Monday, 20 June 2011 17:48
|Q & A with Alison Kartevold
Author of KenKarta: Battle of the Onoxmon(The Artists’ Orchard; May 10, 2011; $25.98-Hardcover; Ages 9-12)
As an Emmy award-winning journalist, writing is a major part of your work, have you always wanted to write a book?
Being a journalist, the concept of writing a book was not completely foreign to me. But honestly, given my background, I assumed that if I did write one, it would be nonfiction, not a fantasy novel for tweens and teens. If it weren’t for my daughters and their incredibly vivid imaginations, this book would not exist.
Tell us the story behind why you began writing KenKarta.
It all started one night when my daughter awoke from a bad dream. She crawled in bed with me and asked me to tell her a story so she could clear her head. Half asleep, I babbled on about a young girl and her talking horse named Dalminyo (as it happened, it looked a lot like one she’d just ridden on a visit to Idaho). There was a growling sound in the dark, and I told her she had to get past the evil monster Dale-K (who was really my snoring husband, Dale, sleeping next to me) to save her sister. I described her and Dalminyo running through a field of red flowers (a scene depicted in a large canvas I painted that hangs in our living room). And that’s how the adventure continued until she fell asleep.
To my surprise, the next morning Veronica asked if I could write the story down so that we would never forget. And could we please put all of our family in the tale, as they all live so far away and we rarely get to see them. Of course, Scooby, our cairn terrier couldn’t be left out, and when my youngest daughter, Sophia, heard what was up, she declared that any story we wrote would need to have a purple cheetah, fairies and dragons in it. So, it was at their command that I began folding both the familiar and fanciful into the story. That was the fall of 2006.
A lot has changed since then, but that’s how it started.
The idea began in 2006, but KenKarta is just now being launched in 2011, why did it take so long to write this book?
In the beginning this wasn’t meant to be a book. It was just a fun thing I did with my kids. Once or twice a month we’d sit around the living room brainstorming, letting our imaginations run wild. Veronica is great at storylines and Sophia comes up with fantastic names. I was always inspired by how creative they were, so no matter how outlandish a suggestion might first seem I’d try to think of a way to fold it into our storyline. Originally this was just their personalized fairy tale and I worked on it sporadically when they prompted me.
When did you decide your story for your daughters could become something more?
I first started to wonder after I read some of the early pages to Sophia’s classmates. I was only supposed to read for about ten minutes, but the teacher and kids got so caught up in the story that I accidentally read clear through their music period. This enthusiastic reaction, from kids that weren’t involved in creating the story, really made me start to think that our little fairy tale might have a broader appeal than I initially thought.
How has your experience as an award-winning journalist informed your writing for KenKarta, and subsequent efforts to market and promote its release?
Working as a reporter/producer for network news outlets like NBC, ABC, and CBS, has actually taught me a lot of things that helped prepare me for the journey I’m on currently with this book. One thing you learn working in television is how to take constructive criticism. So when the first draft I sent to my editor came back “bleeding red”, I was okay with it, I knew that making the requested changes would only make the story better. As a writer, it’s very easy to become too attached to the individual words you have toiled over alone. Then we’re shocked when others see something different than we did when they read the same words. TV is a very collaborative venue, so I am very accustomed to being second guessed and required to defend my material. As far as promotion and marketing efforts are concerned, my background gives me a pretty solid understanding of what media outlets are interested in. I already know that whether or not someone wants to talk to me is going to depend just as much on what they need in their show that day as what I have to say. If I can help them figure out how to tie those two things together, then it’s a win-win for us both.
Is it strange to have fictional characters named after you and your family members?
Frankly, yes! It does feel a bit odd. I can tell you that my husband had no desire to have an alter ego in another world. However, I don’t think he’d really mind if he could be a king in ours. And at one point, Veronica was worried she might get unwanted attention about the things her alter ego did in the world of Tiers. So yes, once we knew the book would be published, there were multiple discussions on whether or not we should change the names. Ultimately, we felt that to change the names would be to change its soul. At its heart, KenKarta will always be a story I wrote just for my kids. The fact that others can now enjoy it too is a bonus.
What’s it like being a first-time author?
I found the creative process to be really fun and exhilarating! The fact that I got to share that experience with my kids made it something I will always treasure.
My education began once I decided to approach KenKarta as a book. That’s when I found out how much I had to learn, and how much work there was ahead of me.
The publishing industry is changing rapidly and can be tough to navigate, even for experienced authors. So to go it alone, without inside contacts, can be daunting. It is definitely not for the meek, but if you are driven and have a thick skin, there are rewards out there.
Would you write another book? Is there a sequel in the works?
Absolutely! The knowledge I’ve gained through this initial process would make everything much easier the second time. Besides, the girls have been pestering me to start writing the next adventure about KenKarta for more than a year. We have the main characters and plot line already laid out, but I refused to start actually putting it down on paper until the first book was done. As soon as KenKarta: Battle of the Onoxmon is launched, I guess I’ll have to find the time to sit down and write what happens next.
What advice would you have for other first-time authors?
Being a first time author can be rough, so it’s important that you are passionate about the story you’re telling and have a thick skin. Writing is by and large a solitary process, you and you alone must get the words on the pages, but that’s just the beginning. Once you have a strong rough draft, you need to develop a small network of people whose input you value and trust. Not your mother or best friend; don’t put them in a position where they have to become your critic. Let them be your cheerleaders, because trust me, there are days when you are really going to need them. My husband is my best friend and he never read any of the rough drafts of KenKarta: Battle of the Onoxmon. He worried I’d be hurt if he were critical, and somewhere deep down I must admit I would have been. What I mean is that you should find people who are experts in the subject about which you’re seeking advice. They believe in what you’re trying to do, but won’t feel compelled to pander to you. They will call it as they see it, and you need to be able to accept their input gracefully. You don’t always have to agree with them, but you do need to be open to what they are telling you.
Find out more about Alison Kartevold at www.KenKarta.com
Last Updated ( Tuesday, 21 June 2011 09:01 )