Hello everybody! Today, I’m really excited to share my interview with Lindsay Littleson, the author of Guardians of the Wild Unicorns, which was released last week. Onto the post!
Today, I’m taking part in the blog tour for Artie Conan Doyle and the Vanishing Dragon, the second book in the series. I enjoyed the first last month, so I’m looking forward to getting to this, hopefully in the next few weeks or so. Onto the interview!
Today, I’m really excited to have an author interview with Lari Don, whose books I absolutely loved when I read them last year. Onto the interview!
Hi Lari! Thank you so much for being here!
1. Can you please describe your writing in 5 words?
Magic, monsters, adventure, ambushes, danger…
2. What is your writing routine like? Do you have any unusual writing habits?
I wish I had a regular writing routine, involving nice quiet days typing in my study and going for long walks to think through plot problems. In fact, I do most of my writing on trains and in a shed. I spend a lot of time talking to young readers and writers in schools and libraries, so if I want to keep on top of my deadlines, I have to write while travelling. Then when I am at home, my family are usually there too, being noisy and distracting, so I have to escape to the garden shed to get peace to think and imagine. And the shed isn’t a fancy shed, it’s an old leaky tool shed, with a desk, a box of blankets, and lots of spiders. Therefore, my unusual writing habit is getting someone brave to check the shed for spiders lurking in the corners or above my head before I start to write.
3. All of your middle grades are mainly fantasies. Was there any reason you chose to write in that genre? Do you have any favourite fantasy books?
Of my 9 novels so far, 8 are fantasy adventures! I write about magic and quests and monsters because that’s what I’ve always loved reading. Also, most of my inspiration comes from reading, researching and telling old myths, legends and folklore. So I write fantasy because I love fantasy, and because most of my ‘what if’ ideas lead to me that way. My favourite fantasy books are the ones I read when I was young, by Diana Wynne Jones (the Chrestomanci books, Howl’s Moving Castle, The Power of Three) but I’ve read some brilliant ones recently too, including the Five Kingdoms series by Vivian French and the Bartimaeus books by Jonathan Stroud.
4. Your books are all set in Scotland, which I loved (It was so nice to understand all the school references for a change!). Did you always plan for that, or did it just seem natural to set the books there when you started? Is there any part of Scotland that you’d like to set a book in that you haven’t yet?
I don’t really plan anything! I just write the stories that won’t leave me alone! My stories generally find themselves happening in Scotland because I know Scotland better than anywhere else in the world, and because the Scottish landscape is fantastic for quests and adventures. Also, location research is easier if it’s a coastline or mountain or castle that I already know or that I can visit in a weekend. However, not all my characters are Scottish (Theo in Spellchasers is from Egypt, for example) and the monsters and magic are inspired by myths and legend from all over the world. Also, I have written a novel (Mind Blind) set mostly in London, so I hope my imagination doesn’t stop at the border! Spellchasers is set in Speyside, where I was brought up, and the Fabled Beasts quested in parts of Scotland that I visit for holidays or to see family: the Borders, the West Highlands, Orkney, Skye, Sutherland… If I want to write about a ‘new’ bit of Scotland, I could consider Dumfries and Galloway, Fife, Glasgow, and various other islands. But I’ll have to see what the next story wants and needs. (I think it might need a port, so perhaps I’ll set it in Leith?) Also, I’m delighted that you enjoy reading books set in Scotland and recognising the references. When I was young, I only read one (ONE!) adventure novel for kids set in Scotland. Everything else was English or American. Nowadays, there’s so much more choice for young readers, so much more opportunity to read about their own landscape and culture and history. I know that’s the case in Scotland, I hope it’s the case everywhere else as well!
5. One of the main elements of Spellchasers is shapeshifting, as that is the thing the main character Molly has been cursed with. What 3 animals would you most like to shapeshift into, and why?
A hare – because I spent so much time researching hares, that I’d love to know whether what I imagined and described every time Molly ran as a hare is really how it feels. Also, I’d love to run that fast!
A hawk – because who doesn’t want to fly? And I’d love to hover above the landscape, watching all the stories happening below me.
A cat – after all that sprinting and running, I’d probably want to turn into a pet cat, so I could curl up beside a fire and have a snooze!
(Then, of course, I’d want to become human again, because I don’t fancy eating grass or rodents for my tea!)
6. I`m going to be a bit mean now. Who is your favourite Spellchaser, and Fabled Beast? Mine are Beth/Atacama and Sapphire, if you’re interested.
I should struggle to answer this, because I should love all my characters equally, but if I’m honest I already know my favourites. Yann the centaur in Fabled Beasts and Innes the kelpie in Spellchasers. (And my favourite baddies are the Faery Queen in Wolf Notes and Nan in The Shapeshifter’s Guide to Running Away. There are probably common themes in both of those pairs of favourites, which possibly reveal far too much about me…)
7. This one should be a bit easier! What’s your favourite thing about being an author?
That’s not easier, because I love so many things about being an author! I love the moment an idea arrives, the ‘what if’ and ‘I wonder’, and especially when several smaller ideas crash together and sparks fly and I can feel I have a new novel coming to life. But I also love the process of discovering the story, the long journey to find the answers to the initial questions. And I am excited any time a character does something unexpected, especially those wonderful and rare moments when a character takes control of the story and runs off with it (that happened in Rocking Horse War, my only standalone fantasy, and it seriously improved the plot!) And I love editing (yes, really. I know that’s unusual, but I love seeing the story get stronger as I slice away the extra words that I needed to find the story but that the readers don’t need to enjoy it.) And I love the moment a new book arrives, all shiny and real. AND I love talking to young readers and inspiring them to come up with stories of their own. Despite the late nights and long train journeys and spider-filled sheds, I love everything about being a writer!
8. Finally, before the quickfire questions, can you let us in on any secrets about what you`ll be releasing next? *crosses fingers for more fabulous MG*
I hope there will be more ‘fabulous MG’ (thank you!) sometime soon, but the next book is actually a picture book. It’s called The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster, and it’s quite dark and dangerous, but also magical and mysterious, with amazing illustrations by Nataša Ilinčić. And after that – who knows? I needed a creative break after writing the Spellchasers trilogy (a trilogy takes a long time and a lot of complicated story-weaving) so I am having fun with several possible novel ideas right now. But all the ideas I am playing with involve magic, betrayals and danger, so I hope you’ll enjoy the next novel, whatever it is!
Hogwarts house? – Ravenclaw
Favourite sweet treat? – Orange or mint chocolate, in the middle of the night, to keep me awake when I’m editing
Favourite season? -winter
Your 3 favourite reads of 2017? – The Empty Grave (Lockwood and Co) by Jonathan Stroud
Within the Sanctuary of Wings (the Memoirs of Lady Trent) by Marie Brennan
Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris
(and I got a pile of intriguing books for Christmas which I’m really looking forward to working my way through)
3 random facts about you-
• I’m terrified of spiders, but don’t have any problems with wasps, bees, moths, birds, snakes or dragons;
• I am learning British Sign Language;
• My current favourite vegetable is cauliflower.
Thanks for asking such wonderful questions!
Thank you for answering so wonderfully!
I hope you enjoyed Lari’s answers as much as I did. Do you love Lari’s books? Are they on your TBR? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter @GoldenBooksGirl!
Today, I’m incredibly excited to welcome Lari Don as part of her blog tour for the phenomenal Spellchasers trilogy. I hope you’ll enjoy reading her post as much as I did!
I try to make them new in two ways:
I retell them, out loud to audiences and in books. When I retell traditional tales, I quite openly tweak or change or rip them apart (because oral stories have always been changed by storytellers, that’s how they evolve.)
I also make the old stories new by taking little snippets of magic and monsters and bouncing off them to create fictional adventures of my own.
As a child, I loved dragon stories. Dragons are the perfect magical monster. The size! The fire! The teeth! The wings! And there are dragon stories from all over the world, so you can travel round the globe from dragon tale to dragon tale.
Favourite dragon story: The Laidly Wyrm (from North of England, about a girl who is cursed to turn into a dragon)
The first connected series of stories I discovered were the Greek myths, with all that family drama, and all those wonderful creatures like centaurs and minotaurs, which made me want to create my own mix and match monsters with scissors and glue…
Favourite Greek myth: Theseus and the Minotaur (how to defeat the monster in the maze)
I also grew up loving shapeshifter stories, because Scottish folklore is filled with shapeshifters, like the kelpie (an underwater monster who can become human or horse to lure children to the water) and the selkie (who can be human or seal, and is often forced to stay on land when an unscrupulous fisherman hides her sealskin)
Favourite shapeshifter story: The Tale of Tam Linn (from the Scottish Borders, about a boy stolen by the Fairy Queen)
As I read more widely, I fell in love with the Viking myths. These are the myths that speak to me most clearly, possibly because they’re set in harsh rocky winter, rather than Mediterranean sunlight. I love the stories of Fenrir the wolf, Kara the Swan Warrior, and Ragnar Shaggy-Breeks.
Favourite Viking myth: The Death of Baldur (the story I tell most often to 11 year olds…)
I’m always searching for my favourite stories of all: stories with strong female protagonists. My quest for girls who defeat their own monsters has so far led me to Inanna the Sumerian goddess of love and war, to Nana Miriam the Nigerian girl who defeated a fire-breathing hippo, to Chi the Chinese girl who defeated a seven-headed dragon, and to many more…
Favourite heroine story: Tale of Tam Linn again! (Because the Scottish boy who was stolen by the fairy queen, was saved by a girl called Janet)
All these traditional tales inspire my adventure novels. For example, there are dragons, centaurs and minotaurs in the Fabled Beast Chronicles.
And my new Spellchasers trilogy is filled with shapeshifters, with characters who relish their power to change into horses and crows, and characters who are trapped as toads and hares. The biggest villain in the trilogy is inspired by a mix of Sumerian and Egyptian mythology, and the curse-lifting workshop at the heart of the book has a sphinx as a pupil.
And all my adventure books contain strong girls (as well as strong boys, and intermittently useful magical animals…)
I love the old stories. I love writing new stories inspired by the magic of the old tales. And when the new stories are written, I settle back down and lose myself in the old stories again. I wonder what story I will rub with my ragged sleeve next…
About the Author
Lari Don is a full-time children’s writer and storyteller. She grew up in the North East of Scotland and now lives in Edinburgh. She writes in her garden shed, helped by purring cats and hindered by lurking spiders. Lari has written more than 20 books, including adventure novels, picture books and retellings of traditional tales. She can be found on Twitter @LariDonWriter or at http://www.laridon.co.uk
The Spellchasers trilogy is available and out now.
Thank you so much for reading! What are your favourite myths? Do you love retellings of them? What are your favourites? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!