Saturday 15th March 2014
Bookish Banter is proud to present today’s Featured Author…
Welcome Jo. Please tell us where you are from? Let me guess Fairy Land … just kidding…no really do you? 😉
I live in Snohomish, Washington in the Pacific Northwest of the US. I live on the edge of a valley, which is an old prehistoric lava flow, but now rural farmland. Three enormous volcanoes surround Snohomish ~ Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, and Glacier Peak. An old growth forest is my backyard and a deep, slow-moving river winds through the valley.
So you do live in Fairyland! It actually sounds like a really magical place to live.
How long have you been making magic with your writing?
Twig fantasies sprouted about three years ago when my young daughter and I first spotted tiny, stick creatures living in the giant western red cedars in our back yard. Since then we discovered Twigs live in roots, moss, and ferns. More live in the wide valley below our hill. Eventually we realized these fascinating and elusive creatures probably live in forests and grasslands all over the world. Have you seen any?
I knew it! Well I haven’t seen any Twigs, although they sound like delightful little creatures, but my daughter did say she saw a fairy once when she was coming home from swimming, in our local park. So I guess you have to have a keen eye for the magic folk!
Are you promoting a particular book at the present time?
I’m always promoting the first three books in the Twig Stories collection: Leaf & the Rushing Waters, Leaf & the Sky of Fire, and Leaf & the Long Ice. The fourth book Leaf & Echo Peak’s release will be celebrated later this year. I also share the books’ royalties with conservation nonprofits, so I promote their good efforts, too, whenever possible.
It is so lovely to hear that you promote conservation Jo – and it is never too early to get children involved with respecting and conserving the environment. To buy these delightful books, just click on their pictures below.
What genre do you consider you write in – just children’s fantasy or do you write other genres as well?
The Twig Stories’ genre is actually eco-literature, children’s fantasy. It just means the fantasies are set in nature with a conservationist theme. My daughter and I want to tell children about the climate change impacts in our region like insect swarms, wildfires, floods, threatened ecosystems, and endangered species. Presently, children’s fiction is the only genre I can manage; probably because it’s the limit of my vocabulary.
Can you give us the magical details of your latest book?
That would be Leaf & the Long Ice. This story is located on the shrinking glacier of a massive volcano called Echo Peak. Leaf’s younger, twin brothers, Buddy and Burba, run away to play in the glacier’s snow before it all melts. After frightening encounters with rare beasts of the Long Ice, the twin buds are lost in a maze of blue tunnels. Leaf must seek help to find them. Mantru, a cranky old hermit who lives in a cave, and his little pika friend, Winkers, reluctantly join the search.
Where did the idea come from? Did a magical imp whisper it in your ear?
Twigs worry all the time about many different climate change impacts occurring in the Pacific Northwest. Shrinking glaciers are only one of the most obvious, so it was natural Leaf should have an adventure there. Leaf & the Long Ice may help bring attention to the resulting loss of fresh water in this region, too.
Did you have to do a lot of research for your latest work? You know late nights in a magical clearing… or enchanted wood…
Actually, I did research glaciers and the endangered animals inhabiting their alpine regions like the critically threatened woodland caribou, wolverines, and pikas. I also had generous guidance from well-known, expert glaciologists in Canada, Dr. Gwen Flowers and Dr. Sarah Boon. When I asked for their opinions, they actually offered to edit the manuscript and provide their invaluable, first-hand observations from their exploration of glaciers. I was very grateful, and incorporated all their suggestions into the story.
Do you think your writing is improving with each enchanted addition to your fantasy library?
I would have to say yes and no. Yes, in that it’s easier to actually write the action and follow the formula of a three day, frantic adventure driven by climate change events. No, in that the more complex the research becomes the more calculated my writing; although somehow ‘Long Ice’ actually turned out to be more fun for the readers
Did you find yourself stuck in the mud at any stage during the writing that held things up for a bit or did it flow freely?
I often need to rewrite a scene based on the actual facts of species behaviour, description, or what threatens it in nature. Sometimes I get carried away by the fantasy, and it simply doesn’t tally with the real world even in Twig land. The books are popular because there is this nice blend of Twig fantasy and scientific fact working together, so I must be faithful to the readers’ expectations of a nature.
Why do you love this craft so much? That’s the craft of writing by the way not fairy magic?
Oh, dear, I’m not sure I love writing. What’s the old saying, “I hate writing, but love having written”? But it’s the desire to tell the story which drives us, eh? We have this story we must get out of our heads and hearts, and for now, writing to purge ourselves of it seems to be the most enduring and satisfying technique to use.
How much planning goes into a book? Do you spend a long time planning or do you just start writing and see where it leads you?
I’m an obsessive planner and outliner. First I outline the entire book, then each chapter, then each scene, and even detail each illustration before I can write the story. Then after I write the story, I actually write it. Then I write it again, and again, and again. Once I’m satisfied with that part, I offer my manuscript to research professors, conservation nonprofit naturalists, biologists, educators, and any other person willing to read it. After I receive their guidance, I write it again
Do you have a crowd of forest folk followers who read every word and encourage you?
I’m amazed the books have been welcomed worldwide by thousands of readers, children and adults. I’m grateful for each Twig fan that liked even one book, not to mention those who have read and liked all three, and even anticipate the fourth! Compliments for Twig Stories from readers still startle me. I want to whisper, “Really?” Yet, even if there were only two fans, those are the ones whose expectations I hope to meet with each Twig story.
What is your experience of the Publishing industry?
Did you say opinion or experience? Oh, of course, my experience. Traditional publishing moves far too slowly for today’s audience. That’s why indie publishing has taken off like wildfire. Being an indie is exciting; very much like being a producer. You get to make all the decisions and call all the shots. It’s truly your book when at last it’s available to the reader, and that’s a very satisfying feeling. No one forced an illustrator on you, or revised it for mass consumption, or chose a weird marketing scheme. For better or worse, it’s all yours
Is this book a part of a delightful series? Where is it going?
Twig Stories books are a collection of four stories each about the exploits of one particular Twig. The first four books are told from the perspective of a young, Old Seeder Branch Twig named Leaf. The next set is told from his sister Fern’s viewpoint, and the next from Leaf’s younger twin brothers, Buddy and Burba. Each collection is placed in different regions of the western US. The climate changes impacting those regions drive the Twigs’ journeys.
Have you had some good reviews for your book?
Yes, thank goodness, or I probably would have given up by now. It’s hard work!
If you couldn’t be a writer what would you do instead? And no! A tree Nymph is not an option!
I’d like to do what I did up until a few years ago ~ assist attorneys in nonprofits with civil litigation. It would be great to team with other nonprofits, and do battle for wildlife and forestry issues. Legal action taken on behalf of conservation can be extremely effective and rewarding.
Your favourite Author is…
Besides children’s authors like A.A. Milne and Mary Norton, I love reading David Quammen’s bestsellers. He writes about complex global biodiversity, or ‘biogeography’, and dire climate change events. I love his writing style. It’s full of humour. He speaks to you from the pages of his books like a favourite professor might, sitting on your couch in old, worn slippers and explaining the science behind his conclusions as if you actually understood. He wrote The Song of the Dodo, The Flight of the Iguana, and most recently Spillover.
Have you got a book trailer?
What do you do to wind down?
I work Norman Rockwell puzzles and listen to big band era music.
Do you belong to a friendly writers group and does it help?
I enjoy a huge amount of support from online groups in Facebook, LinkedIn, and Goodreads, but I’m not a fan of face-to-face discussion groups. Obviously, I don’t get out much.
I know how you feel – but online groups can be very helpful I have found!
What is you experience of editing and polishing your manuscripts?
I ask kids to read and edit the manuscripts. They get a big kick out of writing all over the text; mostly, happy faces or LOL or sad faces or sometimes ????. Their reaction is a tremendous amount of help. Researchers, teachers, and professors have edited the manuscripts and provided surprising endorsements, too. I’d get a lot wrong without their help. Other than that, I find reading the manuscript backwards helps catch grammatical errors and inconsistencies. Of course, I meant reading the last chapter first and so on, not literally reading it backwards word for word.
Now that would be impressive! I love the idea about having the children read and write on the manuscript. That sounds like a very clever idea!
Any tips for all our budding authors out there wondering how to get started?
Use Preditors & Editors religiously and do Google searches on every agent, publisher, and anyone else asking you for your manuscript or your money. I even found fake literary agents on LinkedIn looking to get your manuscript for free so they can sell it. There are many, many people who will take advantage of the naivety of indie authors. Don’t let them!
I use Createspace for indie publishing. They are owned by Amazon.com and are the most reputable out there as far as I’m concerned. They’ll set up your paperbacks and kindles for you to sell worldwide. They also have excellent design and marketing support teams. I’ve never been disappointed with their quick and professional assistance.
Link city – as many as you need to guide us round your internet trail of friendly forest fun…
Twig Stories website: http://www.twigstories.com
20% discounts are available via the Twig Stories website E-Store
Amazon.com Author page: http://www.amazon.com/author/jo.marshall
Facebook book/fan page: http://facebook.com/twigstoriesbooks
Facebook author page: http://facebook.com/twigstories
Let’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/twigstories
or Pin! http://www.pinterest.com/twigstories
Amazon.com paperback & ebooks are available via Amazon.com worldwide
Leaf & the Rushing Waters ~ http://goo.gl/3CWhaA
Leaf & the Sky of Fire ~ http://goo.gl/xaB0zH
Leaf & the Long Ice ~ http://goo.gl/CahThv
Leaf & the Rushing Waters ~ http://goo.gl/eUN893
Leaf & the Sky of Fire ~ http://goo.gl/oGecbJ
Leaf & the Long Ice ~ http://goo.gl/uZB9cA
SCRIBd.com book excerpt for Leaf & the Rushing Waters: http://goo.gl/vynJYQ
SCRIBd.com book excerpt for Leaf & the Sky of Fire: http://goo.gl/waEZFN
SCRIBD.com book excerpt for Leaf & the Long Ice: http://goo.gl/xiu8DS
Thank you for joining us here on the ‘Bookish Banter’ and taking time out to give us such an interesting insight into your writing world.
Xx Laura Crean xX
It’s my pleasure, Laura! Thank you!