I am currently out of town, at a conference, so Fiona Ingram was gracious enough to post in my absence. Thank you for this great interview, Fiona!
About Fiona Ingram: Fiona Ingram (B.A., Hons. (Natal), M.A., (Wits)) was born and educated in South Africa. Her interest in ancient history, mystery, and legends, and her enjoyment of travel has resulted in The Secret of the Sacred Scarab, the first in her exciting children’s adventure series—Chronicles of the Stone. The first book was inspired by an actual trip the author took to Egypt with her two young nephews (then aged 10 and 12). The Secret of the Sacred Scarab was a Finalist in the Children’s/Juvenile Fiction category of the 2009 USA Next Generation Indie Book Awards; Finalist in the Children’s Fiction section of the USA National Best Books 2009 Awards.
It was also a Winner in the Preteen category of the 2009 Readers’ Favorites 2009 Awards. The book was nominated Number 2 in the Top 10 Favourite Books of 2009 for Kids, Tweens and Teens in The Children’s & Teens Book Connection. It has also won a Silver medal in the Teen Fiction category of the 2010 Nautilus Book Awards. The book was a Finalist in the 2010 International Book Awards
Escape to an Enchanted World with Brigitta of the White Forest
My guest today is Danika Dinsmore, an award-winning writer, spoken word artist, and educator. Danika has been working with children of all ages for 18 years. Faerie Tales from the White Forest is her first novel series. Brigitta of the White Forest is Book One of Faerie Tales from the White Forest.
Q&A with Danika
Fiona: Your two main characters are sisters. Is your book specifically aimed at girls?
Danika: I don't know the exact stats for publishing, but it seems to be a collective agreement that young girls read more than young boys. You always hear of people looking for ways to get young boys to read, at least in North America. I'm not sure if it's the same thing in other parts of the world. After I wrote the novel, a few people did ask if I could make one of the sisters a boy (Brigitta and Himalette are the main characters, Himmy is the younger sister). But really it would have been impossible to change either of them. They have a sisterly relationship. The relationship between sisters and brothers is a completely different dynamic. I know, I had two brothers.
Fiona: You wear two hats being in both publishing and films. What are your observations on the boy: girl ratio of viewers and heroes/heroines?
Danika: In the film and TV industry, it's quite the opposite to books where girls are the main readership. The largest movie-going audience is boys age 15-25 (interestingly enough, the 2nd largest movie going audience is women over 50). But, there are a lot of us who think this statistic was created by the industry because of the type of films that are made and marketed. It was self-fulfilling. I used to be on the board of directors of Women in Film and Television Vancouver. The statistics for women in "above the line" positions (i.e. those who have creative control over films) is staggeringly low. Until this most recent Oscars, no woman had ever won best director for a motion picture. 84 years! And, due to the preponderance of males in "above the line" positions, the trickledown effect is that there are a low percentage of female protagonists in films. Last summer I was looking at the marquees for the three leading theatres in town and NOT ONE film had a female protagonist. Not even the animated ones. Remember the animated film "Up"? There were no females in that movie except the protag's wife... who died.
Fiona: You started out originally in film. How has this influenced your writing?
Danika: This novel was originally a screenplay. I'm a screenwriter turned novelist. We always hear about novels becoming screenplays, but not much the other way around. And almost all my screenplays have strong female leads. It's been very important to me to write female heroes and to not use female stereotypes (well, I stay away from stereotypes in general anyway). So, yes, I had purposefully written this with female leads because I feel strongly about strong female leads in films.
Then I wrote the screenplay as a novel. I'd never written a novel before. I decided to do so because I thought there was so much more to this story. More than I could develop in a screenplay format. Screenplays are quite economic. When a novelist tries to write a screenplay, it's probably quite painful, because it's so minimalistic in comparison. You only write what you see (and hear) on screen. And even then, you don't describe anything too much because that's the set decorator's job. Also, I was concerned about rights. I knew I had something with Brigitta. I had written several screenplays, but instinctively I knew there was something special about this one.
Fiona: Who will read your book and why?
Danika: Even though my demographic will probably be marketed as girls aged 9-14, there have been men in their 40s that have read and enjoyed this book. That's because it's a real adventure story. This isn't a Disney fairy tale. This isn't Tinkerbell. This is a "hero's journey" into a dark and frightening place. Sure, there is comedy relief, but there are some quite scary moments. And the second book is even darker than the first. I think that's what happens when you delve deeper into something, it naturally gets darker.
It's also a coming-of-age for a girl who doesn't quite believe in herself. And the theme of "what is destiny?" runs through it. Are we in control of our destiny, or do things have an unalterable course?
Fiona: Did you ever think you’d write a novel?
Danika: When I was 15 I thought I wanted to be a novelist. I kept starting to write books and never finishing them. Then I discovered the magic of poetry, so that's the direction I went in. I even got my MFA in Writing and Poetics. And poetry is really my first love. I went from poetry to screenwriting, which isn't as much of a leap as one might think. They are both about economy of words, beats/rhythm, and imagery. To me, both are about what you SEE, and what is not said.
To answer your question, No, I never thought I'd actually write a novel. It seemed like such a daunting task. Too many words! Too much responsibility! But then I realized how wonderfully liberating it was! I'd been writing in such a restricted format. I became the director, cinematographer; set decorator, stunt coordinator, actor ... everything! It was so wonderful to be able to go into a character's head. So wonderful to describe things I didn't have the room to do so in the script. I got to add scenes! It became a richer, deeper, darker story.
Fiona: Now that you’ve gone and done it, how do you feel?
Danika: I'm excited that I can finally share it with the world. It scares me, though, because now I've created this entirely new world and I want to keep exploring it, so I hope people like it enough for me to continue on. That's what's really unique about this series. This imaginary world in which all the stories take place. It’s a place no one's gone before! That's what tickles me about it.
Fiona: What’s next after you finish Faerie Tales from the White Forest?
Danika: I don’t know what will happen after I finish this series, but I'd love to write a YA novel, something a bit more realistic. Perhaps a little magical realism? And I want to write some books about writing and teaching writing, because I have a lot to say about that. I've been teaching creative writing for 20 years.
Fiona: Thanks for being my guest today, Danika. Readers who’d like to know more about Danika’s work can visit her book website. Danika’s poetry Every Day Angels & Other Near-Death Experiences is also available on Amazon.
Visit Danika's worlds:
Brigitta link http://entheospress.com/index.php?page=brigitta
Danika’s poetry http://www.amazon.com/Every-Angels-Other-Near-Death-Experiences/dp/0975404202/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2
Another good interview that focuses on the book and makes an interesting link is http://www.examiner.com/x-7597-Childrens-Books-Examiner~y2010m4d21-You-can-accidentally-become-a-novelist An interview by Lori Calabrese, National Children’s Book Examiner.