Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Taking a journey into the World of Ink with Guest Author Kathryn Lay

SFC: Families Matters is excited to have Children’s Author Kathryn Lay as our guest. We know you’ll enjoy learning more about Kathryn and her fun chapter books and wonderful, yet lively picture book. Getting children reading and finding their way into the World of Ink is what SFC is all about and Kathryn Lay knows how to open a child's imagination so their journey can begin.

Thank you Kathryn for joining us today on SFC: Families Matter. I know our reviewers at Stories for Children Magazine ( have had the wonderful opportunity to read your picture book, Josh’s Halloween Pumpkin a few months back. But you have also written a novel and six chapter books due out soon. Can you tell us when you start writing?
I started writing when I was in 3rd grade and never stopped. But I started marketing my writing in 1990.

Kathryn can you tell us a little about your most recent published book, Josh's Halloween Pumpkin? I know the Stories for Children Magazine reviewers gave it five stars.
JOSH’S HALLOWEEN PUMPKIN is a non-scary Halloween story (more of a Fall story) about a boy and girl who visit their Grandpa's pumpkin farm to help sell them. Josh finds a huge pumpkin and declares it as his. He hides it, but when his sister is lost in the woods, he finds a way to use the pumpkin to rescue her. The illustrations, done by Katy Bratun, are amazing!

How do you create your characters?
I create my characters in different ways. Sometimes the character comes first and the story follows. But for me, it's generally the plot first and I have to find and understand my characters. Sometimes I write out a bio of them. Often I let them arrive and pull me into the story. Sometimes I pattern them a little after people I know.

I usually love my characters, but I sometimes struggle at making them as real as I try to make my plot. Some writer's are better with plot and struggle with characterization, while others are the opposite and create amazing characters.

Kathryn, what inspires you to write?
Everything inspires me to write. I can't imagine NOT writing. My two big areas of writing are personal experience pieces for adults and fiction for kids. I am inspired by things that happen to and around me for the nonfiction. My other inspiration comes from my love for children's writing, my interests in stories that I hope kids will also be interested in, and sometimes by questions I want to answer in my own mind.

Can you tell us a funny story about writing your books?
Hmm, a funny story about my book. Well, my first children's book is CROWN ME!, a humorous middle-grade novel about a boy who loves politics (which is not my personal area of interest) and is thrown into being 'king' of his 5th grade class. One of the things I sometime do to figure out a scene is act it out in my head.

One of the scenes in CROWN ME! is when the main character and the class bully have a bicycle joust. They wrap themselves in foil and pillows and wear football helmets and such. For a lance, they use bathroom plungers. When I was first working on this scene, I went into the backyard with a bowl on my head and a bathroom plunger in my hand to try to simulate the moves I wanted, then write them down.

As I did my 'invisible' jousting, I didn't realize a neighbor kid was watching at the fence. When I finished, he clapped. I hoped no one else was watching from back windows or the street that backs up to our fence.

I know many writers who would like to escape into a story from time to time. If you could live in any book, which one would you choose? This can be one of yours or another author's book.
Wow, that's an interesting question. I think it would be in one of Gordon Korman's books. He cracks me up! I'd like to be a teacher watching some of this stuff happen.

Kathryn, what are some of your favorite books to read? This can be from your childhood to present.
My favorite books to read are almost always kids books. Mostly middle-grade novels. Mostly humor and fantasy. I love Scott Westerfield's books in the Uglies series. Bruce Coville. Rick Riordon's Percy Jackson series, all of Gordon Korman's humor novels, Ray Bradbury, Madeline 'L Engle, Jane Yolen, and way too many books and authors to mention here.

If you had to pick a character in your books that is most like you in personality, which would you choose?
I've had kids at school visits ask me this. When they do, it surprises me to realize that I don't think many of my characters are like me at all. If they were, they'd need to be shy, a bit insecure, writerly, loyal to their friends, and deathly afraid of spiders and snakes and high places. Which makes me think of a character I had in a short story who probably was myself as a teenager. She had to do a routine on uneven bars in PE and was scared to death. I have also had a boy in a short story who had to climb a rope in gym class and was also terrified.

I know for me, I spend a great deal of my time at my computer, but I do like to do other things in my spare time. That’s when I get spare time. LOL. What do you do when you’re not writing?
When I'm not writing I love going to flea markets with my family, going to festivals such as Irish music festivals, Renaissance festivals. I love spending time with my friends and dates with my husband. I also enjoy watching movies and lately, gobbling up episodes of the old Dark Shadows gothic soap opera I was obsessed with when I was a kid.

If students from a school wanted to write you letters, will you respond?

Definitely. I always respond to emails and letters I've gotten from readers. It's one of my favorite things to do. Just did that last week in fact from a kid who emailed me after reading CROWN ME!

I saw you just completed another book not released yet. Can you tell us a little about this upcoming book?
Actually, the book I've just finished is 5 out of 6 books in a series. It is for an educational publisher and may or may not be sold retail, geared mostly for libraries. The series is titled WENDY'S WEATHER WARRIORS and about 3 kids who form a weather club and rescue, inform, and help their school and town during weather situations. First book is about tornadoes, then lightning, snow, hail, floods, and last will be hurricanes. They will be out in January, 2010 with ABDO books. I'm having a great time doing them.

I'm also working on several other book projects, one a science fiction/fantasy middle grade novel I hope to have completed by the end of this month and look for a home for it.

What advice would you give to new writers?

My advice to new writers is to read a lot in the area of writing you want to do. If it's children's, read both the classics AND what's coming out now. Read award winners as well as popular trade books. Read singles and series. Read for all ages. See what's been done, who's doing it, and what area you are interested in. Learn from other writers, take a class if necessary. Find a critique group and be honest with one another. Go to conferences and meet editors and agents and other writers.

Thank you Kathryn for chatting with us today. I know our readers, as I, have learned so much more about you and your writing. We hope you can stop by again on your journey into the World of Ink.

If you would like to know more about Kathryn Lay you can visit her website at

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