Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the ninety-eighth, is of children’s author and illustrator Carrie King.
Carrie King was born in the tiny Hamlet of Sharpenhoe in Bedfordshire, England, which sits beneath a small hill, smothered in trees, known as The Clappers, nestled on the edge of the Chilterns. To any Reader of The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip, that might sound a tad familiar!
She was the seventh of eight children, placed between her youngest brother, David and her youngest but older sister, Sylvia. When she was eight, her family moved to another tiny Hamlet in Bedfordshire called Bidwell. She so missed the woods and the hills.
Carrie was educated in Dunstable, Bedfordshire and loved school. English, Art and French were her favourite subjects but she decided to become a doctor! However, this didn’t happen, as she fell in love and was married at nineteen. Being a wife and the mother of three daughters, became her full-time career.
She began to write for television, encouraged by Christopher Walker, Head of Drama for Central Television and Pam Francis, Journalist for the Independent.
The Writing of The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip for her Great Niece, Joni Philipa, began in November 1997 while staying in a villa at Center Parcs, Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire. Joni Philipa was three years old at the time and she was called Joni-Pip, by her parents Philip and Sarah.
Carrie started to draw her illustrations for The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip, whilst staying at Center Parcs. She stayed there many times with her family, and each villa she stayed in provided her with yet another picturesque woodland scene.
Sadly in April 2000, writing was interrupted for a few years by the tragic death of Carrie’s husband in an accident.
The novel began as a story for little children but books take a long time to be written, printed and bound and Joni-Pip grew much quicker than the story. What began as a simple Child’s Tale evolved into an adventure for much older children, which adults have enjoyed too.
The Life in the Wood with Joni-Pip was finally finished in December 2007, over ten years after it was started!
And now from the author herself:
“Miss Carrie, that imagination of yours will surely get you into serious trouble one day!”
Thus came the damning declaration from my Nanny, or was it a foresighted prophecy? I was eight-years-old. What prompted such a censure from my parents’ hired Governess?
T’was most perplexing: every time I was caught red-handed (literally), in certain compromising situations: writing in big red letters on The Nursery wall or dressing up, plastering my apple shaped face in Mother’s lipstick, bedecked in her expensive ‘forbidden’ jewellery, I would instantly come up with the most fantastic and very logical reasons why I simply had to be doing such things.
“Nanny Pam,” I would earnestly remonstrate, “I must use the wall, otherwise we’ll have to cut down trees in the garden to make paper!”
“Nanny Pam, I’m off to The Ball! I can hardly wear plastic popper beads, what shame that would bring on the Family name.”
The problem was, Morgen, I truly believed these yarns I spun (brilliant pun, I congratulate the creator), when in truth, they were nothing short of lies.
Therein lies (my pun this time), the secret of the fantasy writer: we are all compulsive liars, shrouded in the delightful term, ‘imaginative’: even the word conjures up magic!
Take Joni-Pip for example: as in my favourite book, The Wind in the Willows, animals and also, as in my case, toys, talk. We all know that they don’t really converse, so that is a complete falsehood. My parents often found me embroiled in deep discussion and debate with my teds and dolls and to this day, I still do it in writing. So real to me are the characters I create in words that I truly believe them to exist. Take Ethelred-Ted for example; he is Joni-Pip’s much beloved favourite toy, always a listener, always understanding of her point of view….until he comes alive. How shocked she is when he proves to be this talkative, very pompous and yet totally loyal, know-it-all. So authentic is he that once, in my Editor-in-chief’s office, I erupted into unbridled laughter on reading a couple of Ethelred-Ted’s lines (see, real characters). My Editor was puzzled.
“Listen to Eth,” I enthused, “he’s such a hoot. When Jack reminds him we are all only made of dust, Eth replies, ‘That blows me away!’ ”
I then continued, crimped in giggles.
Morgen, it didn’t occur to me that I was the maker of the mirth that had so enraptured me. So good are we fantasy writers at lying that we even fool ourselves!
Recently an African asked me if I was a ‘Liar’. I laughed and said I thought that was rather a personal question. He asked again,
“Are you a Liar?”
Uncomfortably, I laughed again.
“You look like a Liar,” he said seriously, “will you represent me in Court?”
What it did make me think though, is that Lawyers might make brilliant fantasy writers or perhaps, I should say, fantasy writers might make brilliant Lawyers.
And read your own contracts. 🙂 Thank you, Carrie.
You can find more about Carrie and her writing via… www.joni-pip.com.
The blog interviews will return as normal tomorrow with children’s author, poet, article writer and blogger Helen Ross – the four hundred and seventeenth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, biographers, agents, publishers and more. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further. And I enjoy hearing from readers of my blog; do either leave a comment on the relevant interview (the interviewees love to hear from you too!) and / or email me.
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Unfortunately, as I post an interview a day (amongst other things) I can’t review books but I have a feature called ‘Short Story Saturdays’ where I review stories of up to 2,500 words. Alternatively if you have a short story or self-contained novel extract / short chapter (ideally up to 1000 words) that you’d like critiqued and don’t mind me reading it / talking about and critiquing it (I send you the transcription afterwards so you can use the comments or ignore them) 🙂 on my ‘Bailey’s Writing Tips’ podcast, then do email me. They are weekly episodes, usually released Monday mornings UK time, interweaving the recordings between the red pen sessions with the hints & tips episodes. I am now also looking for flash fiction (<1000 words) for Flash Fiction Fridays and poetry for Post-weekend Poetry.