Trillium Book Awards Author Reading 2015

Ten Questions, with Veronika Martenova Charles

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Ten Questions, with Veronika Martenova Charles

Veronika Martenova Charles talks to Open Book about her ideal writing environment, her first publication and her latest children's series, Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales. The Wonder Tales are re-tellings of classical fairy tales from different perspectives.

Open Book:

Tell us about your Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales.

Veronika Martenova Charles:

Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales are books for beginning readers, similar in format to my previous series, Easy-to-Read Spooky Tales. But this time there are new characters, and the child protagonists tell each other different versions of a well-known fairytale.

In each book of the series three different versions of a familiar tale are told:
It’s Not about the Apple! contains Snow White stories; It’s Not about the Rose! has Beauty and the Beast stories; in It’s Not about the Crumbs! there are Hansel and Gretel stories; It’s Not about Hunter! contains Red Riding Hood stories; and in It’s Not about the Pumpkin!, there are Cinderella stories.

With this series, I wanted to provide children with fairytales they can read on their own at the age when they are interested in them the most (from six to nine). Also, since children today are familiar with only the Disney versions of those tales, I wanted to show them that similar stories exist in different cultures. And, at the same time, I wanted to save these stories from obscurity and give them back to the children.

OB:

What was your first publication?

VMK:

My first authored publication was The Crane Girl, a picture book published by Oxford University Press. But as an illustrator I had published books prior to that.

OB:

How do your travels affect your writing?

VMK:

It could almost be put the other way: which is "my writing affects the travels." I love to go to places when I have some purpose — for instance, to do research for a story. I guess travelling gives one a larger vocabulary, be it visual or verbal. And since I’m interested in stories from around the world, it is necessary for me to immerse myself in those environments and to soak up the atmosphere.

OB:

What made you want to write for young readers?

VMK:

In truth, I write for myself and about things that interest me. The fact that the young readers relate to those stories is perhaps because somehow I was able to retain the ability to see the world through the eyes of six year old. (My children often accuse me of never having grown up.)

OB:

Tell us about your writing process, from concept to publication.

VMK:

Sometimes when a topic or an idea triggers my interest, I want to explore it more and perhaps find the answers to questions I have about it. Then, every once in a while I come back to that idea and if it persists to excite me, I know it’s something I should pursue.

I start doing research, begin to gather facts, images and sentences, and I make notes. It’s like being a jar and I keep throwing in these fragments for a long time. There comes a point when I feel I’m filled up to the brink and that I can no longer contain it. I realize: "Okay, it has to come out or I will burst; I have to get the story out now."

So I write the first draft, assembling the pieces together — and that is the most painful thing for me. I guess it is like giving birth! Later, I read what I have poured out and after that, rewriting and shaping the story becomes a joy.

OB:

Describe your ideal writing environment.

VMK:

In my head, on the go, scribbling notes on scraps of paper. But once I start assembling those notes together, I write on my computer in a room overlooking the garden.

OB:

You write and illustrate. What comes first, a drawing or the story?

VMK:

The story always comes first, but it comes from the visuals that I create in my mind. The illustrations would come after the story is written. Because I do tons of research for the illustrations and they take me a long time to do, I have concentrated lately on writing solely; my latest books are illustrated by other artists.

OB:

Who are you favourite Canadian authors or illustrators?

VMK:

Well, there are many talented creators of children’s books in Canada. I like the illustrations of Michele Lemieux and the writing of Linda Bailey, and I like how Barbara Reid and Marie-Louise Gay combine the visuals and words in their picture books.

OB:

What advice do you have for aspiring authors?

VMK:

Write about what interests you and write from your heart; it will find its audience.

OB:

Do you have any upcoming projects in mind?

VMK:

There are always zillions of ideas for stories that are in the back of my mind. But I can only do one at a time because I know once I make a commitment to a story idea it’s going to be a long process. At the moment I’m working on more Easy-to-Read Wonder Tales.


Tundra’s Veronika Martenova Charles is an award-winning author and illustrator whose books include: Maiden of the Mist: A Legend of Niagara Falls; Stretch, Swallow, & Stare; The Crane Girl and her five-book series for emergent readers, Easy-To-Read Spooky Tales. Veronika has studied at Ryerson University, the Ontario College of Art and Design, and recently completed her graduate studies in Folklore at York University. Veronika Martenova Charles lives in Toronto. Visit her at www.veronikacharles.com.

For more information on her books, please visit Tundra’s website.

Buy these books at your local independent bookstore or online at Chapters/Indigo or Amazon.

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