Tell us about your new book. What’s it about and why did you write it? ROOT BOUND is the story of Emma and her father, who are always on the move, travelling from place to place as her father’s work demands. Their new home, however, is different. There’s a frightening woman who lives down the hall: she bears an uncanny resemblance to a witch. A mysterious light comes from her apartment, and a small boy seems to be trapped inside. A group of odd creatures called basement brownies appear in the air vent in her bedroom, and she follows them underground in an attempt to restore magic to both the brownie burrow and the human world above.
The story started as a writing fragment that I wrote nearly 10 years earlier. There was an old cold water flat with a piano in the corner. A girl was curled up under the piano, crying. The wind was blowing, making the curtains dance, and there was something – I didn’t know what – watching her. For some reason, the image stuck with me, and when I found the time to sit down to write many years later, I found myself back in that room, wondering what was going on. I wrote ROOT BOUND to find out.
How do you feel about self-publishing? I’m still a bit torn when it comes to self-publishing, even though that is the route I chose for ROOT BOUND. As a writer, I’m grateful that it’s possible to publish my own work, especially at a time when traditional publishing is shrinking and so afraid to publish anything that isn’t standard blockbuster material. On the other hand, the rapid growth of self-publishing and eBooks are part of the reason this situation exists in the first place. From a marketing perspective, self-publishing is tough. Really, really tough. I think it was still possible to strike it big like Amanda Hawking or E.L. James when there were fewer people fighting for a growing number of readers, but now, the number of readers has tapered off, but more people are self-publishing than ever. It gets very difficult to cut through all that noise. But again, getting a traditional book deal is no guarantee that your book will sell either, and you have to put in the time no matter which way you go.
Finally, as an avid reader, I am painfully aware of the way the changing publishing industry has affected bookstores, especially all those great indie shops who are currently struggling or already gone. I might also feel the loss more than most people, since I’ve already been through this process when I closed down my own CD and video store in Stratford, Ontario. And self-published authors rarely get into bookstores in the first place. I don’t think that print-on-demand services will ever compensate for that.
How long have you been writing? All my life. My mom has books of poetry I wrote when I was 8, 9 and 10 years old. I wrote short stories through high school. I majored in English in university, so I concentrated on research and academic writing at that point. Then I went overseas to teach, where I contributed lesson plans and reading passages to English textbooks. Since I came home, I’ve worked on a number of Shakespeare text projects, and I’ve written quite a lot of marketing copy for my own business and other jobs. Since I started working in content management, I’ve become interested in working with language as data, and I hope to continue working in that area. It’s quite fascinating.
How did you come up with the title? I chose ROOT BOUND for a number of reasons: first, the series was always intended to center on the elements (which is why they’re known collectively as “Emma & the Elementals”). ROOT BOUND is the earth book, which represents home, grounding oneself, and finding your place in the world. The title points to several of those aspects: you are rootbound when you are stuck in your life and have no place to grow, or you can be root bound in the sense that you are travelling toward your roots. Emma is both; she’s trying to break free and find her own way, but at the same time, she needs to settle down someplace in order to do that. I take the metaphor even further in the book, but I’ll leave your readers to discover that for themselves.
Can you tell us about your main character? Emma is a young girl who lives with her father, an itinerant musician who makes his living travelling around the country to find gigs in bars and hotels. It’s just the two of them, and life is constantly changing. They have to make do with the things they have, which isn’t much. Everything they own has to fit into their broken-down old car, and sometimes life just isn’t all that pretty. Emma copes by reading a fairy tale book her mother left her, and sometimes the monotony of the road makes it hard for her to see the difference between the real world around her and the fantasy world in her head. Being young, she’s still innocent in many ways, though she’s a lot more independent than other kids her age.
More than anything else, she misses her mother, and Emma’s fantasy world in ROOT BOUND is an attempt to deal with that loss.
Who is your publisher? I self-publish under the imprint Baba Yaga Press. I chose to go with an imprint for two reasons: first, it helps me segregate the business side of writing (me, the publisher) from the creative side (me, the author); and secondly, I find that having an imprint helps make the presentation more professional. There’s still some stigma out there when it comes to self-published work, and I find the imprint helps.
Will you write others in this same genre? Yes, I’m sure I will. There are four books in the Emma & the Elementals series, so that’s a given. After that, I have an adult fiction book planned. That will be historical fiction, based on actual events from my great-grandfather’s life in Boston in the early 1900s. I’m not sure what happens after that, but I’m certain that I’ll always come back to fantasy, either for children or adults, because it’s very close to my heart.
Have you started another book yet? I have! I’m currently working on WATER WORKS, which is Book Two in the Emma & the Elementals series. Where ROOT BOUND is about finding one’s place and one’s home, WATER WORKS is about ways of thinking about the world. Things that were true in Book One may not be true in Book Two, or they may have changed because things do change over time. Emma is now best friends with Reggie (the boy in the apartment down the hall in Book One), and she’ll have to save him again. And the stakes are higher now, because now she’s saving someone she actually cares about. Some of the characters from Book One return, but probably not the ones you’d expect. And because this book is about changing realities, she won’t be travelling in the classic Greek and Roman mythological world this time. She’s going someplace less familiar. I’d like the reader to discover new worlds, too.
Are you reading any interesting books at the moment? I’ve always got a few books on the go. At the moment, I’m taking my time with Steven Pinker’s The Stuff of Thought, which uses linguistics as a springboard to investigate how the human brain is structured for thought and for language. I’m also looking at Hallucinations by Olivier Sacks. I’ve got Philip Pullman’s new Brothers Grimm collection sitting by the sofa, for when I need a fairy tale pick-me-up, and I just started Some Kind of Fairy Tale by the delightful Graham Joyce. My beside book at the moment is George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. I’ve told myself I can’t watch Season 2 of the HBO show until I’ve finished reading the first book. I’m not sure if I can keep that promise.
Genre - Middle Grade Fantasy Adventure
Rating – G (ages 10+)