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Author Showcase

Winter 2008 Featured Author, Amber T. Kingston

RT: Congratulations on the success of your first children's book, Laura and the Leprechauns. You drew on personal experience to create this story. In a recent interview, you said that what started as a "simple story" eventually became much bigger. How so? What drove the changes in transforming the story to a book?

Amber: Thank you for your kind wishes! It is true that I drew from my personal experiences—as well as Laura’s—in creating Laura and the Leprechauns. I began writing my story by finding a book to use as a model. I chose Little Mouse on the Prairie by Stephen Cosgrove. It's a simple paperback, with the pages stapled together. I have had this book since I was probably five years old, and I love everything about this book: the plot, the illustrations, and the moral of the story. I thought if I could create something at least this neat, I would be satisfied. Well, slowly over time my ideas grew bigger and I wanted to add special touches to the book, such as tactile elements. That's where the glitter comes in. I also wanted to combine my artwork with photographs I had taken while in Bavaria to give the book a unique feel. I thought it would be nice for Laura to recognize actual places in her hometown. To get all of these elements to work together, I realized I would have to work on a larger scale. So that’s how a simple stapled paperback book became a glitter-filled hardback book printed oversees!

RT: As the author, illustrator, and managing publisher, you had the opportunity to be hands-on through the entire process of your idea becoming a book. What was your favorite part of the process? Were there any projects along the way that you didn't think you'd like that now that you've done it, you actually like a lot?

Amber: I’d have to say that illustrating the book was my favorite part of the creative process. It was certainly a challenge with Laura living oversees and having limited pictures of her to work from, but it was well worth it. I had no prior publishing experience, so coordinating with a capable printer who could provide all the extra touches I wanted proved to be an interesting challenge. It was definitely frustrating at times and often a headache. But once I found the right printer, things began to fall into place and I began to see progress. It is a nerve-wracking experience—waiting for proofs to reach you all the way from Hong Kong so you can give your approval. Those were some of the most stressful times of the book’s creative process because you can’t physically be there saying "no, this color should be lighter," or "the glitter needs to go here." But once you receive the final proofs it is a very satisfying and surreal experience. Suddenly you realize, “I have a book that is actually being produced!” It’s a great feeling.

RT: What most interested you about creating Laura and the Leprechauns — the opportunity to share a personal story or the magic of folklore? Do you see yourself (or Laura) exploring the traditions of other cultures to create stories?

Amber: What originally started as a personal project for my little cousin, Laura, eventually evolved into a story that also included my love for Irish folklore. The two elements seemed to mesh seamlessly and it was a true treat to work on. I don’t know where the next installment of the “Laura” series will take us, but I definitely think it would be great to explore other cultures and traditions. It is a wonderful and exciting way for children to learn more about heritages other than their own.

RT: Laura and the Leprechauns was released in two languages: English and German. German is an unusual choice. Were there specific reasons you selected it? Do you envision creating versions in additional languages?

Amber: I chose to release the book in German as a softcover version for my little cousin Laura. This is a story about her and her native language is German. I did a small print run in German for her and her schoolmates to enjoy. Unfortunately, this version did not have the glitter accents. I would love to see Laura and the Leprechauns translated into many different languages, Spanish especially.

RT: When you sent a note saying that St. Patrick's Day was April 4, this year, I had to stop and re-read it a couple times! I didn't know that there was any date other than March 17. Is that really just an artificial date?

Amber: Actually, my birthday is April 4th! In 1940, St Patrick’s Day was celebrated on April 3rd to avoid coinciding with Palm Sunday. St. Patrick’s Day falls on March 15th this year to avoid falling on the second day of the Holy Week. Every so often St. Patrick’s Day falls on the feast day of Ireland’s Roman Catholic Church so it is moved to a new date. 2008 just happens to be one of those rare years.

RT: In a recent interview with the National Association of Women Writers, you credited a fifth-grade project as the catalyst for your writing career. You said that you would create books at home. Do you think any of those stories will ever be published?

Amber: The short answer is probably not. I may gather some basic ideas from the stories, but chances are I would take them in an entirely different direction, simply because I’m older now and I can see what would serve as a more interesting storyline.

RT: In addition to children's picture books, Chrysalis Press will produce titles for teens and young adults. Are these genres that interest you as a writer? If so, what themes would you like to see in teen and young adult books?

Amber: Teen and Young Adult novels interest me very much. In fact, my writing career began with creating a Young Adult novel (which I have yet to publish). When you begin to delve into the world of Teen and Young Adult novels, diversity becomes a major issue. Suddenly life has become more complex and there are so many facets of a character’s personality to explore. I would have to say that writing in those genres are more challenging than writing children’s picture books—at least for me. But they are very rewarding as well. There are so many different themes one can explore, and so many sensitive topics, that I can’t pin it down to just one or two. I let the story evolve and allow the characters to guide me toward the challenges that they are facing.

RT: What do you see as the biggest changes in children's literature? Is everything negative, or do you see some positive developments, too?

Amber: I think there are some very positive changes in children’s literature lately. Authors seem to be exploring different cultures and social lifestyles which is always important in an ever-changing world. I think we will continue to see more diversity in children’s literature as time goes on, and I feel that this is something very important. It will allow children to have richer experiences through the written word.

RT: What's next for Chrysalis Press? Are you accepting manuscripts for children's literature? If so, how can authors contact you?

Amber: Right now I am fine-tuning a Young Adult novel I started many years ago. It is 1,100 pages, so it needs to be edited quite a bit. From there, my next step is to create book two in the Laura series. I will be working on that children’s book come springtime when I’m back in Bavaria visiting Laura and her family. I plan to take plenty of pictures while I am there this time so I have enough photos to use as reference material. At this time I am not currently accepting manuscripts, although this is definitely one of my goals for the future. I can always be contacted directly via Email. I always welcome feedback and love to chat or answer any questions you may have

RT: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

Amber: I’d just like to encourage parents to begin reading to their children at a very early age. This is something so important and it can really instill an appreciation and a love for reading in their future. Children are so bombarded by television, video games, and computers that I think quality family time often gets overlooked. That is a real shame. If you start reading together as a family at an early age, chances are this habit will continue on into adulthood and everyone will have many wonderful stories to share.

Website: http://www.chrysalispress.com




                 

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