30 Sep Interview with Kersten Hamilton, Author of THE GOBLIN WARS
Kersten Hamilton is the author of several picture books and many middle grade novels. TYGER, TYGER, book one of THE GOBLIN WARS series, was her first novel for young adults and was followed by IN THE FORESTS OF THE NIGHT, BOOK TWO. We admire Kersten’s craft and were happy she agreed to be interviewed. Here’s what she had to say.
JM: The third book in your exciting YA series THE GOBLIN WARS was just released last month. WHEN THE STARS THREW DOWN THEIR SPEARS continues the fast paced fantasy series. Here are two reviews:
“This spectacular conclusion will satisfy fans and lead new readers into a complex world with fascinating magic and appealing characters.” —Kirkus, starred review
“Brimming with heroism, violence, romance, and tragedy. . . . This will more than satisfy series fans—it will make them laugh, fill them with wonder, and uplift them in the end.” —Booklist Online
You have a gift for entwining your characters’ traits and talents naturally into the plot. What came to you first—the plot for this fantasy series or the main character, sixteen-year-old Teagan or Tea, and her quirky family and friends?
KH: Thank you for the compliment, Jennifer. I’m not sure it is a gift so much as something I work very, very hard at.
The plot came first. Like every fairy tale, THE GOBLIN WARS has roots in much older stories…and a story of its own. I love ancient fairy tale types and forms, the ones that reach back beyond the written word; the mixing and melding of myths as people groups intermingle. And I love collecting old books. (I love old books so much that I took my whole library to my daughter’s wedding reception. I’m not making that up.) I was reading in a volume of The Book of Knowledge published between 1880 and 1900 when I came across a story called “The Lords of the Grey & White Castles,” by Francis Brown, Ireland’s blind storyteller. It had the seeds of just the kind of story I loved.
I liked it so much that wondered if I could breathe life into it again—I stripped the story to its bones, wove in the creatures of older, darker, tales from Scotland and Ireland, and reinforced the ancient fairy tale form. The result was Loveleaves and Woodwender, an almost-new story with roots as deep and as old as the craft of storytelling itself. I loved it.
But longer picture books were not selling, so I put Loveleaves and Woodwender in a drawer and forgot all about it…
…Until one day when I decided I would like to write an urban fantasy, a re-told fairy tale in which the unknown breaks in to modern life.
Most of my favorite fairy tales had already been done, some of them more than once. In searching for something fresh and new, I realized that Loveleaves and Woodwender would be perfect to expand. Not only that, but it fit amazingly well with the Finnian Cycle — Fion Mac Cumhaill was Ireland’s King Arthur — and the stories blended together into the perfect history/mythology for a modern story world.
You can read LOVELEAVES AND WOODWENDER here: http://allthingsuf.com/2011/10/spooky-legends-giveaway-kersten.html
If readers would like to see how the voice matured and changed here is a word sketch of Mamieo, one of the important characters: http://www.goodreads.com/story/show/246525-samhain-s-eve?chapter=1
JM: What has been the most challenging part of writing this series?
KH: Bad things have to happen to my characters. I have a hard time writing that. Writing those scenes is emotionally wringing for me, and since I write everywhere and anywhere, it can lead to awkward situations.
When the time came to work on the most difficult scene in the trilogy, it happened that I had taken my husband to the hospital for an inner ear problem. While he was in the doctor’s office, I was writing that scene on my laptop in the waiting room, with tears streaming down my face. When I realized that I was making the people around me uncomfortable, I surreptitiously blew my nose and switched to editing a funny scene, which had me chuckling to myself in no time at all. I only came out of my writerly reverie when people started moving to the other side of the room, dragging their children away from me. They must have thought I was a mental patient escaped from the ward upstairs.
JM: You’ve written picture books, middle grade fiction and nonfiction and a novel series for young adults. Do you find one age range harder to write for than others? If so, why?
KH: I always think that whichever one I’m working on at the moment is the hardest. Every time I start a book it is like learning how to write all over again. Every. Single. Time.
JM: Do you find one age range particularly fun to write for?
KH: I write for myself—which means that sometimes I am writing for my 3-year-old self who loves the sound of rhyme and they rhythm of sentences; sometimes for my 12-year-old self who ran wild down back roads and alleys; and sometimes for my 20-year-old self who was exploring the meaning and mystery of the universe. Since I loved being all of those ages, I love writing them all!
JM: Do any of your characters or books stick in your heart as favorites? If so, which ones and why?
KH: Right now, WHEN THE STARS THREW DOWN THEIR SPEARS is my favorite. I love all of the characters. Even the bad ones.
JM: Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
KH: Yes. There was one element of the creation of THE GOBLIN WARS that I did not want to talk about until I knew whether or not I could finish well. I have finished as well as I am able, so I would like to talk about the deep heart of these books, and why they were written.
Philip Pullman’s HIS DARK MATERIALS trilogy was very much on my mind when I started THE GOBLIN WARS. I hope that, like Pullman’s books, mine are enjoyable to people who simply want an adventure. But there is more to both trilogies. HIS DARK MATERIALS is a parable of the Republic of Heaven; THE GOBLIN WARS is a parable of the Kingdom of God.
I completely love Pullman’s writing and completely disagree with the final note of his worldview. Here is a quote from one of my favorite Pullman interviews:
“Firstly, a sense that this world where we live is our home. Our home is not somewhere else. There is no elsewhere. This is a physical universe and we are physical beings made of material stuff. This is where we live.
Secondly, a sense of belonging, a sense of being part of a real and important story, a sense of being connected to other people, to people who are not here any more, to those who have gone before us. And a sense of being connected to the universe itself.
All those things were promised and summed up in the phrase, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven’. But if the Kingdom is dead, we still need those things. We can’t live without those things because it’s too bleak, it’s too bare and we don’t need to. We can find a way of creating them for ourselves if we think in terms of a Republic of Heaven.
This is not a Kingdom but a Republic, in which we are all free and equal citizens, with – and this is the important thing – responsibilities.”
I agree wholeheartedly with Pullman that “All of those things were promised and summed up in the phrase, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven’.”
But if the Kingdom is dead, if it never existed, why do we still need those things? Why do we feel that living without them is too bleak and too bare? We—all of humankind—are hungry for exactly those things. We long for the Kingdom. That longing shines through the myths, legends and great stories of every tribe and nation. It is part of what makes us human.
And that is what I was exploring when I wrote these books. Thank you for having me on your blog, Jennifer!