Friday, August 29, 2014
Kelly Barnhill is the August Author in the Spotlight here on BookSnob and she has graciously agreed to answer some questions about her writing life and her new book, The Witch's Boy. Kelly graduated from South High, where I currently teach at and her daughter is currently walking the same hallways. The Witch's Boy hits bookstores on September 16th. Read on to learn more about what writers influence Kelly and where she got the story idea for The Witch's Boy.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself?
Well, it's easier to say what I used to be. I am a former teacher, a former bartender, a former park ranger, a former wildand firefighter, a former receptionist, a former activist, a former waitress and a former barrista. Currently, I raise kids, write books and teach classes about writing books. It's not a bad life, actually.
I am also a former student at South High School in Minneapolis (and a current parent of a South student) and a former Minneapolis Public Schools employee.
2. What inspired you to write The Witch’s Boy?
I started The Witch's Boy while walking through a deep, dark wood. This is true. I was on a hike with my family in Shenandoah National Park. The trail was long, and somewhat arduous, and my son was small and tired and didn't want to hike one more step. So I told him a story - about a boy who steals his mother's magic in order to protect it from bandits. By the time we got to the end of the hike, I was pretty sure there was something to this boy's story. Turns out I was right.
3. Can you tell us why or when you decided to become a writer?
I became a writer because I had no other marketable skills. This is mostly true. When I started teaching, it was during a time of near constant lay-off threats. I knew teachers who were five and six years into their careers who were still getting pink slips in the spring. I had small kids at the time, and wasn't particularly keen to switch buildings every year. I had already been writing short stories and poetry - and had published a few here and there - but it wasn't anything to live on. So I started writing nonfiction for children. I'd never written for children before that, but I realized that I was built for it. I love kids. I love how they think. I love how they are continually in the process of re-making the world.
4. Usually an author puts some of his own life experiences in the book. Did you do that?
Yes and no. When I write, I'm not really thinking about me. I'm not thinking about anything except for the story. And yet. Aspects of my life manage to make their way into the book. Or things that I think about. Or people that I love. It happens.
5. Do you have anything in common with your characters?
I have things in common with all of my characters. I am prickly like Aine. I am mournful like Ned. I am a caretaker like Sister Witch. I am obsessive like the Bandit King. I sometimes fail as a parent like the woodsman. I am secretly a sassy old lady like the Queen. I am all of them.
6. Do you like to read? What authors or books influence you?
I read all the time. I am influenced by Louise Erdrich and Roald Dahl and E. Nesbitt and Joan Aiken and L. Frank Baum.
7. How do you carve time out of your busy day to write? Are you a full time writer or do you have a day job?
I work a series of odd jobs. I write most days. Some days I teach. Some days I volunteer. I'm also a busy mom, and have a household to run.
8. What is the most important lesson/idea you want readers to take away from your book, The Witch’s Boy?
We all experience grief. It is a necessary part of our experience as human beings. Everything that we know, everything that we hope for, everything and everyone that we love will one day slip away. And that's all right. Grief is a necessary component of love. And yet, strangely, grief is not insurmountable. We grieve, and yet we still love. We lose everything, and yet everything still matters. Our love matters. Our lives matter. We matter.
9. Tell us in one sentence why we should read: The Witch’s Boy.
Actually, if you want to read The Witch's Boy, that's up to you. Just read something. Stories outlive us, they uplift us, they bind us together. They matter more than we do.
If you would like to win a copy of Kelly's new book, The Witch's Boy please click here:
The Witch's Boy