Today the Inkpot is delighted to welcome Katie L. Carroll, author of ELIXIR BOUND, to our cozy stage for an interview! She's in the green leather armchair over there on the right, the one with the floral motif twining in bronze around its arms. I'm the nervous one on the stool to her left. The occasion is a happy one: Katie's tale of love, loyalty, and extremely magical plants has just appeared in paperback! Here's the tale in its official nutshell (taken from Katie Carroll's website, www.katielcarroll.com):
"Katora Kase is next in line to take over as guardian to a secret and powerful healing Elixir. Now she must journey into the wilds of Faway Forest to find the ingredient that gives the Elixir its potency. Even though she has her sister and brother, an old family friend, and the handsome son of a mapmaker as companions, she feels alone. It is her decision alone whether or not to bind herself to the Elixir to serve and protect it until it chooses a new guardian. The forest hosts many dangers, including wicked beings that will stop at nothing to gain power, but the biggest danger Katora may face is whether or not to open up her heart to love."
INKPOT (represented by Anne): Welcome, Katie! Thank you so much for taking this time on Halloween Eve to talk with us about ELIXIR BOUND! I took your book along to a silent film festival, so for a week I was watching old black-and-white movies all day, and then joining Katora on her quest for the Elixir at night. The world you've created in ELIXIR BOUND is definitely full of color! How did you come up with the places your characters travel to? Did you make yourself maps? The story seems a natural for a nice map at the beginning. And did you try drawing any parts of Katora's world?
Katie Carroll: Thanks! When I write books, I see the scenes in my head, sort of like a mental movie. I try my best to take those images and convey them to the page with words. Some of the places, like The Sleeping Giant, were inspired by real places and others, like the Three River Split, I just made up. I pull from everything in the real world and the imagined world when I write.
As for a map, one of the first things I did once I knew I wanted to have Katora and company go into the forest and back again was create a map. It didn’t make it into the book, but has proven to be a great resource for me. (I shared a copy of it on my blog last month http://www.katielcarroll.com/exploring-the-world-of-elixir-bound/.) I think I’ve only drawn one other aspect of Katora’s world. The images tend to be very strong in my mind, so I find I don’t need to draw them out to have a good picture of them.
INKPOT: What senses are most important in your imagination? Do they all come into play, when you're thinking up a scene? Which scene in the book would you say was most vivid in your mind before (or as) you wrote it?
Katie: Since I am a very visual writer, sight is first and foremost the most important sense. It’s my starting point. I try to use the law of three, meaning I try to have at three different senses present, when creating a scene or moment in a book. Sight is almost always there (except when a character has her eyes closed, for example), so I try to infuse two of touch, taste, smell, and hearing in as well, and mix up which ones I include throughout a story. I like three senses because as a reader I don’t like when I get bogged down with too much description.
The scene that was most vivid to me when I was writing it definitely had to be when one of the forest horsemen magically binds Katora and her companions. Katora is tethered by what feels like an invisible rope. The horseman lets the “rope” loose, and for a moment she gets the sensation of flying. I’ve dream about flying a lot, so the emotions of it were very easy to conjure.
INKPOT: ELIXIR BOUND came out as an e-book first, and now is releasing as a paperback. More and more stories are following this trajectory. Does having the book come out in print feel different to you than the e-book publication?
Katie: It was a thrill when ELIXIR BOUND launched as an e-book. My sister and nephew (two of my biggest fans) threw me a little party, my husband bought me flowers, and we had cake at my parents’ house, and later I had an event at the local library. But I started writing in a time before e-books, and though I’ve come to love this new way to read and believe it’s a totally legitimate form of publication, it is something special to hold your own print book in your hands. The main thing is that I hope having it out in paperback will be a way to reach new readers because as writers that’s really all we want: to reach readers.
INKPOT: I noticed in the acknowledgments that the character Kylene is based on your sister--did that make that character harder or easier for you to write?
Katie: My sister Kylene is the reason I became a writer. She passed away very unexpectedly at the age of 16. I was only 19 at the time and going to school in a field unrelated to writing. Then I decided I was a writer. My dad suggested I write a story for Kylene. She was a big fan of Harry Potter and I wanted to give her a fantasy adventure of her own. I started ELIXIR BOUND from her point of view, but found it was too hard. So I switched to her sister’s point of view, and in many ways Katora is me. Then the story turned into a quest for the magical ingredient to a secret healing Elixir, a very powerful one that can bring people back from the brink of death. I don’t need to be a psychologist to see that I was fulfilling a wish. I think writing ELIXIR BOUND is how I mourned my sister.
INKPOT: Oh, Katie, I'm so sorry about your sister. What you say about mourning through writing strikes a chord in me, however. Perhaps it might be interesting to ask ourselves (and other writers) about nearly every book: whom are you mourning, as you write this story? (Or sometimes, "what are you longing for?"....) I guess that part of what makes writing so difficult is all the other work we do when we start digging into the heart and bones of the world. In the case of ELIXIR BOUND, was there a particular scene in this story that you found yourself having to write and rewrite more than other parts of the book?
Katie: The opening scene was rewritten and transformed many times, as is the case for so many books. I had to find the right balance between establishing the mood and setting and introducing the characters. It’s certainly not a perfect opening, but I’m happy with where it ended up.
INKPOT: What would it take for you to bind yourself to, say, a magical flower as its keeper? What price or prize would tempt you to sacrifice your own freedom?
Katie: Well, seeing as Katora and I are of similar minds, I’d have to say I’d make the choice to bind myself to something magical for the reasons she did. I guess you’ll have to read the book to find out what those are. ;)
INKPOT: I notice you have also written at least one picture book! I always imagine that must be much harder than writing novels. How would you compare those experiences?
Katie: The idea for my picture book app THE BEDTIME KNIGHT came to me in a flash of inspiration while I was in bed. I caught a glimpse of the ceiling fan and in the dark, it looked just like a giant. I have a very active imagination. When I was a kid, I used to always see things in the dark that weren’t really there or were something other than what they appeared to be. It went through several revisions before I sent it out to a contest (which I didn’t win, but ended up with an offer from MeeGenius to publish it). Picture books are hard to write, but I still find novels a much lengthier prospect that push me to my limits of creation.
INKPOT: What are some of the writing projects you're working on now?
Katie: I’ve been keeping a bit mum lately about my latest projects, creating a sort of bubble around me and my writing. However, I can share that I’m working on a follow-up to ELIXIR BOUND called ELIXIR SAVED, and Kylene is one of three (right now, might go down to two) point of view characters. And I have another YA novel I’m working on. It’s a kind of thriller, and right now I’m referring to it as BLACK BUTTERFLY. But that’s all I’m saying about that.
INKPOT: That's very intriguing, Katie! Just the words "Black Butterfly" conjure up mysteries for me! I'll be waiting for that one . . . . Meanwhile, to turn from the future back to the past, what magical worlds from children's books you read when you were a child did you want to live in? Which ones, if any, would you still be tempted to move to, if the proper portal opened?
Katie: Narnia is on the top of my list for magical worlds I wanted to visit as a child. Though I didn’t read a ton of fantasy as a child (and still have not been able to read A WRINKLE IN TIME in its entirety). I was really into realistic novels, historical fiction, and series like the Baby-sitters Club and the Sweet Valley books. I really wanted to have a group of friends like Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, Stacey, and Dawn or a twin. Harry Potter came out when I was in high school and really got me into reading fantasy. I’m still waiting for my letter to Hogwarts to come.
INKPOT: My fervent hope is that all of us will get our Hogwarts letters eventually! Thank you so much for taking on these questions, Katie, and best of luck with the newborn paperback edition of ELIXIR BOUND!