Mandy Eve-Barnett's Blog for Readers & Writers

My Book News & Advocate for the Writing Community ©

Author Interview – Marie Powell

April 1, 2021
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1.       What inspired you to write books for children to aid with reading and writing?

For about 15 years, I worked as a library programmer, so every week I had two or three programs for preschoolers. My favourite group was the 5-6-year-olds, who were just learning to read. They have such active imaginations and often like to see themselves as players in the story. I loved working with them, finding great children’s books, and then reading the stories aloud to them. After a few years, it felt very natural to start writing for this age group. Also, a writer-friend Alison Lohans had an opportunity to give a workshop in writing for children. I took that, and it put me on the path. Eventually, I got my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia with a major in writing for children and young adults.

2.       Do you think reading is the gateway to learning and life skills?

Yes, absolutely. It’s also a lot of fun!

3.       How does the construction of the content aid understanding in children? 

I’ve been lucky to work with several top-notch traditional publishers on the books I’ve written for children and middle-grade readers. I don’t self-publish so I am not usually involved in the construction of the book, but a writer can always help by inspiring the editors with punchy writing and ideas. As a journalist, I had always suggested backgrounders and sidebars, or short related articles, so I was on the watch for that. And I’ve noticed that surrounding a non-fiction narrative with fact-boxes and short in-set articles can really grab the attention of readers. When I was writing Dragonflies are Amazing, for instance, the editor asked me for some “fun facts” to create a fact-box. I put together about 20 facts, and worked on them so they had an engaging style to activate a kids’ imagination. The editor ended up putting the facts in a graphic format that looks like dragonflies flying around the page. You actually have to turn the book around to read them. Very cool! She also put the images in puzzle pieces. The overall effect of that book is as amazing as the dragonflies, and it really works to attract reluctant readers.

4.       Where can schools access your books?

Schools order the children’s books directly from the publishers, but I also distribute some of them locally to schools and libraries in my home town and area during readings and workshops. My young adult series Last of the Gifted is available everywhere, from Amazon to local independent bookstores, through publisher Wood Dragon Books.

5.       Did your Welsh heritage influence your stories?

My Welsh heritage influences my young adult series, Last of the Gifted. My grandfather was had been born in Wales and I knew he was a Welsh speaker. All of my grandparents had died before I was born. When I was a kid, my friends had grandparents but not me, so I guess I became a little obsessed by them. But my dad died young, and it was hard finding out much about my dad’s parents. Since I was a journalist, I wanted to get into travel writing, so I planned a trip to Wales to do double duty and find out more about my own heritage at the same time. I had rented a cottage on a sheep farm in north Wales, so one day I went to see Dolwyddelan, a castle built by the last true Welsh princes. Inside, there were placards showing the history, and how losing a war in 1282 caused them to lose their language and their way of life. I started thinking about what it would be like to actually live through something like that, and that led to writing about it. It’s been my “heart” project ever since.

6.       How did your magical characters evolve from idea to story?

I actually started out by free writing the scenes in Spirit Sight. I had covered an article on a falconer and I was very intrigued by his falcon demonstrations. One day, while I was doing research on North Wales, I started wondering what it would be like to see through the eyes of a bird. I started free writing and the opening scene came together. I’ve revised and refined it since, but that’s still the opening of the book. From there, I started reading about Welsh legends and myths, and my magical world evolved from that.

7.       Is imagination important for children?

It’s important for everyone. There are a lot of ways to use and grow our imaginations, but reading is definitely one of the best ways. And writing helps, too!

8.       Are there other subjects/topics you want to write about?

Yes, lots. I have a couple of contemporary fantasy novels on the go as well, as well as short stories. My writing is speculative fiction with some connection to ghosts or the past influencing the present. I still write articles for magazines as well, and that inspires me in different ways.

9.       Where is your favorite place to write and why?

I write at my kitchen table, actually. I have a perfectly good office and I fully intend to use it, but the kitchen has better light and a lovely window looking out at the park across the street. I always wrote in the kitchen when my kids were young, and that tends to be where I end up.

10.   Do you have upcoming projects? Can you talk about them?

I have a lot of projects on the go. I’m working on one more book now in the Last of the Gifted series, and I have started another related series. Last NaNoWriMo, I wrote a novel from the same time but unrelated to the series, more medieval romance, just for fun. I’d like to do something more with that, too. And there are the contemporary novels as well.

11.   How can readers find you?

My website is the best place, and I’m on social media too. Here are some links:

Website: www.mariepowell.ca  https://www.mariepowell.ca/

 Last of the Giftedhttps://mariepowell.ca/young-adult/last-of-the-gifted/

Follow @mepowell   https://twitter.com/mepowell

Facebook: Marie Powell  https://www.facebook.com/mariepowellauthor

Instagram: MariePowellAuthor https://www.instagram.com/mariepowellauthor/

YouTube: Last of the Gifted https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLiJ3JY8YIleqD6W-cJHgSwWKlz3JV_sL3

Spirit Sighthttps://books2read.com/u/3n8A95 

Water Sighthttps://books2read.com/u/4A701d

Bio:

Marie Powell Bio:Marie Powell’s castle-hopping adventures across North Wales to explore her family roots resulted in her award-winning historical fantasy series Last of the Gifted. The series includes two books to date, Spirit Sight and Water Sight (participation made possible through Creative Saskatchewan’s Book Publishing Production Grant Program). Marie is the author of more than 40 children’s books with such publishers as Scholastic Education and Amicus, along with award-winning short stories and poetry appearing in such literary magazines as RoomsubTerrain, and Sunlight Press. Among other degrees, she holds a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Creative Writing from UBC. Marie lives on Treaty 4 land in Regina, Saskatchewan. Find her at mariepowell.ca

Interview with Joe McGee…

August 17, 2013
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Fortuitous – definition: happening or produced by chance; accidental; lucky; fortunate

Please welcome Joe McGee – his fortuitous meeting with his current mentor steered him into his current genre.

Joe McGee

a) What do you enjoy most about writing? I enjoy exploring new worlds, meeting these wonderful characters that become living extensions of my imagination. I enjoy the process and the discovery along the way. Many times I am just as surprised in my writing, with the way the story unfolds, as the reader may be. In essence, I enjoy the very act of creating…of giving life to people and places and entire worlds….

b) What age did you start writing stories/poems? I distinctly remember writing stories for other people to read, at the age of 12. I would write short stories in my spiral bound notebook and read them to kids at recess. Whole groups of kids would gather in the brick alcove where the doors were and listen to me read my weird tales or fantasy adventures. In 6th grade, I was among the few children chosen from my school to attend “Young Author’s Day,” a series of workshops aimed at aspiring creative writers throughout the school district.

c) Has your genre changed or stayed the same? I wrote adult fantasy, horror and sci-fi, for the longest time (when I got older, of course), while learning my craft. I had some small pub success, my biggest achievement coming as a 2nd place winner in the Writer’s Digest Annual Short Story Genre competition. However, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I discovered where my natural voice was, and where I belonged, and that was in writing for children and young adults. And now I am writing picture books, middle-grade, and young adult novels!

d) What genre are you currently reading? I read all over the place; all across the board. Since I am writing in three spectrums, I try and read in all three spectrums: picture books, middle-grade and YA. However, I do still indulge in some adult and fantasy novels, especially as my circle of professional writer friends expands. I am a firm believer in supporting my fellow authors through the purchase and reading of their work. Lately, I have been reading a tremendous amount of Roald Dahl, as he has been the subject of my critical thesis at the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

e) Do you read for pleasure or research or both? Both. Absolutely. I read for pleasure, in my general interest and genre, because that encourages me and inspires me to write good stories. However, I also read to learn and grow as a writer. Having recently completed a M.A. in writing, and being close to completing my M.F.A. in writing for children and young adults, I have been trained to read with a critical eye. I cannot help but dissect and examine as I read, recognizing those things that work, and those that don’t. I also read what I have to for research. The Writer’s Digest piece that I won with was a dystopian about immortality, death and tattooing; heavy on the tattoos. I did extensive tattoo research (reading, physical exploration, and interviews) and I firmly believe that that research made the piece as strong as it was. So, research, yeah…absolute necessity. If you write fantasy, sure..you could write about the soldiers thundering about on horses, but go out and ride a horse. Feel a horse’s mane, the muscle tone. Smell a horse. Feed it, put its gear on…that’s research and that becomes evident in your work.

f) Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager?  Wow..that’s tough. I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by a lot of great writers/people in the last couple of years. However, I’d have to say that Lisa Jahn-Clough, a successful children’s writer and creative writing professor, has been of tremendous support to me as a friend, a mentor, and an encourager. She helped me discover that I belonged in the field of writing for children and young adults, and that I had what it took to be successful. She is the reason that I am at VCFA, and ultimately realizing my dream of being published.

g) Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why?  I think my favorite character is in the YA book that I am currently working on, because in many ways, he is me…and his struggles are mine. I am touching on emotional themes that I thought I’d buried and some that are current struggles. His name is Sebastian; Sebastian Finn…but I really love all of my characters. In a way, they are all pieces of me. That’s how it works, right?

h) Where is your favorite writing space?  Coffee shops…although I say this having no good local coffee shop to write in. I write on my MacBook Pro, so I can write anywhere. But I prefer some ambient light and a bit of civilization. That being said, I write in my basement office a lot right now (complete opposite of what I say I prefer), and I built myself a treadmill desk so that I can work for hours AND exercise. My dream spot is a loft office above a detached garage, preferably in Vermont, but I’m not picky…

Joe treadmill

Take a peek at Joe’s treadmill desk!

i) Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants writer? I am a hybrid. And this is another thing I have been experimenting with this last year. Here’s what I do now: I write the beginning, the first twenty pages or so….then I write the end. The climax, the denouement, bam. Then I plot a few major scenes as they pertain to quartiles/acts/writer’s journey…whichever method you most associate with (they are all very close)…and then I pants it. It’s like laying out the map, knowing where you start, where you end, and where the filling stations are in between. Then you drive through the fog and see what you see.

j) What inspires your ideas/stories?  I live by “What if?” So…I’m usually inspired by a cheeky idea or some twist on what I see/hear/read….sometimes it’s a concept, sometimes it’s a character. But whatever it is, I take it, twist it, warp it, stretch it, and see just how much fun I can have in distorting the hell out of it.

k) Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one? Right now, my writing group is my fellow classmates at VCFA (Go Allies!) and my advisor, none other than THE Amy King (A.S. King). I’ve recently worked with Tom Birdseye and Sharon Darrow.

l) Do you have a book published? If so, what is it called & where can readers purchase it? We (my agent, Linda Epstein, Jennifer DeChiara Agency, and I JUST recently sold my first picture book. However, we are in the midst of signing the official contracts and such, so I am not supposed to give out any more info (i.e. publisher, etc) until I sign…(next week?) and it goes up on PW…so, SHHHHHHH….. 😉 Spoilers…

m) If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be and why? One? Come on, really? I’m giving you two and you can’t stop me: Stephen King and Roald Dahl. King’s mind fascinates me, as well as his ability to churn out stories (not to mention his twisted mind); Dahl is an amazing storyteller and since I’ve been reading a lot about his life, he seems like he’d be a hell of a cool person to hang out with over dinner and drinks.

n)Where can readers find you and your blog? You can follow my blog at http://mcgeejp.com/  and follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mcgeejp    Here is Joe’s blog header – it’s really cool.  Forging Worlds One Word At A Time.

joe blog

o) Do you have plans or ideas for your next book?  I do! We have three more picture books ready for sub: one about a young witch (Autumn Grimm) who discovers that having a pet is no easy job (especially when that pet is a giant spider), a book about a clockwork city in which the winding key is lost, and one in which the protagonist discovers that he is not alone in the book and is fearful of what lurks within. I am revising a middle-grade novel about an outcast with a dark legacy who must save his town from a 19th century madman and his army of ghouls, and I am at work on a YA novel about a young Ink Binder with the ability to resurrect the dead through arcane tattooing. 

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