Interview with Karolyn Timarkos

Hello! My name is Lee Murray and it’s my first official day as your Star Author, the first day of New Zealand Book Month, and the Leefirst day of Karolyn Timarkos’ life as a published author. It’s been 12 years since the moment Karolyn first got the idea for her book, Keeper of the Atlas, which is finally being released today. And here on the Christchuch Kids Blog we are lucky enough to get the very first interview with this exciting new author.

Lee: When did you first have the idea for this book?

Karolyn: In 2001 I was working on a cruise ship, and as we rounded Cape Horn the whole idea for the story starting unrolling in front of me like a movie. I walked out of the restaurant (ignoring the shouts from the maitre d’), went down to my cabin, and wrote down everything I could remember.

Lee: On a cruise ship at Cape Horn! That must have been quite a revelation. Can you tell us a bit about the story (without giving away the ending)?

Karolyn: Fifteen-year-old Briana Ryan, and her Doctor-Who obsessed twin brother Hamish, can trace their ancestry back over a thousand years to the Welsh Princes of Powys and Deheubarth. However, there is a mysterious secret to their ancestry that they are unaware of. The appearance of a mysterious stranger who calls himself the Keeper of the Atlas leads them to embark on a desperate quest, where they find themselves fighting creatures they thought only existed in mythology. And as if that isn’t enough, the twins are also being hunted by an immortal knight who wants to prevent them from saving the world from a terrible future.

Lee: I love mythology! I can’t wait to read about the twins’ adventures. How long did it take you to write Keeper of the Atlas?

Karolyn: Ha! A couple of months to write it, and then about 10 years of editing because I kept changing things.

Lee: That is a long time. You must be very determined! Was it because it was a hard story to write?
Karolyn: The initial writing wasn’t hard. While I did do a lot of research on mythology, I am fortunate in that, unlike most authors, I don’t painstakingly plan out all the characters, plot, etc beforehand (which, the experts say, you are supposed to do). I simply sit down at a keyboard, and the story writes itself. I keep writing to find out for myself what happens. All my characters developed very strong personalities of their own early on, and no matter how much I tried to force some of them into pre-conceived ideas I had about them, they were determined to return to their own individualities.

Lee: I guess it just goes to show that if you have a good idea and strong well-developed characters, then anything is possible. But didn’t you ever get discouraged?

Karolyn TimarkosKarolyn: Writing? No. Trying to get published? Heck, yes. I was rejected by every major publisher in New Zealand, but did have a lovely hand-written note from Dame Christine Cole Catley saying “You have a wonderful style of writing that is quite unique”. She also suggested the manuscript (which has since been cut into two books) was too long for New Zealand publishers, so I tried overseas, and collected a mass of rejections from there as well. The final straw was a hand-written note from the owner of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy publishing company who said “I think your story is very well written and would sell incredibly well, but I personally don’t like science fiction or fantasy stories so will not be publishing it.” That’s when I decided to self-publish. Facebook gave me a lot of encouragement – I manage to amass nearly 200 LIKES for the first three chapters of my manuscript, and it soon became obvious that while the publishers all rejected it, the public loved the story.

Lee: It seems good stories are like inflatable pool toys, eventually they come to the surface. What advice would you give kids wanting to write?

Karolyn: Do what feels right for you. There is so much advice out there, and so much of it conflicting, that I just ignore it all and write how I want to. However, if you are serious about writing, do find a good editor. I have a Canadian author (Holly Bennett) who I use, and she is amazing. No one sees the mistakes in their own work, and there were lots in mine before Holly fixed it all up. I am also a firm believer that self-publishing is the way of the future. When you consider what publishers reject (Harry Potter – rejected 9 times, A Wrinkle in Time – rejected 26 times, Dr Seuss – 24 rejections) it is obvious that many publishers really have no idea what will make a best-seller.

Lee: So, ignore all advice and write what feels right. Thanks for sharing with us, Karolyn. We wish you every success with Keeper of the Atlas.

You can read more about the book at www.theatlaschronicles.com

If you’d like to win a copy of Karolyn Timarkos’ book, Keeper of the Atlas, send in a sentence or two about your favourite mythological creature explaining why it’s your favourite. Or you can describe a new mythological creature that you’ve made up yourself.  The usual Kids’ Blog terms and conditions will apply. I look forward to reading your responses.

Timarkos - Keeper of the Atlas cover 600

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