring us the exploration of so many themes about life, the human experience, cultures and diversity, socio and economic issues, and so much more. Fiction allows us to explore our own beliefs and those of others in nonthreatening spaces with make believe peoples. As an avid reader, I’ve enjoyed the influence of George R Martin, as well as Dean Koontz, Stephen King, and even the great Agatha Christie. Jane Austen also influenced my writing as I build the plot around the relationships of the characters and the societies they inhabit.
3. Do you write in other genres or forms – if so which ones?
I have written some dystopian short stories, as well as erotic romances. I write poetry as well and have several poems published. I like to work with illustrators to do some picture books around cute short stories, mostly about my dogs. However, my main writing passion is science fantasy as I love to blend elements of what could become scientifically possible with the fantastical creatures of my imagination… and dragons. Always dragons.
4. Have your life experiences affected your writing topics and themes?
I would say most definitely. There is a little of me in every story I write. Every character, even the darkest villains, hold seeds of parts of my own personality and life. Of course, some are modeled after people I’ve met and plot elements that mirror my own experiences appear here and there. I also love to integrate my view of what the world is right now, what it could be if everything turned out well, and what it could be if things don’t work out for the best. That last is probably the most fun to hypothesize in terms of creating compelling stories, but not so fun in terms of real life possibilities. Still, as a writer, I think we are in a way prophets, shedding light on what is and what could be for those who have the will to hear and see and to act.
5. How does writing graphic novels compare to novel writing?
When you are working on a collaborative project like a graphic novel, it is important to write the story keeping in mind that it is intended to be illustrated. On the one hand, you want to give your illustrator plenty of clues and descriptions, so the artist can visualize and capture your vision. On the other hand, you also need to give them space to bring in their own flavor to the work. In many ways, it is as much their story as it is yours. I love working with Rosamaria Garza on the Mr. Landen Series and I hope to have a second installment of it out soon, perhaps even later this year if everything works out.
6. You have many writing organizations you are part of – what benefits are there for you and other writers with these memberships?
I think writers should be part of the community as much as possible. For me, an organization like the Houston Writers Guild is a great first step and that was my first step in becoming a serious working author. They offer critique groups which help hone your skills as well as conferences and seminars, which allow you to learn about the industry. Too many authors jump into self publishing or get sucked into spending a ton of money with a vanity press because they don’t take the time to join organizations and attend conferences. You have to learn about the industry before you dive in to the deep end of the pool.
Organizations like Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, or Women in the Visual and Literary Arts are all wonderful because they focus more on specific genres and so you can glean about the more niche sections of the industry, as well as connect to authors that write within your own genres. There are Science Fiction and Fantasy organizations as well as, those for children’s book authors and illustrators.
More than anything else, the one thing that matters is to learn before just doing. Really understand the industry, what the standards are, and how to do things right. You get one chance to capture a reader and you have to make it count by putting forth a quality product.
7. Can you tell us a little about your latest release Love’s Call?
Love’s Call is set in the world of Thyrein’s Galactic Wall. It happens on planet Gelderant several years before the events of my first novel. President Nichamir is fighting to hold on to power while at the same time winning the heart of the woman he knows is destined to be his mate. Because they come from opposing nations, Denipia is reluctant to let her attraction and burgeoning feelings for Nichamir lead her into a relationship with him. Yet, it is their destiny. The question becomes, will their love be able to overcome all that stands between them?
Nichamir has a small moment of appearance in the opening chapters of United Vidden. As the story of Verena and Amiel on planet Jorn unfolds in the coming novels, Nichamir will have a key part to play. In order for readers to really understand the choices he makes in the main line series, I decided to give him his own series. Thus, Love’s Call is book one of The Dragon and His Kitten series.
8. Do you believe exploring all aspects and genres of writing is beneficial for writers?
Generally, I think it is a good thing for all artists to stretch their skill sets by delving into a variety of different genres and modalities. However, ultimately, each artist has the medium through which they speak. So it is with writers. Some are poets and it is the language of poetry that brings forth their voice. Others are fiction writers with specific genres that call to them and which flow more intuitively from their hands. I like to explore and push my comfort zones. I’m currently taking a poetry lab course with Max Regan of Hollowdeck Press. He is a great writing teacher and coach. I dabble in poetry and the skills and techniques of the genre show up in my fiction. But ultimately, I’m a science fantasy romance writer. World building comes as naturally to me as breathing.
9. Describe your writing space.
Oh my… well… messy. Haha. I am a discovery writer and tend to have just a general idea in my head of what the story will be when it begins. I don’t do a lot of plotting or diagramming or note taking in advance. BUT when it comes time to revise, then I like to get physical with my story. I like to use note cards or post its and put the story up on the wall to see what is already there and find what is missing… the pieces that need to be added. I like to print out chapters and cut them up and rearrange things to see if they work better. And I like to color code text with highlighters to show me where themes are already weaved in and where they need to be added. This is how I process my revisions so that the full flavors of the story, all its nuances, can be integrated fully.
Fern Brady is the founder and CEO of Inklings Publishing. She holds multiple Masters degrees and several certifications. She began her professional life as a foreign correspondent, and taught for 15 years in Alief ISD. She has published numerous short stories, two children’s picture books, and a couple of poems. Her debut novel, United Vidden,which is book one in her Thyrein’s Galactic Wall Series, was given a glowing review by Dr. Who Online, the official site of the fandom. Also available for purchase is volume one of her graphic novel/novella hybrid project, New Beginning. She has returned to the leadership of the Houston Writers Guild, with whom she served as CEO for four years previously. She co-hosts two podcasts – Author Talk and The Hot Mess Express. Besides being Municipal Liaison for Nanowrimo Houston, she is also a member of Blood Over Texas, Romance Writers of America, and American Booksellers Association. Fern lives in Houston TX with her parents and her talkative husky, Arya. Follow Fern’s writing at: www.fernbrady.com
I enjoyed this podcast chat with Cindy of Opal Writers Magazine. We talked about my recent article in regards to being a panelist at a conference. There are many aspects to not only accepting an invitation to attend, but also what you should and shouldn’t do during the panel.
As a poet and a writer, which format do you enjoy writing the most?
Poetry has always been my favourite format. Playing with words in a creative way helps me choose words to express abstract ideas. Because words have nuances and “halos” its important to make clear connections between the words and the feelings behind them. For me, the process of writing, whether poetry or prose involves feelings. For this reason, my Roget’s Thesaurus is a very useful reference book.
If others can relate to what I’m saying or are inspired by my words, I know the meaning has come through. Its comforting to know that someone else feels as I do. Poetry reveals parts of me that might otherwise remain hidden and that gives me courage to reveal my inner self and I can then be true to my values and integrity. When I feel connected to others and to nature, poetry reveals beauty. For me, its essential to be amazed.
Why is metaphor important to you?
Some people are literal minded and think in black and white whereas others colour their worlds with metaphor. This tool of the imagination affects how I see and respond to the world and how I interact with others. Metaphor can bring clarity in communication between people with opposite viewpoints because it expresses a relationship between things and ideas. For example, when my husband and I have difficulty finding common ground, we are able to access mutual understanding in a way that we cannot otherwise. Metaphor offers a big picture perspective. Colourful language creates mental imagery that boosts insight into feelings. Because perspective is so important to me, looking through the lens of metaphor provides a powerful source of soul wisdom for sharing my world.
Was the transition from poetry to fiction writing difficult?
The transition was not difficult but was freeing. A few years ago, when I attended a life writing class to find material for poetry, I wasn’t very confident in my ability to write prose. When I began telling stories about my family history and my childhood, the switch to prose opened a new world to me. I realized I had a unique story and I could share it with others.
How do you choose which format to write in, once an idea forms?
Prose lends itself to the concrete and poetry to the nebulous. I use poetic language in my prose as it creates imagery and is often a way to express difficult situations or emotions, whether my own or someone else’s experience. For me, the two formats are intertwined. I love the threads connecting all aspects of my being: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. One of the big differences between writing poetry on demand using a prompt and writing prose from a prompt is that poetry come from inspiration. Prose doesn’t necessarily do that and when it comes from my imagination, is becomes fiction.
What inspired you to write a memoir fiction novel?
One of the effects of the constant moving experienced by children who do not have long lasting connection to people and community influenced my access to memory. I took the events that I did remember and built stories around them to make sense of them and find meaning in my life. I had written lot of short pieces and the best format seemed to be a novel-in-short-stories in which I created individual stories based on real experience. Each of the stories could stand alone, but the reading of them in sequence enhanced the whole story as a novel would.
Where did the ideas come from for your children’s books?
My 96-year-old mother is a great storyteller and she relishes family tales about her children. “Not My Daddy” was created from one of her stories about watching for my father as soldiers in identical uniforms got off a bus. “Naughty Alice” is also a story from my childhood. The delightful child in this story is my own Inner Child who wanted to help her Grammie tailor a new coat. The third book “Grandma’s Big, Big Backyard” was created to record the experience of my own grandchildren playing in the backyard.
How important is connection with other writers for you?
Being part of a community of writers allows me to share my writing experience and ideas with others. I enjoy encouraging other writers with positive feedback and constructive criticism. Because writing is a solitary activity, having a community of others who understand the challenges of the writing life is essential. Everyone who writes has something to share with the world and we all need connection to be our best.
Do you have a writing space – describe it.
We recently purchased a ground floor condo with two bedrooms and a study and I was excited to make the study my own. My first priority was to purchase a new desk, repurposed a credenza for storage and utilized an antique china cabinet to display my books and special keepsakes. I love the light that pours in through the frosted glass French doors. I’ve put up all my favourite pictures and made the space my own.
What message do you wish to convey to your readers?
The stories we tell ourselves shape our lives and what we believe about the world. As poet Edith Sodergran once said, “…poetry is a way to me.” All of my writing has been the way to me. I’ve spent my whole writing life searching for this person who is me and I want my readers to know that writing is a wonderful way to discover who you really are.
Where can readers find you and your work?
Please look for books by Kathie Sutherland on Amazon.ca or visit my Facebook page Kathie Sutherland Author. All of my books are available from me directly. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. My publisher Dream Write Publishing from Sherwood Park, Alberta also sells my books. https://www.dreamwritepublishing.ca/ Many of my books are part of the local author library collections at Strathcona County and Fort Saskatchewan Public Libraries.
Kathie Sutherland is a mature, observant student of life who is retired and lives in Fort Saskatchewan, Alberta with her husband of 42 years. She has two fiercely independent adult daughters, and two adult grandchildren. A Canadian by birth, she celebrates differences in culture, outlook and lifestyle, and appreciates the benefits of living in other parts of Canada and beyond. Her love affair with language is lifelong, and her unique narrative voice infuses all her writing with authenticity.
Over the past 30 years Kathie Sutherland has written poetry, personal essay, fairy tale, a true events autobiographical novel and three children’s books. Her love of words and their “halos” fanned the flame of her desire to understand the profound and lasting effects of her childhood in a constantly moving Canadian military family through personal journaling, continued learning and reflection. She believes that loss and loneliness can be transformed into love and connection by writing short life stories rich in life wisdom. Recently, she has given voice to her playful side in her based-on-real-events children’s books.
Kathie Sutherland is involved in two local writing groups and fully enjoys encouraging others in their writing projects. She also leads a reminiscence group at a local seniors lodge, helps others write legacy letters at the end of life, as well as being active in a local church community. She enjoys aquafit, pastel painting and travel to interesting places.