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
When did you start writing poetry? What was, and is your inspiration? I began in high school, not long after my parents’ divorce. Looking back, I see that I turned to writing to sort out my confusion at the time. My world was upended when my parents sold the family house in 1968. I was 13 years old. My parents moved into separate apartments in different cities. My younger sister and I moved out with our mother, about 20 km away from our father. The change felt like we had moved to a foreign country. In many ways, that was true. My inspiration was initially the lyrics of Joni Mitchell. Her music continues to resonate for me, and millions of other fans. I lean on good literature and music to take me into poetry.
How did writing Stay and Never Mind differ from your usual writing method? I started “Stay” before I began writing “Never Mind” but I got bogged down. I needed more time to study other verse novels. I also needed to collect feedback on an early draft. I turned to middle-grade students at a local school for their opinions and then I set the manuscript aside. It was during this period that my mother died. I felt numb for a long time and was unable to write. One day, I recalled a letter from the Canadian settler Susanna Moodie (1803-1885). She wrote that once she touched the shores of the New World, she never saw, touched, or heard her mother back home in England ever again. It seemed to be something that she had not anticipated when she and her husband set sail for Canada. Or perhaps she hadn’t let herself dwell on the reality of separation from her mother and sisters. She was describing her grief and I understood what Moodie was saying. I also heard the voice that led me to invent the character I named Wife. I placed her in a setting similar to Moodie’s. I funnelled all my private grief and longing into Wife and built a story that was far removed from my mother’s life yet was emotionally similar. My mother was lonely in her marriage and eventually left my father for her own “new world.” I wrote into the emotional truth of loss. “Never Mind” taught me how to write in the tradition of the long poem. The book also showed me that I could hold a story in my head while developing poems in keeping with a narrative arc. I spoke to my mother by phone the night before she died. I didn’t know it would be our final conversation. Her last question was about “Stay”. She wanted to know how the book was going. I had put the manuscript away. About three years later, our final conversation returned to me as I was sitting in my office one day. I opened the file and finished writing “Stay” in about one month.
3. Can you tell us a little about the character Millie in Stay? Is she real, imagined or both? Millie is smart, observant, and passionate about two things: her family and dogs. She wants her family to stay together AND she wants to adopt a puppy. But Millie’s parents have decided to split-up. Her world has turned upside down but since she’s 11 years old, she’s also selfish in the way that every adolescent is self-focused. Millie wants what she wants: Mom and Dad to stay together in the same house so that she can bring home a puppy and not have to live between two homes. But Dad moves into an apartment where a sign on the front door reads NO DOGS ALLOWED. Millie is an imagined character who is informed by my knowledge and experience of family breakdown.
What message do you want to convey with the story? Nothing stays the same, not even our family— our foundational structure. We all must learn to adapt.
What did you learn when you were writer in residence? I loved my residency at the library. I learned that hundreds of people have stories and poems inside them. I learned that most people are looking for a little guidance and a lot of encouragement because writing is a solitary and somewhat mysterious activity. I have always turned to other writers for support and was happy to do the same for others.
When compiling a poetry collection, what is your main objective? I’m driven by narrative. I like my work to tell a story. I’ve just published my fifth book, a poetic memoir titled “Black Umbrella”. Again, it’s about family dysfunction and again it tells a story. I assembled the book by looking for the narrative arc once I’d written about 70 percent of the poems. I later went back and filled in any gaps in the story. I strive to write poetry that is inventive, accessible, and alive.
Which poet(s) inspire you? I read a lot of poetry. I’m currently reading the work of Calgary poet Micheline Maylor, but I often return to Emily Dickinson. I see something new in Dickinson every time I turn to her work.
What are you currently working on? I’m in research mode. I’m curious about the concept of ambivalent motherhood.
How can readers find you? Go to my website and contact me. I promise to respond and I love hearing from readers. Link:
Where and how often do you write? I have a small office on the second floor of my home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I live with my husband. I disappear into my office for several hours most days.
Saskatoon writer Katherine Lawrence has published four poetry collections and the award-winning novel-in-verse, Stay. Her work has been published across the country and has been long listed twice for the CBC Literary Awards. Originally from Hamilton, Katherine has lived on the prairies for over 35 years. She is a former writer-in-residence for the Saskatoon Public Library and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Saskatchewan. You can find her online at http://www.katherinelawrence.net
1. What drew you to write your first fantasy story?
Believe it or not, it was a picture I made from a picture application of me with a dragon next to me. I wrote a short catchy phrase that I only later learned was a ‘blurb’ I still use on what became my first fantasy novel. It all started with a picture I posted on my Facebook page and people kept saying they wanted more of the story…there was no story! So, day by day I wrote more and posted to my Facebook page for the first 30 days, at which time I discovered I was writing a book!
2. Did you plan a series or were the characters/worlds too fascinating to leave behind?
This tickles me pink! Since I had no concept I was writing a novel in the beginning, I just keep writing and the characters took control. When your characters are dragons and they talk to you all night long, you awaken and start writing! There was/is so much about these characters that a series developed.
3. Why did you create a dragon’s world in particular?
This is a great question. The answer stems from that picture we spoke about, but what I didn’t say was that at one time I found out a few people liked to speak behind my back, calling me a dragon. Well, when people cast stones… you build a castle and that’s what I did with my dragons. They are highly intelligent beings and are the protectors of those who cannot protect themselves.
4. What is your writing process? Planner or panster.
I’m a pantster all the way. I’m a visual writer. I see the story in my head. Sometimes it is only flashes or glimpses of a moment, but when my hand hit the keyboard, it pours out.
5. Do you only write prose?
My first outlet in writing was through poetry. I used it as a way to describe my feelings in a more powerful way. Gradually, it morphed into a way of telling stories.
6. Are you a lifelong writer?
Thankfully, yes. I recently turned 64 and the first I remember writing was a poem to my grandmother when I was eleven or twelve, so with more than fifty years behind me, writing is one of those things that has always been with me.
7. What are you working on now?
As writers, we always stretch. My first stretch outside of fantasy came last year when I decided to write a contemporary romance novel. Which, wouldn’t you know it, developed into a series. I’m writing the fourth book in this series currently. I actually have three books I’m writing. One is the fifth book in my current dragon series, The Spires of Dasny, one is the one I mentioned, the fourth in the Hope Falls series under my pen name, C.H. Eryl and the third book is one for a romance anthology I was fortunate to be asked to contribute. It will be a starter book for a companion series to the Hope Falls romance series.
8. Where do you see your series going and for how long?
I have to laugh at this question! I really don’t plan on a series, but they just grow and expand and sometimes make me mad when a character acts up near the end of what ‘should have been’ the last in the series… like now. The Spires of Dasny should have been a four book series, and here I am writing book 5. But wait, not only that but now the same character has stretched beyond his boundaries and now new books will come as a result. At the present I’m unsure if it will carry the same series name or if it will have a new series title.
The writing group I am secretary of, the Writers Foundation of Strathcona County, has recently published two poetry anthologies. These collections of poems were created using the responses to prompts created during the last two April Poetry Month challenges. As many of you know I dabble in poetry once in a while, but it is not really my forte. However, I hope that you will take a look (and buy) these wonderful collections. The poetry is as diverse as the poets themselves.
For any inspiring poets out there the foundation holds free online poetry workshops the third Wednesday of every month. No membership required. Just click the link on the main website page to receive the Zoom link. 7:00 pm MST. Next workshop 17th November Link
Other workshops and a sharing meeting are also every month. Check out the website
As for my writing schedule, I am looking at beginning preparation for November’s National Novel Writing Month and book two of my crime trilogy. The two detective’s personalities are beginning to talk to me, which is good! There are some plot points to consider, such as where the body is found and how, the feud between one detective and a pushy wannabe detective character, as well as a partner, who flies close to the wrong side of the law on occasion. I already have the title – The Tainted Search. I know once I begin writing the characters will talk to me and the story will flow. It is always exciting to start a new project.
Do you want to connect?
As always if you have any questions about my stories, books, writing life etc. – I am happy to answer them. Just put a comment in the box below or email me through the contact form.