Archive for March, 2010

Short and Scary

Up for a bit of creepiness? I hope so, because Black Dog Books is just about to release their latest anthology, Short and Scary. It’s a book that promises to be full of ‘a whole lot of creepy stories and other chilling stuff’, and it’s not wrong. Ghosties and ghoulies and monsters and all sorts of freakiness crawls over each and every page.

How do I know? Because one of my stories is featured between the pages. Just today I received my advance copy, and enjoyed seeing Haunted alongside stories written by so many authors and illustrators I admire, such as Shaun Tan, Sally Rippin, James Moloney, Gabrielle Wang, Carole Wilkinson, Andy Griffiths, Terry Denton, James Roy and the list goes on. It’s also thrilling to share the pages with many good friends of mine (girls, you know who you are). I encourage you to go grab yourself a copy, not just because it’s a great read, but also because all proceeds will be donated to a really worthwhile charity called Big Brothers Big Sisters, who provide a much needed youth mentoring program.

As an aside, I haven’t blogged much lately because I’ve been quite busy – not with my usual writing, but writing articles and preparing talks…

  • I was recently the featured author in Writing Queensland, the QLD Writers Centre magazine, which involved an interview
  • I was approached by the ACT Writers Centre and asked to contribute an article on picture books to one of their upcoming magazines
  • July 14th-16th I’ll be speaking at Whitsunday Voices, giving talks and illustration workshops to grades 2-4 and 9-12
  • July 17th I’ll be doing a talk on Making Picture Books for the Gold Coast Writers’ Association (non-members are welcome to attend too)

There’s nothing I enjoy more than speaking about writing and illustrating, and I’m really looking forward to doing some more speaking events. So I’ve been busy, but happy. Although I will enjoy getting back to my new novel…

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New Novel & World Domination

For the last few weeks I have been plotting. Not the ‘world domination’ kind, but the ‘new novel’ kind. That said, when creating a new story world you need to dominate it – as its creator you must understand every angle of your world and its people in order to write it convincingly. This is especially true when, like me, you are writing fantasy.

This new novel has me super excited, because…

  1. Firstly, I’ve been wanting to write something a little darker for a while now. This will be a mid-grade urban fantasy about a cursed bloodline, 17th century beasts, some kick ass supernatural bounty hunters and one scary immortal dude
  2. Secondly, I’m plotting it in a whole new way

When I say ‘new’, I mean entirely new to me. When I first tried writing a novel, like a lot of newbies, plotting was something I knew nothing about. As I’ve grown as a writer I’ve naturally started planning my stories and have become more aware of the value of plotting. Kate Forsyth also instilled its importance in me through the mentorship.

This will be the fourth novel I’ve written. The first was free written and terrible – it’s happily a bottom drawer manuscript. The second was only slightly more planned, and would have been another bottom drawer ms if Kate hadn’t swooped in to help me resurrect it. The third required more planning and the first draft was certainly the cleanest I’ve produced yet, but still I’ve learnt more about structure since then.

With my fourth novel, I want to go a few steps further. I want to focus on getting to know my characters intimately before I start. I want to work at weaving in each story arc and building the tension towards the climax. Ultimately I want to break the story down scene by scene, all before I start writing. I’ve never done anything like this before and I couldn’t do it alone, so I’m equipped with Robert McKee’s book on the principles of screenwriting, called Story. It’s a bible on the craft of plot – one you’ll hear a lot of writers mention. He talks about breaking a story down into acts, sequences, scenes and moments, and analysing each one as to how it’s driving the story. He’s also the king of the three act structure, something I’ve been interested in studying for a while. He opens the book with an awesome quote:

Anxious, inexperienced writers obey rules; rebellious, unschooled writers break rules; an artist masters the form

Robert, I’m not sure I’ll do you proud, but I’ll certainly do my best. The only way to learn is to push yourself out into new territory – challenge yourself to something new. I’m certainly doing that, and loving every terrifying moment. Wish me luck!

Not-Duck

For the last week or so I have been working on the final illustrations for a new picture book of mine. You may remember back when I was developing the characters for it, and even when I was storyboarding it out. It’s been a lot of fun, and I’m now mourning the fact that it’s all done and I no longer get to frolic with the characters. That said, there’s nothing quite like the feeling when it all finally comes together. I love seeing an idea materialise on paper after it’s lived in my head for so long.

Like many of my stories, I often can’t see where they’ve come from until long after they’re written. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I believe this is actually the story of my fiance and I. Can you guess which character I am? (hint: it’s probably the opposite of your initial instinct…)

Inspired

Ever since I was little I’ve experienced a certain kind of overwhelming feeling – often when looking at something inspiring someone has created. It’s like a bigness within me. A swelling in my chest. A feeling that I could laugh and cry and scream all at the same time. I’ve long had trouble articulating it, but I think it’s a need to express something.

I’ve since realised that it is this bigness that I am chasing every time I sit down to write or draw. It’s as if I’m trying to capture it, that essential thing that drives me as a person, and with each project I feel I’m getting closer. But when I finish, the feeling is always still there, so I delve into the next project. It was Isobelle Carmody who first named this for me. In a workshop of hers I attended back in 2006, she said we all have questions that drive us as writers, and each novel is an attempt to answer them.

I still get it most strongly when viewing others’ work. A brilliant film, an inspiring piece of design, a lyrical dance, a moving piece of music. I experience it when I watch many of Hayao Miyazaki’s films, like Mononoke Hime and Nausicaa: Valley of the Wind. I had it when I read The Book Thief, and more recently while reading A Small Free Kiss in the Dark. But my favourite of the moment is the music of Mumford and Sons, four young men from West London who speak to my soul. Listen to this live version of ‘White Blank Page’ and see if you don’t want to go out and create something beautiful:

Feel free to share the things that inspire you.


About this Blog…

A blog of ramblings about the world of writing and illustrating for children, by an author / illustrator who might just have a thing for rabbits.

Katherine's picture books, 'Squish Rabbit' and 'Brave Squish Rabbit', are out with Viking (Penguin, US) and UQP (Australia). Please e-mail if you would like her to blog about something in particular.

All text & images  Katherine Battersby

Released Sept 2012:

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