Thursday, August 23, 2012

Interview with Jan Welborn-Nichols

Here we present an e-interview with Jan Welborn-Nichols, the author of 'Henrietta Sharp and the Magic Lunch Box' (ZR Review here), an interesting little book for kids. She shares her views about her book, 'fantasy' and her future plans. Read on..

ZR: When you started writing the book "Henrietta Sharp and the Magic Lunch Box" what was the main theme that you had in mind: to come up with a fantasy story or to focus on the inculcation of healthy food habits among children? 

Jan: I've always thought of Henrietta Sharp and the Magic Lunch Box as a fantasy adventure. Main characters always have a problem, sometimes a lot of problems, just like readers. The story is the character’s journey toward revelation, realization and ultimately, some kind of resolution. The references to food (other than the fact that I’m personally a zesty eater) exist because food is a problem for Henrietta. 

ZR: What, in your opinion ultimately comes across as a bigger message in the story?

Jan: I hope that readers come away with the message that self-doubt is the human equivalent of Kryptonite. It can stifle our potential to be truly realized versions of ourselves in the world. Before Henri can wield her power as a portal Traveler she must learn to appreciate her whole self, especially the chubby self that makes her so uncomfortable. Even without a super power, the rest of us have the incredible power to become our best, most authentic selves. In my mind, the big message is power, not showy super powers, but the everyday power that comes from learning to be so comfortable in our own skin we can pay attention to the people and experiences around us.

ZR: How much of research went into the creation of such a book? Also many of the characters from your book have names based on food such as Sausalito, McCauly Flower, Brocco Lee and so on. What according to you is the significance of using such names over conventional names?

Jan: As a fantasy adventure writer, my research consists of going to the imagination store, a lot.
The imagination store is how I visualize my lifetime of memories, experiences and observations. I spend a lot of time just thinking about the story. Eventually, that leads to the capturing of random thoughts: notes about plotlines, interesting character names, chapter titles and so on. After I’ve been to the imagination store enough and accumulated a body of notes, a formal outline begins to appear. It’s messy and chaotic. It requires diligent work and a light touch, like a butterfly catcher, to capture the story without killing it. 

About the character names: I knew that I wanted the main character to have a five-syllable name. Hen-ri-ett-a Sharp. Why? I just liked the rhythm of it. And, I like girl names that can be used as boy names too. In this instance, I don’t know why. 

I named the residents of Grymvald (the world that Henri goes to using her Traveler super power) to give a visual clue about their appearance and personality. Sir Brocco Lee is a very animated and wise stalk of broccoli. Sausalito is a talking bottle of hot sauce that wears a cape. Here’s a story within the story. The cape was supposed to be a poncho, but my illustrator friend Susan Bachman has a thing for capes so I changed the description to honor her cape fetish! 

I think writers are attuned to the way things sound. Some character names are chosen because of the way they fall off the tongue. In other instances, like McCauley Flower, the name reveals something about the nature of the character. This is not uncommon. Consider J.K. Rowling’s use of the name Malfoy (mal = sick, ill) or Voldemort (mort = death, dying). And sometimes, a character is named for the simple reason that it amused the writer to do so. 

ZR: Was 'Fantasy' writing always your calling or did it just happen? Which books (apart from yours, of course) do you find the most amazing in this genre?

Jan: I love to read across many genres but science fiction and fantasy are particular favorites of mine. Like so many other readers, my favorite childhood book was Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time. More recently, I have been completely blown away by Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy. These book are so rich in scope, so vivid in description with such riveting characters that I cannot think of enough glowing adjectives. 

ZR: Do you feel fantasy has always been a favorite among kids, or have some of the recent books re-kindled their interest towards it?

Jan: This is just one girl’s opinion with absolutely no research to support it, but I believe that fantasy has always appealed to children. Fairytales, though often quite dark and dreadful, are fantasy. The 19th century gave us two classic fantasy novels that come to mind: Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz. The genre starts off with a bang in the 20th century with J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, followed by my perennial favorite J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Oddly, for someone who loves fantasy, I haven’t read The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis or the beloved series of Harry Potter books by J.K. Rawling. When I was writing Henrietta Sharp and the Magic Lunch Box, I didn’t want to be unduly influenced by either of these talented authors. Now that my first book is finished, I get to read all of the books in both series.

ZR: Do you have any plans to come up with any other book(s) soon?

Jan: The operative word is soon. I’ve been busy with the development of both audio and print versions of Henrietta Sharp and the Magic Lunch Box that will be out in November 2012. I’ve also been building an audience for the book by guest blogging, writing new content for the companion web site, and preparing to launch a new, improved version of the site, also targeted for November.

I have started the process of capturing ideas for book two in the Henrietta Sharp series. This is inside info and it’s just for you, Zealot Readers. The title is Henrietta Sharp and the Secret Assassin. Here are two catastrophic events that will be in the book: a 7th grade Halloween dance and a Traveler training mission that goes horribly wrong. Fingers crossed: I hope the book will be available by December 2013. Of course that’s an impossible goal. But that’s what I like about fantasy. Impossible things happen all the time, quite often before breakfast!

Thanks Jan!! We hope your books get all the success and fame. We wish you all the very best for all your future endeavours and eagerly look forward to reading, enjoying and reviewing many many more books of yours.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting questions and answers. Thanks for this interview Vaishali.