Q. Welcome to My Book Retreat! Who or what inspired you to become an author?
A. Becoming an author was never a childhood dream, however writing was always part of my life and very much second nature to me - I kept diaries for many years as a child, and had pen friends in Africa, France, the USA and even within England!
I first dabbled in writing short stories when I was a student – but never really got far with it. It was really when my second son, Nick, was born that I became inspired to write for children - probably because I’d just had two years of reading children’s books cover to cover to his older brother! Sharing stories with my young children took me back to my childhood when my mother would read Tales by the Riverbank and The Book of A Thousand Poems to us. Quite suddenly I realized that I had ideas that I could develop for children – and when I sat down to have a go I found that creating magical make-believe worlds came much more easily than trying to write fiction for adults.
Q. Can you give a quick summary of each of your books for my readers?
A. The Secret Lake is ‘time-slip’ mystery adventure in which Stella (11) and her younger brother, Tom (8), who have just moved into their new London home become mystified by the disappearances of Harry, their elderly neighbour's dog. Where does he go? And why does he keep reappearing wet-through?
Their quest to solve the riddle over the summer holidays leads to a boat buried under a grassy mound - and a tunnel that takes them to a beautiful secret lake where they see a young boy rowing frantically towards them. Why does he look so terrified? And whose are those children's voices carried on the wind from beyond the woods on the far side of the water?
Stella and Tom soon discover that they have travelled back in time to their home and its gardens almost 100 years earlier. Here they meet the children living in their past time home and take part in a daring plan to rescue a young boy who's been falsely accused of theft. As the story unravels the children make both friends and enemies, and uncover startling connections between the past and present.
A magical story about trust, loyalty and lasting friendships.
Eeek! The Runaway Alien is a fun and fast-paced story about eleven-year-old Charlie Spruit who opens his door to an alien one morning. Charlie soon discovers that this alien has run away from space to Earth to be with him because he's mad about soccer and the World Cup is on...!
Charlie hides Eeek! in his bedroom where the alien sleeps on the ceiling by night and pores over Charlie's soccer magazines by day while Charlie is at school. The only person Charlie lets in on his alien secret is his best friend, Jake and together they have fun sneaking around with him in disguise!
All is going surprisingly well until slimy sci-fi mad Sid Spiker, who lives out the back, spots Eeek through his telescope. Sid has his own plans for this alien, which bring surprises that no-one could have imagined… The story has fun black and white illustration throughout – a great book for sporty boys (and soccer loving girls!) or reluctant readers aged 7-10 yrs.
Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep is first of six rhyming picture books about a kind-hearted urban fox who is always helping others.
Ferdinand sleeps his way through this first story where, through his dream bubbles, he shares with us all of his favourite food! Even when Peter Maceever spots him in his garden and goes out to take a photo Ferdinand hardly stirs - he has far more important things to do, like dream about cakes and ice cream!
The church clock strikes one, two, three four and five as time passes by. By the end of the story Ferdinand has finally left the garden – but we somehow know that we have just met a very special fox…
(Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep is based on a true story !)
Q. What are you working on now?
A. I’m currently working on an iPad App for Ferdinand Fox’s Big Sleep. In fact I’m keen to find volunteers to test it with their younger children and review it for me when the first release is available, so please do ask parents of children aged 3-5 years to email me at email@example.com if they are interested. I’ll be looking for feedback from 10 volunteers in all. I’ve been very keen to retain a shared reading experience for the App as opposed to the type of full blown ‘movie’ type experience that comes with some (admittedly wonderfully entertaining) children’s Apps. I will be very interested to hear what parents think!
Next up I will be finalising a shorter story I’ve written for age 6+ readers called Henry Haynes and the Great Zoo Escape!
Q. What are your strategies for connecting to children and keeping their interest?
A. I do quite a few school events and bookstore signings. What I find works best to engage with the children is to start by finding out a bit about them –what books they like, and about experiences they may have had that connect to my book’s theme. So for Eeek! I’ll find out who likes soccer and aliens, which soccer teams the children support, and whether they believe in aliens! For The Secret Lake it’s about how many children have dogs and whether they have ever gone missing - and whether they would have liked to live 100 years ago without TV, cellphones and iPads! And with Ferdinand Fox we talk about foxes that children have seen in their gardens or neighborhood – and pratice finding rhyming words!
Q. Who are your favorite children's book authors?
A. I love many children’s authors! But here are three that immediately spring to mind as being at the top of my list.
- David Almond – for writing such engaging, intelligent and usual books for children. Books such as Kit’s Wilderness and Heaven Eyes are in a class of their own in my view!
- Michael Morpurgo – especially for War Horse
- CS Lewis – for the Narnia series, which I loved as a child… I love fantasy worlds!
- I also love the Francesca Simon Horrid Henry books! So very funny!
Q. What genres and authors do you most enjoy reading?
A. When reading for pleasure I tend to go for literary fiction or historical fiction. I’m not really a crime book reader or genre reader as such. I also don’t tend to read lots of books by the same author…! Authors whose works I have particularly enjoyed include Anne Tyler, Hilary Mantel, Kathryn Stocket, Hosseini Khaled…oh and so many more!
Q. What do you enjoy doing when you're not reading?
A. Writing! But I also regularly get out to the theatre and opera and to concerts and museums. Living in London I am lucky to have all of these things virtually on my doorstep. I managed to get a last minute return ticket to see The Magic Flute at The Royal Opera House for £6 a few weeks ago – and have recently seen a fantastic exhibition on Pompeii at the British Museum!
Thanks so much for visiting with me today! I'll be reviewing each of those three books in the coming weeks.
Connect with Karen Inglis on her Facebook page, Twitter or her blog.