|Illustration by L.J. Carter|
This Author Spotlight features L.J. Carter, fantasy writer and illustrator and author of the young adult fantasy novel KINGDOM OF LOST CHILDREN: THE BOOK OF REN (see above).
Watch the book trailer for KINGDOM OF LOST CHILDREN:
|Author photograph courtesy of Paul Ockleshaw|
L.J. Carter was born in a small town in the southern US state of North Carolina. At the age of twelve, she moved with her family to England where her fascination with all things magical flourished. Graduating with a BA Honours from Kingston University, she began her career as a designer and illustrator before launching into her lifelong love of writing. She has traveled extensively throughout Europe, Asia and Egypt in a quest for her love of ancient history and her passion for ancient mythology. When she is not illustrating or writing, her head is buried in archaeology books and ancient text. She currently resides in Hong Kong with her husband.
1. How did you get into writing?I don’t remember ever learning to read; books were always such a major part of my life. I would get lost in books for hours as a child, imagining the story and even re-reading sections I thought were beautifully written. I guess writing seemed a natural transition from imagining another person’s story to creating my own.
2. What do you like best (or least) about writing?
I love entering that other realm where the impossible is possible and that incredible feeling when you ‘wake up’ to the real world after hours and pages of a story you’ve created from nothing. But this is also the difficult part about writing. It requires a lot of solitude, a great deal of research, focus and time; not something many people understand.
3. What is your writing process? IE do you outline? Do you stick to a daily word or page count, write 7 days a week, etc?
As I am also an illustrator, an organised process can be a challenge for me! It makes it much harder to maintain a routine. I find the best method for me is to rotate between the two for chunks of time. So, a few months of regular writing, followed by a few months of regular illustrating. That way I can get the work done cohesively but also step away for a time to re-evaluate a work to pick up on mistakes or changes that need to be made. Of course, this is the ideal. There are also articles I need to write during my illustration time or illustration/graphic design commissions requested during my writing time, which often throws a spanner in the works! Time is a constant battle!
4. Who are some other writers you read and admire, regardless of whether they are commercially “successful?”
One of my all time favourite books is, ‘A Little Princess,’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett. I love how Sara uses her imagination to survive frightening and tragic circumstances.
5. Should the question mark in the above question be inside or outside the quotes?
A tricky one! This is a typical example of the US vs UK grammar war. If the quote indicates a title or a term, as opposed to quoting speech, the quotation marks should stay inside the question mark…according to the UK…
6. What’s your stance on the Oxford Comma?
I was born in the US but moved to England when I was twelve so I find these little grammatical differences entertaining! (Other favourites are, single versus double quotation marks and semi-colon usage.) I think there are some people who get too hung up on the technicalities and, as a result, miss out on the rhythm and message in a piece of writing. There is also a battle between British English and American English for who’s right and who’s wrong. These days, globalisation is forcing people to rethink old, standard practices and narrow thinking. At some point, the grammatical powers that be, may need to create a new English International Version. Until then, I tend not to use the Oxford Comma, unless a pause is needed to add emphasis or impact to the latter half of the sentence, but that’s just me!
7. What is your book, Kingdom of Lost Children, about and how did it come to fruition?
Kingdom of Lost Children: The Book of Ren is a Young Adult fantasy story that revolves around fifteen-year-old, Leyla, whose mother mysteriously disappeared when she was only six. Leyla is forced to live with a small group of other orphaned children under the guardianship of the highly respected town mayor who is secretly forcing the children to work for his own profit. At great risk to her safety, Leyla returns to her old childhood home in search for answers about her missing mother. It is then she discovers an ancient script which opens the door to a dangerous other world, connected with her own. Dark and evil forces on both worlds are plotting the unimaginable in a conspiracy to rule and Leyla and the other children are in grave danger. Leyla must find the Book of Ren, a book of ancient and powerful magic, to not only save her own life, but also the lives of those she loves before they are lost forever.
Kingdom of Lost Children was a story I just couldn’t get out of my head. I was working as a designer in New York and didn’t have a lot of spare time but the story kept nagging at me until I began writing passages down in journals and on scrap pieces of paper. My day job was so all encompassing I would often have to put my writing aside for periods of time, coming back to it sporadically.
A tremendous amount of research into ancient civilisations and religions was also a vital part of this story. I would steal away moments, to and from work or long into the night, to research ancient Egyptian, Sumerian and Hebrew myths, writings and beliefs. As I began to construct these worlds in my mind, it seemed natural to illustrate them. So, all of these things combined, it was ten years before my first draft was complete.
Although I love a little magic, the driver behind this story was not so much the fantasy but the battles many of us face to survive. That little word, hope, that can make or break us, and finding the courage to use the greatest power we have against evil and oppression; our voice.
8. What’s your current writing project?
Kingdom of Lost Children tells of five magical books, all based around the ancient Egyptian belief of the five parts of a person. The first book, the Book of Ren, had the power of the Name. In ancient times, it was believed that as long as the name survived (even past physical death) it could be used to acquire the knowledge and magical powers of the person or persons who owned the name. This is why a name in ancient Egyptian text was surrounded by a protective ‘magic circle’ or cartouche of protection.
The four remaining books are: Ba, the soul; Ka, the life force; Ib, the heart and Sheut, the shadow. I am currently working on, Kingdom of Lost Children: The Book of Shadows, which will be the second book in the series.
9. What book(s) are you currently reading?
I recently finished reading, The Grey Man. The true story of a former special forces commando who began a personal mission to rescue children from traffickers. He now runs The Grey Man Organisation to continue this work and has recently set up a centre with COSA to rehabilitate and educate children rescued from these situations. A percentage of Kingdom of Lost Children book and artwork sales are donated to this organisation. You can find out more about them by going to: www.thegreyman.org
10. Who or what inspires your writing?
There are many things that inspire my writing, but I guess if I had to narrow them down, I would say, firstly, I have always been fascinated by the beauty of ancient myths and ancient beliefs. Ancient civilisations used and believed all gifts to be equal. It wasn’t simply money or money-making industries that were valued. Artists and sculptors were used in conjunction with architects and engineers. Equal emphasis was placed on science and mathematics as in the belief in ‘magic’ and the afterlife. Nature was valued and respected. Books and knowledge were treasured and revered. Of course, many people suffered in ancient times, as they do today; but I think there is a lot we can learn from the way they lived.
Aside from this, I would say my greatest inspirations are two powerful emotions: anger toward injustice and compassion for those who fall prey to it. Some people may say that anger is a negative emotion but I think it’s an emotion that can kick us out of complacency enough to do something. Others may say compassion is for the weak; I would hardly call people like John Curtis (founder of The Grey Man organisation), Somaly Mam (a trafficking survivor and founder of the Somaly Mam Foundation) Mahatma Ghandi, Mother Theresa and Jesus Christ weak, because they dedicated their lives toward helping people and fighting injustice instead of backstabbing and stepping on people to make their millions on the stock market. It takes a great deal of courage and determination to stand, often alone, for what you believe is right.
I think the driver for me is best summed up in the words of King Adon, Kingdom of Lost Children:
‘Children have the right to grow and live without fear and oppression; to become what they are meant to become; to fulfil what they are meant to fulfil. You have the chance to dispel the myth that there is no hope and the opportunity to see the light in their eyes when they can see a future before them. There is no heaven greater or more beautiful than this.’
Finally, is there anything you’d care to add? Please also include where people can read your published stories, buy your book, etc.
Thank you, Ryan. It has been a pleasure to be interviewed by a talented fellow author!
Kingdom of Lost Children will be available in print 2012. For more information on the book and to read the digital format, direct links can be found on: www.kingdomoflostchildren.com
Thank you, Lydia. Your illustrations are superb and the book looks incredible. Let us know when THE BOOK OF SHADOWS is available.
Visit Lydia's amazing website to view additional illustrations of her original work in her Gallery and to purchase KINGDOM OF LOST CHILDREN in all ebook formats.