First, I’d like to thank you, Charlie, for being such a generous host. It’s a delight to have Twig Stories shared with your friends and fans on your ‘Tales from Swansea’ blog. We enjoy some of the same genres, and it’s great to connect with another indie author, especially one from Swansea, Wales!
Tell us a bit about your books
Twig Stories are fantastic adventures about tiny, stick creatures living in knotholes of old growth forests in the Pacific Northwest of the US. Climate change is impacting their world, and they must battle the consequences and find ways to adapt. Although Twigs are fantasy, scientific fact is woven into their natural world, and the climate challenges are real, thus the books are considered to be ‘eco-literary’. Children age 8-12 are my favorite readers.
What inspires you to write and are your characters based on anyone you know?
My daughter, Ali, and I are very concerned about vanishing wildlife and other events happening in the Pacific Northwest. The land here is magnificent. Endless forests, grasslands, coastal wetlands, precious ecosystems – you name it. We can see three volcanoes from our home in Snohomish, Washington – Mount Rainier, Mount Baker, and Glacier Peak. I witnessed the eruption of Mount St. Helens, which reminds me of another horrific event. Entire forests in British Columbia are dying of bark beetle infestation. You see, the bark beetles are no longer dying off during winter because of a warming climate, so all western forests in North America are threatened, from Arizona to Alaska. Ali and I want to contribute more to the environmental nonprofits we already support, and writing stories about this region was just another way to help out.
Many ‘characters’ from my family and friends become Twigs eventually. I think there is a tiny piece of me in each one, too. Leaf’s family is much like mine – probably with better qualities than we possess – except for Leaf’s little sister and twin brothers. They can be pretty obnoxious, but then so were mine!
How did you come up with the idea?
Ali and I created Twigs about the same time she was trying to understand the impacts of climate change on our region. It all sounded pretty scary to a 3rd grader, so we pretended stick creatures lived in the giant, western cedars in our back yard, and bravely fought impacts like bark beetles. Twigs enlisted the support of wildlife to help with floods and wildfire, and so on. So we created Twigs together.
What hardships have you had to face since you started your writing journey?
There is so much great that has happened, and so many wonderful people I’ve met, it makes up for any hardship. The first surprise came when publishers and agents told me they were interested, but not to expect a book for 2-4 years. Also, I was stunned not to be given a choice of illustrators, so I quickly moved to indie publishing. Then, it’s simply being able to afford publishing the books, and that’s an ongoing challenge. But considering we hoped to help conservation nonprofits, we managed to budget in four books and a website over three years. I really wanted Ali included in all aspects of creating the books and illustrations, and contributing to the website. Ali is a wonderful partner and continuing inspiration, as is the Twig Stories illustrator, D.W. Murray, a Disney artist, who enjoys Twigs, too.
How do you get through writer’s block?
Well, I’m always thinking about whichever story I’m writing whether I’m actually writing or not, so there doesn’t seem to be a block, rather an overabundance of ideas. Organizing all the ideas into a coherent story is the challenge, and finding a quiet corner at home to be able to do that can be difficult.
How did you know you wanted to be an author?
I’d written kid stories ever since I could write, but writing isn’t the same as being an author. The latter requires a great deal more effort, talent, and exposure than just writing. I never wanted that public world. But one night I was reading a bedtime book to my daughter, one of Erin Hunter’s Warrior novels, I think. She was in about 2nd grade. We read together every night for an hour. At one point I remember thinking, “I can write a better story than this.” When we created Twigs later, I knew they would be great children’s books, so I was ready to undertake the author role since I felt challenged to give my daughter and her friends something cool to read – something better, I hoped.
Any information on upcoming books?
Leaf & the Long Ice is out now – about Twigs getting lost in the ice tunnels of shrinking glaciers, and the rare, endangered – and deadly – creatures there. Leaf’s twin brothers run away to the Long Ice, and Leaf is forced to seek the help of a creepy hermit to help find them.
I’m working now on Leaf & Echo Peak about a volcanic eruption in the Twig’s forest, and the adaptation to such a devastating change. Of course, it’s full of danger and excitement! Leaf leads some of the Twigs down into lava tubes to escape, which is a bad idea.
Anything you want to say about people who wish to get their work published?
It’s important for an indie author to understand why they want to publish a book, and then tailor the book to fit with that idea. I want my daughter to remain a creative influence on the stories. I want the illustrator of my choice. I want to share royalties with nonprofits. My indie books may not be perfect, but neither are they over-edited for the masses. They fill a niche for conservation nonprofits, and their fundraising efforts. It’s a different way to help those causes I care about. So indie authors’ motivations for publishing their own books can be complex and varied. They need to be sure about their reasons for publishing. It will be difficult enough getting a book out there, so they need to be sure why they care.
Thank you, Charlie. I wish you the best of luck with Whisper, Tea Time Tales, and your newest story, Blood Exchange. It’s exciting being an author even if it’s also a lot of hard work!
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