am proud and honored to refer to Keris as a friend. We’ve never
met in person, but we’ve exchanged e-mails over the years, she’s
been kind enough to participate in multiple projects here at In
My Backpack, and through the wonders of the internet and
her published writing I’ve been able to share occasional snippets
from her life such as seeing her children grow a bit (while enjoying
the experiences and observations of the two boys along the way).
gives me tremendous pleasure to share this effort with you, and
I am grateful for all of her time and assistance in preparing
it. As we get started, I want to point you in the direction of
some of her work.
and the Christmas Wish and All I Want for Christmas
are two recent releases for Keris. In addition to several titles
published under her own name, to date she also has two works with
the nom de plume of Esme Taylor.
can find out more about Keris at her web site – www.keris-stainton.com
better still, you can look for her writing in several places.
The following are from Amazon…
Stainton author page at Amazon (US)
Taylor author page at Amazon (US)
Stainton author page at Amazon (UK)
Taylor author page at Amazon (UK)
here are her author pages at Amazon US and UK. Her books can
also be found on Amazon sites and with other retailers around
the world. Check for her on the one that works best for you.)
~ ~ ~
is indeed a small world after all.
small, getting smaller, wondrous, funny, unpredictable, thrilling
world. I am happy to say the advancement of technology that in
many ways is shrinking said world is also very much responsible
for my introduction to Keris. It has also led to her exploration
of various writing outlets, and allowed me to follow her work
over the years. (But I’m jumping a bit ahead of where we should
more than ten years ago, I became aware of an annual writing challenge
that takes place during the month of November. It isn’t designed
to offer prizes or produce any type of competition in a traditional
sense. Instead, at its foundation, it has been intended as a way
to kick a writer toward the path of personal accomplishment. (You
can learn more about National
Novel Writing Month on your own, if you wish.)
those early days for me with the NaNoWriMo challenge, I took some
time to try and learn about some of the other participants. An
e-mail here, a reply there, and you now have the story of how
Keris and I met.
fact, that’s the entire story. Because we have never met in person.
Funny things happen though. And over the years, we have managed
to stay in touch.
live in the northeast US. Keris resides in the UK. Since those
early introductions—and thanks to blogs, e-mails, and more—I have
had the great pleasure of reading about many of her accomplishments.
I have seen pictures of her boys (and her husband), heard some
brilliant stories of their adventures, and seen a bit of the world
through their eyes. I have smiled, cheered and applauded as she
published her writing.
her early days, and by early we are including the courtship of
her parents, Keris is truly a lady of international distinction.
Her mum and dad corresponded across the Atlantic, between England
and America. Upon mum’s return to the UK, they married and pretty
quickly moved to Canada. It is in the great frozen north of Winnipeg
that Keris joins their story. She was born in Canada, and the
group moved back to England well before her first birthday.
the many writers I have met, a common theme seems to be found
in an interesting duality. In the simplest of explanations, many
tend to be shy in person with the written word serving as the
primary expressive voice. Writing is a way to develop and share
thoughts with others, and not so small an attempt to interact.
There may not be as much to say in person, especially during first
meetings, but place a keyboard in front of a writer and they’ll
gladly ramble on for hours.
at times shares a similar approach to the world, and notes being
incredibly shy especially when she was growing up. She recalls
keeping journals and writing fanfiction as a teenager, and cannot
recall a time when she wasn’t writing something. Now, the internet
has given her the freedom to try creating in almost limitless
ways as a writer… often crossing genres, investigating tales with
foundations in non-fiction and fiction material, and posting or
publishing in a variety of places. While some outlets have produced
more material than others, and some have paid better than others,
the reality is I think Keris would admit that she’s loved them
a writer, Keris gets to look around the corners of every spot
she finds interesting. If she is laughing at her boys while they
play, that occasionally becomes something to share. When she wakes
up and remembers a dream, or gazes out the windows lost in a moment,
that can provide the start of new character. When she thinks of
her mum… travels… curls up with a good book from one of her favorite
authors… Keris is appreciating every moment of the ride, and looking
for ways to express her thoughts and share the journey.
was NaNoWriMo that first moved her to writing the draft of a novel.
While that effort hasn’t been published (or, she admits, more
accurately hasn’t been finished), several others since have been
released. The first was Della says: OMG!, which came
out in 2010. Since that time, she has produced several titles
that fall into the YA area (including Jessie Hearts NYC
and Counting Stars), and is rapidly moving from an author
to watch to an established presence in the field. She has also
written using the name Esme Taylor, and has offered two collections
of observations from her sons.
a single word could be applied to Keris and her writing, I’m a
bit stumped about using anything other than charming. (I’ve tried.
You need something that captures the comfort between friendly
and polite, with a twinkle in the eye and a smile that implies
ever so slight and innocent excursions over the I-ought-not-to
line, wrapped in a blanket with a delightful mug of tea. Charming
bring a summation in words that I’ve seen her use, but don’t believe
she’s ever connected in this way… funnily enough, I’m gobsmacked
she agreed to participate in this project. I’m also quite pleased
to be sharing it with you.
cannot encourage you enough to find Keris and support her efforts.
She is endearing, witty and enthusiastic. Every request I’ve extended
to her has been met with more time and kindness than I deserve
(or could ever repay). And honestly… her work is enjoyable and
worthy of your attention. For now…
~ ~ ~
me a great story about how you got started. (Here’s the thing…
I don’t want to start off with a generic question about how you
got started or the things that interested you in writing. And,
fascinated as I may be to hear more, I don’t think bringing up
Mr. Corbett right now will do the trick. You and I—while not knowing
each other as face-to-face friends—have worked on a couple of
things for my site before (and thank you again for that). I’ve
also followed you and your progression into writing professionally,
along with balancing that with the challenges and rewards of family
life. I absolutely KNOW there has to be a different story there
(in fact, likely several), even though I have no clue what. A
story you haven’t shared… a passion or dream that was fulfilled…
the connection with others in the writing world… working with
and meeting people you’ve admired… and so on. So… never before
shared, and something that maybe you always wanted someone to
ask about…) How did you get started?
‘how I got started’ story. Well I got started writing novels -
or trying to - when my husband said I should write a book about
the weirdos I was working with at the time. And that, as Oprah
would say, was my ‘lightbulb moment’. Of course I should write
a book! I couldn’t believe I’d never thought of it before. Because
- and here’s how I got started with writing - I used to write
fanfiction ALL THE TIME. It wasn’t called fanfiction back then,
pre-internet, but that’s exactly what it was. I mostly wrote about
Wham!, but with some Duran Duran and probably a bit of Spandau
Ballet here and there. I wrote all the time. In the evenings I
would sit with my family in front of the TV, but I was writing
in my notebooks the whole time. It was as if I was keeping a diary
for someone with a much more interesting life than my own. When
I left home, I destroyed every single notebook and I still regret
it. I’m sure the stories were pretty terrible, but I’d still kind
of love an insight into the way my mind worked back then. The
interesting thing for me now is that I’ve recently started reading
fanfiction (One Direction fanfiction, in fact) and I adore it.
Plus there’s so much interesting stuff being done - more interesting
than in mainstream fiction in a lot of ways. Reading it reminds
me of why I loved writing so much as a teen and it inspires me
to try to keep that level of engagement and excitement and just
plain fun in my novels.
are some of the noteworthy challenges for you in making decisions,
working on projects, and getting your works to publication?
hard to answer this because just reading the question made the
inside of my head go a bit screamy. I guess the most noteworthy
challenge is that I will do a LOT of stuff to get out of doing
any work at all. I recently read a quote from Mindy Kaling in
which she said she probably does about one hour’s work to every
seven hours of messing about and I think that may be about the
same for me… on a good day. So my biggest challenge is getting
out of my own way and getting the work done. At every stage.
any of the numerous projects in fiction to writing about your
boys to your Mum’s Suitcase… I love how diverse your writing is
(and frankly, jealous would work as a description of how brilliant
and widespread your efforts are), and also how you aren’t afraid
to work in different outlets with those ideas. From blogs to books
to teaching – do you ever surprise yourself with how some of your
ideas develop and ultimately get presented?
of all, thank you! That’s very kind of you to say, particularly
since I never really feel like I’m doing enough. I’d love to do
a book of Mum’s Suitcase, for example, but there’s just never
enough time and I can never quite decide what to focus on. One
thing that has surprised me this year is how a few ongoing, long-term
projects have come to fruition at the same time – I’ve had three
books published this year, which basically means that in the five
years I've been a professional writer, I'll have almost doubled
my output in one year.
for diverse ideas... I get bored easily. And I’m interested in
lots of different things. I suspect my agent despairs because
one day I’m saying I want to write a picture book and the next
I’m sending her a pitch for an oral history of boybands. But that,
for me, is a big part of the fun of being a writer - I can just
follow whatever I’m interested in at the time, anything that captures
know you’ve done research for some of your stories by actually
heading to a specific city. How important is it to be familiar
with a place when you specifically name it as the location in
the story? Is it a situation where it really depends? (Since some
books can actually make a city a true character that is vital
to the tale, while for others it’s a secondary concept where the
location really could be anywhere but it just so happens that
you gave it a real name.) Or, for you, do you find that it really
does matter knowing some of the street names, the popular styles
of restaurants, and how many benches are located along the main
path in the park?
definitely depends. When I wrote Emma Hearts LA, I had
to go to LA (poor me) because I didn’t have an idea of it in my
head. New York I can write from memory and from film and TV and
Google Maps, etc., but LA is so huge and sprawling and doesn’t
even really seem to have a centre. I started the book before the
research trip, but I really struggled. I was only there for three
days, but I don’t know that I could have written the book if I
hadn’t have gone. Pretty much everything I did in those three
days is in the book. Plus I had a brilliant time.
other books, I’m happy enough with a general idea. Starring
Kitty, for example, is set in a fictional seaside town. The
only reason it’s fictional is because I based it on the town I
grew up in - New Brighton - but put back some stuff that’s no
longer there, like the pier. I do find it helpful to be able to
wander around places online - Google Street View is so brilliant
- but I try not to get too bogged down in making it all perfectly
More to the point of research, how much advance work do
you do for your stories? Do you have maps and charts and plans
for things when you first sit down, or, are you happy to come
up with a good idea and then just let the characters and situations
take you along on the journey they want to follow?
maps, no plans, nope. I will sometimes have a photo collage or
Pinterest board. And lately I’ve been making a playlist. But I
generally sit down with nothing and see what happens. It’s not
the most efficient way of working, I don’t think, but it’s the
way that works best for me. I think...
Distractions – every writer faces distractions. What kind
of a schedule do you keep for yourself when you’re writing? Is
it a chapter, or a word count, for each day? And how do you stay
focused when the greatest program ever is on the television or
the kids want to play?
changes all the time. Last year, I set myself a target of 1000
words every weekday because I had a lot of things I wanted to
write. This year a lot of the stuff I wrote last year has gone
through edits and copyedits, etc., which means I haven’t really
written anything new. I’ve just started - in the past couple of
weeks - writing a page a day, which is not very much, but doesn’t
“spook” me into not writing anything at all. As for staying focussed...
I don’t really. One of the joys of this job is that I don’t have
to do it every day, that I can take a day off if the sun’s shining
and my kids want to go to the park.
This is a strange question… but it’s something I find myself fascinated
by lately, and it’s basically, simply, women. For me, it’s strange,
because I generally don’t look at the author of a book, the lead
actor in a movie, the musician presenting a song, with any type
of label. If you write a book that interests me… I’ll read it.
If I think your movie is brilliant… I’ll tell others to go see
it. And if a favorite song you performed comes on the radio… I’ll
sing it (albeit, I’ll be quite off key). I’d like to think it’s
about quality… and I’m not so naïve as to believe that the
world is fair and works that way. Have you encountered any obstacles…
or, to the other side, felt any special support or sense of community…
as a female writer?
What a question!
so interesting because I would love to be able to look at an author/actor/musician
and not think about it, but I do think about it because so often
they are male. So often I’ll be quite a way into a film before
I realise I haven’t heard a woman speak yet. I remember watching
a music awards show and suddenly realising that every single nominee
was male. And I think it’s one of those things that once you become
aware of it, you notice it more and more. I remember someone describing
it as “like turning on ‘reveal codes’ in Word” (if you’re old
enough to remember that!).
for my own experience, well, children’s publishing is interesting
because it’s overwhelmingly female. Lots of women working in publishing.
Lots of women writing books for children and teens. And yet. The
top jobs tend to be held by men. And men dominate award shortlists.
And when male authors write the type of books that female authors
have been writing for YEARS, they are heralded as “the saviour
of YA”. So that’s tedious. On the other side though - feeling
special support or sense of community - absolutely. Enormously.
It’s my favourite thing about writing YA. I have made so many
brilliant, supportive, feminist, funny, women friends. I feel
I love the way that, on your site, you talk about how
regardless of how much one may search there is no magic advice
that allows anyone to write a book. Or, in your words describing
your personal quest: “Turns out there isn’t a secret. You just
have to do it.” I’m going to ask anyway. What advice would you
offer to someone that wants to pursue writing in some fashion?
Well I think the most important thing is to read. And read widely.
Read the kind of stuff you want to write and read the kind of
stuff you’d never think about writing. And then write whatever
you want. Don’t worry about the market or whether people will
want to read it. Just write something that interests and engages
you - then, even if it doesn’t go anywhere, at least you’ll have
enjoyed the process.
I know this one will be tough – mainly because you don’t
want to leave anyone out – I’m wondering about your favorite current
writers. Who are they? And what are you reading now?
absolutely adore Rainbow Rowell. I’ve loved every single one of
her books - she writes YA and adult - and my name’s in the most
recent one (Carry On), which makes me very proud. I also
love Sophia Bennett’s books a lot – she’s got a new one coming
out next year, Love Song, and I can’t wait. I love Susie
Day’s MG books - the Pea series is just full of joy. My all-time
favourite writer is Armistead Maupin. I still cannot believe the
characters from Tales of the City aren’t real. I love
them more than some family members.
reading Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Non-fiction about
living a creative life. I love her writing. Her novel, The
Signature of All Things is one of my favourite books of all
time. I’ve also just started a YA novel coming out early next
year, Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Megan, and I’m
loving it so far.
A two-part wrap up – First… How can people find your work
and follow your efforts? And second… What projects are coming
up from you in the near future?
on my website www.keris-stainton.com,
but you can pretty much always find me on Twitter @keris.
for what’s coming up... not sure yet. There are a few different
and exciting things on the horizon, but nothing confirmed yet.
~ ~ ~
so often, you get to say thank you to a person that has offered
you time and support on a number of occasions. This is one of
is an absolutely delightful person with a wonderful appreciation
for life. It is simply impossible to look around her web site,
have experienced her blog, or in any way encounter her efforts
and not be impressed by her sunny personality and ability to smile.
It is gloriously infectious.
want to invite you to check out Keris for yourself. (Seriously…
if you want to smile, check out this Twitter post from November
29, 2015: “I’ve got two Xmas books out. One has sexytimes, one
a talking pug.”… references to sexytimes and talking pugs. Awesome.)
for her online…
Stainton at Twitter (@keris)
Stainton author page at Amazon (US)
Taylor author page at Amazon (US)
Stainton author page at Amazon (UK)
Taylor author page at Amazon (UK)
Stainton at Barnes & Noble
participates in “A Harry Potter special” at In My Backpack
participates in “Harry Potter revisited” at In My Backpack
links for published works focused on US and UK sources. There
are others. (I checked. Just looking at Amazon: Canada… Australia…
thank her for all of her assistance, and really look forward to
the next time our paths will cross…
images you see in this article have been provided by Keris Stainton.
All rights to these belong to Keris, and she has approved their
use on my site. They cannot be used for any other purpose without