Kid Lit Reviews would like to welcome Katherine L. Holmes, author of The House in Windward Leaves, which will be reviewed here tomorrow and can be read HERE!
The House in Windward Leaves is a middle grade novel full of, according to the back cover, “madcap fantasy.” Is this your first book? Please give us a short synopsis of the book.
The House in Windward Leaves is my first published book and my first published children’s book. Here is the synopsis:
Transformed during an enchanted journey, Lushina children try out their dreamed identities. On Halloween, the wayward Sadie leads her friends past cardboard cut-outs at a house on Windward Road. A wall mural transports them to a star where their costumes become real.
As Fortuneteller, Sadie only has to look in her crystal ball to help the others with their transformations. Children make up a bizarre community of star people and adventures. When Mistral’s woman friend finds her star-of-sapphire necklace missing, a treasure hunt ensues in the latter chapters of this madcap fantasy.
Why middle grade novel?
My first long fiction was for that age level. I felt comfortable with the children’s novel. The trick-or-treat beginning seemed best for older elementary.
How did you become interested in becoming a writer?
I wrote stories but the novel seemed much too difficult when I was young. That discouraged me from writing. I didn’t think about it until my fifth grade teacher suggested that I might become a writer. She wanted me to keep a journal and tape vocabulary words to the mirror. After that, I didn’t think of it seriously until I was a teenager and encouraged by an English teacher. My senior year, I took the first creative writing class offered by my high school. In college, I became involved in journalism so I didn’t consider creative writing again until I was about 25. After work, I was writing in a journal or starting creative projects that I wasn’t finishing at first.
This is my favorite question. Where do you write? Describe your writing space.
I usually situate my desk in front of a window. I like a view of trees and in the summer, I love to open the window wide and hear the breeze. When I first came to Duluth, I also had a view of Lake Superior. Before that, in Minneapolis, I bought an old desk, about a hundred years old. It’s mission furniture, quite simple, but it’s become my writing desk, probably not saleable at this point. My first cat didn’t bother me. My second cat wanted to be involved with writing. He often would sit behind my back like a pillow in the chair that I have – one with armrests. Now I have a cat that wants to be even more involved. But I’ve convinced him to lie in a wooden file holder. He snoozes in the inbox.
I have to admit that I love to write in bed on the laptop. Again, I’m situated with a view.
“Fast Five” Write the first thing you think of when you read each word. Do not dwell on it, just do this fast. No right or wrong answer.
1. Dreams Picture for thought
2. Self-publishing Fun to do
3. The Big Six Used to write me; no more
4. Autumn Lovely leaves
5. Re-writes Concentrate on each sentence
You are mentoring a high school freshman who wants to write books. What is the first thing you would have the student do?
Free write about the protagonist, the setting, what happens or a combination of these.
The House in Windward Leaves is self-published. Why did you choose to self-publish? Would advise your high school student to do the same?
I self-published that book because it is my only fantasy and there are so many fantasies out there today. I also felt that it was the most ready to publish although I re-wrote the beginning a number of times. That was the only part where I felt I needed an editor, mostly because of responses to the beginning. If I were to advise a high school student, I would probably encourage a group workshop before publishing. And stress that in today’s environment, a writer can remove and re-write a book. High school age is in a developing stage and the student might want to consider whether they would regret showing their work later. I guess I would encourage publishing at a writing site before publishing for the general public.
Describe a typical writing day, from beginning to end.
I have my coffee, light breakfast, and then I write for an hour or so. The project would be the main one. I might write again in the afternoon for about an hour but that’s almost always editing or re-writing. I mostly do the creative work in the morning. If I write poetry, that’s in the late afternoon, usually before supper. I don’t spend a lot of time at poetry in a day’s session.
What is your favorite book? Do you prefer to read it on an eReader or in print?
That’s hard! I usually say Far from the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. My favorite children’s book was always The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald. I prefer print but I’m beginning to like ebooks more and more.
What is the most important thing you can say to aspiring writers, like the hypothetical high school freshman you are mentoring (what a nice thing to do, by the way.)
I try to remember what E. B. White said about writing for yourself. At first, I am not very hard on myself. Sometimes writing is a way to channel conflicts, inner or in real life, or to figure things out. A project can always be changed. I think that at a certain point, the whole process turns and the writer must think about their reader. At that point, a writer needs to be hard on themselves as far as style, grammar, and clarity.
What do you find most difficult about writing children’s books?
I would say consistency in language and in expression. An adult can slip into their own perspective or vocabulary and that needs to be examined so that the book stays within the character frame. I think consistency is important in any writing and difficult to maintain. Sometimes I re-type whole pages to help the flow.
What is next for you?
I have been doing re-writes for two books that are scheduled for publication. The Wide Awake Loons is another middle grade novel and it will be published by Silver Knight Publishing. The other book is The Swan Bonnet, a historical novel with a teenage protagonist. It will be published by GMTA Publishing.
Katherine, thank you for joining us today.
Katherine’s latest novel The House in Windward Leaves will be reviewed here tomorrow. If you would like to read that review, click HERE! (after midnight tonight)
For more information about Katherine L Holmes and her writing, following the links below.