I had a chance to interview Christine this week to promote her latest release The Owl Keeper, since I'm dedicating this week to her novel.
1) What were the first aspirations you had for The Owl Keeper?
I started writing THE OWL KEEPER two months after 9/11, when the world seemed bleak and hopeless, and I think in the back of my mind I wanted to write a book about hope. I also wanted to write a book that children would love – the kind of fantasy that I loved reading as a child.
2) What first got you interested in the theme of owls in general?
Owls are night creatures, with an aura of mystery about them. In certain societies they symbolize wisdom, the ability to see things that are hidden. In others they represent good fortune, magic, sometimes even death. Owls are very powerful birds: stealthy predators that attack without warning. They’re also eerily beautiful. I loved the idea of owls with silver feathers and creating a myth around these fabled, magical creatures.
3) What's an anecdote of a fun experience you had while writing this novel?
One fun thing I did was adopt a rescue barred owl through the Adopt a Wildlife Ambassador Program at the Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick, Maine. I chose the barred owl because she reminded me of Max’s silver owl in THE OWL KEEPER, except this owl is much bigger!
Her name is Bianca and in 1995 she was hit by a car and suffered a broken wrist. They couldn’t release her into the wild, so she lives at the center. Over the years she’s been a foster parent to other barred owlets and travels with programs to educate the public. I’m hoping to go visit Bianca this spring!
4) If--and I mean this as inoffensively as possible--The Owl Keeper wasn't published, what would you be doing right now?
I’d probably be working on another book! Or re-writing The Owl Keeper to make it better! I can’t imagine a life without writing. However, if I wasn’t writing, the next best thing would be to pack my carry-on bag and take off, ideally to Europe or South America. I’ve found that exploring different corners of the world fires up my imagination; travel is a great way to discover new ideas and delve into myth and history.
5) With all the great feedback your released novel is getting, what would you hope your next novel to exude from readers?
My next novel is very different from THE OWL KEEPER; however it still has the elements of adventure and magic and terrifying situations. The book is set in the Sahara Desert, in Morocco, and there’s a feisty young heroine who finds herself in strange and harrowing circumstances. My hope is that young readers who loved THE OWL KEEPER will enjoy this book too.
6) Any guilty pleasures outside of the writing/reading business done at home? (Eg. spending time at the park, travel)
I love listening to music and sharing good times with a few close friends, and spending time at our old country house in Deer Isle, Maine. I adore the summer when I can hike, sail, kayak and go rowing on Gloucester Harbor. Winters my husband Peter and I travel to Buenos Aires where we study Spanish and tango.
7) What are some of your favorite books that you like to go back to from time to time?
All the whimsical time-travel books by Edward Eager, including “Knight’s Castle” and “Magic by the Lake” – I devoured those as a kid and they inspired my writing; I also love the illustrations by N. M. Bodecker. Other books I read when young and still go back to: Susan Cooper’s THE DARK IS RISING series, Ursula K. LeGuin’s EARTHSEA trilogy, Tolkien’s LORD OF THE RINGS, the odd sci-fi fantasies of British author John Wyndham.
8) Now that The Owl Keeper is published, what are some of your future goals in the writing industry?
As I said earlier, I want to write books kids will love to read – books that stir their imaginations, with heroes and heroines they can identify with. I can’t think of anything more wonderful than getting books into the hands of young readers – especially reluctant ones – and having them fall in love with books and the amazing power of stories.
The short answer is: I’ll keep writing books for young people.
9) After the whole process to get The Owl Keeper out in the world, do you feel relieved? Successful? Why?
I’m amazed and thrilled, to begin with, that this book is out there at last. I feel incredibly grateful to all the people who made THE OWL KEEPER happen – and they were many! – especially my agent Stephen Fraser and my editor Krista Marino, who both loved the book and believed in it. I suppose, too, I feel a certain relief that the book is finished and out there: now I’m free to let go and move on to the next.
10) To finish things off on a light-note, how would you describe The Owl Keeper to young readers debating on picking it up?
Well I’m not sure how “light” this will be, but here goes:
Have you ever felt afraid or alone? Ever kept a secret too dangerous to tell? Max Unger, hero of THE OWL KEEPER, has always loved the night. He used to be brave, exploring the forest with his grandmother after dark. But the forest is dangerous now, his gran is gone, and Max is alone and afraid. He misses Gran's stories about the silver owls and the world before the Great Destruction. And…Max has a secret: one he doesn't dare tell.
What if you’re a kid and there are no adults you can trust? What if you find yourself in a scary place? That’s where Max finds himself at the start of this book. But Max has a hidden strength deep inside him and, when faced with impossible circumstances, he sets off on a quest that he doesn’t completely understand, taking his silver owl and friend Rose with him. THE OWL KEEPER is a quest of hope, a story of friendship. It’s also about conquering one’s darkest fears.
If you enjoy impossible quests and underdog heroes, this book is for you.
Thanks for the interview, LiLi, it’s been fun! (:
It was great to have you, Christine.
Cross-posted at: ChicaReader.
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