K.I.M. Books is a great, non-profit, online bookseller. Definitely worth checking out!
1. The Curious Misadventures of Feltus Ovalton is said to be a cross between Harry Potter and Lemony Snicket. How do you respond?
Hmmm. Well I’m not going to say that I’m unhappy about the Harry Potter comparisons but actually I don’t think Feltus has much in common with those books besides mine being about a boy and incorporating magic. Feltus is nowhere near as noble and heroic as Harry Potter. In fact, he is a reluctant hero, an anti-hero of sorts. He does not always do the right thing. He can be bad-tempered and selfish, but despite his character flaws he is at heart, sensitive. He just hides his insecurities behind a grouchy exterior, and by the end of the book he has opened up a lot. There is a lot of dark humor in the book which is what I think led to some people pointing out similarities between my book and Lemony Snicket. A kind of macabre edge. Actually my book has most often been compared to Roald Dahl’s work, and I think that can be said for Harry Potter and for Lemony Snicket and for lots of children’s books out there. Dahl definitely set the bar, and he set it high. He’s one of my favorite authors so of course I was thrilled when reviewers pointed it out.
2. Do you and Feltus share any characteristics?
I think most authors invest a lot of themselves in their characters and I am certainly no different. Many of Feltus’s worst personality traits are shared by me but I am older than he is and my mother taught me manners. So even if I am thinking something quite selfish or mean, I don’t act on it. Kids don’t have those kind of socially-imposed stop signs until later. I mean doesn’t everyone really want to take the biggest slice of chocolate cake? Feltus, deep down, is nervous and shy and a bit insecure, just like I was, and he acts the way he does to protect himself. And like him, I experienced bullying and the difficulty of being a new kid at school, and just that awful feeling of being uncomfortable in my own skin. Fortunately I have a sister so I never felt as lonely as Feltus does. And making friends with people goes a long way to help with that, so I made sure to give Feltus two good friends by the end of the book. Oh, and we both have brown eyes and brown hair and big feet.
3. What is your favorite/ most memorable scene in The Curious Misadventures of Feltus Ovalton?
My favorite scene in the book is when Feltus accompanies his strange Great-Aunt Eunida to the Magical Ewe cafe- which is a magical way station (like a train station waiting room) between the human world and the mystical realms. He meets some interesting creatures (like Bobbie and Sue, the conjoined twin proprietors and Doctor Shafer who is a giant beetle) and is exposed to some horrible foods (like pressed duck liver and stewed chitterlings and sardine root beer floats), but it’s also the first time he really gets to speak with his great aunt and find out what’s been going on since he recited a magic spell out of an old book.
I really like the scene under the dining room table when he meets the PoodleRats for the first time too.
Oh, and the spell-casting in the bathroom with Eunida, his PoodleRat friend RinMal and Winston, the giant toad.
4. Did anyone in your family inspire Great-Aunt Eunida? How so?
You know, it’s a funny thing with writers. I mean I wanted to be a writer from a young age but I didn’t walk around writing things down in a little notebook or thinking of stories constantly but I did notice things and years later they popped out of my brain and I used them in whatever it was I was working on at the time. When I was very young, probably six or seven, I had high tea with my Welsh great grandmother Jane. She was a tiny, shriveled old woman who lived until she was almost 100, and I was little and neither of us could really see over the table top. I was seated directly across from her. She was probably very nice but she had crazy black hair that stuck out all over, and beady black eyes and she dressed in black and she looked exactly like a witch in a storybook. When I came up with the Eunida’s character I wanted her to look scary but in fact be a very kind person, so I used my memory of Granny Jane.
5. You began adapting fairy tales when you were eight. Do you plan to write a new children’s novel with fairy tale inspirations?
I re-wrote fairy tales for my younger sister, making the heroines more feisty, and sometimes identifying more with the monster than the hero. It was a big production. I’d write them or later on type them painstakingly on my mother’clunky electric typewriter onto big scrolls of thick paper which I then tied with red ribbon. I read a lot of fairy tales- Grimm’s and Hans Christian Andersen, all the classics including those volumes that came in different colors- the pink fairy book, the blue, the purple, and they always gave me an unsettled feeling afterwards like I had eaten something delicious that didn’t sit well with my stomach. There’s often an underlying current of menace in fairy tales, and very bad things happen to children. If I ever wrote about Faerie it would probably be a YA (Young Adult) book rather than something for young kids. The Veil in my book- the invisible wall between the worlds- is directly taken from old Celtic legends about the Folk and the lands of Faerie.
6. As a child, or young adult, what was your favorite book?
That’s very hard to answer. I had so many. Definitely Narnia especially A Horse and his Boy, The Hobbit, E. Nesbit’s 5 Children and It and The Phoenix and the Carpet, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Jennifer Roberson’s Cheysuli Chronicles, and more recently of course Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. And I absolutely adore Michelle Paver’s Chronicles of Ancient Darkness which I recommend to all Harry Potter fans. Oh, and Nancy Farmer’s Sea of Trolls and I like Scott Westerfeld’s books. Sorry, I can’t just pick one!
7. Anything else. . . ?
I’d just like to encourage everyone to read as much as they can. Books entertain and inspire and inform and educate. There’s nothing else like them. They’re truly magical. So fill your mind.
And also thanks for giving me the opportunity to talk about what I love.