Abbey Sinclair would just like to return to her physics textbooks, but the witches who just moved in across the street seem to be up to something, and one of them has offered to give her lessons in witchcraft. She also has
to decide what to do with the instructions on how to save the world...
that seem to have come from her future self.
A Quill Ladder, the second novel in my Derivatives of Displacement science fantasy series for kids and adults, launches this week. I call it science fantasy because it is a portal fantasy novel in which the kids travel not to a different world, but to different futures. It is strongly science-driven as my main character, Abbey, is a fourteen-year-old chemistry and physics geek, who likes to hypothesize and solve problems using the scientific method. Abbey’s twin, Caleb, is a popular kid and a bit less enamoured with science. Caleb rounds out Abbey’s science edge, and along with their older brother Simon, and next-door neighbour Mark, they have a lot of exciting adventures.
I am mostly inspired to write by the books that I read as a child—books like the Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit, The Wizard of Oz, and Enid Blyton’s Adventure Series—books that take you to another world and simply refuse to let you go until you are finished reading them. Not only do these books incorporate great adventures, but unlike some middle-grade and young adult fiction of today, which tends to be more relativistic and gritty, my favourite books of childhood had a strong moral foundation without being too preachy—at least they did not seem preachy to me at the time.
In order to lose myself in a book, the book had to have certain qualities. The main characters had to be likeable and fundamentally good, even though they could make mistakes. There had to be a strong sense of adventure and excitement. The kids had to be largely left on their own to resolve the issues without too much adult intervention. The themes and plot could not be too heavy—bad things could happen, but I also wanted good things to happen with a positive resolution at the end. Finally, there had to be just some magic amalgam of earnestness and playfulness in the writing that captured me.
Trying to recreate this winning combination, and the absolute joy I experienced in reading as a kid, is part of what inspires me to write. I even carry this goal forward into my fiction for adults to some extent, although I deal with darker more realistic themes in my adult books. In addition, because I work as an environmental researcher, and I am a feminist, I do like to be able to insert ideas and events into my books that support my beliefs—not in a heavy-handed way, but in a way that makes readers consider different perspectives. I try to write strong female and strong male protagonists, with the hope of making both girls and boys realize that they do not have to conform to stereotypes but rather can be who or what they want to be.
I also perpetually have stories and characters running around in my head, so I suppose that also helps to inspire me.
I try to approach my writing very seriously, but passionately and with a good sense of humour—after all, what are stories without a good sense of fun? I work a little over half-time doing environmental research and reports, and I put out a minimum of two novels and two novellas a year, so I have to be very disciplined about getting my daily word count done. But because I love writing so much, showing up at the writing desk is rarely difficult. If anything, it’s difficult for me not to write (don’t tell my work clients).
On days that I work, I try to hit a minimum word count of a thousand words, either first thing in the morning or late at night. If I am finishing up a major work project and have to do some overtime, I allow myself some five hundred-word days, which I try to make up for on the weekends. Working and writing every day, even most holiday days, is of course one of the difficult parts of being a writer. On those rare and lovely days that I do not have to work at all, I ramp my word count goal up to two to three thousand words a day. I know other full-time writers do a lot more in a single day, but I find that after the three thousand word mark, the quality of my writing diminishes, and it’s time to go outside and enjoy the gorgeous part of the world that I am lucky enough to inhabit.
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About the Author