Colleen Marlett's new book, Winter Oak: Keeper of the Realm, was released on the 31st August 2017. We thought it was a good idea to catch up with the author and to get her side of the story that brought her from idea, to manuscript, to printed book.
How would you describe Winter Oak: Keeper of the Realm, and who is it aimed at?
Winter Oak: Keeper of the Realm is the first in a series of fantasy fiction stories. This first book is mostly geared towards an audience for younger, middle grade aged kids. Although it is quick paced, it is designed to introduce the reader to the characters, a little bit of the back story behind the Wilde-Lawless family heritage, the town of Wildewood and Winter Oak herself. In my mind Winter Oak, (whether in the magical realm or the ‘ordinaire’ side of the ranch), would be a fantastic place to explore and spend one’s childhood. It is exciting and adventurous, with a socially moral application; mixing two worlds that have always remained separate, even if one of the worlds isn’t believed to truly exist. In some ways, it is very much a real place I used to wonder around when I was a kid myself, writing short stories about my excursions in my journal when I would return home. Many of the places described in the Winter Oak series resemble places you could actually find if you were to visit the area I live, possibly experiencing some of the magic I have written about!
What inspired you to begin writing in the first place?
When I was young, I was a very imaginative kid. My parents were teachers and reading was much more prevalent in my home than TV. As teachers, it was natural for them to indentify a talent in me and encourage it. Writing is something I’ve done for as far back as I can remember. I couldn’t always verbalize what was going on in my head, but I could write it down. My parents encouraged me to find a passion and writing quickly became mine. My mother used to say “write your story” but I had a very hard time trying to figure out what ‘my story’ was. So, I just wrote.
As an adult, I got married, had children of my own and life got very busy. I only wrote from time to time to relieve my thoughts, not to be creative. Unfortunately, when I was in my late 30’s, I was diagnosed with a rare cancer; they said I had very little chance of surviving. Writing became so much more important to me than it ever had been. My words, memories and feelings seemed to become very precious. If I wasn’t to survive, had I said everything I needed to say to the ones I loved? Had I imparted the wisdom to my children I had always meant to? This became my reason to start to write regularly again.
I wrote a memoir which ended up really only being for me to sort out my thoughts on the life I had lived so far. I was a contributing author on a book for charity, chronicling my survival and the battles of other women who had been diagnosed with the same rare cancer as me. That process was very cathartic. But, once I pulled out my journals from my youth and took the short stories I had written years before and put them all together to make up the Winter Oak series, I knew I had finally written ‘my story’.
Will you be turning this story into a series? If so, can you give us a hint on what the next one might contain?
Well, no surprise here. Yes. There are 5 more books after the Keeper. The 2nd book, Winter Oak: Incunabulum of Infinity, promises to lead the reader deeper into the realm and farther back into the bloodline of the Wilde-Lawless clan. More detailed and more mature, Incunabulum of Infinity grows with the characters and so does the story line. It is adventurous and imaginative and hopefully will pull interest of the reader further into the story of Clover and her magic steeds.
In the book, your main character, Clover, has an affinity with horses and seems to be old beyond her years – would you say that this character is based on yourself, and why?
I was often described as an ‘old soul’ when I was young and my affinity for horses hasn’t waned over the years, but that’s probably as far as the resemblance between Clover and I go. I would have to say that if Clover is most like anyone she would be an amalgamation of my two kids. Wise beyond her years without the usual beliefs in fairytales and magic, would be my son, Parker. Brave, adventurous, inquisitive with an affection for animals, more so than people, would be my daughter, Cydney.
The book has certain supernatural elements to it. If you could be any supernatural creature, what would you be and why?
If I could be any supernatural being it would be an Ottun (Oh-ton). If you’re wondering what an Ottun is, it’s an “extraordinaire” who comes from the lineage of a Kobold and a Jottun. If you’d like to find out more about Ottuns, make sure to read Incunabulum of Infinity. I’ll tell you this...Ottun’s are ‘book primes’ and books are their lives. So, I would want to be an Ottun for that reason alone. They have some pretty extraordinary talents as well.
Other than Winter Oak, are you working on any new books at the moment? Perhaps branching off into a different genre?
I wouldn’t say I’m switching genres, but age group. I’m currently working on a series of fictional children’s books for ages 4-7. These aren’t fiction fantasy per se. These books are about Clover and her life before becoming the Keeper; her life in Wildewood, on her family tree farm and the ranch. Before the magical world and the knowledge of her family lineage and mystical beings became forefront in her world. Clover’s life has always been surrounded by enchantment, but sometimes the mystical charm in life is in everyday living and not necessarily only found in the supernatural world.
If you could communicate with animals, just like Clover, which animal would you most like to connect with and why? What would you talk to them about?
Because I’m pretty sure all animals possess the same feelings, connections and souls that humans do, I’d be disappointed if my gift to talk to animals was limited to only one. So, I’d have to say I couldn’t choose. If I was gifted the ability to speak to animals I would want to confirm what I already believe to be true and that is that they posses all the same feelings we do. However, more importantly I would also like to ask them what they think of us humans. I have a pretty good idea if we could communicate with animals they could probably impart some much-needed wisdom on what we as humans could and should be doing to change the world as it is today. I’m confident that animals are much smarter than we are. At the very least, I know they have the heart we should all have.
What was the last book you read? Did you enjoy it and why?
The last book I read was Stephen King’s, The Dark Tower IV. Did I enjoy it? Of course! Always!
How would you say Winter Oak stands out from other YA novels?
There are so many YA novels out there. I hope that mine stands out in the possibilities it presents; in the moral, it is trying to convey. Many times, the protagonist is a male...ours is a female. I think that’s important especially at this point in time in history. She is a strong character, written with many of the qualities most male protagonist characters have. She’s smart and brave and she never gives up. That’s probably usual for most main characters of any adventure/fantasy. However, Winter Oak also reminds readers of the realism that accompanies the importance of family, obligation and responsibility, intertwined with the mystical world of the realm. The characters, both ordinary and extraordinary, could be anyone you know. There’s a little reality in every turn of the page, but always the essence of the unknown, all intertwined with adventure. I think it is a story primed for what’s going on in our world at this very moment, yet it could probably stand true for other eras past and to come. I hope it will stand the test of time.
What advice would you give other young, aspiring authors?
Find ‘your story’ and write it. Then, keep writing and writing and writing.
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