Kit Grindstaff

How did you get started writing?

 

I’ve always loved storytelling, and at primary school (the English version of Elementary), “composition” as it was called, was a favorite subject. When I was 7, I decided that when I grew up, I’d be an author and call myself Jean Bracklesham. (Yeah. Go figure.) Somehow, though, as I got older, I never thought of writing as a serious career option.

 

In my teens, my love of writing was waylaid by angsty poetry, which evolved into songwriting, which eventually became my main career - I still write songs professionally. But en route, a stint as an assistant primary school teacher planted the seed of wanting to write for children. Over the years, I took occasional writing workshops, and the seed grew. Finally, it became too big to ignore. I signed up for a children’s writing course with Gotham Writers Workshop in New York, where I was living at the time. That was the point of no return.

 

Who influenced you?

 

Every teacher who ever encouraged me! But if you mean in terms of authors…every author whose books I loved! Going as far back as infancy, there are elements I absorbed that come out in what I write: Enid Blyton, A. A. Milne…As an older kid, I was home sick a lot with bronchitis and asthma, and read voraciously: Blyton, John Verney, Erich Kastner, C. S. Lewis, John Masefield. As a teen, I went more for classics, like Dickens, Austen, Henry James.

 

Once I’d committed to learning how to write kids’ novels, though, I gravitated toward fantasy. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy was a big influence, as was Natalie Babbit’s Tuck Everlasting, and, when I finally got around to reading them (I was a late starter), the Harry Potter series.

 

Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?

 

There’s a ton of books I love, and no particular setting. One book that’s stayed with me for years – an adult title – is  Behind the Scenes at the Museum, by Kate Atkinson. It’s got a psychological twist to it, which I’m drawn to in any book – some secret, some lie, some forgotten nugget that drives a character – all things that found their way into The Flame in the Mist. But I also love ghost stories (hence Henry James), fantasy (the more quirky kind, e.g. Steffan Bachmann’s The Peculiar), whimsical (Kate diCamillo’s Tale of Despereaux and The Magicians Elephant), contemporaries (The Fault in our Stars, Ask the Passengers), historical (Gilt, by Katherine Longshore, The Dress Lodger, by Sheri Holman, anything set in Tudor times).

 

It’s hard to name a favorite character. In any of the above, protagonists grabbed me because they were vivid and likeable. One who I do especially love, who influenced my conception of Jemma, is Lyra Belacqua in The Golden Compass.

 

What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?

 

This isn’t going to be new: Read, read, read! And write what you love you’ll need that love and passion (for story and characters) when the going gets tough. Don’t try to follow trends; they’ll be over by the time you’ve finished your book. Conversely, a style that’s now out of favor will come around again. So follow your instincts.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

 

Outside on our deck! (Under a sunbrella, to protect my laptop.)

 

What else would you like to tell us?

 

Hmm. Maybe where to send the chocolate?

Kit Grindstaff was born near London, and grew up in the rolling countryside of England. After a brush with pop stardom (under her maiden name, Hain), she moved to New York and became a successful pop song writer. For the past twelve years she’s lived with her husband in the rolling countryside of Pennsylvania.

 

Kit loves talking to kids about her book and about writing, and you can pretty much tempt her to go anywhere there's great sushi and/or puppies. The Flame In The Mist, a spooky, magical fantasy for middle grade readers ages 9 to 90, is her first book, and is a SCBWI Crystal Kite members' choice award winner for 2014.
 

Watch the book trailer for The Flame in the Mist.

 

INTERVIEW WITH KIT GRINDSTAFF:

How did you get started writing?

I’ve always loved storytelling, and at primary school (the English version of Elementary), “composition” as it was called, was a favorite subject. When I was 7, I decided that when I grew up, I’d be an author and call myself Jean Bracklesham. (Yeah. Go figure.) Somehow, though, as I got older, I never thought of writing as a serious career option.

In my teens, my love of writing was waylaid by angsty poetry, which evolved into songwriting, which eventually became my main career - I still write songs professionally. But en route, a stint as an assistant primary school teacher planted the seed of wanting to write for children. Over the years, I took occasional writing workshops, and the seed grew. Finally, it became too big to ignore. I signed up for a children’s writing course with Gotham Writers Workshop in New York, where I was living at the time. That was the point of no return.

 

Who influenced you?

Every teacher who ever encouraged me! But if you mean in terms of authors…every author whose books I loved! Going as far back as infancy, there are elements I absorbed that come out in what I write: Enid Blyton, A. A. Milne…As an older kid, I was home sick a lot with bronchitis and asthma, and read voraciously: Blyton, John Verney, Erich Kastner, C. S. Lewis, John Masefield. As a teen, I went more for classics, like Dickens, Austen, Henry James.

Once I’d committed to learning how to write kids’ novels, though, I gravitated toward fantasy. Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy was a big influence, as was Natalie Babbit’s Tuck Everlasting, and, when I finally got around to reading them (I was a late starter), the Harry Potter series.

 

Do you have a favorite book/subject/character/setting?

There’s a ton of books I love, and no particular setting. One book that’s stayed with me for years – an adult title – is  Behind the Scenes at the Museum, by Kate Atkinson. It’s got a psychological twist to it, which I’m drawn to in any book – some secret, some lie, some forgotten nugget that drives a character – all things that found their way into The Flame in the Mist. But I also love ghost stories (hence Henry James), fantasy (the more quirky kind, e.g. Steffan Bachmann’s The Peculiar), whimsical (Kate diCamillo’s Tale of Despereaux and The Magicians Elephant), contemporaries (The Fault in our Stars, Ask the Passengers), historical (Gilt, by Katherine Longshore, The Dress Lodger, by Sheri Holman, anything set in Tudor times).

It’s hard to name a favorite character. In any of the above, protagonists grabbed me because they were vivid and likeable. One who I do especially love, who influenced my conception of Jemma, is Lyra Belacqua in The Golden Compass.

 

What advice do you have for someone who wants to be an author?

This isn’t going to be new: Read, read, read! And write what you love you’ll need that love and passion (for story and characters) when the going gets tough. Don’t try to follow trends; they’ll be over by the time you’ve finished your book. Conversely, a style that’s now out of favor will come around again. So follow your instincts.

 

Where is your favorite place to write?

Outside on our deck! (Under a sunbrella, to protect my laptop.)

 

What else would you like to tell us?

Hmm. Maybe where to send the chocolate?

picture: 

Kit Grindstaff


 
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