Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Meet Middle Grade Adventure Author Suzy Davies

The internet can be a intimating place which pulls you in and can quickly overwhelm you. On the other hand, it can be a place to connect with people with common interests and occupations. I've met several authors through the internet and social networking sites. It's always gratifying to see how professional and friendly they are. I met today's guest on Twitter when I found out she wrote for MG readers and was also a teacher. As I've said before, I love interviewing teacher/authors because of their commitment to opening avenues of reading to young people and those not so young-at-heart. Please join me in welcoming Suzy Davies and her wonderful books to Carpinello's Writing Pages.
First, here's a bit about Suzy:
Children’s Author and Poet, Suzy Davies was born in Reading, Berkshire, in England. She is a former Lead Teacher of English, and a certified Life Coach with Counseling skills. She believes in the magic of the imagination, and the power we have to create ourselves and realise our dreams.

A graduate of The University of Leicester, (Applied Sociology with Social Psychology,) and a postgraduate of The University of Sussex, (M.A English Literature,) Suzy began her writing career in 2012. She wrote her first children's book in 2016, which was published traditionally. Now, she is a full time writer.

Suzy lives in Florida, with her husband, Craig, and two semi-wild cats, Cubbie and Dinky.
Why did you pick to write books for children and MG readers?

I write Picture Books and Middle Grade. My most recent book, The Girl in The Red Cape: A Mystical Sled Ride, is a high Middle Grade which will also appeal to young adult readers and adults who are young at heart.

I enjoy writing children’s books because I think books make a huge difference in children’s lives and have a significant impact on their development, personal life scripts, and life choices. I use my background as a former Lead Teacher and Life Coach with Counseling Skills when I write my stories. I like the messages in my stories to instill good values and positivity, for example, to teach children about the importance of family values, friendship, loyalty, teamwork, and kindness. I hope that my story, The Girl in The Red Cape, will also encourage children to have self-esteem and reach for the stars.

What types of books do you like to read, and what do you do when you are not writing?

I’m an avid reader. I like to read well-known award-winning books for children and children’s classic literature, including fairy tales and poetry. I read popular Indie kids’ books and unknown authors. I like to do research for books I am writing, and I always read around the themes and ideas for my books in the planning stage. I’m always drawn to non-fiction psychology books to revise my knowledge of archetypes which appear in my stories. I regularly read life coaching and self-help books. I also like biographies.

When I’m not behind a book, reading or writing, I like listening to music, watching films and looking after my cats. When the pandemic has calmed down, I hope to get out and about again walking on nature trails. I also have plans to do some traveling in America, and beyond.
How did The Girl in The Red Cape: A Mystical Sled Ride come to be?
The Girl in The Red Cape: A Mystical Sled Ride had its genesis in Charles Perrault’s Little Red Riding Hood of which it is a retelling. I have fond memories of the tale, and decided to revisit it. I thought it would be nice to set the tale in a snowy landscape, and the idea of The Junior Iditarod in Alaska came to me.

I saw images of scarlet flashing through the woods, and imagined dog teams pelting across oceans of snow in the tundra. I saw spectral snow, lit up in the moonlight, like dust from the cosmos, the shadow of a great mountain, with a snowy peak - a metaphor for the challenges faced by the rival dog-sledders.These moving images - fleeting at first - grew on me, and I found myself daydreaming. I pictured the dogs and their individual personalities, their strengths and weaknesses. I envisioned one in particular, a wolf dog, who would be central to the story.

One of my favorite films, “Dances with Wolves,” helped me visualise the dogs and the lone wolf. It was important to me to depict not only the central human sibling relationship between Stella and Billy, but also relationships between animals and humans, Man and Nature in my book. 
How did you research The Girl in The Red Cape: A Mystical Sled Ride?
I start with an idea. I obsess about it to see if it’s going anywhere. I “play” with settings and characters in my head. If I get really excited about an idea, I move on to the research stage.

At this stage, I delve deeper and deeper, focusing my research. For example, to research The Girl in The Red Cape I went “back to school” and successfully completed two online University courses; one about “fairy tales” including those of Charles Perrault, and The Brothers Grimm, and one specializing in Hans Christian Andersen's work.

When I do research, I spend a great deal of time in this planning stage, then the writing goes smoothly. Writing is architecture. You have to build a solid foundation for your castles in the air. And that means it is hard work, especially in the planning stage. The more immersed in your subject matter you become, the better your book will be.
I drew on my childhood in Wales to “see” the different kinds of snow featured in my story, and on my horse-riding treks as a child to envision the up and down motion of the sled teams. My walks in ice and snow in Cornwall a few years back helped me put myself in wild terrain. I worked as cabin crew in my younger days, and my trips in light aircraft were useful in depicting the aerial views of Alaska and the race in my book.

After all my imaginings, I realised I had to do some serious research about mushing in Alaska. I contacted Anna Stephan, Winner of The Junior Iditarod, 2019, and asked for her help.

Anna kindly explained many things to me. After speaking to Anna, I read some factual biographies about mushing, and got a topographical map of Alaska to familiarize myself with the geographical features encountered on the race. Anna made herself available to answer questions. I got to know her more and more, and a friendship developed.

I wanted my lead fictional character, Stella, to have something of Anna in her. Anna told me she loved to play the violin. So I created a passionate, musher/violinist as the female protagonist. I’m pleased with how she has turned out, and I hope Anna agrees that she represents all that is good about feisty heroines, feminism, and girl-power.

I must admit, Billy, the lead male protagonist in “The Girl in The Red Cape,” a hero in his own right, was inspired by the wizardry of Harry Potter and my love of J.K.Rowling’s work.

Tom is Stella and Billy’s Inuk step-brother, and I drew on my knowledge of Inuit people to draw his mystical, mysterious character.

Tell us about The Girl in The Red Cape: A Mystical Sled Ride.

The Girl in The Red Cape
is a  heartwarming, modern Coming-of-Age fairy tale, with plenty of action and adventure. And I felt the whole atmosphere of the Alaskan wilderness as a character. One of the central themes of my story is about how we create and “find” ourselves on the journey which is Life itself. J.R.R Tolkein inspired me when he said that not all those who wander are lost.

I explore this theme of wandering and loss by borrowing from Alaskan stories of The Alaskan Triangle, and weaving this phenomenon into my tale. Animal helpers Black-Claw, The Raven and Tag, The Fox show that their instincts are good, and they help retrieve lost objects and guide the human travelers through portals, obstacles and dangers on the journey that leads them home.

The silent strength of Tom represents the ability to wander with purpose, and he has the depth to become even more himself on his travels. There is something very sure and certain about him and he develops a quiet tranquility. The motto of my old university in Sussex, England provided some inspiration here: “Be Still and Know.”

Young people benefit from understanding that sometimes, we have to stand alone, and have the courage of our convictions.
Here's a peek at The Girl in The Red Cape: A Mystical Sled Ride:
Brother and sister, Billy and Stella, compete in the Junior Race with their dog-sledding teams. All kinds of dangers await them, not least the wolves. Their step-brother, Tom, a solitary Inuit, has angered the pack. Queen Wolf is missing. The wolves will make good their loss or else seek their revenge.
In this heartwarming, fast-paced fairytale retelling of Charles Perrault's, Little Red Riding Hood, Stella, a rookie musher is on the threshold of womanhood. The Girl in The Red Cape is running with wolves, dancing across the virgin snow. All alone, it's Stella against the wilderness. But sometimes, an invisible power supports her. And she has her comrades.
In this high-stakes action adventure story, anything could happen.
Who will catch a dream?

Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.

Yes, indeed, I have. I have written six others. My first book was a memoir. My other five children’s books all have elements of animal or nature writing, and in each book I have written something of the magic of a legend or fairy tale. Two of my books, Sleepy Animals, a picture book, and Celebrate The Seasons,  a Middle Grade book illustrated by notable Laurie Shanholtzer, are poetry books for kids.
Snugs The Snow Bear is a Middle Grade story illustrated by notable Peter Hall, and Luna The Moon Pig is a magical picture book story, illustrated by award-winning, world-acclaimed Sheila Graber.
The Cave is a middle grade story. One of the characters in this children’s action adventure story paved the way for Ariana, the tailor/seamstress in The Girl in The Red Cape.

What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

Ha! Ha! This question makes me chuckle. I’m always conjuring ideas and I always have books in progress. I have three completed books no-one has seen yet, and have about 4 or 5 new stories in the pipeline as works in progress. I like to keep busy. There will be another fairy tale retelling, that I can say.
What advice do you have for other authors?

Read and write every day. Believe in yourself. Learn from others and be humble.
Anything else you want readers to know?

I love the illustrations in the book, created by notable artist, Michele Bourke. My favorite one is the one of Stella who is standing in the snow in a red dress, playing the violin, with animals watching her. This, of course, is pure fantasy, but at the same time it is a metaphor for harmony with animals and The Natural World, and Stella grows to become a “Force of Nature” at one with the wilderness in the book. 
Real Musher Champion, Anna Stephan is a role model for young women, and I hope this shows. In my book, Stella wants to make something of herself. She fights against shyness and self-doubts, to be transformed into a believable heroine who is human, likeable, brave and strong. When you delve deeply into well-known fantasy fairy tales, they have something of reality in them. This is the paradox.
Children’s books are almost always deceptively simple. People tend to believe they are an “easy write,” when in fact they will only flow and sparkle if you have done the work. Children are an honest and discerning audience. I like this. It motivates me to give my best.
I’d like to thank you, Cheryl, for kindly inviting me here. I appreciate it. And thank you to all my readers worldwide for reading my books. I am truly grateful and blessed.
Where can readers find you and your books?

The Girl in The Red Cape:A Mystical Sled Ride:

Amazon UK 
Amazon US
Listen to an excerpt from The Girl in The Red Cape here.

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Meet Middle Grade Author Anita Mishra

I love having educators/writers on Carpinello's Writing Pages. Education is such a demanding career that teachers really have to love their audience and understand the importance of reaching out in many ways to connect with their kids. Please join me in welcoming Anita Mishra.
First, a bit about Anita:
Anita Mishra is a software engineer by profession, but her love for being around children encouraged her to join a school as a middle-grade computer-science teacher. 
Currently, she is living in El Paso, Texas, with her husband and two wonderful children. She is a homeschooling mom, who values quality literature for her children, and she also writes middle-grade adventures.

Why did you pick to write books for Middle Grade?

I like to think that I’m a born storyteller. Even when I could hardly talk, I used to tell stories. I chose to write middle-grade because my children are reading at that level, and it’s incredible to write something that they enjoy. Seeing their reception of my stories, I’m sure that other children of their age would appreciate my books too. 
But I’m planning to start an elementary-level series soon. I have a great storyline, and I want to reach out to younger children as well.
What types of books do you like to read, and what do you do when you are not writing?
I’m an avid reader. I love to read various genres, but I’m mostly drawn toward a great mystery story. Other than mysteries, some of my favorite books of all time include Pride and Prejudice, Kane and Abel, The Nightingale, and multiple books by Julie Klassen.
When I’m not writing, I am definitely reading. Reading helps me explore other worlds created by ingenious minds across the globe.
And in my weekdays, I spend homeschooling the two genius minds I have at home.
Tell us about Ethan Murphy and the Quest for the Minal and how the story came to be.

Ethan Murphy and the Quest for the Minal is one of my children’s favorite books. They wanted me to write a story that involved mystery, riddles, and codes. So I wrote the first book of Ethan Murphy. They loved it and wanted more, so I went ahead and wrote the next and the next. We planned to get this book published because every child deserves to read a great story.
Here's a peek at Ethan Murphy and the Quest for the Minal:
Thirteen-year-old Ethan Murphy lives with his mother and has little to do with the outside world. He possesses unique puzzle-solving abilities.
 When he receives his grandfather's letter, which says, "Your aunt has been abducted just like your father," everything changes for Ethan. He sets out to rescue his aunt, only to learn about his father's secret life and the ROM Agency.

Ethan's team has to solve the most complicated riddles written by his father and find the centuries'-old buried treasure to rescue his aunt from a dangerous gang. 
But wait, riddles are not the only thing that blocks their way.
 Can Ethan survive outside his comfort zone and rescue his aunt before it's too late? Can he confront external challenges while still facing his inner demons?

Join Ethan Murphy and his team to solve the codes, unravel the mysteries, and earn a chance to be an agent of the ROM Agency.

How do you go about researching for your stories?

Story ideas usually creep up in the back of my mind without my permission, and I just take them down in my notebook. Once I have a basic idea, I develop it into a full-fledged storyline using the three-act story structure. Then I use the internet and library books to help me research the place, climate, people, and almost everything related to the story.

Have you written other books? If so, tell us a bit about them.

I’ve completed writing the second book of the Ethan Murphy series, and I’m currently editing it. It will be out in the summer of 2021.
Other than that, I’ve written a sci-fi time-travel novel for middle-grade readers, again. It’s a stand-alone book, and I’m sure it’s going to be loved by all. I can’t wait for the release of this one.

What’s next for your writing? Are you working on a new story?

Ethan Murphy is a trilogy. I’m planning to complete this trilogy and then move on to a different series.

Also, I want to explore the middle-grade contemporary genre soon. Now that I think of it, there are many stories to tell and so less time in a day to pen it down. I must hurry!

What advice do you have for other authors?

I’m new to the publishing industry but not to writing. I have only one piece of advice for my fellow authors: write, write, write, and for a change, write some more. Writing a lot will help you develop your narrative skills and make you a better storyteller.
Anything else you want readers to know?

I never thought that I would become a published author, but I’m glad and thankful that now I am. If you have a story and only you can tell that story, don’t delay; start today. As I said before, there’s so much to tell but so little time; make use of every second you have to create art that only you can make.
Where can readers find you and your books?

I’m so happy to connect with my readers; I would be so glad to connect with them on these platforms: