Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Writer's Block Interviews: Kathryn White

1) Tell us a bit about yourself and where you live and work. How did you become an author?

I live in the tiny city of Wells in the South West of England. I wrote When They Fight, an autobiographical picture book on conflict in the home when my youngest daughter, Charlie, was six years old, she’s now eighteen. It’s strange how stories come to you. But I suddenly wanted to express the trauma I felt when very young, during the breakdown of my parent’s marriage. I sent the book away and Oxford University Press made an offer. Writing wasn’t something that I had ever considered as a career. My writing came out of a need to say something about something and I think that is the key; don’t’ write what you think people will want to read, write about things that interest you or hold meaning. The book was selected as a Notable Social Studies Book in the US. Following on, I’ve written a variety of stories including, Here Comes The Crocodile; shortlisted for two awards and I’m proud to say that Ruby’s School Walk was shortlisted for the Boston Globe Best Read Aloud Award. My books are always well received in the US, which is so encouraging.

2) Do you gravitate toward specific genres in your writing? Who is your ideal reader?

I always seem to incorporate animals into my stories. I believe animals have real personality; they’re funny to watch and exhibit fascinating behavior. They just make great characters.

My ideal reader is any child prepared to sit down and put the time into reading my stories. I always want them to come away satisfied; having had fun but taking something from the experience of reading the book. I think children are very discerning and write with that in mind.
3) Describe your body of work. Which projects have been the most rewarding?

I’ve written nearly thirty books, consisting mainly of picture books. However I’ve also written ghost/horror stories, historical fantasy and cultural tales. The ghost story goes down well in schools; I love to see the children really get into the tale, listen in silence and hold their breath until the end; that’s satisfying. In contrast, I love the new Ruby series coming through. I think Miriam Lattimer has done a fab job on the illustrations and when your character comes to life through a series of books, you kind of get attached.

4) Tell us about your newest release, Ruby’s Sleepover.

Ruby’s Sleepover is about Ruby’s first night sleeping in her back-garden in a tent with her best friend Mai. They are visited by giants, pirates and even dragons. I’ve produced a power point of the story and it’s wonderful to see the illustrations on a big screen, they are so vibrant. The third book is coming out next year. Ruby’s School Walk, the first in the series has been extremely well received in the US. There is a great review of Ruby’s Sleepover on the Kirkus website. Ruby is all about being a small child with a big imagination.

5) How do you promote your work? What methods have worked best for you?

I attend festivals and have a website. I also ask people to write reviews of my books anywhere on line, from Amazon to Goodreads; reviews help immensely. I find that the market is often cornered by the big names and shelf space is scarce and frequently allocated to the high sellers, already up there, which keeps diversity out. I think if anyone discovers a good book, it’s a public service to let others know about it. I always review my book purchases if they’re good. If they’re dreadful, I keep quiet!!

6) Who are your favorite authors? What is on your reading list right now?

Children’s author has to be Roald Dahl; his writing is so irreverent, so child-focused, and his evil characters are fabulously nasty. It makes the read so rewarding when they get their comeuppance. Classic story is Rudyard Kipling’s Rikki Tikki Tavi, dark stuff and the animal characters are chilling. Adult authors are Stephen King, I think he’s the master of horror and Arundhati Roy, her title:The God of Small Things; what beautiful language she uses.

7) What are your views on self-publishing vs. traditional publishing?

I believe there was a time when publishers could be depended upon to source good books and publish them, finances permitting. Nowadays, they source best-sellers which doesn’t always mean they’re good; they just sell, like high-end trainers and designer stuff. Self-publishing gives a platform to good writers who haven’t made it into the best sellers list yet, but one day! I think it’s wonderful that writers have the opportunity to showcase their work, the problem is, that it takes a lot of money and online savvy to get your work noticed.

8) When you are not writing, how do you spend your time? Describe a typical day in your life.

Dare I describe a typical day? You’d fall asleep. What’s interesting about cleaning and cooking and getting in the groceries, uh! But these activities are interspersed with writing about dragons and demons and great Pharaohs, so that keeps me going. I write in bursts between other daily tasks and the balance seems to work. I’m not a nine-to-five desk person. The phone and email insures that I write in patches.

9) What projects do you have in the works?

Terror Tales is currently out with a couple of publishers. If it’s taken on then I’ll write more horror. I adore writing horror. I’m also working on another picture book and two young reader books, but it’s very hard getting them past editors to contract state. These are tough times, I have to work harder and not take anything for granted.

10) What advice would you offer to aspiring authors?

The key is writing something highly original that’s yours and speaks with your voice. That’s the best way to get noticed. Take chances, be brave in what you produce, don’t be put off by rejection either, what one editor rejects another will grab with open arms. Be prepared to cut and slice and rework your first book until it becomes unrecognizable. Why? Because it’s by sacrificing the first one and getting it published that you obtain access to editors and publishers when offering your next best seller. Don’t be possessive or precious about your text. I know you put a lot into it, but it’s about getting on the road to publication.

Author Bio

Kathryn has written a number of children's books, including Here Comes the Crocodile (shortlisted for the Sheffield and Nottingham Children’s Book Awards 2005) and The Nutty Nut Chase for Little Tiger Press, as well as many books for Harcourt Education including, The Tupilac, (used in literacy world) Ghost Thief & PITCH POND CURSE. She has also written for Egmont, SNOWSHOE THE HARE (Banana Books) and Oxford University Press, GOOD DAY, BAD DAY, which was selected as a notable social studies book in the US under the title WHEN THEY FIGHT. Her latest book Ruby’s School Walk was shortlisted for the Boston Globe Best Read Aloud Book Award.

Kathryn has been involved in the HOW TO READ A MILLION WORDS CAMPAIGN in Bristol, raising literacy standards in Bristol City Schools and the Get Hackney Reading Campaign. She has also worked as a creative writing tutor for HM Prison Service.

She is also a qualified in TESOL. She uses her own texts and experience in creative writing to help students of other languages gain confidence and enjoy building a relaxed and natural command of English language in everyday use.

She has been involved in nursery and school care both as an educator and presenter. She worked as a visitor in schools discussing and encouraging healthy eating.

An in-depth bio and further information is available on Wikipedia:

Contact Kathryn


Twitter @kathryniwhite


1 comment:

  1. I am an avid fan of Kathryn White since finding "Here comes the Crocodile", by accident when looking for books for my grandchildren. I now have every one of her books and am keenly awaiting "Rubys sleepover". If I had to choose a favourite childrens author Kathryn would be top of my list.