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?
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!
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!
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!