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Summer 2008 Writer Spotlight

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Writer Spotlight

For our Summer Issue, Literary Magic has chosen:

                Katherine Reynolds

        Author of Born to Dance

      

      This issue Literary Magic has two major themes: Dancing and Children's books. Both themes intertwine in Katherine Reynolds new Children's book, Born to Dance. Here, she talks with Literary Magic Editor-in-Chief Rocky Reichman in an exclusive interview about writing, reading and everything in between. Check out the author interview to learn why she wrote a book centered around an animal that loves to dance and to see what all readers--including those who enjoy Children’s literature--can learn from it. On the outside, Born to Dance is about a horse that likes to dance a lot--find out how it gets him into trouble and how he wins in the end; the inside story, though, is about friendship and the strength of enduring relationships. Read what this author has to say about writing and reading Children's books, what inspires her and what advice she has for writers and readers alike. When finished, click to read the Literary Magic book review of Born to Dance.

 

Writer Spotlight: Questions for Katherine Reynolds

1.   LM (Literary Magic): Why do you write Children’s books? 

      KR (Katherine Reynolds): I didn’t, initially, set out to write a children’s book. My two main characters, who happen to be a tap-dancing horse and a worldly-wise cat, demanded that I set their story down. The result has been described – by others more versed in publishing than I am – as a ‘family classic’ meaning that its appeal spans the generations from children to grandparents, 

2.   LM: What inspired you when writing Born to Dance? 

      KR: I was driven to explore how my two main characters overcame the limitations of their circumstances and achieved their dreams. Dylan de Polka found himself trapped between the shafts of a milk-cart, but his dancing hooves were itching to express themselves. 

3.   LM: Tell us your favorite thing about Born to Dance. How about writing in general? 

      KR: My favorite thing abut Born to Dance is Dylan and Red Tabby’s deep friendship – that bond which neither time nor distance can break. As for writing in general, I sometimes find inventing a story a tyranny mitigated only by the satisfaction that comes when a project is done. 

4.   LM: Why should readers choose Born to Dance? What makes your book stand out from the crowd of Children’s literature being published every year? 

      KR: I think it was best expressed in an article in Parent Talk here in the UK. The article said, “Born to Dance brings a welcome burst of sunshine to the world of children’s fiction.” So much of what is written for children seems to try to be cool and sassy – almost as if the authors fear not being accepted by their readers. Born to Dance is pure, timeless story-telling in the enduring tradition of great classics such as Black Beauty. 

5.   LM: Why dancing? What’s so special about that skill to you? What does it represent in the story as a whole? Is it significant in your life personally? 

      KR: I can’t say dancing is at all significant in my life. In fact, I’m the proud possessor of two left feet when it comes to the terpsichorean art. But a tap-dancing horse is just plain fun and unusual. After all, as one bookseller remarked cheerfully, “You don’t see many of them about!” As for its significance in the story as a whole, it is the metaphor for the talent, the something special that each of us has within us – the gift which, if we are true to it, can open the way to our fulfilment. 

6.   LM: Using animals as characters is a very creative method for engaging children. What gave you the idea? 

      KR: Again, I go back to Dylan and Red Tabby demanding that their story be set down. Once embarked on a tale in which the two main characters are animals, it comes naturally that their adventures will involve other animals. As far as the humans in the story are concerned – Ringmaster Chia, Madame Lulu Bombazine, Lord Stomper – they all share one particular characteristic: they are deeply empathetic to their animal cousins as I have been since I was a child. 

7.   LM: How do you write? When writing Children’s fiction, do you advise other writers to outline or to just “jump into” the story with a creative splash? 

      KR: You ask ‘How do I write?’ The short answer is ‘laboriously’. I spent many years as a film editor on documentaries and features. This could involve taking a large body of unscripted material and giving it a viable form. I proceed like that with my writing as well. Colorful scenes spring into my mind, ideas, scraps of dialogue, description, events and so on. Those inspire me and I work from there. And I might encounter someone whose real-life experiences could be fictionalized to advance the story I’m telling. Such chance encounters can change the course of the story. As for how a writer should begin their next magnum opus: Months of work can be saved by planning a story in advance. I hope to take my own advice at some point in the future but, for now, I’m a ‘jump in with a creative splash’ type. 

8.   LM: What is your advice for Children’s writers or authors in general. 

      KR: The first thing I would say is ‘If you want to write, write!’- even if it’s only a sentence every day. After that, everyone eventually finds their own best way forward. But I’d also say: Revise, revise, revise! And bear in mind that when you think you’ve finished your next great novel, you’ve only just reached the half-way mark, for then you must cut, cut, cut!. And, with your finished work doing the rounds of publishers, you should start your next manuscript immediately. Once more I hope, one day, to take my own advice on this last point. 

9.  LM: What else have you written? Short Stories? Nonfiction? 

     KR: I’ve been writing since I was 11. Short stories, certainly. Many articles, some script-collaboration, and idea development.  

10. LM: What fills your day? What is your profession?  

      KR: These days I just write. I live in a country setting similar to the one depicted in Born to Dance and that environment influences my imagination. 

11. LM: Give us a brief biography of your life. 

      KR: The written word was my first love but a clear talent for film-making steered me towards a different career choice. With a friend I founded a company in London’s Soho, editing and producing award-winning documentaries. Over the years my film projects took me to Greece, the Indian Continent, and then to Canada. In the course of my adventures I met and married a well-known actor and became a Canadian citizen. 

Working between Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal, I created and produced a TV series for children; collaborated on scripts for television and film, and wrote extensively for various magazines. I was, for ten years, contributing editor of a magazine for North-American anglophiles and later founded and wrote a monthly newsletter for soap opera fans. 

In 1998 I returned to the UK with my husband to be near my film-maker daughter and her children. Once there, with a new computer up and running well, I had no excuse but to increase my daily writing time. 

12. LM: What are your dreams? Your goals in life? 

      KR: I’m an older person now, and most of my dreams have been realised already. But achieving recognition for my work, especially for Born to Dance, is at the forefront both as a continuing goal and a dream that is certainly coming true. 

13. LM: What can readers expect next from you? A new book, short stories? 

      KR: I’m always poking around at short stories or short story ideas. It’s a sort of work-out routine, I suppose, to keep the writing ‘muscles’ toned up.  

A new book? The writing of Born to Dance, partly because it was my first venture into a major work of fiction, took the better part of three years. Do I want to go down that road again? At present, I am accumulating ideas and listening to what Dylan and Red Tabby have to say in the matter. I have to be sure that there is a strong tale to tell – one which allows their characters to continue to grow in spirit. Short stories are an enjoyable side interest and there is usually an article on the go as well. 

14. LM:  Has Born to Dance won any awards? What reaction (praise, reviews) has your book received? 

      KR: Born to Dance has won a big national award this year: First Prize for Children’s Fiction in the David St. John Trust Awards. Newspaper and magazine reviews are just beginning to filter through. Reviewers are swamped with thousands of books and the process seems to take a surprisingly long time. Children, however, have been writing in from Day 1 of publication. There is a good deal of interest among my young readers in a continuation of Dylan and Red Tabby’s adventures. So, watch this space! 

15. LM:  In what way do you market your book? Do you use conventional methods, or your own? 

      KR: Anything and everything. We enter festivals, stage launches and attend charity events. We broadcast; we visit schools; we work with the bookshops, and we run competitions in conjunction with print advertising. And then, of course, we make use of the internet. Selling Born to Dance is a full-time commitment and I owe it to Dylan and Red Tabby, my greatly loved characters, to ensure that sales go well. 

16. LM: Will you be having any book signings, contests, readings or events in the near future? In the United Kingdom? Across Europe? Maybe in the United States? 

      KR: We have a number of events lined up in Britain through the year. As for the United States, if anyone knows a way to distribute Born to Dance across the pond I’d love to be contacted. American citizens who have purchased the book have liked it enough to buy copies for their local libraries. I believe it could have wide success in the US. 

17. LM: Where can your readers and fans find out more about you? Do you have a Website, forum, or fan page? 

      KR: http://borntodance.wordpress.com (my, not enormously professional home page).  

To buy “Born to Dance by Katherine Reynolds”: In the UK, ask any bookseller to order it in for you from their wholesalers. Order from my publisher by mail by going to my home page and clicking on the link.  If you live outside of the UK, Amazon.co.uk is another useful route. The American Amazon site is not likely to be able to supply you. 

18. LM: Do you have any comments on this interview? What do you think of Literary Magic’s Writer Spotlight or the magazine in general? 

      KR: I came across Literary Magic on the internet by accident and initially spent a wonderful afternoon delving into its depths. The Writer Spotlight graciously gives proper space to its chosen authors and the Literary Magic site as a whole demonstrates a respectful enthusiasm for writers and their demanding work. I now visit Literary Magic on a regular basis, seeking insight and inspiration.  

Thank you for spending time with me. To get in touch with the author, please contact her at borntodance@dsl.pipex.com or visit her website. Comments can also be sent to the Editor at literarymagic@gmail.com.

LM: Thank you, Literary Magic. LM

 

      If you would like to be considered as a future Writer Spotlight for Literary Magic, or if you would like to nominate an author you know, please e-mail our editor at literarymagic@gmail.com.

 

 

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