I am sure you all know Megan Daley’s blog. She very kindly let us use and adapt her author questions, and we liked them so much, they have used by a number of authors now. Here is a Q and A with Karen Wood, who has a new series of books out now for younger readers.
Tell us about your latest book.
TRICKSTARS is a series of six chapter books for 7 – 10 year old girls. Triplet sisters, Ruby, Lexie and Kit dream of a life far from Windara Farm, performing spectacular tricks on their beautiful gypsy cob horses. Then Ruby discovers an old trunk in the stable loft, full of magic and family secrets. A dream ignites inside the girls and the series see them following their dreams of becoming famous trick-riders.
How did you get started as a writer?
My first book, Diamond Spirit was about a friend of mine called Jess who lost her pony in a tragic accident. Jess was so brave that she inspired me to write a book. I got my first publishing contract through an appraisal agency, which submitted my manuscript to publishers.
Which author(s) were your inspiration when you were young?
I really liked John Steinbeck. My favourite book was “The Red Pony”.
What does your typical day look like?
The first thing I do is go outside and feed my horses in my pyjamas. Then I bundle my kids off to school, shoo my husband out the door, pick the hay out of my hair and get myself a coffee. On weekdays I spend the day writing. On the weekends, I usually go horse riding riding with my kids.
Can you describe your workspace?
Most days I work at the dining room table. I have 270 degree views out over my property. It faces north-east and the sun streams in during winter and keeps me warm. I can watch my horses while I work.
Any words of advice for young readers and writers?
Write from the heart, it will shine through in your work.
Do you have a favourite book or character (your own or somebody else’s)?
From my own books, I think it is Kirra, who works on a remote cattle station breaking in horses. She is the heroine in my next book Under the Flame Tree, for teen readers, due for release in September. She is tough, loyal and determined and has a life I can only dream of.
If you were not a creator of books for young people, what would you be?
I also work as a horticulturist. But in my dreams… I would be a horse trainer – like Kirra.
What is your favourite food to eat and/or your favourite music to listen to whilst you are working on your books?
I try my hardest NOT to eat while I work. LOL. And I find it hard to concentrate with music in the back ground. I am a bit ADD; I am very easily distracted and I lose concentration easily. Focusing on anything for more than two seconds has always been a challenge for me. I have a brain like a rusty sieve. But I love listening to music in the car. When I was writing Moonstone Promise, I drove through the QLD outback, through cattle stations and crocodile infested waters, listening to Shane Nicholson. His CD, Familiar Ghosts, really set the mood for Luke’s story. I played it over and over.
How much of yourself, or people you know, is in your books?
The Diamond Spirit series is totally based on my crazy friends in QLD. I had just moved to NSW and was very homesick when I wrote the first book. When the series came out and they read it, they all recognised themselves. In more recent books, like Rain Dance and Jumping Fences, the characters are not so much based on my friends, but their stories have inspired many scenes. One friend told me about being stuck up a tree during a pig hunting trip when she was a kid with cranky pigs circling the base. It was such a funny story, I wrote it into Rain Dance.
If you could have one wish for the world what would it be?
I’d like to rid the world of cancer. It’s a cruel disease.
How difficult was it to move to writing for a younger audience?
It was actually much easier. I still had to find the story arc and come up with good unpredictable endings, which is always a bit of a brain squeeze. I also had to come up with six stories instead of one big one. But because the stories were less complicated, I didn’t need so much block time to get them written. They were easier to plot out.
Is it possible with different covers that your books might appeal to boys? Is it your experience that generally more girls are part of pony/horse clubs than boys? Do people take too much notice of gender issues with children’s books?
I don’t get to design my own covers. My publisher does that. When they sent me the Trickstars cover designs I was thrilled that they hadn’t been totally pink-washed. I am really hoping they do appeal to boys as well as girls. The characters are gutsy and there is lots of action and adventure. Lots of men and boys have read my Diamond Spirit series and they liked them. I’ve even had old stockmen and ringers off stations tell me they liked them.
What important lesson(s), if any, do you want readers to take away from your Trickstars books?
Follow your dreams, catch them and then live them!
What is it about series of books, do you think, that children respond to?
Childrens’ series are usually either character driven or plot driven. I think with the character driven stories like Trickstars, readers get to know a character and like them. I try to create a world in which the reader likes to exist, and fun characters that children like to spend time with.