Welcome to the four hundred and eighty-eighth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with children’s author Carrie King. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Carrie. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Carrie : Hello, Morgen, I am a widow and I live alone; well, I live with my yummy cat, Brewster. I live 5 months a year in the City, in Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England and I live the other 7 months in My Sanctuary, which is a lovely mobile home by the river in Bedfordshire. I have three gorgeous daughters, none of them are married but they have all fled the Nest and live their own, independent, successful lives.
Here is a picture of me with my youngest daughter, Hannah and Brewster.
I have been writing ever since I can remember, although my first ‘Big Production’ was when I was eight. I wrote a Play and commandeered my hapless brother and sister to act it out with me in front of our parent’s House Guests… oh well.
Morgen: What fun. 🙂 You’re a children’s author, please tell us more about that, and have you considered other genres?
Carrie: I have written and illustrated a Picture Book and a full-blown Time Travel Adventure. When I have completed The Circles Trilogy (I am half-way through BOOK TWO), I am going to write ‘It shouldn’t happen to a Widow’… based on my hilarious experiences as a widow.
Morgen: A very tough topic to write about. What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Carrie: 1: The Circles Trilogy BOOK ONE The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip.
2: The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip Picture Book.
I was always called Carrie at school (although I was Christened Carol), and I use King for a very special reason. My father married a young woman called Violet King and she died after giving birth to my half-brother, John. My father then married my mother, eighteen months later. So, if it hadn’t have been for Violet’s sad demise, I would never have been born. I call myself ‘King’ in remembrance of Violet King, my half-brother’s mother.
Morgen: How sad. Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Carrie: Of course I have had rejections, Morgen, aren’t they supposed to be ‘good’ for us… keep us humble and all that? I also hope that one day, if the American Chronicle’s predictions come true that I make it as a well-known writer (they have put ‘Joni-Pip’ alongside Alice in Wonderland), so that I can grin at those who rejected ‘Joni-Pip’.
I love Frank Sinatra’s quote, ‘The best revenge is massive success.’
Morgen: And many have done just that. Apart from Harry Potter being rejected 14-16 times (depending upon where you read the statistic), Dean Koontz was apparently rejected over 500 times. Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Carrie: No, and many successful writers never have. I have been rejected by several agents…. so I just got on and approached publishers myself. I never understand how anyone can judge a book’s potential on reading simply three chapters! However, I do have a Manager and a P.A. (two actually).
Morgen: Could I borrow one of them while I catch up with my emails? 🙂 Are your books available as eBooks? Were you involved in that process at all?
Carrie: Yes the Joni-Pip Adventure Story is. I am afraid I had nothing to do with it. Apple asked if they could make Joni-Pip into an e-pub, so they did it all and Joni-Pip was made into a Kindle by the tech guys at my publishers. It is also available on Barnes and Noble as a Nook (I think that is what they are called)!
Morgen: They are. 🙂 Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Carrie: Hmmmmm… I am not into e-books. Like so many, I love the smell of a book and the feel of the paper as you turn the pages, I find it very comforting, possibly because it reminds me of being a child again.
Morgen: You’re right, most people read both formats (myself included) and only a handful (possibly less) have favoured eBooks over pBooks completely. How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Carrie: So much! The ‘author game’, as I call it, has really changed, hasn’t it, Morgen (I am sure you know all about that)?
Morgen: I’ve only been writing for seven years and obsessed for a couple so I’m fairly green. 🙂
Carrie: I was brought up on Enid Blyton Books and yet, to this day, I still don’t know what she looked like. Today, that would never happen. Martyn, my Marketing Manager, always says to me, ‘Carrie, you are our best Marketing Tool.’ I expect that is the same for most authors. He says I have to be seen, so I do countless Author Days at Schools and Colleges: I give talks for Book Groups, Writer’s Groups, in Libraries (I am giving a Talk and doing a Book Signing at a Ladies Luncheon at Luton Hoo later this year; it is a very grand place and I was pleasantly surprised when they wrote and asked my Manager if I would agree to come), and we have had many Joni-Pip Events. They are brilliant as Joni-Pip has such a fan base. I cannot remember how many times I have been on BBC Radio. Sometimes, I wish I didn’t have to do so much promoting so I could spend more time writing. Oh and I have been on BBC Television, too.
Here is a short clip of me on BBC Television with some Circleites (Joni-Pip fans).
Morgen: You’ll have to give me some tips as I’ve been booked for a couple of events next year. 🙂 Do you have a favourite character? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Carrie: Asking me if I have a favourite character, Morgen, is like asking me who is my favourite child: although, I do have a special place for Poppy in my heart.
I have often thought about Joni-Pip being made into a film and I have told Sir Ian McKellen, I would love him to play the Inventor, Archimedes Spindlethrop and I have also told Patrick Stewart that I would love him to play Grandfather. My great niece, Joni-Philipa (whom I wrote the book for in the first place), wants to play Flip and my incredibly beautiful granddaughter, Paige, wants to play Joni-Pip. Liam Ashmead, who goes to Stage School and whose Dad, Luke, works for BBC 3 Counties Radio wants to play Craig, he is a huge Joni-Pip fan. I would like a real American to play Father but two actors, one when Father was 20 and another when he is 38. Brad Pitt would be nice… oh sorry… my mind wandered a bit there…
Morgen: I’d have him in some capacity too. 🙂 Did you have any say in the title / covers of your books? How important do you think they are?
Carrie: No, that is (I am told), nothing to do with me! I suppose they are very important, although aren’t we cautioned, ‘you can’t tell a book by looking at its cover’. My Tech Team wanted something completely different from all the modern covers, you know the Harry Potter covers were more like cartoony-thingies. They wanted something ‘timeless’. So South African Illustrator, Mark Taute, was commissioned to paint a watercolour and the Design Team worked from there. Here is a picture of me with Joni-Pip, herself, holding up that brilliant painting.
Morgen: You don’t often get to see the original artwork, it’s lovely. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Carrie: BOOK TWO, The Life by the Sea with Joni-Pip… I have had to make loads of changes already because The Managing Director of Bletchley Park, Simon Greenish, read Joni-Pip and said he loved it and asked me to include this Home of the Code Breakers in my second plot. When the book is finally finished, they are going to have a permanent Joni-Pip Trail there. How cool is that?
Morgen: Wow. There’ll be a theme park next. 🙂 Do you manage to write every day? Do you ever suffer from writer’s block?
Carrie: Sadly, no. Yes, occasionally.
Morgen: 😦 Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Carrie: I think all of us writers spend a lot of time thinking about plots; my favourite place to do that is while I am swimming in the river. However, I always tell the students I talk to that I look upon writing a book, as a Football (Soccer) Match. Everyone on a team knows the aim of the game is to get goals and they know which direction they are heading in. However, no-one can predict anything other than the aim, as all through the game come shots and tackles and different players undertaking unexpected moves. Just like writing a book, for me it’s full of action and unexpected twists and turns, although I know where I am heading and where I want to get to and the goal I want to achieve but I have no idea when I start out, how I am going to finally get there. It’s such a wonderful process.
Morgen: I’d not thought of it like that. Do you have a method for creating your characters, and what do you think makes them believable?
Carrie: Another good question, Morgen.
Morgen: Thank you. 🙂
Carrie: Again, like most authors, I base my characters on real people I know, or mixtures of real people or people I meet briefly. To be an interesting writer, I think it is important to be observant. I am a total ‘people watcher and listener’ (which makes me very boring to go out to dinner with as I am constantly listening in to other people’s conversations and watching other people’s actions and reactions), and I jot down anything remotely funny or unusual or noteworthy on anything I can get my hands on. Many a time I have written down conversations on a paper napkin with lipstick: I must remember to carry a notebook and pen at all times (Sheena, my Exec. P.A. is always trying to drum that into me). I try to base my characters on reality, to make them believable: although in saying that there are some very strange people around that perhaps a Reader might not believe could possibly be real! (How’s that for a CK sentence)!
Morgen: I have a notebook and two pens (in case one stops working) in every bag and every jacket as I’ve had (what I thought were) brilliant ideas and then lost them because I had no way of noting them. A dictaphone also lives in my main bag. Apart from Joni-Pip, how do you come up with your characters’ names?
Carrie: I spoke to a group of 150, 14year-olds last week and we spent quite a bit of time discussing names. I think a memorable name is very important, which means thinking long and hard before deciding on what you are going to use. We discussed ‘Fagin’, isn’t that simply a perfect example? Dickens chose a name that sums up this character so accurately. I bet there are very few people who have never heard of him!
I spent two weeks in West France thinking up the name for my Eccentric Inventor… I finally came up with the name, Archimedes Spindlethrop… I hope one day, he will be remembered. His long-suffering cat is called, ‘Eureka’, of course!
Here are James Boddy’s and Paul Moon’s wonderful drawings of Archimedes Spindlethrop and his cat Eureka.
Morgen: They’re (the names and pictures) are great. 🙂 Do you write any non-fiction or short stories?
Carrie: Non-fiction? No, although today, my daughter, Zoe, said, ‘Mummy, you should write your Memoirs, you have had such a fun and interesting life!’ Hmmmm. Yes, I wrote The Ticket, a short story, which you posted on your blog.
Morgen: I did – it’s here. And poetry?
Carrie: I have written 39 poems but I am rubbish at it… let me show you. I can only write as I see the thoughts… I can’t write in all this symbolic stuff, it’s too airy fairy for me.
When my husband was killed I always kept smiling and trying to encourage others who missed him, too, so I wrote this:
The face she’s wearing on my face,
Is not my face at all.
The girl that’s breathing in this girl,
Is really just a wall.
The girl that’s ‘me’, the face you see,
Is just a happy mask.
The breath you hear, the smile I wear,
‘Is whose then?’ Do you ask?
The one you see, the girl that’s ‘me’
Is always full of fun.
She laughs a lot, has always got
A smile for everyone.
Within the smile, once in a while,
You’ll catch a sudden stare.
As from the ‘fun’, she longs to run
To someone who could care.
Beneath the face, there lurks a place
Of shadows, pain and sadness.
Under the laugh, there runs a path
Of shudders, blame and badness.
It’s not her fault, she’d like to halt
The life she’s forced to lead.
Who could she tell about her ‘Hell’?
There’s no one there who’d heed.
She hoped one day, t’would go away
And leave her safe and free.
Then in its place, would be my face,
Myself I’d truly be.
The face I’d wear upon my face,
Would be my face, you see.
The girl that breathed within this girl,
Would really just be me.
Morgen: The pictures I’ve seen of you have always been uplifting. It’s so hard to remain positive after a loss but I know most people wouldn’t want us to be sad. It was a beautiful poem, thank you. Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Carrie: Difficult question, Morgen.
Morgen: Oh dear, sorry. 🙂
Carrie: In all honesty, I think about every sentence I write. I think about structure, alliteration, meter and flow. I suppose that is why my work takes so long! I get a bit sad, though, when I read typos in my printed work. Oh well, despite having editors, this digital age, although instant in its results, means more overlooked errors!
Morgen: But with eBooks they can be instantly corrected. 🙂 I had a typo pointed out in my Story a Day May 2011 (a ‘smelly’ instead of ‘smell’ – big difference! – thank you, Jenny) and I just went in and changed it. I’m sure every reader has found something in some of the works they’ve read over the years. We just have to do the best we can. Do you have to do much research?
Carrie: Yes, of course, don’t all authors?
Morgen: I would hope so, even if they’re sure of something. My bookmarks to Google, Wikipedia and YouTube are constantly in use.
Carrie: I love History and my family seems to have so much, which I like to use, so that takes a lot of digging and searching but I so enjoy it all. I also spent ages in Bath, researching the Air raids of 1942. Joni-Pip opens with this horrific bombardment. Also, my fifth cousin, Colonel Anthony Durnford, was in charge of a small battalion of Royal Engineers in the Zulu Wars. All but two of them died but in Joni-Pip I change history but it took quite a bit of research to get all the facts.
Here is a painting of that fateful Battle of Isandlwana, you can see my cousin… and if you knew him, you would see my brother, David, looks so much like him!
Morgen: 🙂 What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Carrie: Hmmmm… once again a good question (I must get some ready for you to answer).
Carrie: I love writing in the third person because that is the easiest and, so lazy am I but I mix it up with a bit of ‘illegal’ first person in Joni-Pip. The American Chronicle loved that part of Joni-Pip; referring to it as ‘asides’ to the Reader. I have never tried second person that sounds a tad too difficult for me.
Morgen: It’s weird but just takes a bit of practice. You just have to think that you’re talking to the reader / character rather than about them (the latter). Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Carrie: Of course and I have this romantic notion that when I am dead these pieces of work will be discovered in my attic, although I don’t have one but I do have a heavily overloaded loft, with suitcases of my old work.
Morgen: Wow. I have a few display books but hope that once I go through them I can see where I went ‘wrong’ and pull them apart and sew them neatly back together again. What’s your favourite aspect of your writing life?
Carrie: Oh, I love writing by the river on my decking in Felmersham, Bedfordshire, England, (not far from you, Morgen, although I didn’t discovered that until recently).
Morgen: 19.6 miles according to Google. 🙂
Carrie: I have a beautiful mobile home that I escape to for seven months a year. It is my little Paradise, which I share with the birds, cows, sheep, geese, swans, bunnies and a beautiful and majestic Barn Owl, who comes and flies a few times around the field every evening. Also because I am far away from any light pollution, I see so many shooting stars on clear evenings. Am I not blessed?
Morgen: I would say so. I always think of the sea (a 3-hour drive in pretty much every direction) as being the only water but forget the beautiful rivers and lakes we have, although there’s nothing quite like the thrill of a splashing surf. And your least favourite?
Carrie: I love people and because I live in such an Idyllic part of Britain, many of my friends like to come and visit… However, I am sometimes bursting with words, which I am unable to deliver to my screen as I am having to entertain my guests! This is a few yards from my home in Bedfordshire where I do most of my writing.
Also, I sometimes find reviews a tad difficult to understand. One writer commented that I shouldn’t explain so much about Joni-Pip’s thoughts. For example she said I shouldn’t say, ‘This comment puzzled Joni-Pip’ but I should just write, ‘Joni-Pip pursed her lips’… hmmmm… if I were writing for adults only that would seem fine to me but my target age was 9-12… would a 9-year-old really understand what ‘pursed her lips’ meant? I think not. I didn’t make a comment to the reviewer. I hope I did the professional thing and remained silent but I felt she didn’t understand children’s books or children at all.
Morgen: I had the same sort of thing about my free eStory April’s Fool, one chap said “bit skimpy on the details but we get the idea” and another said that there was too much detail we just want to know what happens. Whatever you do, you can’t win. Has anything surprised you?
Carrie: Many things have surprised me… particularly being referred to as, ‘The British Mark Twain’ (how amazing is that and I am most unworthy)……as well as putting Joni-Pip alongside Treasure Island. Sometimes when I read reviews in newspapers I think that they can’t be talking about me and my work! I am so honoured.
Morgen: Newspapers don’t lie. 🙂 What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Carrie: The 3 ‘K’s: Keep writing, keep fighting and keep going.
Morgen: I love that. If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Carrie: Moses, Jesus and William Tindale. I think I would make a thick, creamy mushroom soup for starters and then I would grill some salmon fillets, accompanied by jacket potatoes and an enormous green salad with plenty of wild rocket, followed by fresh fruit salad and crème fraiche. I am not a drinker but I suppose a Vintage Sancerre would go down really well with that meal. I personally would have a mixture of freshly squeezed orange and cranberry juice. Coming, Morgen?
Morgen: Ooh, yes please. Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Carrie: ‘Love betters what is best’, by Wordsworth, is my favourite quote. I love the words ‘apple pie’; they sound so lovely on the mouth (great pun even though I say so myself)! Just say them and you will know what I mean.
Morgen: 🙂 Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Carrie: And when, pray, do I have time to do this, Young Lady???
Morgen: Um… same as me. 🙂 What do you do when you’re not writing?
Carrie: I read, dance (that is so yummy), and try to swim in the river every day I am in Felmersham. The local fishermen call me, ‘The Mermaid’…
Morgen: 🙂 Are there any writing-related websites and/or books that you find useful?
Carrie: www.goodreads.com. Stephen King wrote a brilliant book, ‘On Writing’. It is a real bible for writers, I savoured each sentence and I recommend that every aspiring and even established writer should read it. My friend, the Geo-Physicist, who created the Formula Board for me in Joni-Pip, bought it for me in Paris and I treasure it. Have you read it, Morgen?
Morgen: I haven’t but I do own it. I’d rather read it from cover to cover than dip into it and every time an interviewee mentions it (which is often) I stare at it on the shelf and so far, that’s where it’s stayed. I must read it. Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Carrie: Erm…I am truly so busy, I rarely have time to be sociable online. I sometimes tweet (CarrieKing1), and I have a small number of friends on Facebook.
Morgen: Quanlity not quantity. 🙂 What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Carrie: I think we live in an amazing literary age. Anyone can become an Author and get their work out on the Net, all it takes is hard work and persistence.
Morgen: It does. Where can we find out about you and your work?
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Carrie: I would just like to say a massive thank you, Morgen, for working so hard for so many writers and poets, that’s all!
Morgen: You’re very welcome. I’m just so glad they want to be here, and they keep coming. Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Carrie: Lots and soon you will be interviewed on your own website: by me!
Morgen: That would make a lovely change. 🙂 I was interviewed by myself here (no.100) but different questions would be fun. Thank you, Carrie.
I then invited Carrie to include an extract of her writing…
‘The cosiness of the cottage hugged them, as it always did, when they walked in; only this time, the fragrance from the freshly thatched roof still lingered in Knotty Knook, making their arrival even more welcoming than usual. Father had telephoned through to the village Post Office, notifying Mr. Broft of their arrival and Mrs. Broft had gone in and aired the beds, lit some fires and left a cold supper for them in the kitchen.
They all felt very tired after eating, so Joni-Philipa and Becky-Paige went off to bed not much before Alex, Mother and Father.
The next morning Joni-Philipa was slightly bewildered when she woke up in her bedroom in Berry Bush. After a few minutes she realised where she was, leapt out of bed and ran to look out of the window. She pulled back the red check curtains and there they were: her very own Windy Woods. She so wanted to run up the hill and into her beloved trees.
As she started to get dressed she looked up and saw her face in her dressing table mirror. Her eyes were still swollen and puffy from her crying almost the entire day before and she couldn’t help but laugh at herself.
The stubborn twelve-year-old then heard the sound of aircraft above her and shuddered, remembering the horror of the night in the cellar in Bath.
“This silly War!” she said out loud. “This silly, stupid War!”
She promptly put her pyjamas back on and climbed into bed.’
You can read Carrie’s story ‘The Ticket’ here, listen to me reading it here and read Carrie’s author spotlight.
Update December 2012: Since you interviewed me in September, Morgen, a few exciting things have happened:
- After a meeting with the ‘Powers That Be’ at Bletchley Park, I am now writing BOOK TWO of The Circles Trilogy as ‘Joni-Pip and The Bletchley Park Project’, which hopefully will be finished by Easter 2013, when their PR Manger is going to do three months promotions of ‘JP & The BP Project’. I Look forward to that. I sent in the first 5 chapters and Simon Greenish, who, although retired from BP (he is the previous MD), is still very active in the goings on at Bletchley Park, and he said, ‘This is going to be superb’….only time will tell, Morgen! That means I have also written 140 pages of BOOK THREE of The Circles Trilogy!
- Also, a Film Producer has copies of Joni-Pip and says he is looking forward to working with me! So a movie seems forthcoming!
- Actor, Peter Egan, seen in Downton Abbey on the 25th December, followed me on Twitter (I hadn’t followed him): I was thrilled as he has always been one of my favourite actors since I was a teenager. I followed him back and now he is reading Joni-Pip and instead of Patrick Stewart (he would make a great Old Farmer Finn), I would love Peter Egan to play Grandfather.
- I started using Twitter properly two weeks ago and I now have 1,390 Followers… and they are growing daily!
- I have been invited on The Pat Marsh Show for BBC Radio Kent on Thursday, 3rd January at 11 am and on The Nick Coffer Show for BBC Three Counties Radio on Tuesday, 8th January at 2:15pm. I look forward to speaking with both guys.
Wow, congratulations, Carrie. 🙂
If you are reading this and you write, in whatever genre, and are thinking “ooh, I’d like to do this” then you can… just email me and I’ll send you the information. They do now (January 2013) carry a fee (£10 / €12.50 / $15) for the new interviews on this blog but everything else (see Opportunities on this blog) is free.
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