Today I’m proud to introduce Nancy Bell, author of the YA book Laurel’s Miracle. I chose to interview Nancy because Laurel’s Miracle struck me as a beautiful concept-but I’ll let the interview speak for itself.
1. Can you tell us a bit about your book, Laurel’s Miracle?
Laurel’s Miracle is the story of thirteen year old girl’s journey to find a cure for her mother’s illness. There are many levels to this theme, during the course of her quest she learns many things about herself and the world around her. The children in the story deal with bullying and abuse, but they also discover the magic which exists in the world around us. The crux of Laurel’s quest is she must solve a riddle given to her by a White Lady she meets at a spring, there are many ancient and sacred springs, wells and pools in Cornwall which is where the story takes place. The riddle’s clues lead them along the earth energy lines that run across SW England from St Michael’s Mount to East Anglia. The lines are called The Michael and Mary lines, with the Michael line being the more famous of the two. They follow the clues from Mounts Bay (St. Michael’s Mount) to the Cheesewring on Bodmin Moor to Glastonbury Tor. There are lots of adventures and mythical creatures who make an appearance, a Selkie, which is a shape shifter who is either human or seal, they can be male or female, in Ireland they are called Roans, a Cornish piskie named Gwin Scawen which is Old Cornish for White Eldertree, he is very mischevious and plays a major role in the story. I have also incorporated the stories of a sea monster seen off the Cornish coast and he plays a small but important role. A Cornish giant makes a cameo appearance. There is tons of educational information threaded through the novel so readers will absorb the knowledge as part of the story. While it is geared primarily to the Middle Grade audience, there are plenty of layers which will capture the imagination of readers of any age.
2. When and how did you decide you wanted to become a writer?
I don’t think I did decide. I have always written, even when I was very young I would scribble silly stories and poetry, whatever words came into my head. Somehow, it seemed very important that I capture my thoughts on paper. I have no idea where that notion sprang from.
3. Can you tell us a bit about your poetry and how you started writing poems?
Poetry is a way to share my view of the world, I tend to see beauty and magic in any situation. I write mainly nature poetry and spiritual stuff, but not all. Some of it is just silly whimsy, but if it makes you smile then I’m happy. I write poetry mostly for myself, to capture a vision or a moment in time, if others enjoy it that’s a bonus for me. I wrote April Earth while I was walking the dogs, the plowed field was steaming in the spring sun while the snow still covered the hills. I wrote- I saw the earth breathe today… and the poem wrote itself from there. It was published in the ezine Earthsongs and is included in my self published book of poetry Through This Door. I self published it because no one is going to get rich from a book of poetry and I wanted to share my words with whoever wished to read them.
4. What advice would you give to a writer trying to write a middle grade or YA novel?
Advice would be, remember never to preach, speak with a voice which is appropriate for your target audience and try to avoid the ‘hip phrases’ as it will date your work. No teenager today wants to read a book full of “groovy” and “dude” even though in the 1960’s that was cool. Opps, now I’ve really dated myself, haven’t I?
5. How do you help yourself get back into the voice of a kid?
Oh my, I don’t think I ever quit being a kid. I listen to my grandchildren and kids in the mall as well, people watching is a great source of information and inspiration.
6. What has your path to publication looked like?
I was very lucky to have my first poems and some short stories published in the local newspaper when I was in grade school and throughout high school. I wrote lectures for Pony Club on horse care and some were published by a major publication which was a thrill. Laurel’s Miracle is my first long novel to be contracted and I am very excited about it.
7. What was the happiest moment of your writing career?
The first time I got a cheque in the mail for one of my stories. And surprisingly when I wrote the chapter that connected the pieces of Laurel’s Miracle together. I have always written in order, each chapter following the next, with Laurel my Muse would jump all over the place and I wrote the last chapter while I was part way through the story. It took me six hours straight but I just couldn’t stop until it all came out.
8. Other than writing, what interests you most?
I love horses and have always had them, I do some rehabilitation with rescue dogs and special needs horses. I love discovering the mysteries that lay right under our feet.
9. What are you reading right now?
I’m reading “Hamish Miller, A Life Devined” This is the story of Hamish Miller renowned dowser and co-author of the book The Sun and The Serpent which I discovered while researching Laurel. I had some questions so I emailed the publisher, Penwith Press and to my delight Hamish himself emailed me back. He was an amazing man and started a movement called Parallel Community which has members worldwide, the aim is to honor the earth and change the way the world is by starting with ourselves.
10. What are you working on that readers have to look forward to?
In December 2011 A Step Sideways will be released from MuseItUp Publishing. This book is a companion book to Laurel and has some of the same characters. The main character in A Step Sideways is Gort from Laurel’s Miracle and a journey within which he takes in search of his true self. It sounds stuffy when I say that, you can be sure there is lots of action and humor. Gort takes a step sideways in time and discovers he is Sir Gawain, one of King Arthur’s knights. His horse, Ailim is my editor’s favorite thing in the whole book. The names have meanings, you can read more at my website www.nancymbell.ca. Gort in particular is the name associated with the Ivy in the Celtic Tree Ogham and is associated with the spiral of discovery of self and finding your place and how you relate to the world. That is very much the journey which my character takes. Aillim means Silver Fir, the horse is a large gray war charger and so the name fits. I am also working on the story of Laurel’s grandmother, once you have read Laurel’s Miracle it will be clear why that story will be most interesting and address some unanswered questions from the subplot. I had the great pleasure of meeting with Jack Whyte at the Surrey International Writers Confernce last October when he read a short piece from A Step Sideways, it was a fight scene with the knights and horses and I really wanted an experts opinion on the fighting. Horse behaviour I know, fighting with swords and whatnot not so much. I was ecstactic when Jack gave it his approval. Definitely a high light.
Bio: Nancy Bell is proud Albertan, horsewoman, wife, mother and grandmother. She lives on a farm near Balzac, Alberta with her husband, five horses, two ponies, various dogs, cats and whatever else happens to wander into the yard. Nancy’s first poems and short stories were published while still in grade school and she won the 2009 Earthsongs Bardic Competition. Nancy works as an editor with MuseItUp Publishing a new Canadian epublisher where she enjoys the excitement of working with authors in the creative process. She also enjoys writing poetry and short stories. Nancy welcomes feedback from her readers and can be contacted at email@example.com