Today we're thrilled to be hosting Kate Inglis from Sweet|Salty on the Daily Grommet blog, and we're giving away a copy of her book, The Dread Crew: Pirates of the Backwoods (if you can't wait to see if you win, you can pick up your copy here). (See rules for the giveaway at the bottom of this post)
Kate has graciously answered my interview questions. I loved reading her responses and I'm sure you will as well.
Four years ago, I was hiking through an old woodlot with a 6-year-old who was cold and wet and hungry, and we still had a long way to go. I remember telling him SHHHH and “Eric, you need to pay attention when you’re in the woods, because they might come along and squash us,” and he said “Who?” and I looked around and saw trees and splinters and snowy moss and bogs and it just popped into my head: “The Wood Pirates.”
As we walked, Eric asked all kinds of questions that needed answering. “What makes their ship go?” And, “Why do they want junk?” And, “What do they look like?” And, “What do they smell like?” And, “What do they do for fun?”
I got home and felt a need to capture it before I forgot—a story about a pirate-tracker named Eric who lived in a very remote and old farmhouse in the middle of Nova Scotia with goats and peacocks and an old barn with a stone foundation and an iron hulk of a kitchen wood oven, all just like the real thing. Plus pirates.
Writers often talk about their "muse." What does your muse look/feel like?
My muse is a plethora of voices that answer questions. It’s uncanny how those voices don’t feel like they’re coming from me. As long as I pay attention, they tell me everything I need to know. So I guess you could say my muse has maggots in his beard and horrible manners. That and a whole lot of Johnny Cash.
What did you find to be the hardest part of the writing process for the book?
When you’re a creative, work-at-home parent, everyone wants a piece of you. Your kids want you to play lego. Your supper is sticking to the bottom of the pot. Your corporate client wants a feature article on the effect of social media on mass brands in a fragmented market. Your husband wants you to curl up on the couch for an evening and watch a movie and have you be mentally as well as physically present.
In the midst of all that, a small girl—a pirate scout—climbs through a window and whispers in your ear I may be small, but I’m the fastest they’ve ever seen. And you’re entranced, and you fear she’s going to disappear back out through that window if you don’t drop everything and write about her. Then a small voice chirps from the other room HA! HA HA. LOOK. FUNNY POOP.
What did you find to be the best part of the writing process for the book?
For me, the most enjoyable aspect of writing the book was the process of editing. Mapping out the story—the task of getting through 40,000 words that tell a compelling story—that can feel like some unending epic journey. In comparison, editing is fish in a barrel. You step away from the finished first draft for a while and you come back to it with feedback and perspective, strangely refreshed. Revisiting sentences and paragraphs and chapters is so easy and fun, and the impact of good editing is so profound and instantaneous.
You write a novel. Then you rest. Then you return to it with a new eye, feeling less attached to your own cleverness.
This is critically important. When you finish a large piece of work, you’re left with this self-satisfied film, pleased with what you’ve accomplished. That film has to be peeled back or you run the risk of falling in blind love with your own words—words that would be so much stronger with a vigorous edit. You trim a sentence by half and it’s ten times stronger and it’s suddenly got cadence and feels artful and goes ZAP and it makes you feel high. It’s a drug.
Maybe I just need to get high more.
Are any of the characters based on people in your life? I mean, I'm pretty sure you haven't encountered any members of the Dread Crew (Or maybe you have?) but are there glimmers of personalities that belong to people you know?
Do you have a favorite character in the book? Or does it vary from day to day?
I love Joe for his hospitality, his sense of justice and for how he lives his values. And Eric for his earnest curiosity. And of course I adore Missy… and the pirates for all kinds of different reasons. Hector for his charisma. Johnnie for his grandness. Meena for her lungs. Some of them I love for reasons not apparent in the books, for aspects of their back stories that I’ve had glimpses of. Some of them were just kind of ‘there’ until I saw them sketched by Sydney, at which point I fell wildly in love with them and wished I’d given them more limelight. (Famous Amos and Ironbound Ike are two of those.)
Now that the book has been out for a couple of weeks, and you're on the other (Published) side of it, is it anything at all like you thought it might be?
Every time someone pushes a book towards me and asks me to sign it, I feel like apologizing for spoiling such a pretty thing. That’s something I just can’t believe—how this book is so beautifully put together, and it’s mine. I watch as people pick it up and run their hands over the cover, and they pore through it giggling and marvelling at Sydney’s illustrations. Gives me butterflies every time.
I’m also flattened by how exposing it is to have people reading my story after holding it so close for so long. Every person who buys a book… I feel like I’ve made them a promise. I’m so honoured by the attention granted by every single reader, and that sense of honour can be unnerving. I want so, so much to make good on that promise.
Are there any plans in the works for a second novel? If so, will it be a continuation of the Dread Crew story, or something altogether different?
I started the next book a couple of weeks ago. It will be a sequel but will also be new—it follows the adventures of Missy. It will reveal more about where she came from, and will see her travelling the world until she gets embroiled in a mystery that has implications beyond piracy.
The Dread Crew felt like play—but with so much at stake, this next book feels a little more daunting. There’s a time pressure now, knowing that I’d like to have it released for a certain season. But with this first experience behind me, there’s so much that I just can’t wait for. I feel scenes coming to me and I can’t help but imagine how Sydney, our phenomenally talented Dread Crew illustrator, would draw them. I hear a conversation between characters and I have to hold back from emailing Penelope, my editor, right away.
This next time around, I’m simultaneously more nervous and more confident. I’m just doing my best to block out both those feelings, and just do my best to pay attention to voices.
Kate will be checking in throughout the day to answer any questions that our readers might have. You can also enter to win a copy of her book by simply answering the question, "What would your pirate name be?"
The contest will remain open until 9pm EST and we'll use Random.org to pick a winner. What are you waiting for?
General contest rules: To enter, you must be at least 18 years of age and a resident of the U.S. or Canada. No purchase necessary. The winners will be randomly selected by Daily Grommet and we will select one person to win a book (one entry per person). Employees, contractors, and the families of employees and contractors of Daily Grommet, Inc. are not eligible to enter. Void where prohibited. Contest will run from 9am through 9pm EST December 14, 2009.