To round the week off we meet Katie Stewart, not only an author, but a talented artist as well. Read what she has to say below:
Please introduce yourself, who are you and what do you do?
I’m an Australian fantasy writer and illustrator, mother of three, farmer’s wife, part-time school library assistant and relief teacher. In my spare time (yes, I do have some, very occasionally) I paint pet portraits, design book covers and play the celtic harp.
What first inspired you to start writing?
I’ve always loved writing. It was my best subject at school, along with art. I enjoyed making up long angst-ridden dramas. I’m lazy though. Writing long-hand never appealed and I was a hopeless typist. So once I left school, I didn’t write much beyond the occasional poem or short story. I preferred to draw what was in my head instead, but I never stopped making up stories and storing them in my memory.
Thirteen years ago, two things happened: we brought our son home from Korea and we got a PC. I had this beautiful little boy that we’d worked so hard towards adopting, but I felt really lost. It took me a while to realise that it was because I no longer had any goals. This one huge goal I’d had for the past however-many years was now real and I had nothing else to aim for. So I took a writing course and discovered that I really loved writing novels – made all the easier by that lovely new PC that let me write and rewrite with ease. I haven’t stopped since.
You're an artist as well as a writer, do you find that one influences the other?
In some ways. I love to draw fantasy, making up completely new worlds and that’s what I love to write about, too. I see my stories very visually, which is probably why I tend to get criticised for too many ‘stage directions’ with my characters. I see them doing things in my head and write those actions down instead of leaving them to the readers’ imaginations. Some people hate that! I find I’m stimulated by pictures, too, be they photos, drawings or movies. I absolutely love Pinterest for that reason. I have a board for ‘Inspiration’ and I lose myself in it often. I also have one for “possible characters” which helps me to write my characters.
You seem to like dragons - any reason for this?
That’s a good question and something I never really thought about before. I think there are two reasons. Firstly, I love lizards, especially geckos, which are my favourite animal. I love the way they seem to be smiling. Then there’s their diversity. There are so many lizards, all different. Their looks and diversity extend to dragons. If you study pictures of dragons, you rarely see one exactly the same as another. Everyone imagines them differently and every part of the world imagines them differently. Their portrayal in books is never the same either. They’re like people. Some are good, some bad, some sweet-tempered, some fiery. They have their own personalities. They can be exactly what you want them to be. No one knows exactly what they’re like, so you can portray them any way you wish. I haven’t written any fierce dragons yet, probably because I was brought up with dragons like ‘Custard’ and ‘Puff’ but I will, one day!
I’m helped along, too, by the fact that my nearly ten-year-old daughter is a keen dragon collector, so we have a house full of dragons and often go out on mother-daughter dragon hunts. They’re fun!
If you could spend a day with anyone from history, who would it be?
That’s a hard one. I think I’d have to toss a coin to decide between Leonardo da Vinci and Albert Einstein. Both were highly intelligent, but highly creative at the same time. I’d love to learn how to think the way they did, to take something simple and mundane and turn it around to create something new and wonderful.
What advice would you give new and aspiring authors?
Read, read, read. Don’t stick to one genre or time period. Read everything. When you find something you enjoy, think about what it is that makes you enjoy it. When you want to throw it at the wall, think about what it is that provokes that response. Most importantly, write what you would like to read. I know everyone says you need to know your audience, but if you try to please everyone, your writing won’t be natural. Please yourself and chances are you’ll please others, too.
What are you working on at the moment?
Having just published a book, I’m feeling a little like A.A. Milne’s sailor marooned on the island. I’ve got so many projects that I could work on, but I don’t know which to do next. The sequel to Mark of the Dragon Queen is three-quarters finished, but I wrote it during NaNoWriMo last year, so I’m pretty sure at least half of that three-quarters will be absolute rubbish. Then I have Orlando’s Gift (short story) replanned as a full novel, thanks to a suggestion in a review. Then there’s a children’s book I’d like to write, but that will need illustrations and I’m already doing illustrations for other people. Then there’s another YA novel that’s been rattling around my head for a couple of years. I think I’ll be doing Orlando’s Gift, simply because that’s the one that seems to be taking up my spare time at the moment. Every time I relax, a scene starts playing over in my head, which usually means it wants to be written!
Tell us about your latest work and how we can find out more.
Song of the Jikhoshi came out on April 17th (according to Amazon, although it didn’t actually get seen by anyone until the 19th). It’s the sequel to my first book, Treespeaker, and is ‘sort of’ YA, just like Treespeaker. I tend to write Young Adult-style novels, but not necessarily with YA characters, if that makes any sense. Basically, anyone can read my books from 9 to 90, but my characters are not necessarily teenagers.
This book tells the story of twelve-year-old Zanarr, who was ‘born’ in the forest of Arrakesh at the end of Treespeaker (and you’ll have to read Treespeaker if you want to know why I wrote ‘born’.) He’s just discovered that he’s a sorcerer. Unfortunately, at the same time, dreadful things start to happen in the forest where he lives and if the villagers distrusted him before, now they’re convinced he’s the culprit. When his attempt to save the life of someone he loves goes terribly wrong, he’s forced to run away from the forest into treeless Carlika where he has to choose between using his sorcery for good or evil. Eventually, he returns to the forest and becomes part of the fight to rid the forest of the evil that is threatening to overtake it.
Sorry, there are no dragons in this one, but there are mythical creatures – the jikhoshi. The forest of Arrakesh has its own mythology, which was touched on in Treespeaker. A lot of the old characters are there in this book, and a few new ones.
You can find out more by visiting its page on Amazon at http://authl.it/8f?d (international link) or my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Treespeaker where I discuss my writing.