February 2015 UBFP Column – Meet Bucks County Author Kit Grindstaff

5 Feb

I write for the UBFP Newspaper!

I wanted to share the article I wrote for the Upper Bucks Free Press (the newspaper I write for) for the February 2015 issue! The street and online version was published a couple of days ago. To see the online version of the newspaper, click HERE (see page 9).

I hope you like the article!

Meet Bucks County Author Kit Grindstaff!

By Erik Weibel

Kit Grindstaff’s bio says she was born near London, and grew up surrounded by rolling hills, old English villages. After a brush with pop stardom, she moved to New York and became a successful song writer. She now lives with her husband in Bucks County Pennsylvania. Her award-winning debut novel, The Flame In The Mist, is a spooky, magical mystery-adventure for fantasy lovers, ages 9 to 90. It takes place in a fantasy world of Anglavia. Anglavia is ruled by the tyrannical Agromond family. The main character Jemma Agromond, realizes how evil they really are, she runs away only to be confronted with her true destiny. Only she can bring peace to Anglavia, but at what price?

 

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Erik: What steps do you take when writing a book?

Ms. Grindstaff: As soon as I conceive of a story, I have a rough idea of beginning, middle and end. The details fill in as I write. Before I begin writing, though, I explore the main characters, making lists of traits, and creating back stories to dig for conflicts, motivations, and possible plot and character arcs.

Then, I always outline; but I like to write freely within that structure. That way, the characters can take on a life of their own, and often move the story in ways that surprise me – and hopefully the reader as well! I always keep the end in mind, though, and if those characters get too unruly I’ll take back the reins and steer the story where it needs to go. Ultimately you have to remember who’s the author!

Erik: Where did the idea for the Rattusses (Jemma’s telepathc pet rats) come from?

Ms. Grindstaff: Jemma’s life at Agromond Castle being pretty bleak, I wanted to give her some light relief, and more constant companionship than her limited time with Marsh and Digby. So who – or what – could offer her that in a moldering old castle? Rats! (Magical ones, of course.)

As for being telepathic, they just happened that way. From word go, Noodle and Pie knew when Jemma needed help or comfort, and Jemma understood each twitch of whisker and tail. The specifics of their communication, though, developed over several drafts.

Incidentally, they were common-or-castle brown rats until a very late draft. Their golden fur was a “Eureka!” moment—obvious, right? After all, they are emissaries of Light!

Erik: Anagrams play a big part in the story. What was the inspiration behind them? Are you really good at them, like Jemma?

Ms. Grindstaff: At the outset, I wrote down a list of Jemma’s traits: some like me, some not. For example her flame-red hair and sea-green eyes (not like me), and her love of food (like me, though I’m not a fan of entrails). I’ve always loved word play and anagrams, and that popped onto the list too, though I had no idea at first how important they’d become to the plot! I don’t think I’m as good at them as Jemma is. I can only decipher them because I made them up.

Erik: The twists in the book not only kept me on the edge of my seat, but also really surprised me. Your writing style really fits with the plot and setting of The Erik: When did you start writing, and how have your surroundings influenced you?

Ms. Grindstaff: I’ve always loved writing. As a kid: short stories. In my teens: anguished poems, then pop songs – the writing of which is still my long-time profession.

I had a growing hankering, though, to write fiction. Eventually I took a couple of writing courses, and The Flame in the Mist was born. Growing up English, in the land of spooky old churches, graveyards and castles, and misty winters, was hugely influential! I’d include literature as ‘Surroundings’ too: I loved adventures, mysteries, classics like Dickens and The Woman in White (lots of fog and ghosts), and mystery paranormals like The Turn of the Screw. Anything steeped in atmosphere.

Erik: The Agromonds are a treacherous family. What helped in “shaping” them?

Ms. Grindstaff: The Agromonds’ personalities are exaggerated versions of people I’ve known, combined with British archetypes: The snob for Nocturna; the conflicted Lord of the Manor for Nox; the typical spiteful girl for Shade, and Feo…poor Feo! Sprinkle in a dark lust for power (look no further than any empire as a model), et voila! the Agromonds.

I’m also fascinated by the “shadow” side of personality: things people don’t want others to know about them, or even hide from themselves; their secrets and lies (a big theme in the book, as you know). Those hidden things (kept in the dark) are often what twists people and manifest as evil. So I played with that idea in creating the Agromonds. It also influenced the dark-light theme: by becoming aware of those secrets (bringing them to the light) and uncovering the truth, Jemma is able to escape the darkness and find the life she’s always longed for.

Erik: Thank you Ms. Grindstaff!

Ms. Grindstaff: Thanks so much, Erik, for your awesome questions! They were fun to answer.

For more about Kit Grindstaff, please visit Kitgrindstaff.com!

For more on books visit ThisKidReviewsBooks.com!

 

BONUS MATERIAL!

I was fortunate to meet Ms. Grindstaff at the Lititz Teen and Kids Literature Festival last year. That’s how I found out about her great book (and was able to bug get her to agree to an interview). I’d like to tell you a bit more about her debut novel The Flame in the Mist!

 

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The Flame in the Mist

By Kit Grindstaff

464 pages – ages 9+

Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on April 9, 2013

Summary (from GoodReads) – “Fiery-headed Jemma Agromond is not who she thinks she is, and when the secrets and lies behind her life at mist-shrouded Agromond Castle begin to unravel, she finds herself in a chilling race for her life. Ghosts and misfits, a stone and crystals, a mysterious book, an ancient prophecy—all these reveal the truth about Jemma’s past and a destiny far greater and more dangerous than she could have imagined in her wildest fantasies. With her telepathic golden rats, Noodle and Pie, and her trusted friend, Digby, Jemma navigates increasingly dark forces, as helpers both seen and unseen, gather. But in the end, it is her own powers that she must bring to light, for only she has the key to defeating the evil ones and fulfilling the prophecy that will bring back the sun and restore peace in Anglavia. “

 What I Thought: I loved the setting in this book – a world with no sun ruled by magical tyrants. That is my kind of book. The characters in the story are good. Jemma is a good – approaching great – main character. She is smart and spunky. Her character develops through the story and I found myself being drawn into her story. Her telepathic rat side-kicks (Noodle and Pie) are characters that readers will immediately love.  The evil Agromond Family is VERY evil and they are the perfect bad guys. The book is written so that is totally appropriate for MG readers, but the length and reading level is something an older reader will like also.  I recommend this book to lovers of fantasy!

I give this 5 out of 5 bookworms!fivebooks

38 Responses to “February 2015 UBFP Column – Meet Bucks County Author Kit Grindstaff”

  1. rnewman504 February 5, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

    Terrific interview Erik and Kit!

    Like

  2. Robyn Campbell February 5, 2015 at 10:05 pm #

    Love the interview, Erik. Kit, your book sounds like a wonderful read. I MUST have your book. I enjoyed reading your process which is similar to mine. Thanks Erik!

    Like

  3. writersideup February 5, 2015 at 11:14 pm #

    Kit, how cool to see you here on Erik’s blog! That was a nice surprise 😀 And you know, though you say you don’t look like Jemma, side by side this way, there does seem to be a bit of resemblance. By the way, the pics look GREAT together and I love the trailer! Yay for you, Yay for Erik, Yay for Jemma! Yay for EVERYbody! 😀 Great interview, btw 😉

    Like

    • Kit Grindstaff February 7, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

      Hey Donna! Good to see you here, too! Yay all round 🙂

      Like

    • thiskidreviewsbooks February 9, 2015 at 10:51 am #

      Thanks Miss Donna! So, how do you know Ms. Grindstaff? Just curious. 🙂

      Like

      • Kit Grindstaff February 9, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

        Donna and I know each other through the NJ chapter of the SCBWI.

        Liked by 1 person

      • thiskidreviewsbooks February 9, 2015 at 12:43 pm #

        Ah! Dang it! I’m too young to join! 😉

        Like

      • writersideup February 9, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

        Ah, Erik, as many of us come to know each other—through the SCBWI! She has attended many of our New Jersey conferences and events. Just got to see her, briefly, at our recent Holiday Get-together 😀 She’s a lovely, talented lady!

        Liked by 1 person

      • thiskidreviewsbooks February 9, 2015 at 12:59 pm #

        Yes she is! 😀

        Like

  4. mgill0627 February 6, 2015 at 1:42 am #

    Eric- First of all, great job on your article. It was very informative and helpful. Second, this book sounds great. Thank you so much for your awesome review.

    Like

    • Kit Grindstaff February 7, 2015 at 7:11 pm #

      Thank you, mgillo627. I’m glad you found the interview helpful. And if you read the book, I hope you enjoy it as much as Erik did!

      Like

    • thiskidreviewsbooks February 9, 2015 at 10:52 am #

      Thanks! I’m glad you like it! 😀

      Like

  5. Diane Tulloch February 6, 2015 at 4:17 am #

    wow! Love this story. Great interview Erik. They say that in every story there is a hint of the author in there. Thanks for sharing.

    Like

    • Kit Grindstaff February 7, 2015 at 7:13 pm #

      I love that saying, Diane, and agree, it’s true of Erik. That shows, I think, in his questions, which were a breeze to answer. That’s not always the case!

      Like

    • thiskidreviewsbooks February 9, 2015 at 10:53 am #

      Thank you Ms. Tulloch! 😀

      Like

  6. heylookawriterfellow February 6, 2015 at 8:50 am #

    Dang, you’re a good writer and interviewer! I am amazed!

    Like

  7. donnagalanti February 6, 2015 at 10:38 am #

    What a wonderful interview Erik! I love Kit’s book and all the secrets and spookiness of it! And the cover just so draws you in.

    Like

  8. Catherine Johnson February 6, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

    It sounds very exciting. Thanks for another great interview, Erik!

    Like

    • Kit Grindstaff February 7, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

      Thank you, Catherine. For me, this was one of the most fun interviews I’ve done. Erik’s questions had such an interesting angle.

      Like

    • thiskidreviewsbooks February 9, 2015 at 11:08 am #

      Thank you Ms. Johnson! 😀

      Like

  9. readingwithrhythm February 6, 2015 at 6:22 pm #

    A very fine interview!! That Ms Grindstaff sounds like a clever lady. And she does look just like her Jemma!

    Like

    • Kit Grindstaff February 7, 2015 at 7:21 pm #

      Thanks so much, readingwithrythm!

      I never thought about Jemma looking like me – and as far as I know the artist had no idea what I look like. But once I’d found the girl to play Jemma in the trailer (did you see it?), I was amazed how much she looked like the Jemma on the cover! I love how life works sometimes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • readingwithrhythm February 8, 2015 at 8:17 pm #

        I’m always looking for those serendipitous moments!!!

        Like

    • thiskidreviewsbooks February 9, 2015 at 11:13 am #

      Thank you Rhythm! Ms. Grindstaff is very nice! 😀

      Like

      • Kit Grindstaff February 9, 2015 at 12:44 pm #

        Agreed about serendipity! Kind of like when you go to a book festival and meet this cool kid book blogger totally unexpectedly…

        Liked by 1 person

      • thiskidreviewsbooks February 9, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

        Yeah, like that would ever happen! 😉

        Like

  10. Kit Grindstaff February 7, 2015 at 7:24 pm #

    Thanks so much to all of you!

    I was thrilled, of course, that Erik gave Jemma and her adventures a whole 5-bookworms review. I hope those of you who read the book will find it warrants it. Please feel free to contact me via my website and let me know!

    Thank you again, Erik, for featuring The Flame in the Mist and me.

    Like

    • thiskidreviewsbooks February 9, 2015 at 12:17 pm #

      Thank you for taking the time to comment, Ms. Grindstaff! I really appreciate it! 😀

      Like

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