06 September 2015

Author Interview & Book Giveaway: Katy Towell on CHARLIE AND THE GRANDMOTHERS

This week, we're pleased to welcome author KATY TOWELL with her latest middle-grade novel, CHARLIE AND THE GRANDMOTHERS, set in turn of the century Victorian England. The author will offer one free copy of the novel to a lucky visitor.  Be sure to leave your email address in the comments of today's author interview. Winner(s) are contacted privately by email. Here's the blurb.

Charlie and Georgie Oughtt have been sent to visit their grandmother Pearl, and this troubles Charlie for three reasons. The first is that he's an exceptionally nervous twelve-year-old boy, and he worries about everything. The second is that the other children in his neighborhood who pay visits to their grandmothers never seem to return. And the third is that Charlie and Georgie don't have any grandmothers. It turns out a visit to grandmother’s house has never been so frightening…

**Q&A with Katy Towell**

What was your inspiration for Charlie and the Grandmothers?

I love writing for the underdog. My first book--Skary Children and the Carousel of Sorrow--was about outcasts and their struggles with both supernatural evil and basic schoolyard bullies. This time I wanted to focus on kids who know anxiety and trauma. I was one of those overly anxious kids, and I saw close friends deal with devastating life experiences. We didn't really have any storybook heroes with whom we could identify. Most children's book protagonists are fearless despite everything being thrown at them, which is a nice ideal, but you can't possibly live up to it! Charlie and the Grandmothers is for kids like us. 

Why do you think it's good for kids to confront their fears?

Avoiding your fears just gives more power to what scares you, and avoidance leaves you unprepared when you have no choice but to deal with a frightening situation. Life is full of those situations, and they aren't always negative. Love can be scary, too--what if something happens to your loved ones?--but life would be incredibly sad without it. If you don't confront your fears, you could also missing out on something great!

What was the process of creating the illustrations for your book?

I'm inspired by the incredibly detailed and slightly unsettling work of late 19th/early 20th century illustrators like Harry Clarke, Aubrey Beardsley, and Kay Nielsen. Since Grandmothers is set   in the very early 1900s, I wanted to bring some of that aesthetic into the art while making it accessible for a younger audience. I probably did at least 2 or 3 complete versions of every single illustration before calling any one of them "done." I always sketch a rough version of everything, then I use a light box to trace the good parts from my rough sketches for the real thing, and then it's several hours of inking per drawing. And if I'm not happy with the final result, that means starting all over again. My fingers were stained black for days after finishing Charlie and the Grandmothers.

What do you want readers to take away from your book?

First and foremost, I want them to have fun reading it. That's the most important thing, and even fear can be fun. But I also want them to learn that there's nothing wrong with them for being scared or depressed sometimes. It doesn't make them any less capable of being a hero than those seemingly unflappable kids in other stories.

What was your biggest challenge in writing the book?

Finding a way to show Charlie's frazzled nerves and the history behind his nervous disposition while keeping the story fun and exciting was a small mountain to climb, so I'm thankful to my editor, Erin Clarke, for helping to direct me down the right path there. 

What's your favorite scary book?

I love so many! But I think Ray Bradbury's Something Wicked This Way Comes will always be my #1. 

About the Author

Katy Towell is the creator of the Childrin R Skary website and animated shorts ("The Mockingbird Song," "Ida's Luck," "The Little Girl Who Was Forgotten By Absolutely Everyone (Even The Postman)"). She is also a graphic designer, writer, and illustrator in Portland with dreams of one day being the scary old lady in the house about which all the neighborhood children tell ghost stories.

Connect with Katy at:
Website: scary.com  
Twitter: @katytowell