Monday, 5 May 2014

Rosie Morgan welcomes Katie Stewart - talented author/illustrator.

Meet Katie Stewart from Australia.....

A cover designer, author AND illustrator.

Are you searching for a designer for your cover, or an illustrator for your stories? Look no further. Katie designed the eye-catching cover of 'The Golden Sword' for me, so you can see what I mean. She also writes wonderful stories! There will be links at the bottom of the page for you to follow to find her books or to explore her websites.

And now I'm going to let her speak for herself ....

I always loved writing at school. Apart from art, writing was my favourite part of the week. 
I always wrote melodramatic stuff, with fires, murders and mayhem, but the teachers seemed to like it. I spent a lot of hours, when I probably should have been doing other things, dreaming up stories in my head. 
As I grew up though, I found getting my ideas down in drawings much easier than getting them down in words, so I drifted into illustrating. I have Hypermobility Syndrome (put simply – I’m double-jointed in a few places), so I suffered from RSI quite frequently. Writing detailed stories in long hand was often painful. Or maybe that was a good excuse to hide the fact I was lazy. It wasn’t until two things coincided in my late thirties, that I started writing again. One was the rise of the personal computer – which made writing so much easier – and the other was that I felt I needed a challenge after we adopted our second son, so I took a writing course. I set out thinking I wanted to just write picture books, but ended up really enjoying writing for mid-grade and young adults.

Funnily enough, I didn’t go into art or writing when I left school. My mother didn’t think either of those things was a real job. 

I actually started out as an archaeologist, which came in pretty useful when I was writing my first book, Treespeaker, which is set in a Mesolithic-type tribe in the forest. 
Then I moved on to teaching, which was interrupted by motherhood and now I work part-time in a school library with the occasional day of relief teaching to boost the coffers. 
Working part-time at a school is wonderful. Not only am in contact with my main audience, I also get days just to write or design and I get school holidays, too.

When it comes to writing, I have my own room at the side of the house which is referred to by my family as ‘Mum’s art room’, but it’s where I like to do my writing as well. 
I live on a farm in Australia, and this room looks out over the paddocks and the creek and a huge gum tree, which I love. 
Unfortunately, an illness just before Christmas last year left me with doctor’s orders to sit with my feet up, so I’ve been sitting on my bed to write since then. I think I’m just about ready to move back into ‘my’ room though.

With my novels, I’m definitely not a planner, at least not someone who writes everything down in detail. I sometimes don’t even write my books in chapter order. If a scene comes into my head, I write it as it comes up, even if it’s not going to happen for another ten chapters. Otherwise, it will keep playing in my head and drive me mad until I do. I know I’ll end up having to rewrite it down the track, but I think it helps to write it while it’s fresh. So I end up with a whole lot of ‘scenes’ that I have to piece together and smooth out into a coherent novel. Since I discovered ‘Scrivener’ which lets me easily rearrange things, I’ve found this much easier.

When I set out to write a novel, I have a general idea of the plot, but it can change quite dramatically as I write. I very rarely know the ending before I start. I find it more interesting that way.
When I was a kid, I was a great fan of Elizabeth Goudge. I loved the subtlety of her magic and the ‘realness’ of her characters. Another favourite, in my teens, was Ursula K. Le Guin, especially her ‘Wizard of Earthsea’ series. I think anyone who wants to write fantasy should read that series as a prerequisite, to learn world-building. Her worlds are so real and unusual and detailed and I always wanted to be able to write like her.
These days I love Australian author, Juliet Marillier. Again, it’s the subtlety of her magic and great characters that I love. No huge battles or big explosions, just real people doing recognisable things in a magical world. I’ve also gone through a late adolescence and read all I can by C.S. Lewis. I was a good child and did most of what my mother told me, but my one act of rebellion was to avoid any author my mother told me I ‘should’ read. C.S. Lewis was one of them, so I didn’t actually read the Narnia Chronicles until my eldest son was seven or eight. 

At the moment I’m working on a Young Adult fantasy novel based on a short story I wrote a while ago. I’m struggling to find a title, because I’d like a one-word title that sums it up, but it’s tentatively called ‘The Song Seekers’. The short story was about a singer, kidnapped by wizards who wanted to capture the magic of his voice. It was told from the viewpoint of a young boy who works for the wizards. In the novel, I’m intertwining it with another story, about a priest who runs an orphanage in the city. There is a connection between the two stories, but it remains pretty loose until the end.

For the future, my plans are to just keep writing. I want to do a third novel in my Treespeaker series and a second in the Mark of the Dragon Queen series. That last one is almost written in first draft, but needs a lot of work as I did it for NaNoWriMo, so it’s pretty rough. I’ve got about three other novels rolling around in my head, too, so I should have enough to keep me going for a while.

As well as writing, I’m doing a lot of illustrating and book cover design. I’ve recently been illustrating the ‘Smelly Troll’ series for English author, Rosen Trevithick, which is always fun. I’m also involved in a project she’s running to get a huge group of children to write and illustrate a book. I’ve been busy designing the covers for books by Rosie Morgan (!), S.I Botha (who both write for children/young adults) as well as for adult authors, Lynda Wilcox, Stuart Ayris and Andre Jones, as well as making pre-made covers to sell through my ‘Magic Owl Design’ site. That’s probably why it’s taking me so long to write my book! :D

YA Books:
Treespeaker II (Song of the Jikhoshi):



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