Location and life experiences can really influence writing, tell us where you grew up and where you now live? I was born in Montreal, but I grew up in New England, near Boston. I think New England has had the largest influence on my writing over all; it’s really impossible to live there and not be affected by the power of nature and colourful history. It’s no coincidence that so much literature from the area is steeped in nature, from Washington Irving’s Legend of Sleepy Hollow to the creepy New England settings in Stephen King’s novels. There’s a very real sense that nature is still wild, wonderful and full of magic. When I began writing ROOT BOUND, I wanted to find a way to bring that same feral magic into a modern urban environment, and while I’m a big fan of urban paranormal, I was looking to do something more overtly organic.
What is hardest – getting published, writing or marketing? I think they’re all challenging at first, but they all do get better over time. If you’re looking to get published traditionally, then it’s a very hard slog to find an agent, and then a lot of work to support that agent until your book is sold. But when you’ve done it once, it’s much easier to keep going, assuming your work is good. On the other hand, if you’re self-publishing, the first time out can be very daunting – there’s all that technical stuff you need to know, plus all the costs to get things done if you’re not able to do it yourself. But again, once you’ve gone through the process once, it gets easier. With writing, I think it’s harder when you’re just getting started, especially if you’re still working out your style and your craft, but again, as you gain technical confidence, it’s easier to enjoy the process. Marketing is the one thing I enjoy the least, so I suppose that’s the hardest aspect for me, but again, it’s really just a question of trying different things and keeping track of what works and what doesn’t. I expect that my marketing plan for my second book will be quite different, hopefully cheaper and more efficient, because I’ll already know what to do.
What other jobs have you had in your life? Gosh, what haven’t I done? Let’s see, in order, I’ve been: a baby sitter, a newspaper delivery girl, data clerk and page at the local library, a camp counsellor, Chuck E. Cheese (yes, I was *the* Chuck), a retail clerk, a bookseller, an office admin, an ESL teacher overseas, an editor and online researcher, a store owner, a content manager and a social media strategist. I think that’s all, but I might be missing a few. I never got to be a cowgirl, though. That would have been fun.
Tell us about your new book. What’s it about and why did you write it? ROOT BOUND is the story of Emma and her father, who are always on the move, travelling from place to place as her father’s work demands. Their new home, however, is different. There’s a frightening woman who lives down the hall: she bears an uncanny resemblance to a witch. A mysterious light comes from her apartment, and a small boy seems to be trapped inside. A group of odd creatures called basement brownies appear in the air vent in her bedroom, and she follows them underground in an attempt to restore magic to both the brownie burrow and the human world above.
The story started as a writing fragment that I wrote nearly 10 years earlier. There was an old cold water flat with a piano in the corner. A girl was curled up under the piano, crying. The wind was blowing, making the curtains dance, and there was something – I didn’t know what – watching her. For some reason, the image stuck with me, and when I found the time to sit down to write many years later, I found myself back in that room, wondering what was going on. I wrote ROOT BOUND to find out.
How do you feel about self-publishing? I’m still a bit torn when it comes to self-publishing, even though that is the route I chose for ROOT BOUND. As a writer, I’m grateful that it’s possible to publish my own work, especially at a time when traditional publishing is shrinking and so afraid to publish anything that isn’t standard blockbuster material. On the other hand, the rapid growth of self-publishing and eBooks are part of the reason this situation exists in the first place. From a marketing perspective, self-publishing is tough. Really, really tough. I think it was still possible to strike it big like Amanda Hawking or E.L. James when there were fewer people fighting for a growing number of readers, but now, the number of readers has tapered off, but more people are self-publishing than ever. It gets very difficult to cut through all that noise. But again, getting a traditional book deal is no guarantee that your book will sell either, and you have to put in the time no matter which way you go.
Finally, as an avid reader, I am painfully aware of the way the changing publishing industry has affected bookstores, especially all those great indie shops who are currently struggling or already gone. I might also feel the loss more than most people, since I’ve already been through this process when I closed down my own CD and video store in Stratford, Ontario. And self-published authors rarely get into bookstores in the first place. I don’t think that print-on-demand services will ever compensate for that.
How far will you go to find your way home?
Emma and her father are always on the move, travelling from place to place as her father’s work demands. Their new home, however, is different. There’s a frightening woman who lives down the hall: she bears an uncanny resemblance to a witch. A mysterious light comes from her apartment, and a small boy seems to be trapped inside. School in this town is no happy place either, with an odd principal and a gang of girls who make tormenting Emma their special project. And strangest of all is the fact that there seem to be brownies – basement brownies, in the air vent in her bedroom.
Haunted by visions of her mother, Emma travels through the brownie burrow to the valley of Hades to visit with the goddess Ceres, following a series of clues that lead her across the sea of memory to the centre of the world. There, on an inhospitable rock floating in a sea of steaming lava, Emma must find a way to release her mother from the sea of memory and restore magic to both the brownie burrow and the human world above.
Genre - Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure
Rating – G (ages 10+)
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