A Little About Kersten Hamilton: Kersten was born in High Rolls, New Mexico. From the time she was 6 years old, she knew she wanted to be a writer, a poet in particular. She wanted to make word magic and tuck it inside the covers of a book. During her exciting childhood, she accompanied her parents as they tracked caribou and arctic wolves across their homestead in Alaska, caught tree frogs in the swamps of the Pacific Northwest and chased dust devils and rattlesnakes in the desert of New Mexico. She has worked as a wrangular and archeological surveyor among several other jobs. She is the author of 28 books for children and young adults, as well as musicals, poetry, and short stories. Nowadays Kersten's favorite non-writing pasttime is hunting for the remains of dinosaurs and prehistoric beast in the deserts and badlands of New Mexico, where she lives with her husband and children. To find out more, visit Kersten's website.
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You've written many Middle Grade novels and picture books for younger children. What made you decide to write Tyger Tyger as a YA book, and how did you make the transition from writing MG to YA? Do you think you will continue writing YA even outside of The Goblin Wars series?
I don’t really write for children or young adults—I just write the stories I want to hear. I knew Tyger Tyger would be YA the moment Teagan met Finn and things started to sizzle!
Believe it or not, writing YA is much easier than writing picture books. Many people think that picture books are ‘easy’ because they are short. That’s not true. In a picture book you must have all of the same elements of story and character, but you only have a few hundred words (at most!) to work with. Picture book readers have less life experience to bring to the book with them and that makes writing more difficult as well.
I must admit, right now it is glorious to be able to stretch out and write a series of novels!
Faeries and urban faerie tales have recently become very popular in the YA and paranormal markets, but goblins are much rarer creatures to happen across. Why did you decide to write about goblins?
When I was a child, a goblin crept out of the dark and slipped her paw into my hand. The creature’s name was Lina, and I met her in a book by George MacDonald.
Lina was a dog–like creature with green eyes lit by amber fire, and a huge mouth with icicle–like teeth. Curdie, the hero of the story, could feel the real hand of any creature inside its flesh glove, and when Lina put her paw in his hand “a shudder, as of terrified delight, ran through him…instead of the paw of a dog, such as it seemed to his eyes, he clasped in his great mining fist the soft, neat little hand of a child! The green eyes stared at him with their yellow light, and the mouth was turned up toward him with its constant half grin; but here was the child's hand!”
When I read those lines I felt it. Lina was a small part of George MacDonald’s book. After I met her, I knew that when I grew up I wanted to write a book full of that kind of goblin creature.
The title Tyger Tyger comes from a famous William Blake poem. (Read the poem here.) What made you choose the title for your book and did you plan this title from the onset of writing?
The Tyger was one of the very first poems I memorized as a child. I have always loved poetry. Kipling, Tennyson, Whitman, Carroll, Blake...I devoured just about any book of poetry I could get my hands on.
But it wasn’t until I’d written the poem into the book that I realized The Tyger fit the theme and mood of the whole story arc perfectly!
What would you say was the initial 'spark', like a specific scene, character, or idea that inspired you to write Tyger Tyger?
It was actually another writer’s book—Beastly by Alex Flinn—which is a YA retelling of The Beauty and the Beast. It was so much fun that I decided to try a fairy tale of my own. I couldn’t find a fairy tale that hadn’t been done—until I remembered one I had written myself and never published. It was a dark, scary picture book called Loveleaves and Woodwender.
I reworked Loveleaves and Woodwender, and Tyger Tyger was born!
The story of Tyger Tyger is deeply rooted in mythology, particularly the stories of the Irish hero Fionn MacCumhail, whom your character Finn is a
sort of modern incarnation of. Did you do a lot of research about Celtic mythology to write your book, or did you-- like Teagan and Aiden-- grow up hearing these stories?
Both! I can’t think of a time when I wasn’t hearing or reading the stories of the Celtic heroes. My dad was a storyteller. He was very well read and loved history. But I also did a lot of reading of history, nonfiction, and myth before and during my writing.
Are you of Celtic descent yourself? And because I must ask, how is your Irish brogue? Anywhere near as sultry as Finn's or as... colorful as Mamieo's?
I am of Welsh/Irish decent and everything Celtic draws me—from the music to the mythology. But I couldn’t speak in a brogue to save my life! I can hear it in my head while I’m writing, but I just can’t wrap my tongue around it.
I loved the cat sidhe who pursued Teagan, Finn, and the gang in the book. How did you dream up the cat sidhe and the more malevolent goblins, and was it fun to write all these creepy-cool creatures?
The creatures are a mix of mythology and reality. At one point in Tyger Tyger Teagan’s father quotes Hamlet: “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” That’s true, and deep inside we know it. There is more to us and to the world around us than meets the eye. The creatures in Tyger Tyger are frightening because of the reality in them.
Haven’t you ever seen one of them out of the corner of your eye?
Sometimes writing about them was fun—but sometimes it was really scary!
Your protagonist, Teagan, is one of the strongest and most resourceful heroines I've read about in a long time. Is Teagan or any of your other characters based on people you know or have known? Which one of your
characters would you say you are most like?
I don’t think a character can be conjured from air. At least I can’t do it. I need flesh and blood to work with. Ms. Skinner is based on several people I have known who abused their power, and I stole the soul of an evil dogcatcher to animate her.
Wonderful characters spring from flesh and blood, too. But writers are more likely to use little slivers of their own soul rather than the stolen soul of a dogcatcher to animate them.
Several of the characters in Tyger Tyger are a little like me, and two are very like me. (I won’t tell you which two. You’ll have to guess!)
Finn is very much like my husband Mark. If the goblins were after me, they would have to come through Mark to get me.
What kind of books do you read in your free time? Do you have any favorite authors or books that inspired you to become a writer?*
I have very eclectic reading habits. I will read anything, really. I love nonfiction and read a lot of it while I am writing fiction. I read the classics and study the style of people I admire such Neil Gaiman, Flannery O’Conner and Charles Dickens.
George MacDonald is the writer whose footsteps I would like to follow. It isn’t so much his writing style—it could be awful at times—which inspires me. It is his ideas and the way he lived his life.
*Did you listen to music while writing Tyger Tyger? A lot of authors now have 'theme songs' for their books, in some cases even entire playlists which coordinate along with the plot and pace. Does Tyger Tyger have any specific songs or artists you listened to while writing?*
My weirdly wired brain is dysgrapic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
I think that’s why I can’t hear music when I am writing. I do have songs for my characters, though! I listen to them before I write.
Teagan’s song is Fix You by Coldplay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=N3SIUoGijoM because of this line: “lights will guide you home…and ignite your bones…and I will try to fix you.” That’s Teagan’s heart for the world!
Finn’s is Teardrop, sung by Newton Faulkner, because for Finn “love is a doing word.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?
Teagan and Finn together have a song; Run by Snow Patrol: http://www.youtube.com/watch?
v=ZQbgihHWNGo “Light up, light up as if you have a choice…even if you cannot hear my voice.”
Oh, and Abby’s song is What’s Up by 4nonblondes:
One of the things I loved most about Tyger Tyger was the dynamic connection between Teagan and Finn-- will we get to see more of their romance in future books?
Oh, yes. It will sizzle!
Can you tell us a little about what's next for The Goblin Wars series?
Yes! I just finished book two, In the Forests of the Night. It is darker and scarier, and Finn and Tea need all of their love and courage to get through!
Thanks so much for the interview, Kersten!
Thank you for interviewing me, Kat!
One lucky follower will win a hardcover copy of Tyger Tyger and an exclusive gift that Kersten has very generously offered up:
Kersten Hamilton is giving away twenty hand-made necklaces in November and December to celebrate her new book Tyger Tyger. The pendants were created by book blogger Melissa at Books and Things and the chains by someone else. :) Each necklace is beautiful and unique. Enter here to win this necklace, and have fun hunting for the rest!
These necklaces are unique and exclusive -- each one is different and will be available for a short time only.
To Enter: Leave a comment with your email address, and total entries. (Last day to enter is Sunday, December 5th.)
1. You must be a follower to enter the giveaway. (+ 1 entry automatic)
2. The giveaway is international and open to everyone, as long as you live in a country where the Book Depository delivers (check their site here if you're uncertain.)
3. + 2 extra entries for each method in which you help spread the word about this giveaway, including blog posts , tweets, and sidebar links. (Please leave me the link in your comment.)