As writers and authors, we all daydream of the day our novel is made into a movie. The thrill of seeing our story come to life on the big screen (or even a smaller one!) is something we all crave at one point or another. When we are writing our stories, we get images of our characters in our heads, sometimes it is actors we already know or we create an inspiration board from photos found on the internet.
Forgetting for the moment the practicalities of actually getting the actor you want – who are your chosen ones? Who is on your wish list?
I am sharing a couple here and would be interested to know if you ‘saw’ them the same way I do, when you read the books.
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:
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 Room, subTerrain, 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
Tom slumped into the metal picnic chair. He hadn’t wanted to come on this stupid trip with his parents. He could have stayed at home, hung out with his friends – had fun. But no, his parent insisted he come on this ‘last’ camping trip before he went to college. He gazed down at his new runners, pristine white and blue. It had been a mistake to wear them here; they would get ruined with the obligatory hike tomorrow morning. The camp fire crackled and spat its warmth welcome as the night air cooled. With a full stomach of baked potatoes cooked in said fire filled with spicy chili, followed with s’mores, he was getting sleepy.
“I think I’ll turn in, Pops, Mom. We’re up early for the hike right?”
“Yes we will be, but before you go, we have something for you.”
Tom frowned but sat back down.
His Mom went into their tent, pitched on the other side of the fire. He could hear her rummaging around. When she reappeared she had a drawstring bag in one hand. His father stood up and both parents looked at their son. A strange look covered their faces, an intent gaze that made Tom uncomfortable.
“Okay what is this? Why are you looking at me like that?”
“We have something for you.”
His mother handed him the bag, Tom pulled the drawstring and cautiously peered inside. He let out a laugh. “An old teddy bear? Come on guys, I way past cuddly toys, you know.”
“It may look like an old teddy bear, Tom but this one is special. It has been handed down through the generations, father to son and so on. It is my honour to pass it on to you, now you are eighteen.”
Tom pulled out the frayed, threadbare teddy bear; it had obviously seen better days.
“Well, okay but what’s so special about an old toy, like really?”
“Tonight you will find out. It is best you experience it rather than me explain, Tom. Have a great night.”
His parents smiled and turned away, entering their tent and zipping it shut. What the heck is up with them? Old toy! Special night! It must be some kind of gag; they cooked up between them to make this last trip memorable. What losers. Well, goodnight teddy. Tom left the toy and bag beside the fire and entered his own tent, zipping the opening up tight and sliding into his sleeping bag.
The clear sky was filled with stars, a haze of purple grew larger and a bright light hovered over the campsite. Tom woke some time later to a rustling outside, he turned over. Pops can’t hold is bladder, poor oh man.
“Tom, it’s time to go.” The voice was high pitched and sort of squeaky. That’s certainly not Pops or Mom voice. He sat up, seeing the tent open and the old teddy bear standing in the entrance. “What the f…” Tom could feel his head spin, bile rising up his throat. This is one hell of a dream.
“No dream, Tom. Tonight we travel to your true home.”
Tom’s body froze as the toy spoke and took a step towards him. I’m hallucinating or dreaming. Too much spice in the chili or something. Maybe it’s the beer Pop’s gave me?
“There’s no need to be frightened Tom, your father and his father and his father have all been through this. Now, it is your turn. Up you get, we have to go.”
The teddy bear raised an arm. Tom could feel his body moving involuntarily. He tried to call out but no sound uttered from his mouth.
“Best we keep quiet, Tom. Follow me.”
Tom’s legs moved, his feet trod and he followed the strange talking toy. He was not in control of his body but his mind was a reeling. He watched the bear raised both arms. A sudden bright light flooded the campsite. Tom looked up to see what looked like a star fall towards them. He tried to turn, his body refused to comply. The light descended and he felt his feet lift off the ground. A whirling purple portal emerged from the light and the toy and boy entered it. A tunnel of swirling mauve light transported them. Tom gripped his hands into fists. This better be some kind of nightmare, I’ll wake up in a minute.
“No nightmare, Tom. It’s your destiny.”
“Can you hear my thoughts, bear?”
“Of course, I can and soon you will be able to do it too.”
The swirling slowed and stopped. Tom looked round him, the campsite was gone, the mountains, the trees, the lake. Before him was an enormous golden tree growing out of a huge crater with gold waterfalls tumbling out of it. An amber mist floated above the water and a long bridge spanned the space between the tree and the boy and bear.
“Where are we?”
“Home, Tom, we are home.”
“I’m not home, you dumb toy. Take me back.”
“You must go to the tree, Tom. She will explain everything.”
“She? What are you on? It’s a tree, it can’t talk.”
“Oh but she can and will, Tom. You are the next in line. You must go.”
Tom tore his eyes away from the tree to glimpse the toy disappear. He yelled for it to come back but to no avail. After some time, he decided to play along in this trippy dream and walked across the bridge. As he stood in front of the tree, bending backwards to see its top most branches a voice entered his mind.
“Welcome, Tom. It is so good to see you. I will teach you all you need to know as the next wizard in line.”
Let me know what you thing of my story incorporating magic into the theme. Did the narrative the way you thought?
I am excited to be presenting at a local virtual writing conference – The Art of Writing on 27th March. I am hosting a session on creating a great blog post.
I managed to grab a ticket for The Winter Book Club with Ethan Hawke on Sunday, March 14 and I get a copy of his book A Bright Ray of Darkness too.
Also there will be an Easter road trip with my dear friend, Linda. We just need to book an isolated cabin for a few days of writing, reading and exploring.
What attracted you to write Fantasy/Sci-fi? Did you choose it or the other way around?
I’ve always had a soft spot for Fantasy and Sci-fi, because that’s what I grew up reading, for the most part. I still read a little bit of almost everything, but these two genres captured my heart even more when I started writing in them. I’m not sure which one of us did the choosing, but I’d say we make a pretty great pair when all things are said and done.
My favorite part about writing Fantasy is the fact that I can take what I like from reality, get rid of everything else (within sub-genre tropes, of course), and replace it with something completely new, magical, dark, mysterious, and complicated enough that it provides a rich world yet simple enough that I can keep it all straight in my head. Sci-fi is a bit harder. For me, it requires a lot more research too, which I really just don’t enjoy. But it’s not enough of a pain to keep me from writing it. And that’s the part I like about it—plus the fact that I can change a few things (particularly with Dystopian Sci-Fi) about reality and augment them, so to speak, to create the types of stories that reflect what’s happening in the world while putting my own special spin on it.
What inspires you to write your stories? Where does inspiration come from?
Literally everything. Sometimes I get a spark from a dream or a movie clip, a song, a conversation with my kid. Sometimes I read a book that touches on an idea and then I start thinking about how I could expand upon it and make it my own. Sometimes, when I’m at the crossroads of taking a story down one road or the other, I’ll pick one, and the other one gets turned into a different story. Sometimes I keep writing without any inspiration at all, and the story inspires itself.
Do you prefer to write a series rather than a stand-a-lone novel?
All of my series so far were originally intended to be standalone novels. Until I got to what I thought was the end and realized I just wasn’t finished. The Blue Helix series, though, is the only series where each book can be read on its own without having read the previous books in the series. But I think they’re better if they’re read in order 😉
Right now, I’m almost finished with the first book in an actually planned series of five and a quarter of the way through another planned trilogy. That’s definitely a different process, and I’m excited to see how the results of planning series ahead of time differ from… well, not planning it at all.
Are you a plotter or a panster?
I’m a plantser—I do both. I used to be all pantser all the way until I started ghostwriting fiction in addition to writing my own stories. Then I started writing up beats for contracted novels, and I discovered that there’s definition something to be said for writing a loose “summary” of 5-10k words (depending on books length) before I dive into the writing the actual story. I don’t get stuck with where I’m headed, and that helps me write a lot faster. Somehow, though, I’ve never quite been able to stomach chapter-by-chapter outlines or intense character sketches before writing the book. In my mind, there is such a thing as doing toomuch work before the fun begins. If my plotting gets any more detailed than a few thousand words of beats, I lose interest. 80% of the fun is surprising myself with how to fill in all the blank space after finishing the beats. It’s like a giant puzzle that I get to create and fit together at the same time.
Can you tell us about your newest book? The characters and their journey.
My newest book, Sleepwater Static, is the second book in my LGBTQ Dystopian Sci-Fi Blue Helix series. This was a monster of a book to write and tackle, just like its prequel, because there was so much I wanted to say through the characters’ journey and the continuing storyline in general. And there was much potential for saying the right thing in the wrong way that I really had to pay attention to how I was writing the story and especially how I was representing different minority groups and marginalized communities through this huge cast of characters.
Sleepwater Beat focused on Leo Tieffler as the main character, and Sleepwater Static focuses on Bernadette Manney—a seventy-one-year-old white woman from South Carolina who fits a sort of “tough and uncrackable matriarch” role within the group of people called Sleepwater with the storytelling ability of “spinning a beat”. Bernadette really fascinated me in the first book, and she was the perfect character to dive into for the second in order to approach the other sociopolitical topics I wanted to explore while still making this a fantastic story with characters readers had already come to love and a whole cast of new ones.
Bernadette grew up in the South, found her independence and her freedom through standing up for what she believed in, created a family with the man she loved despite racial tensions and facing discrimination from her own family and so many others within her home state. In this book, we learn about who she was before Sleepwater was formed, how and why Sleepwater was formed, and the ways in which she’s been trying for twenty years to redeem herself after an unforgivable yet inevitable mistake drove her away from her past, her partner, and her child. This book is meant as a sort of “breath of fresh air” on the surface, where the characters stop to go into hiding and regroup (plus one Sleepwater member needs somewhere to give birth to her child that isn’t in the back of a van), and they all end up learning more about the past while trying to fight for the future. I can’t wait to hear what people think of this book, and I’m so excited to start diving into Book 3 when the time comes.
What age did you start writing?
I started writing on my tenth birthday. When I discovered that I could create a story, a situation, a relationship, or an outcome to be absolutely whatever I wanted to be, I just couldn’t stop.
Where do you write? Can you describe your writing space?
I write in my home office. I’ve had four home offices in four different homes since I started my Indie career in 2015. It’s a requirement for every new house we move into (obviously, there have been many), and it will continue to be that way for as long as I’m living in a house with an ability to keep writing.
I have a standing desk and a heavy-duty “sit in my chair all day” cushion for my office chair. Bookshelves stuffed to the brim to the point that they’ve spilled into piles on the floor, my desk, and on and in my cabinets. My office is actually the only room in the house that’s been fully “decorated”, because my husband and I have intersecting tastes, but everything he doesn’t like, I put in my office! It’s also the only room in the house where no one else but the author is allowed to enter. No dogs, no three-year-old, no husband. Okay, fictional characters may make an appearance, but I draw the line with physical bodies. I like bright colors and clashing patterns and hanging art on the wall (my own or created by friends). More often than not, it’s a complete mess, but at least I know where everything is.
What has been the highlight of your writing career so far?
I’d say the highlight so far has been writing the Blue Helix series. Sleepwater Beat got such a phenomenal response, and it really blew me away. It made me an international bestselling author, got me on live television, has been the topic of more radio-show and podcast and blog interviews than I can count, and was both an award-winning Sci-Fi Finalist in the 2019 International Book Awards and a Literary Titan Gold Award Winner this last April.
Sleepwater Static is heading very much in the same direction, and I have really high hopes for the second book in the Blue Helix series too.
Who is your favorite author and why?
It’s not just one (is it ever just one?). My list includes: Stephen King, Jacqueline Carey, George R. R. Martin, Diana Gabaldon, Neil Gaiman, Cormac McCarthy, William Gibson, and John Irving. With these favorites, I get to cover a wide range of brilliance in so many different elements of good storytelling—characterization, world-building, rich plots, expansive landscapes and history, phenomenal relationships, twists and turns, grit, beauty, humor, surreal parallels to reality… this second list goes on and on. Overall, I love these authors because even when I haven’t read them for quite some time, I find myself thinking about their books, characters, and worlds with a nostalgic longing to return. That, to me, is what makes great fiction.
Who is your most loyal supporter?
Hands down that’s my husband. Without this guy, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m with my writing right now—which is writing 60+ hours a week and absolutely loving every minute of it. And there’s the added bonus that my work as a full-time writer of fiction supports our family of three with a single income. It’s pretty much a dream come true.
He hasn’t actually read any of my books all the way through. But he knows how much I love what I do and has facilitated my ability to keep writing since the very beginning, all the way up to the point where he was able to stop working so he could be a stay-at-home dad and do more of what he wants to do during the day. So yes, it’s been a win-win for everyone. And he never misses an opportunity to tell people what I do for a living and give them my card (yes, I have business cards) with a well-timed, “Check out her books. You’ll love them.”
I sure do! I just had my website completely revamped and am in love with what it’s become. This was very recent, and I wasn’t much of a blogger on my author site, but I’ve written a few things on this new site that are more “reflections of life as a writer” and are not, in fact, fiction. But I’ll be building on that. You can find almost everything else about me and my books on my site: http://kathrinhutsonfiction.com
International Bestselling Author Kathrin Hutson has been writing Dark Fantasy, Sci-Fi, and LGBTQ Speculative Fiction since 2000. With her wildly messed-up heroes, excruciating circumstances, impossible decisions, and Happily Never Afters, she’s a firm believer in piling on the intense action, showing a little character skin, and never skimping on violent means to bloody ends.
In addition to writing her own dark and enchanting fiction, Kathrin spends the other half of her time as a fiction ghostwriter of almost every genre, as Fiction Co-Editor for Burlington’s Mud Season Review, and as Director of TopShelf Interviews for TopShelf Magazine. She is a member of both the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Horror Writers Association. Kathrin lives in Vermont with her husband, their young daughter, and their two dogs, Sadie and Brucewillis.
For updates on new releases, exclusive deals, and dark surprises you won’t find anywhere else, sign up to Kathrin’s newsletter at kathrinhutsonfiction.com/subscribe.
You have no doubt seen numerous authors sharing their books all across social media sites and readings from favorite books recorded for children in the last few weeks of social distancing. This sharing is the writing communities way of bringing some comfort to everyone isolated during this time. We have the ability to ‘connect’ remotely, which is a blessing during this time of COVID-19.
As we all know information is the new currency, and reading is the best source of continuous learning, knowledge and acquiring more of that currency. However, reading has many other benefits, you may not realize.
It puts your brain to work as it uses various parts to work together, in essence reading is exercise for your brain. It becomes active allowing growth, change and the making of new connections and different patterns. While reading we can roam the expanse of space, time, history, or discover deeper views of ideas, concepts, emotions, and our body of knowledge. Reading increases ‘fluid intelligence” which is the ability to solve problems, understand things and detect meaningful patterns. Other benefits of reading are an increase in attention span, focus and concentration. reading is in fact a multifaceted exercise.
Fictional narratives, allow us to imagine an event, a situation, numerous characters, and details of an imagined story. It is a total immersion process. It has been proved that reading literary fiction enhances the ability to detect and understand other people’s emotions, a crucial skill in navigating complex social relationships. So the more you read the better you become within your own mind and for those around us. So get reading!
Everyone please take care, stay well and safe.
If you are looking for a new read please take a look at my books. I have narratives for children, young adult and adult so something for all the family. As always if you have any questions about any of the books please comment below and I will answer.