I met Kit on Twitter a few months back and we became instant friends. When the time came for her book launch, it was a no brainer that I’d interview her here on The Mixed-Up Files! And, as luck would have it, The Flame in the Mist released last weekend.
Me: I don’t have a set in stone, writing routine, but do you have a favorite time of day to write?
Kit: I LOVE to write first thing! Not pre-cup-of-tea first thing, but with steaming mug by my side, either in my indoor writing space (=comfy chair w/cool Ikea spotlight over my head) or, in summer, out on the deck. No checking email/FB/Twitter first. Just get up and get going.
Early in the morning, “Before the editor wakes”, as I’ve heard said (and it does seem to be true!), my thoughts are more unfettered, and I’m not looking over my own shoulder judging everything I write. That might also be because for years, I free-wrote first thing—you know, like Julia Cameron recommends to do in The Artist’s Way, with no thought, punctuation, anything. Just ideas flowing. So my brain is kind of used to that.
Me: That’s fantastic. I really need to follow that advice. I get too wrapped up in my social networking – then I’m easily distracted – and before I know it the afternoon has arrived with little writing accomplished. Since you’re disciplined with writing in the morning, do you have a special routine to accompany it?
Kit: I’d like to say I do! But too often my ideal writing day gets waylaid by other things. When I do manage to discipline myself/make it happen, though, getting started early is It. That way, when I need to stop for any reason (like, say, breakfast), my muse is already primed and it’s easy to get back to whatever WIP. Another thing I do on those best-of days is turn off my Airport. I swear I can feel my brain synapses relaxing when I do that. Then I’ll check in with social media maybe once an hour. Taking brief breaks keeps me fresh, while also staying connected
Summer is my favorite season, period—but also for writing, because I move my “office” onto the deck. Once I’ve gotten started, just try and tear me away! I’ll work outside all day, as long as my laptop protected by shade. I don’t mean the capital-S Shade in The Flame in the Mist…Jemma’s nemesis would be the worst kind of monkey at my back, sneering at every move of my fingers, or hexing characters to do things against their will.
Me: I love writing outside in the summer as well. Usually my kids end up at the pool though and then I have to resort to putting pen to paper. Not my most favorite way to write, but it gets the job done. Would you call yourself a plotter or panster? Given a choice would you chose cookies or cake? Slime or earwax?
Kit: Plotter and pantser! I always outline to some degree, but I try to keep it simple; a broad boundary within which the pantser in me is free to fly. That way, I’m often surprised what spills onto the page—things I hadn’t anticipated; actions a character makes that give the plot a twist, or create entirely new scenes. That was the case in The Flame in the Mist when Digby, Jemma’s friend and partner-against-evil, gets kidnapped and hauled off to an evil city called Blackwater. Jemma goes in pursuit, which leads her to meet a new character and make another dreadful discovery about the Agromonds. It’s one of my favorite sections of the book, and came entirely from giving my inner pantser free rein. I kept Jemma’s ultimate destination in mind, though, which kept the over all plot headed in the direction it needed to go.
As for cookies or cake? It’s cookies. Unless you’re talking about my sister-in-law’s awesome chocolate cake. Then…watch out, waistline.
Slime or earwax? Hmm, depends where the slime is from. Some people think sushi is slimy, for example, in which case I say, Bring it on! Sushi beats chocolate for me every time. (Yes. I know. It’s unbelievable! But true.) Then there’s the slime of seaweed at the beach, and I love the beach. So it looks like slime is the hands-down winner there.
Me: Your plotter/panster ways are just like mine! Maybe we shall take over the world together….but with just a brief outline…we’ll see what happens once we get going! Mwuhaha! What would you say was the inspiration for your book?
Kit: Oh, so many! The premise came pretty much fully formed from the depths of my mind: Girl trapped in castle, evil family, Mist and mayhem…
My mind was (still is) full of influences that flavored the story. First was growing up in England, which has no shortage of half-timbered thatched cottages, castles and ancient churches. From early on, I was fascinated by ghosts and graveyards. One of my favorite sightseeing places when I was three was the ruins of Corfe Castle. When I was three….I know. Don’t ask. (The beach and playgrounds were just as compelling, mind you.)
Feed into that the classic literature that abounded: Dickens with the misty gloom of his settings (whether rural, like the Kent marshes in Great Expectations, or the London fog of e.g. Oliver Twist), not to mention ghosts (A Christmas Carol) all of which I loved since the abridged forms we read as schoolkids of 7 or 8. Then there’s the Brontés, and Wilkie Collins’s classic The Woman in White, and yes, even U.S. lit, with Henry James’s fab The Turn of the Screw. Images from all of them, as well as loads more, crept into a dark corner of my mind, ready to jump out at me with a loud “Boo!” when the time came.
More recent lit-loves were of course Harry Potter, and Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials triology. I adored Pullman’s 12-yr-old protagonist, Lyra Belacqua. She also reminds me of another childhood heroine, Scout Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird. Actually, I first came across Scout at 8, when my big sis took me to see the movie. I’d play in our garden (yard) for hours, pretending to be her and talking to myself in (what I thought was) an American accent. I seriously believe that between them, Scout and Just Dennis (called Dennis the Menace here?) seeded my curiosity about the States. It might totally be their fault that I moved here. (Ok, not totally, but…)
For all my draw to gloom, though, I much prefer light and sunshine! Gloom is where my mind likes to delve for material—but it’s only with a view to transformation. Dwelling in darkness is not good in my book (either literal or metaphorical); there’s way too much of it out there already. In The Flame in the Mist, there’s an ancient book-within-a-book called From Darknesse to Light, which becomes a guide to Jemma on her quest. The title of both pretty much states what reach for in life and in what I write. I believe that kidlit books can be like maps which help kids navigate through difficult times. There’s plenty of that in Harry Potter, for example: ways Harry and his friends act, as well as their loyalty to one another, that kids want to emulate and embody. I’d be honored to think that anything I wrote had even the tiniest effect in that way.
Me: Wow. What wonderful, creepy and spectacular influences! Thanks for joining us today, Kit!
Kit: Thanks so much for hosting me on the Mixed Up Files, Amie! This was fun.
Want a chance to win a copy of The Flame in the Mist? All you have to do is enter below! TWO – yes 2 – lucky winners will be drawn! One will win a copy of her book and another will win a swag pack including parchment, bookmark, bookplate, and button!
So what are you waiting for? Enter now by leaving a comment below and filling out the rafflecopter form!
Amie Borst writes fairy tales with a twist. Her first book, Cinderskella (co-authored by her 12 year old daughter), releases October 26th, 2013!