With a multiple of genres in my repertoire, I have utilized several book cover illustrators to achieve the best cover for each book. All of them have a unique style and process for creating the images. As an author the book cover is a vital tool to attract our readers. It needs to reflect in a quick and simple way the genre of the story and entice our readers to take a look.
Which cover(s) do you like?
Rumble’s First Scare
This cute little monster was the result of a mental image of mine. I asked Matthew McClatchie to bring him to life. This was achieved with my writing down a description of Rumble, as best I could and of the images for each page within the picture book. It took multiple emails back and forth until Rumble emerged. This is the excitement of working with a great illustrator, a mind meld as it were.
Ockleberries to the Rescue
I commissioned J.E. McKnight, a fellow author and artist to help me with this project as I required ‘real’ sketches of animals and Joe’s pencil and ink drawings were perfect for the chapter headers. We used nature photography for the majority of the images, as a basis for the images and a couple were a collaboration of my poor attempts at sketches and Joe’s interpretation of the subject.
Again, most of the images were in my mind’s eye but the protagonist was a ‘real’ girl, so I asked Linda J. Pedley of Wildhorse Creative Arts & Photography to help with the chapter header images. I described what each scene should incorporate and then Linda drew them in pencil and ink. Again, it is the worth of a great illustrator to draw what an author’s mind envisions.
Creature Hunt on Planet Toaria
I had such fun with this project as it was open to my imagination to create an alien world and who better to use than Matthew McClatchie’s unique technique? From my previous experience with Matty, I knew he would interpret my ‘mental images’ and badly constructed collages to make them come to life.
The Rython Kingdom
I found the illustrator for this novella via a Facebook friend. At the time, Winter Bayne utilized an online program for images and models. While working together we created the book cover from several different images I felt were important to the cover. Alas Winter no longer offers her services, so I am glad I got to work with her.
Unable to use Winter Bayne on this sequel, I was at a loss as who to turn to in order to achieve a similar cover. Luckily, through a Facebook contact I was able to connect with Wren Taylor Cover Design, who knew Winter. She utilizes the same sort of program and we collaborated well on the image to tie it to the first book with an orb shape.
The Twesome Loop
This image was again a collaboration with Winter Bayne, where I wanted several images merged. An olive tree, an old stone well and the lovers. She was able to find models dressed in period costume for the original couple in this reincarnation based romance.
Life in Slake Patch
I was vacationing in England when the original book cover was finalized for this novel, so emails were numerous. Linda J Pedley of Wildhorse Creative Arts & Photography managed to create a scene using multiple images I sent. Subsequently the cover was changed to the current one by Wren Taylor Cover Design to align with my other adult novel covers.
The Commodore’s Gift
Knowing the process and our mutual understanding I once again used Wren Taylor Cover Design to create the cover. It is the culmination of numerous images merged into my vision. There are many items within the cover that required closer inspection. Can you find them? A clockwork bird, a clock, a propulsion device, deep sea divers helmet/octopus, and a heart.
My current detective series has covers already designed by Wren Taylor Cover Design, but they will only be revealed once the trilogy is finalized and published. Yes, I know I’m teasing.
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
I have submitted five submissions for an anthology to be released in the fall. It is a second volume to be published by The Writers Foundation of Strathcona County. This second book is also full of prompts to inspire our creativity. Each prompt has a few responses from other writers to give the reader an idea of the variety of stories and poems that can be inspired by the same picture prompt. It is a great exercise book for writers of any skill level.
I did submit a drawing for the first book (see here) and have created another for the second book. Drawing and painting were my first creative outlet, so to practice again on the odd occasion is enjoyable.
After sending my illustration, I began to think of images, I have commissioned for my children’s and YA books. Each has been tailored made for that particular age group and style, I envisaged for my children’s and YA books. I am lucky to have access for several artists, who use different mediums.
Then I thought, why is it adult novels are so rarely illustrated? I recently interviewed Ann Charles, who has beautiful illustrations for her novels drawn by her brother. I feel they enhance the stories as does Ann.
So what is the main pitfall for including illustrations? You may have guessed it – money! The bottom line is printing drawings involves more ink thus more expense. So are there any illustrated adult novels out there?
I managed to find these links – so the answer is yes.
My guest today is Simon Rose, author of many novels and nonfiction books for children and young adults. His latest novel, Parallel Destiny, has just been released.
So tell us about the new book
Parallel Destiny is the third part of the paranormal Flashback trilogy. The first instalment, entitled Flashback, was published in 2015 and the second, Twisted Fate, was published in 2017.
The trilogy features ghosts, psychics, alternate timelines, parallel universes, and Project Mindstorm, a secret operation involving deadly mind control experiments, as Max and Julia investigate events concealed for over twenty years.
Parallel Destiny takes place immediately after the events depicted in Twisted Fate. Project Mindstorm no longer exists and Kane and his associates no longer represent a danger. However, Max and Julia now have to contend with the sinister Alastair Hammond and his experiments into the existence of parallel universes and alternate realities. Marooned within a bewildering series of multiple universes, Max and Julia are forced to fight for their own survival and to save the very fabric of reality from Hammond’s deadly scheme.
Will there be any more books in the series?
I’m not sure. Right now I’m not planning on any more since the story has reached a logical conclusion. However, Flashback was originally going to be a single novel and I didn’t consider sequels until later, so you never know. I think there’s certainly some potential to write something else in this genre featuring the two main characters, but I guess time will tell.
You don’t seem to have any shortage of ideas. Where do you get them all from?
Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere really. Books, movies, TV, online research, out walking the dog, dreams, an overheard conversation, friends and family, history, mythology, and so many other sources. I have a few ideas that may never come to anything, but I still keep them anyway. It’s always a good plan to save them because you never know if, or when, an idea might fit into a story. My first four novels were all very early story ideas and were the first books to be published. However, more recently published novels, such as The Sphere of Septimus and the Flashback series, were also very early ideas for novels. They just took longer to develop as novels. Flashback was also one of my earliest ideas but again it took a while for me to develop the initial story, and consequently the rest of the series. Even if the ideas don’t work right away, they might in the future and you just never know when you’ll get another piece of the puzzle.
What other novels have you written?
I’ve written fifteen novels so far, since the first one came out in 2003.The Sorcerer’s Letterbox and The Heretic’s Tomb are historical fiction adventures set in medieval England, – The Alchemist’s Portrait is a time travel story, The Emerald Curse is all about superheroes and comic books, The Doomsday Mask is all about the legend of Atlantis, and The Sphere of Septimus involves the characters traveling into another world and is in the same vein as the Harry Potter series, The Chronicles of Narnia, or Lord of the Rings. Future Imperfect is a technology-driven story featuring mysterious messages from the future and The Time Camera about a myserious device that captures images of different historical periods, and The Clone Conspiracy features secret experiments into human cloning. The Shadowzone series featuring Shadowzone, Into The Web, and Black Dawn, was published last year. The series involves the discovery of a grim dystopian version of Earth that’s ruled by a totalitarian dictatorship, the threat of a deadly virus, and a race against time to save the lives of millions.
Are these your favourite genres in which to write?
Yes, there are certain genres that I like. When I first read the Harry Potter books, I knew that they were written for the age range, style, and had the level of danger and excitement for young readers that I was aiming for with the many story ideas that I had at the time.
However, as much as I enjoyed all the Harry Potter books, I wasn’t interested in writing my own story ideas on themes like folklore, mythology, magic wands, witches and wizards, or mythological creatures and monsters. Instead, I wanted my stories to be about the sort of things that I enjoyed reading about. These included time travel, fantasy, history, science fiction, lost cities, superheroes, other worlds, parallel universes, and the paranormal, and those are the types of stories I’ve been writing ever since.
So is it true that authors should write what they know?
In some ways yes, although this might sound a little odd because no one actually knows how to travel in time, attend a wizard school, visit other dimensions, have super powers, or go to the edge of the universe, at least as far as we know anyway. But what this term actually means is that it’s much easier to write about what you know or about what you’re interested in. You’ll have far more ideas about your own favorite topics and you’ll also decide exactly what you want to write about and not just try to do the same as everyone else or follow a hot new trend, whether it’s teenage wizards, vampires, zombies, or something else. If you write about unfamiliar topics, you’ll have to do more research for a story or perhaps plan out the story a lot more, rather than letting the ideas from your imagination flow into the computer or onto the paper as the story keeps coming to you. Writing about things that you’re not passionate about will seem much more like work, when writing is supposed to be fun. Write about what you know and love and it’s going to be a much more enjoyable experience.
Have you worked with lots of other authors?
Yes quite a lot over the last few years, in many different genres. This has involved both substantive and copy editing of completed novels, but I also work as a coach for writers with works in progress. Some of the projects I’ve worked on that have subsequently been published are here on my website. You can also see some of the references and recommendations from other clients that I’ve worked with.
What are you currently working on?
I’m always working on something but currently I’m writing a number of nonfiction books and doing quite a lot of editing and coaching work with other authors, helping them with their novels, short stories, or works in progress. I’m also working on a historical fiction novel set in the turbulent era of the English Civil War in the 1640s and I hope to be able to focus on that a little more in the coming months.
Where can a reader purchase your latest book?
Parallel Destiny is available in paperback and as an ebook worldwide on Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, iBooks, and Indigo Chapters in Canada, and at many other locations online. Your local bookstore should also be able to order a copy.
You can learn more about Simon and his work on his website at http://www.simon-rose.com or online at the following social media sites:
In all honesty, it does a bit of both. I get so energized from the thinking, creating and writing. But the mind is a funny thing and once I/we (my editor and me) are down to the nitty-gritty edits, it starts shifting towards my next project. Ideas start popping up and I have to hold them down. This is often the time when I also wake up in the night and think…I made a mistake and then I lose sleep over that one mistake. Often I get up in the night and make the change, then I can’t go back to sleep. Does this make any sense?
But writing does give me charge.
2. What is your writing Kryptonite? I want to say my dog because he is always wanting to go for walks but then when I walk I get energized and my mind frees a bit and thoughts come through. So that isn’t really true and I don’t want to blame him anyway, he’s too good a dog. Well sometimes. I know that coffee and chocolate are my reverse Kryptonite’s. Maybe being with friends?
3. Did you ever consider writing under a pseudonym?
I haven’t really thought about that. Right now there is no need for me to do that.
4. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I have tons of author friends. I dog walk with Karen Spafford-Fitz and Debby Waldman and I eat dessert or talk about eating dessert with Natasha Deen. I get together with Sharon Jennings, Karen Bass and so many others when I’m in Toronto. They all help me because they write such amazing books and reading their books makes me better. And talking about plot problems, character problems or even publishing problems is really helpful.
5. Do you want each book to stand alone, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I have done both. I have written series. In fact the 4th book in my One-2-One series has just been released and all the characters are connected through their high school Best Buddies group. But I have also written stand-alones and have one pitched as I’m writing this. No confirmation but it is pitched. I also take on the odd non-fiction project. I’m currently writing a 40th anniversary Oilers book which has been a huge project as I interviewed so many people. Just different work.
6. What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
Years ago, I took a trip to the NWT and I paid out of my pocket but it was such a great trip and gave me insight into my characters and their landscape. I went to Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk and it has stayed with me. Years later I went back to the NWT with the TD book tour and loved it all over again.
7. What was an early experience where you learned that language had power?
I loved to read as a child and my mother really encouraged us to read. I remember reading Anne of Green Gables and I loved Anne so much. The scene with Matthew and the puffed sleeves has stayed with me for years. I also loved Trixie Beldon and wanted to be in the Bob Whites of the Glen.
8. What’s your favorite under-appreciated novel?
That is a super hard question because I don’t think any novel is under appreciated but I know what you are asking. You know, I can’t answer this question if I’m honest. I’m thinking and thinking and to me all the books I’ve read and loved are appreciated by me. It’s a hard business and sometimes as a writer you wonder why your book doesn’t get this or that, why you don’t get foreign sales or front spots in Chapters, then you get an email from a reader who tells you how much it meant to them. That means it was appreciated.
9. As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
Wow, you ask really amazing questions. But they are hard. I’ve never thought about this but once I went to a shaman and he said perhaps I was a deer in a past life. So maybe a deer. Because sometimes I need to slow my work down, and fill the holes. I’m a fast worker and I like to get to the end so it would be helpful to slow down every now and again BUT deer can get moving too when they have to and can they jump!
10. How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
Tons. I have a few adult mysteries, an early reader, a middle grade reader and a couple of teen novels. Boo hoo. No one wanted them. Oh, and I have a one-act play and a screenplay.
11. What does literary success look like to you?
This is something that keeps changing as I raise the bar for myself. At first it was to get published. Then it was to get a second book published. Then it was to try a non-fiction and a teen novel. Now I want to maybe do a teen thriller, something completely different. I would also love some foreign sales. BUT…all that aside, what is important to literary success is the reader telling you they read your book and got something from your story. I think in the end that will be my definition of literary success.
12. What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I do a lot of research. How long I spend depends on the book and what I know or don’t know about the subject matter. I can research for months before starting a novel.
13. How many hours a day/week do you write?
This really depends on my travel schedule. I travel a lot, and do a lot of author visits to schools and sometimes this disrupts the writing. When I’m home, at my desk, I can work 4-5 hours on a new project before I have to answer emails and questions like I’m doing now. Lol.
14. How do you select the names of your characters?
Names just come to me. Although once I wrote an entire novel knowing I didn’t like the one character’s name and when I finished it and was doing my second draft I changed it. And the name worked.
15. What was your hardest scene to write?
I wrote a bullying scene in a novel titled Born With (One-2-One series) and it was hard to write because I know that it was mimicking reality and that made me sad. My character getting bullied was gay.
16. Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre? If you write more than one, how do you balance them?
I write in many different genres because I’m always trying to improve my writing and challenge myself. For instance, I’m writing this Oilers project which is non-fiction and I’m almost nearing the end – woo hoo- and I can’t wait to write a middle grade novel I signed a contract with Orca. Did I tell you I can’t wait to go back to fiction??? So exciting.
17. How long have you been writing?
Since I was little. I took a break in high school to play sports and be a jock and in university to get a science degree. But I did write a lot when I was young.
18. What inspires you?
Everything and anything. My mother wrote poetry and loved books so she is a huge inspiration to me.
19. How do you find or make time to write?
I don’t believe in writer’s block. I call it procrastination. I just make time to write because I can’t not write. Even when I wasn’t published and was getting rejected and wanted to quit. I just couldn’t not write.
20. What projects are you working on at the present?
I have my non-fiction Oilers book which will come out in the fall, and I’m currently doing photo captions for. I will go back to my work as soon as I finish this questionnaire. (Nice break.) And I just had a teen novel A Time To Run: Stuart and Sam be launched, so I should do some media stuff and get my website updated. I have a middle grade I’m going to write for Orca Currents in the spring and another hockey book in my Amazing Hockey Series.
21. What do your plans for future projects include?
Not sure. I’ve pitched a couple of teen novels and I’m playing around with a teen thriller. Not sure where it will go. It’s fun sometimes to play around.
Lorna Schultz Nicholson has published over thirty-six books, including picture books, middle grade fiction and non-fiction, adult non-fiction and YA fiction. (She is currently working on a 40th Anniversary Edmonton Oilers book.) Many of her books have made the CCBC Best Books list, been Resource Links picks and been nominated for awards. Her children’s books are about kids and their diversities and friendships and school and family life and emotions and feelings and… the ups and downs in life. We all have those ups and downs, and we’re all different, which makes us all special. Lorna lives in Edmonton with her hubbie and two dogs, a whiny Bichon Shih Tzu, and a naughty, hyper puppy she rescued from Mexico. Well, he’s not a puppy anymore but she treats him like he is. Over the years she has been a television co-host and reporter, radio host and reporter, theatre and murder mystery actor, fitness coordinator and rowing coach. Now she is full-time writer. She travels to schools all across Canada to inspire children about her love of reading and writing, and she loves talking to adults about writing, and leading writing workshops. She remembers her before-published days and wants to encourage writers to keep pursuing their dreams. Being an author is a dream come true.