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.

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