Philip Reeve

11221446_890212321024294_334471840868687876_oInterviewed by Ray Clark

Philip Reeve is the award-winning UK-based author of many beloved books for children and young adults, including the Mortal Engines and Goblins series, Here Lies Arthur, and most recently, Railhead. He has collaborated with artist Sarah McIntyre on a series of illustrated books, and has illustrated numerous books himself, in addition to his work in film, theater, and even a musical. In 2001 he published his first novel, Mortal Engines, which went on to win the Smarties Gold Award, the Blue Peter Book of the Year Award, and the Blue Peter “Book I Couldn’t Put Down” Award. Mortal Engines was my first introduction to Reeve’s writing, and it captivated me immediately with its fascinating world and richly nuanced characters. I was thrilled to have a chance to speak with him online recently about his thoughts on writing and the creative process.

Before writing novels, you worked as an illustrator and in small stage productions and films. You’ve mentioned films such as Star Wars and John Boorman’s Excalibur as inspirations. To what extent would you say that your experience in fiction outside the world of books influences your writing?

I think a lot of my influences come from films, TV, art, etc. When I was growing up I loved books, but I think I loved films and TV equally – it’s the story and the imagery that matters, not the form. When I started writing Mortal Engines it really was because I didn’t have the means to put it on film. There’s always a very strong visual element to my stuff: most of my books are basically me describing a movie which I’m screening in my head.

[Read more…]

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Gail Carson Levine

Interviewed by Monika Davies

gailcarsonlevine_photoGail Carson Levine has been a prolific children’s author since she published her debut novel, the widely beloved Ella Enchanted, a 1998 Newbery Honor Book. She has since published a remarkable collection of novels for young readers, including Dave at Night, an ALA Notable Book and Best Book for Young Adults, Ever, Fairest, The Wish, The Two Princesses of Bamarre, The Fairy’s Return, A Tale of Two Castles, and several others. She is also the author of two picture books, Betsy Who Cried Wolf and Betsy Red Hoodie, the nonfiction Writing Magic: Creating Stories That Fly, as well as her newest, Forgive Me, I Meant To Do It, False Apology Poems.

Gail has a keen sense for what will resonate with young readers, and her characteristic wit and humour are key aspects of all of her published works. She is also a great encourager and supporter of budding authors, and her blog is a robust compilation of advice for writers young and old.

Having grown up immersed in the imaginative and colorful worlds of Gail’s novels, I was delighted to have the chance to interview her via email from her home in Brewster, New York.

Who were the writers you admired most when you first began writing? Which authors most excite you now as a reader?

I began writing for children when I was thirty-nine, and I read most of the Newbery bookcase at my local library. I especially loved Joan Aiken and E. L. Konigsburg. At the moment, oddly enough, I’m a full-time student going for a Masters of Fine Arts in poetry, and poetry is what I’m reading. I admire Sharon Olds, Ted Kooser, James Wright, Robert Hayden, Lisel Mueller, and many more. [Read more…]

Kendare Blake

kendareblakeauthorphotoInterviewed by Sam Markham

Kendare Blake is the author of one New Adult and three Young Adult novels. She has an MA in writing from Middlesex University in London, and her award-winning teen horror novel, Anna Dressed in Blood, was recently optioned for film by Stephenie Meyer’s production company, Fickle Fish. The second novel in her current Goddess War series will be released later this year, and she’s also written short stories.

Kendare is a fan of classic Stephen King, saviour of multiple animals roadside, and the author of a fantastic blog that includes tags like “Tyrion Cattister” (her second feline) and “pre-lasagna procrastination.”

I contacted her after being blown away by her Anna series, and was thrilled when she agreed to speak to me by email about such writerly subjects as ulcers, the nebulous world of self-promotion, and moving back in with one’s parents.

What drove you to begin your career as a writer? What did you do before that?

Writing has always been the thing to do. The only thing I’ve ever been compelled to do. But, there’s also the nasty necessity of, er, paying for the necessities, so I went to college for something else and worked as a project manager for a bit. It was gross. After a while, I blew up the car and walked away, started a new life. A writing life, starving be damned, a.k.a. I went to London for grad school and then moved back in with my parents. [Read more…]

Shelley Hrdlitschka

Shelley-Hrdlitschka-webInterviewed by Caitlin Fisher

Shelley Hrdlitschka is the author of nine young adult novels, most recently Allegra. She has received a number of awards for her emotionally charged novels that explore complex and often sensitive subjects. Kat’s Fall was chosen as a White Pine Honour Book for 2005 and Dancing Naked won the 2002 White Pine Award. Her novels have been on the CCBC Our Choice list and the International Reading Association Young Adult’s Choices list; as well, Kat’s Fall was included on the 2005 New York Public Library’s Books for the Teen Age list. Sister Wife was a Governor General’s Award Nominee for 2009. She lives in North Vancouver

I was fortunate enough to get to speak to Shelley over email, and serendipitously in the baking aisle of our local supermarket, about her career, her advice for emerging writers, and her greatest influences.

What was the process for you of publishing your first novel Beans on Toast?

I had been writing for many years before Beans on Toast was offered a publishing contract. I had tried writing picture books, with no success. Then I wrote a couple middle grade novels, and although there was some interest in them, they were never published either. I collected dozens of rejection letters.

Shortly after I submitted Beans on Toast to Orca Books I met the publisher at Word on the Street, a literary festival held in downtown Vancouver. He was there to speak about the publishing business. I introduced myself and told him he had a submission of mine. He said he recognized my name and shortly after that I received a contract. I’ve often wondered if it helped that he could put a face to the name in deciding whether to offer a contract for that book. [Read more…]

Evan Munday

Munday-webInterviewed by Aaron Chan

Evan Munday is the author and illustrator of The Dead Kid Detective Agency, a finalist for the Sunburst Award for fantastical young adult literature and the Silver Birch Fiction Award. He sometimes makes comics and worked for eight years as book publicist for indie press Coach House Books. He lives in Toronto.

A few years ago, when I took a Children’s Lit class in college, The Dead Kid Detective Agency was the only book on the reading list written by a Canadian author. As the instructor told the class, “He’s not that much older than you guys, too.” Charmed by the snappy humour as well as the unabashed Canadiana of the novel and the sequel, Dial M for Morna, I had the opportunity to chat with Evan via email about his illustrating background, rejections, and The Postman.

When/how did you know you wanted to pursue writing as a career? 

I’m not sure it is my career yet! Really, I don’t do it full-time. But I think I knew something was up by third or fourth grade. At that point, I was already writing and drawing my own X-Men comics. (I was really into the X-Men then; still am.) I really enjoyed it – kept writing and drawing these comics – so I always hoped some kind of storytelling, whether written, drawn, or both, would be in my future. [Read more…]

Jennifer Iacopelli

Jennifer IacopelliInterviewed by Beth Pond

Jennifer Iacopelli was born in New York and has no plans to leave…ever. Growing up, she read everything she could get her hands on, but her favourite authors were Laura Ingalls Wilder, L.M. Montgomery and Frances Hodgson Burnett, all of whom wrote about kick-ass girls before it was cool for girls to be kick-ass. She got a Bachelor’s degree in Adolescence Education and English Literature, quickly followed up by a Master’s in Library Science, which lets her frolic all day with her books and computers, leaving plenty of time in the evenings to write and yell at the Yankees, Giants and her favourite tennis players through the TV.

I am an admirer of Iacopelli’s debut Young Adult novel Game. Set. Match. and was delighted when she agreed to speak with me by email.

When did you first discover your love of writing?

Eighth grade, sitting in an Honors Earth Science classroom bored out of my mind, a friend, who shall remain nameless and I would pass a notebook back and forth writing stories starring our favorite celebrities and characters conveniently with our names as their love interests. I didn’t do nearly as well in Earth Science as I should have, but at least one thing stuck. [Read more…]

Hiromi Goto

HGotoInterviewed by Haley Whishaw

Hiromi Goto is an award-winning Japanese-Canadian author whose novels include Chorus of Mushrooms, which received the 1995 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book in the Canada/Caribbean region; The Kappa Child, which received the James Tiptree Memorial Award; and Hopeful Monsters, a collection of short stories. She has written two Young Adult novels: Half World, which received the 2010 Sunburst Award and the Carl Brandon Society Parallax Award,and Darkest Light. She has also published the children’s book The Water of Possibility and a long poem, Wait Until Late-Afternoon, which was co-written with David Bateman.

Her work often straddles both reality and fantasy, weaving folklore with contemporary settings and issues. In keeping with this style, she suggested our interview mirror the Voight-Kampff tests that are employed in the film Blade Runner for detecting AI. There were no AI “retired” during the process of this interview.

After reading countless works of others, at what point did you realize that you yourself had a story to tell and that you were the only one who could tell it?

I was eight or nine or ten. I read the kind of book that makes you forget everyone else in the world, even yourself—you only feel the hopes and fears and despair of the character you’ve been living with for the past five hours. When I finished reading that book I came to the realization that the rich, saturated, intensely real life I had vicariously lived was one that was constructed out of words. Marks on paper. Written by a person. That was when I first felt the desire to write. My child self didn’t feel I had a specific story to tell—I only felt a strong desire to be able to make someone else feel the many intense feelings that I felt upon reading that book. I don’t remember the title of the book. It’s lost somewhere in the grey folds/ers of my soft drive…. [Read more…]

Susin Nielsen

Susin NielsenInterviewed by Clara Kumagai

Susin Nielsen credits her big break to her time as a caterer for the cast and crew of Degrassi Junior High, though she had been writing long before that. It was Degrassi that began her career, though, after a spec script led to her writing sixteen episodes, as well as four books in the Degrassi novel series. After graduating from Degrassi—so to speak—Susin went on to write for and work on TV series, including Ready or Not, Madison, The Adventures of Shirley Holmes and Heartland.

Susin’s writing is not limited to the TV screen, however. She has written three children’s books: Mormor Moves In, The Magic Beads and Hank and Fergus, which won Mr. Christie’s Silver Medal award. In 2008, Susin published her first original young adult novel, Word Nerd, followed by Dear George Clooney: Please Marry My Mom. In 2012, The Reluctant Journal of Henry K Larsen was published, and subsequently won the Governor General’s Award for Children’s Text.

Having read all of Susin’s young adult novels, I was struck by her ability to capture the hilarious highs and troubling lows of the teenage experience. Sensitive without sugar-coating and humorous without belittling, Susin is one of the most engaging young adult authors in Canada.

Did you want to write from a young age?

Yes. I found my first diary, written when I was 11 years old, in the garage a few years ago. It starts with this paragraph: “This is the first day I’ve really written in a diary. The reason I am is ‘cos I LOVE writing stories, and if I do grow up to be a famous writer, and later die, and they want to get a story of my life, I guess I should keep a diary.”!! Although I did have other ideas for a while, like “I’m going to be a famous actress” and “I’m going to be a TV news reporter.” [Read more…]

Melanie Little

MelanieLittleInterview by Kari Lund-Teigen

Melanie Little is an award-winning author and editor. Her debut collection of stories, Confidence, was shortlisted for the Danuta Gleed Award and selected as a Globe and Mail Top 100 Book. Her 2008 novel-in-verse for young adults, The Apprentice’s Masterpiece, was a Canadian Library Association Honour Book, a gold medalist at the Independent Publisher Book Awards, and a White Raven selection for the International Youth Library in Munich.

She began her career as an editor by bringing Freehand Press to national prominence in its first year with the Giller-prize finalist Good to a Fault by Marina Endicott. Of Melanie Little as an editor, Endicott has said “she brings a truly ridiculous diligence to any task she undertakes.” After teaching creative writing at Dalhousie, Little returned to editing as the editor-at-large for Annick Press before becoming the senior editor of Canadian fiction at House of Anansi Press.

I wrote to Melanie to request an interview, mentioning a long-ago talk we’d had while she was the writer-in-residence at the University of Calgary. In that meeting, she was exceedingly kind and encouraging. That moment of encouragement meant a lot to me, and I wondered, as I often do, not how writers begin, but how they continue.

Little recently stepped down as senior fiction editor at House of Anansi Press to devote more time to her own writing. She graciously agreed to the interview (preferring, as I think many writers do, to conduct it via email). I sent her a list of questions, telling her to ignore those that were not interesting to her or that she did not feel like answering. True to form, she answered them all, with generosity and depth. [Read more…]