Heather Ray Bax, the author of The Charm Tree: Book One of the Shansymoon Series, is our guest this week. Please scroll down to enjoy her interview.
10 Questions with Heather Ray Bax
1. Your book, The Charm Tree: Book One of the Shansymoon Series, begins on a cold, wet, and dreary Thursday. Tell us a bit about The Charm Tree.
The Charm Tree is a fantasy novel for middle-grade readers (or anyone young at heart!). In it, Megan and her friends travel to a new world where they encounter mysterious creatures, have outrageous adventures, and of course, discover the magical Charm Tree. At it’s core, The Charm Tree is a story about overcoming fear and finding true power within.
2. Where did you find the inspiration for the main character, Megan Whittlebee?
Megan was inspired by memories of my own childhood; she is much like I was: shy, introverted, and plagued by many fears. So it was somewhat cathartic for me to watch her grow, struggle, fall, and pick herself up again. I identify with Megan, which made her very easy to write.
3. How do you create the minor characters of your work? How important are they to the storyline?
There are many minor characters within the two locations of Shanymoon and Wynterwyn, which include humans, animals, otherworldly beings, and even spirits! These characters help to colour the worlds I create and lend a richness to the stories that wouldn’t exist without them. Sometimes characters are influenced by real people I’ve known in my life. I always tell people they should be nice to me or I’ll create a character based on them and change just one letter in the name!
4. How do you weave sub-plots throughout the entire structure of the book?
Once I have a clear vision of the key events and of the main characters–each with their own strengths, weaknesses, and desires–the sub-plots start to reveal themselves. Sometimes I’ll have a vision of something interesting or funny, and I’ll want to add it to the story. It’s definitely challenging to maintain a good flow throughout and tie up the various threads at the end.
5. What kind of research do you do for your works?
I’ve been an avid student of mythology, symbology, philosophy, and spirituality all my life, and much of what I’ve learned has influenced the creation of The Shansymoon Series. Part of The Charm Tree takes place in real places, so there was certainly research I needed to do. For example, I consulted maps, weather statistics, air lines, theatre floor plans, etc. It’s important to get these details right.
6. How does Heather write? When? Outlines or not?
The bulk of The Charm Tree was written several years ago when I had a few months off between jobs. I believe I had a partial outline, but much of the story seemed to take on a life of its own once I had started writing. It was truly a wondrous experience! I prefer to write when I have several hours to myself without any distractions. I’ll often jot down notes or make sketches on paper, but most of the writing and revision work is done on my computer. It’s faster, and my handwriting looks like chicken scratch.
7. What made you want to become a writer?
I feel compelled to write and find true joy in the creative process. I was very fortunate to have had family members, teachers, and professors encourage me and tell me I had talent. This inspired me to improve my writing skills and attempt to create something worthwhile I could give to others. I knew immediately that my first works would be for children. When I was a child my favourite author was C.S. Lewis, and his Chronicles of Narnia greatly influenced the creation of The Shansymoon Series.
8. When do you know the ending of your book and does it change throughout the writing of the novel?
I may have a conception of how the story will end, but I enjoy watching my characters take over and tellme how the story will end!
9. What’s next for Megan? What other stories are you working on?
I’m currently working on The Firestone, which is the second book in the series. Blaise is the protagonist in this story, though certainly Megan will be a main character and play a key role in the children’s next adventures.
10. What can readers expect to find in The Charm Tree?
I hope readers will find a story that engages, empowers, and entertains them. Quite a lofty goal! But if I can please just a few readers, the effort will have been worth it.