Saturday, February 25, 2012

Interview with Children's Book Author Joanne Lécuyer

I am so pleased to have Joanne Lécuyer as a guest on the blog today! She has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications and Visual Arts from the University of Ottawa and a Diploma in Public Administration from the University of Quebec. She is also a Professional and Personal Coach and Reiki Master. Joanne has worked for the Canadian federal government for over 25 years, with the last 15 years in strategic and organizational communications to help management and employees communicate better. She has published two children’s books “The Witch, the Cat and the Egg” (2010), and “Kaptain Vamp” (2011).

What would you like readers to know about you as an introduction?

I’m Canadian and was born in Timmins, Ontario. I come from a small town called North Bay, Ontario, where I lived until I was 18. I now live in a small rural community near Ottawa, Ontario with my husband Rick, our dog Kato and two cats, Black Magic and Minx (photos on the website). I love nature so I like small towns. I only starting writing children’s books 2 years ago and I love it!

Tell us about your most recent book "Kaptain Vamp." What was your inspiration behind this book?

Kaptain Vamp is my second children’s book. The story is about a young vampire named Allistaire, who is also part human, who wants to change the fact that humans are afraid and distrustful of vampires. His family has been living among humans for hundreds of years and they’ve always used their abilities for good. One day, while reading his favorite superhero comic, Allistaire decides that he’s going to do everything he can to help humans. He enlists the aid of his best friend Rich to help him become Kaptain Vamp.

Since vampires have been so popular with teens and adults, for the last few years, I thought it would be fun to write a story about them for kids. I liked the challenge of taking this theme and making it positive, so it wouldn’t give kids nightmares. Also, I thought a vampire-human superhero would make a good story. I’m getting a lot of good feedback – seems my readers agree.

What have you learned through writing this book?

It’s possible to write a positive story about vampires. Also that, although it’s a challenge, it’s gratifying to self-publish.

How did you get started writing?

I’ve been writing stories for children for about 2 years now. But, it all started about 6-7 years ago, after spending a weekend with my younger brother. He’s a graphic artist and has always been extremely creative. On my way back home on the train, I jotted a story down on some scraps of paper that I called Topsyturvia. When I got home I just put the pages away.

In 2009, I remembered the story and transcribed into my computer and just kept adding to it. I got to about 6,000 words and read it to my husband–who can sometimes be brutally honest. He told me that he thought it was a very good story. I gave a copy to a few colleagues with children and they liked it too. I worked on it some more and asked my brother to do the illustrations for the book Topsyturvia. And then more stories came. In 2010, I published my first book The Witch, the Cat and the Egg, and in 2011 I published Kaptain Vamp. Topsyturvia should be out later in 2012!

What is your writing process like? Do you write on a computer? In a spiral notebook? Do you draw illustrations?

I seem to get my story ideas early in the morning while I’m walking to catch the bus or during my commute into the city. But sometimes they come when I’m really tired, after a long day at work. I always keep a small notepad and pen with me to jot down ideas (something small enough to keep in my purse). Generally, I sit down to write when the inspiration comes which is sometimes once a day, a week or a month. In one sitting, I may write as little as a brief outline or a whole chapter. When I’m getting close to finishing a story, I’ll stay up until the wee hours of the morning to get it done. I like writing with a computer since you can move things around.

When I started writing children’s books, I decided that I wanted them to include lots of images and they had to be in color. So I was looking for the style of illustrations to match the story I was trying to create. I like working with different illustrators. I met the illustrator for Kaptain Vamp, Amy Rottinger, through LinkedIn. I’d liked what I saw on her website ( Amy and I chatted on the phone. She was very enthusiastic, and we just hit it off. We worked through email. I gave her an electronic version of the book, told her how many images I wanted in each chapter, and asked her to submit her ideas. She was great to work with and the results are amazing. I love the book. We are now working on a comic book. When I was younger, I thought I might be an illustrator. I realized however that I was more of a copy artist. I had trouble inventing characters or scenes. In the last two years, I found that I’m a better storyteller. For kids stories, I think pictures help create some of the story magic and I don’t want to write a book without them.

How do you get ideas for what you write?

The Witch book idea came from memories of reading Snow White and Cinderella. I just love how they could talk to the animals. So Juliane is a young witch that lives on the border of a magical forest who can talk and understand the magical creatures that live there. For Kaptain Vamp, I wanted write about good vampires and a superhero type. In Topsyturvia, it’s all about mixing different animals even the flora and fauna, and I’m using dream time as the vehicle for getting there. A lot of it is using my imagination. That’s what is fun about fantasy and fiction – anything goes. But you still have to make it somewhat believable – that’s the challenge.

What is your biggest advice for other writers and young people reaching for their dreams?

Just do it! Write down your ideas when you get them. I carry a little notepad with me and jot down all my ideas in there. When I have the time to finally sit and write, I pull it out and the notes and ideas get me going. Write the best story you can and ask friends and colleagues to be your test readers. They can help find the holes in the story and give you ideas. Don’t try to edit your own work. A good editor is your friend. As the author, I think we sometimes forget to add some of the details that we have in our head. Of course, you don’t have to take all the suggestions you get. But I do think that considering them makes for a better story in the end. I write for children, so I get kids and their parents to read the draft manuscript. Initially, I think I write the story for me. But I also want to share it, so it needs to be enjoyable for the reader–the kids, their parents or grandparents.

What are some of your favorite books?

Did I mention that I really enjoy fiction and fantasy? For children’s books, I would have to say all the Disney classics. That’s what I grew up reading. Other books that stand out are The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, The Chrysalids, and The Stand. My husband and I are reading an oldie but goodie trilogy about Merlin by Mary Stewart (Merlin is my favourite character). I’m also reading a French series called “Les chevaliers d’Émeraude” (The Knights of Emerald) by Anne Robillard – there are 12 books and I’m only on book 3. I’ve just finished the “Twelfth Insight” by James Redfield – I loved The Celestine Prophecy.

Is there anything else you would like to add?

When I started writing stories for children, I decided that I would write the kinds of books that leave my readers feeling good and wanting more; that also leave them with a smile on their faces. The type of book that you can read to kids before they go to bed that will help them have good dreams! That’s what Topsy Books is all about. My personal motto is “Dare to imagine and believe in the magic of possibilities!” I hope that new readers will make Topsy Books part of their reading collection.

There will be a sequel to The Witch, the Cat and the Egg in 2012 and to Kaptain Vamp next year. I’m currently working on two comic books and a French version of the Witch book. My books are available on my website, and Barnes and

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