Seventeen miles northwest of Santa Monica on the Pacific Coast Highway is Solstice Canyon, a place for hiking among rolling hills with a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean. I bring children’s author, Ngaire Elder here because we both appreciate nature and want a quiet place to talk about her work.
What intrigued me about you right from the beginning, Ngaire, is that you mention playing with imaginary friends as a child. As a founding member of that group, here’s a chance to shout that part of your childhood from the rooftops. I know I remember mine. Who were your imaginary friends?
Well, to be honest, they didn’t have names; they never showed themselves (jings, that sounds weird, doesn’t it …?) but they were always there looking after me. We had such fun together. They used to get me into a lot of trouble. When playing with my imaginary friends I was in another world; blissful and content.
One character I do recall having a major influence in my younger years was the Blown Away Rabbit — I ruined many an umbrella trying to fly.
LOL I’d love to have seen that! I tried to fly once by jumping off the roof of the car, I was convinced I could do it, too. 🙂 Writing any book is no easy feat. Writing a children’s book might be even more challenging because kids are such tough critics. With four children how in the world do you find the time to sit down and create?
I have always said that writing comes second, my family first. If I get a chance to write then that is wonderful. I haven’t written anything since Christmas because my children have all been unwell – one after the other and my mind has not been able to focus on writing. Life needs to be peaceful, so fingers crossed with spring approaching, perhaps mother nature can inspire magical writing thoughts.
However, when I do write I tend to be most creative when the kids are either at school or last thing at night whilst winding down. I have developed great juggling skills!
I know you love animals as much as I do. But you take it a step farther by keeping a menagerie, horses, ferrets, pigs. With so many animals what are some of the stories you remember about them? There has to be a ton.
During the night I sometimes hear the animals calling if one of them is in distress and have to investigate because it is just out of character for them.
But there have been many funny moments, too. The stray dog we adopted who helped herself to the tomatoes from the kitchen garden; the pigs cooling down in their wallow; and the cat falling through the thin layer of ice into the terrapin’s bath!
Oh, yes, never a dull moment and for sure it keeps you occupied!
It isn’t easy to find a graphics designer you mesh with, but I love the illustrations Peter Maddocks did for you. How did you hook up with Peter?
Peter and I were already good friends before I ever approached him about illustrating. I mentioned to him I had written a children’s story and he asked to read the manuscript. I was overwhelmed when Peter said he would like to illustrate The Adventures of Cecilia Spark. Peter has interpreted both stories magically through his beautiful illustrations. So our partnership is more of a friendship.
All Peter’s illustrations were hand drawn, even the beautiful covers. For book one, The Brimstone Forest, the illustrations were coloured. And for the illustrations for book two, The Mystical Mountains of Terra, we decided to stick with black and white.
What did you do before you became a writer?
Before writing, I worked in the health and safety industry: Implementing laws into the workplace, carrying out risk assessments, training, policy making and investigating accidents. I loved my work, but when my children came along I knew I would not be able to commit the time and energy to my work as I had done previously and decided to hang up my ‘hard-hat’.
What was the toughest story you have ever written? Was it tough because you couldn’t get a handle on the characters or for some other reason?
My present writing project – book three in the Adventures of Cecilia Spark series. I have written a lot of notes, and have already drafted the first half of the story, but with so many distractions I can’t seem to get back into it. I think the further you go with a series the more complex it can get and I want to explore different ideas. So I am hoping for a bit of calm in my life and extra healthy kids to allow me to do some writing.
Where do you go when you need to get away, to recharge away from the laptop from work? And why do you pick that spot?
My garden. I wander into the orchard and pick an orange off a tree, sit down and eat it, admiring my view of the beautiful mountain range. Simple beauty, peace and quiet – I only need 5 or 10 minutes, it is a well-earned moment and well appreciated.
Your garden. SIGH. I’d love to see photos of it. Next time, bring pictures. How do you gear up for a WIP? What preparation do you do beforehand?
A lot of thinking, sharpening of pencils, note taking, charting, lists and ‘what if’ questions! I research my ideas and look for images on the internet to spark my imagination. I love the research side of a story; it’s a journey of discovery for Cecilia and me.
Readers don’t usually think Indie authors have to deal with deadlines, but we all have our expectations of when we want to release the next project. How do you deal with the stress of a deadline?
Oh deadlines … I don’t let my deadlines stress me. If I make the deadline then great, if I go beyond it … so what. That may sound very blasé, but my family come first and if I was stressed about not publishing my book on time then I wouldn’t be doing a very good job of being a mother. For this reason, that is why I prefer self-publishing. You don’t let anyone down.
My deadline for Book 3 – Dragon’s Star (subtitle may change) is Autumn 2013 . Let’s see if I make it!
I love the title, Dragon’s Star!! I also love the Cecilia doll.
Did you always have the confidence to put your work out there for the public, or did it build slowly over time?
I think it built over time. It was a very nerve wracking moment for me publishing my first book. I would consider myself quite a private person and putting your work on show for public opinion took a bit of getting used to. I remember the first interview I gave at the Wizard’s Cauldron, I was extremely nervous.
If you could sit down with one author and ask one question, which author would it be and what would you ask?
It would have to be Beatrix Potter. And I would ask her to tell me all about her life. I love hearing about person’s life, especially interesting characters, and Beatrix Potter I believe was a very intriguing woman.
When she died she left most of her land to the National Trust and she is praised for preserving much of the land that now comprises the Lake District National Park in England. Her children’s stories and illustrations are phenomenal.
Beatrix Potter, what a great pick!!! The Tale of Peter Rabbit was my favorite book as a child. Are you ever tempted to write outside the children’s book genre?
Yes, and I have. I have written an adult short story which is part of an anthology and due to be published spring 2013.
I hadn’t considered writing for adults before but when I was approached I thought ‘Why not!’ Sometimes it is good for a person to work out with their safety zone!
I love The Adventures of Cecilia Spark and know it’s a continuing series? There’s the Brimstone Forest and The Mystical Mountains of Terra. Tell us about the third book in the series.
For this book I have gone very mystical and introduced some dragons. You know dragons are real, don’t you? A new character I have introduced is called Fuego, and yes, you guessed, he’s a dragon.
Cecilia and Orson, and Ractus the Armadillo and Pacha the Raccoon are sent on another fantastic adventure. They will encounter weird and wonderful spills and thrills along the way; I don’t want to give anything away, but I think Cecilia Spark fans will enjoy this next adventure.
Oh, I love dragons! But then who doesn’t. What do you do to quiet those voices inside your head? I know writing is the outlet, but do you talk it out, do you act out any part of the stories, do you go over a scene that’s troubling you with another person you trust to listen?
When I am absorbed in writing, silencing the voices inside my head is not possible until I am totally satisfied with a scene or chapter. I go to bed, shop, clean, listen to music, shower, drive whilst mulling over the scene. Ultimately, my copy editor will let me know what works and what doesn’t.
I always hand write the first ‘draft’ or ideas for my stories and when I look back over them I laugh at the little questions I have left to stimulate my imagination – some answered and some unanswered.
One last question and we’re done. Where can people find your books? Contact you?
Thank you for stopping by my blog, Ngaire. Now let’s go check out the fifty-foot waterfall!!!