Hello bloggers & welcome to another edition of #FeatureFriday! Today, it’s my pleasure to have Author Suzy Davies join us. We’ll be discussing her latest children’s book, THE GIRL IN THE RED CAPE.
1. A key question when talking to any author about his/her book… What inspired this story?
I have always loved the work of Charles Perrault, and thought about the tale of “Little Red Riding Hood” a great deal. I asked myself how I could craft Red Riding Hood so that she would be a memorable modern heroine. I envisioned a red cape flying through the snow …
As a child, I used to go horse-riding. I thought about making Stella a horsy young girl, but I couldn’t remember ever seeing wolves on treks in England. Foxes, yes, and Ravens! They could be characters in my book.
Then came the Aha! Moment. Yes, of course – The Junior Iditarod, in Alaska. There, they had wolves. I chatted with Anna Stephan, winner of The Junior Iditarod , 2019, who helped me a great deal with factual detail in my story, so the fairy tale is based in reality. Then, I started to write.
My memories of horse riding also helped me create the lively action and the twists and turns of the race. I drew on my experiences of hiking in the wilds of Cornwall one snowy winter to visualize the different kinds of snow the mushers encounter. In my mind’s eye, I could see vast, snowy skies. I literally shuddered with the thought of winter whilst I began writing in the summer of a sunny Florida.
My studies in Social Psychology at university, and my knowledge that The Inuit had many words for different kinds of snow inspired me to create the character of the wilderness. I was also inspired to create the aloof, nature-loving Alaskan Inuit, Tom, who is Stella and Billy’s brother in the book.
My studies of Jung informed my creation of archetypes in the fairy story, in particular, the magical shape-shifting grandmother, Grannie-Can-Do. The music, “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy,” gave me the twinkly aspects of her personality. I remembered the grandmother in the popular t.v series, “Bewitched.” And I must confess, Grannie-Can-Do in the tale has elements of “Mary Poppins” – a warm loving character. I have to say, they are also the fun elements of my late mum’s personality. It was my own mum who created a red cape a small child wanted for a fancy dress party, the memories of which would last a lifetime. Ariana, the mother in the tale is a seamstress, and my own mum spent hours sewing at her very own Singer sewing machine …
The image of the red cape in a window – just a glow to the Alaskan Inuit Tom, was conjured from my memories of warm, bright windows in the neighborhood during Christmas back home.
Hans Christian Andersen’s, “The Snow Queen,” helped me with the atmosphere of the tale.
The wonderful film, “Dances with Wolves,” stimulated my imagination about the wolf characters, and their relationship with Man. I thought back to my childhood pet, “Robin,” a very docile spaniel with slobbering jaws and floppy ears. Was there anything in him that resembled a wolf? I remembered the one occasion he had growled, really loud, and bared his teeth …
My idea for featuring a dog guarding a smoke-shed with salmon came from reality; my memory of visiting Whitby in England. There, one fall, I was walking along the coast when I spied a little cottage with kippers smoking in a shed. In real life, there was no dog guarding it, however. As I was writing the book I transported myself back there in my imagination. All that was different was England became Alaska, a dog appeared and the kippers were salmon!
Billy’s clever improvisation of a sling in the tale came from the real life story of when my dad rescued an injured lamb on a hillside in Wales. We were hiking, and we saw this lamb, with a broken leg. Dad ripped off his shirt, used a strong branch of a tree to make a splint, and the sleeve of his shirt became a sling. So it was easy for me to imagine.
The aerial views of the race from a light aircraft were easy to write given my travels by plane.I always ask for a window seat.
I read factual logs of The Junior Iditarod Trail, newspaper articles and books to give me as complete a vision as possible of Alaska, Mushers and dog-sledding, so that although our book is a fantasy fairytale adventure, it draws on real life.
The illustrator for our book, Michele Bourke, gave me the idea to create a mysterious element of the tale based on the Alaskan Triangle.
2. Your love of the outdoors brings us to the snowy lands of Alaska, a far stretch from your home in Florida. Have you ever visited the state known as the Last Frontier?
No, never, but I would love to!
3. Your book is a retelling of Little Red Riding Hood and features a modern-day heroine in Stella. Please share with us your process for character creation.
The first idea was visual – the red cape and the red hair flowing in the snowy breeze. Then, I dreamt up a name. Stella’s full name is Stella Honor Chapman. Her first name I chose because Stella means “star.” Her middle name speaks of her character and her will to be the best possible musher she can be. Her family name, Chapman, initially came from the memory of a lovely boss I had when I worked at a dress shop whilst still at school. It fitted perfectly because it translates from the French, “chapeau” or hat.
I saw Stella as having the potential to be a formidable woman, but someone who was just on the threshold of adulthood. I thought back to my own childhood, and my feelings of shyness as a young teen. And I remembered that when I started to accomplish things, all my fears seemed to melt away. I gave Stella these traits, and I made her the first born. I gave her a likeable brother who looked out for her – something priceless!
I saw Stella as a late developer, but a natural leader.
In the story, although Billy feels confident about his abilities just before the race, Stella worries about Billy and his progress during the race.
The relationship between Stella and Billy is warm and endearing. I wanted to show how sibling affection and closeness can insulate you against all the trials and obstacles you may face in life. Brother and sister share secrets and laugh together. Of course, they have differences in how they see the world. I have memories of childhood friends who had very close, positive relationships with their brothers.
I saw Grannie-Can-Do as a kind of mediator in my work. It is the memories of her lessons and her words that unite Billy and Stella as they share and grow.
There is a love interest in the story, and I hope I have captured the first dawnings of love between Stella and Nigel in the glow of firelight, under starry Alaskan skies. Of course, I have made any romance sweet and innocent as the virgin snow, and Stella is self-effacing and modest.
We see Stella grow in stature, to overcome her nervousness and shyness, emerging as a likeable but flawed, very human heroine who conquers the challenges of the Alaskan wilderness and captures people’s hearts.
4. Do you have a certain writing spot or maybe a specific atmosphere that helps in inspiring ideas?
I think back to the snowy England and Wales of my childhood days and the different kinds of snow I used to see each winter. The memory of one Christmas, when snow was so high it covered cars, helped me visualize the steep wall of snow on the “rainbow road” to Yentna Station on The Junior Iditarod Race. Snow always takes me back to places of my childhood. I think it’s because it makes everything look so bright, new and sparkling. It creates an atmosphere of excitement and wonder. E.B White, a writer whose work I greatly admire, emphasized the importance of seeing things through a child’s eyes, and to always be “on the lookout” for wonder.
5. Have you ever battled writer’s block? If so, what’s your advice for pushing thru it?
No, not really. I may choose not to write for an hour or two if I am not in a good mood for any reason. But it never lasts for long. I write every day.
6. What are your favorite marketing tactics?
I just post my books on social media, write poems and articles, and do radio shows and interviews when I can.
7. You have written some incredible children’s books, filled with beautiful illustrations, but what is your favorite genre to read?
My favorite genre is children’s books. After that, I love YA. I enjoy self-help books about leadership and mindfulness. I like to keep up to date with new releases written by Indie authors and with modern Classics.
8. Lastly, Suzy, what can we be anxiously waiting on next from you?
I’m currently working on three children’s’ books. All will be revealed …
There you have it! A deeper look into the mind of a very talented author. You can check out her other visits by clicking one of these links: 3.25.17 or 11.30.18. You can also find her and her other books online: Twitter, Amazon, Website.
Until next time………… Happy Reading! ❤