Keris Stainton


I 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).

It 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.


Lily 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.

You can find out more about Keris at her web site –

And, better still, you can look for her writing in several places. The following are from Amazon…

Keris Stainton author page at Amazon (US)

Esme Taylor author page at Amazon (US)

Keris Stainton author page at Amazon (UK)

Esme Taylor author page at Amazon (UK)

(Noted 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.)

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It is indeed a small world after all.

A 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 start.)

Slightly 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.)

During 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.

In 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.

I 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.

From 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.

Of 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.

Keris 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 all. See…

As 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.

It 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.

If 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 just works.)

To 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.

I 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…

Folks… Keris Stainton…

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Give 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?

A ‘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.

What are some of the noteworthy challenges for you in making decisions, working on projects, and getting your works to publication?

It’s 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.

From 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?

First 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.

As 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 my imagination.

I 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?

It 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.

For 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 true-to-life.

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?

No 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?

It 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?

Wow. What a question!

It’s 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!).

As 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 extremely lucky.

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?

Ha! 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?

I 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.

Currently 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?

Everything’s on my website, but you can pretty much always find me on Twitter @keris.

As for what’s coming up... not sure yet. There are a few different and exciting things on the horizon, but nothing confirmed yet.

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Every 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 those times.

Keris 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.

I 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.)

Look for her online…

Keris Stainton

Keris Stainton at Twitter (@keris)

Keris Stainton author page at Amazon (US)

Esme Taylor author page at Amazon (US)

Keris Stainton author page at Amazon (UK)

Esme Taylor author page at Amazon (UK)

Keris Stainton at Barnes & Noble

Keris participates in “A Harry Potter special” at In My Backpack

Keris participates in “Harry Potter revisited” at In My Backpack

The links for published works focused on US and UK sources. There are others. (I checked. Just looking at Amazon: Canada… Australia… Spain…)

I thank her for all of her assistance, and really look forward to the next time our paths will cross…

The 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 her permission.

If you have any comments or questions, please e-mail me at