Today I am pleased to interview Karen Krossing, a Toronto-based author who is making her mark here in Canada. Her books include Bog, Cut the Lights, The Yo-Yo Prophet, Pure, Take the Stairs, The Castle Key, "Profanity," and "Dragon's Breath." Her YA novel, Punch Like a Girl, will be published by Orca Books in Spring 2015.
In the midnight forests of the north, a cave troll named Bog has spent his young life hunting with his father and avoiding humans whenever possible. When his father is mercilessly turned to stone by the Troll Hunter’s followers, Bog sets out to find the murderers and avenge his father. But with no leads and little knowledge of the human world, Bog knows his journey won’t be easy. Along the way, he meets a huge forest troll named Small and a young human girl named Hannie. Together, they venture deeper into human territory, where they learn of the legendary Nose Stone—a rock rumoured to bring a stone troll back to life. Hope fills Bog’s heart, but when he discovers the Troll Hunter is also going after the Nose Stone to destroy it, his quest becomes a race of cunning, trickery, and wits.
AMM: Welcome Karen. It’s great to have you here. How would you describe your books?
I write books to understand the world around me, focussing on stories with social justice themes. I particularly enjoy writing for pre-teens and teens. These years are a time of great possibility, with a few land mines thrown in. My novels and short stories span a variety of genres, including contemporary realistic stories as well as fantasy and dystopia fiction. My goal is to keep kids and teens reading, to entertain, and to encourage them to think about our world in fresh ways.
KK: What was the inspiration for BOG?
I first conceived the idea for BOG after the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City and the ensuing war on terror. I wanted to write about cultural hatred fostered by learned biases from previous generations. But the novel is also a reaction to ethnic conflicts the world over—anywhere where there is prejudice against another cultural group instead of acceptance and understanding of differences. I chose to write about trolls because, in literature, they’re traditionally considered vile to humans. The point of view of a troll character sets up humans as “monsters,” asking what morals and values make us human versus monster. For me, the novel explores the journey from hatred to tolerance.
AMM: Do you have a specific writing schedule?
I try to write every day—at least five days a week. This keeps my head in the story and makes it easier to write a new scene or revise an existing one. I don’t write at the same time every day or for a prescribed number of hours because my daily routine can vary. Instead, I set myself word quota per day for first draft and a page quota for revisions. I’m fairly strict with my writing schedule because regular writing helps to keep the creativity flowing.
KK: Some writers outline their books in advance, others do “free writing.” What is your writing process?
I began my career as an intuitive writer, sensing my way through a draft. Yet I found that I sometimes wandered too far off track and needed more revision as a result. Now, I plan my novels before I write. I ask myself a series of questions to understand my characters, theme, premise, synopsis, etc. The synopsis, which is about two to three pages, forms the basis for my novel. I still intuit my way through the first draft, since I don’t plot chapter-by-chapter or determine every detail before writing. I create my road map and set off, discovering delicious specifics about my story as I travel. I think this makes me both a plotter and an intuitive writer.
AMM: Would you wish to have another career or is writing “the only one for you”?
KK: My career aptitude test in high school said my ideal job would be a long-distance truck driver, which I still find amusing. I think I got that outcome because I like solitary work. I would make a great project manager, since I’m uber-organized. I also wouldn’t mind being a park ranger or a child-and-youth worker. But, really, writing is my love and I’m grateful to be able to create books.
AMM: What’s next?
KK: Next is a contemporary novel for teens called Punch Like a Girl (Orca Book Publishers, Spring 2015). It’s about 17-year-old Tori Wyatt, who surprises her parents by shaving her head in the middle of the night. Then she punches a man at the mall, shocking her friends. To try and turn things around, Tori’s parents insist she volunteers at a shelter for women and children. While she connects with the young kids, she continues to act out violently, alienating her friends. Why is Tori so out of sorts? Is she just trying to stand up for others, or does she have a deeper reason?
AMM: Would you like to share something about yourself that not many people know?
KK: When I was a kid, I was always one of the smallest in my class. I got called small and cute once too often, so I responded by saying that I was big and hairy. On the outside, I may have been small, but on the inside, I felt much larger. When I started writing a book from the point of view of a cave troll, it fit with who I am. Somehow, writing about a smelly, fur-covered beast was natural to me. Maybe it’s because I’ve always identified with characters like Chewbacca more than characters like Princess Leia.
See the trailer for BOG here.
Check out BOG on Amazon here.
Karen Krossing wrote poetry and rants as a teen and dreamed of becoming a published writer. Today, she’s the author of six successful novels for kids and teens, and she conducts writing workshops to empower emerging writers. Karen has built a reputation as an author who writes honestly and unflinchingly, with the ability to create “an utterly believable, complex teen world” (Quill & Quire). Karen lives in Toronto, Canada, with her family.