An Interview with Kamilla Reid, author of The Questory of Root Karbunkulus
Photo of Kamilla Reid borrowed from Author's Den.
[explanatory notes added by interviewer in brackets]
BF: Tell us about the book.
KR: It's a teen fantasy that's kinda like 'magic meets the great amazing race'! The first item up for grabs is the Miist of Kalliope, apparently some dead magician's elixir. No prob. But wait. Out of hundreds of teams, there are only six of these Miists to be found? Leaving only six teams left to go after the next item? Then five, four, three, two…whoa...this could get ugly....hmmm...compete and win...or go back to exfoliating those hard, crusted entities called Auntie Octavia's feet? Root Karbunkulus accepts the invitation. It will be a race of many, many hated things. But it will also be a contest of courage, friendship and the rising of soul. Within it Root will learn the terrifying truth behind the mysterious items. She will also discover, to her horror that she is not a player in an innocent kid’s race but a pawn in a vicious adult game.
BF: The cover of Root Karbunkulus is absolutely beautiful, as are the illustrations within the book. Who did the artwork and how did you locate an artist to work with (or is it your own design)?
KR: I used to be the resident writer/director of a theatre company and my set designer, Matthew Brett was also an artist (often the case!). So, I thought of him right away. After he read the manuscript, we got together often to discuss the characters and then he'd go away and bring something back and we'd hone it more. It was a thrill to collaborate like this! Then, when I was developing the website, the technicians were kind of stumped for location images that they could work with so I got Matthew to sketch locations and they were so awesome they just had to be put in the book.
BF: Did you work with an artist/web designer to create your website or did you do that on your own?
KR: Oh no, I could never in a million years do what they did. But I had a good idea of what I wanted. So, I researched several web developers and they were really, really....well, dull. They'd been too long in the business or something and were just too corporate. So, finally I met with 350 Designs and they were these 20 year old self professed computer geeks who were like "Cool, man! This'll be awesome! We can do this and this and ...." And then I knew I had the right pulse. It took months to get it done but in the end it was just amazing. And it has been a real key feature for readers who want to interact once they read the book. The music was total serendipity! In the theatre I wrote lots of musicals and I showed my book trailer to my music producer friend, Marcel Hamel. Right away he showed it to Alan Gililand, who was the Composer in Residence for our symphony and was wanting a way to move into film soundtracks. It was all just ridiculously perfect! So, in the end he composed a full scale orchestrated soundtrack for....$200!! I'll never forget when they played it for me for the first time. There I was in the coffee shop with headphones on bawling my head off! I was so blown away.
BF: I googled you because I'm a curious chick, and found that you have already sold over 1000 copies of Root Karbunkulus. That's pretty substantial. Apart from the internet, how are you going about self-promotion?
KR: Most of my sales were the result of my school book tour. I wanted to make it more than just a reading. I wanted to make it an exciting theatrical experience for the kids. So, I played the trailer on the big screen and I entered in the dark with a long, red Valador cloak ["The Valadors" is the chosen name for Root's team of 3 on the quest] and just a lantern to light my way. I used Matthew's pictures on a power point and had a Q and A session with really cool prizes of Valador dogtags and Chorm [chocolate drink, the description of which makes Bookfool drool] kits that my friend and I had spent way too many late nights making :) I think that it's so important for an author to connect with his/her readers, in a fun way, not to sell but to share. Because, in the end, that is what sells. I absolutely love doing the readings. I love the interaction with the kids and feel like everything I've done in my life has led to this. It's been just wonderful!
BF: What's your favorite color toque? [Sneaky way to insert the word "toque", my favorite Canadian word]
KR: LOL, that's funny! Well, I love my daughter's jester looking toque in rainbow colors. It's pretty nifty :)
BF: Do you have any special rituals or routine for your writing?
KR: I write early, early in the morning. Stupid early. And when I'm kind of stumped, I take a bath. But then it sucks because the ideas get flowing again and then I have to keep getting out, soaking wet and jotting them down. It took me awhile before I realized I just had to bring a pad of paper in with me :)
BF: There are 6 items to be found on the quest and the Miist of Kalliope is the only item covered in the first book. Have you already written the other 5 books?
KR: They're not written yet but they're all plotted. Before I even started book one I had to work out every major plot point and every main character’s arc for all six books first. Sometimes I have no idea what the event specifically will be, only that something has to occur that will plunge so-and-so into emotional turmoil or great joy or even death…that sort of thing. But, yeah, I've got the whole thing swarming around in my brain.
BF: When will the next book in the series be released?
KR: I am hoping this fall....fingers crossed!
BF: Do you have any pets? If so, how many and what kind/breed? Do they help you with your work (lie at your feet, climb on the keyboard, etc.)?
KR: I've got two dogs and you'll probably get a kick out of this; their names are Stogie and Hana...hee hee. Yes, they were the basis of the Hovermutts. [Hovermutts are a mode of transport on Dre'Amm.] I love dogs to death. Stogie sleeps in his little bed at my feet whenever I write and Hana holds down the fort from under the dining room table. Here they are....aaawwwwww! Gush, gush!
[Bookfool stops to send virtual head-pats.]
BF: In the video previously mentioned, the interviewer asks you about the fact that you're a single mother and makes a comparison to J.K.Rowling's Harry Potter series. Root's quest is a fantasy and your first book and Rowling was also a single mother at the time she wrote Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but that seems to be about all you have in common since Root's story is quite different and you were already apparently successful as a writer. What made you decide to write a book and what other writing have you done?
KR: I had always wanted to write books but I was just too chicken. I found my way comfortably in theatre as a performer and then writer and director and this was very fulfilling for awhile. I had the idea for DréAmm, the location for my book many, many years ago and at the time wrote it as a musical. But I never really liked the feel of it in this format. It felt limited. Plus, I hadn’t quite come into the ‘hook’ yet, that thing that made me go “yes, this is it!” It wasn’t until years later when I caught a snippet of that TV reality show “The Amazing Race” that I finally got that ‘aha!’ moment. I loved the idea of teams of kids all racing against each other in a glorified kind of scavenger hunt to find something very, very important. DréAmm then became a magical land where virtually anything could happen. That’s when the main character, Root Karbunkulus just showed up and showed me around. Of course then the plot got really got good with all sorts of agendas going on, personal and otherwise. In the end, the name ‘DréAmm’ stayed but everything else was ditched. Around this same time I was leaving the theatre. The constant restriction of budgets wore on me and I just couldn’t treadmill out another 6-person musical. I was also facing a new role as Single Mum. All in all, the perfect combination for finally doing that thing that you promised yourself that you would do but never did.
BF: My absolute favorite creation was the Dre'Amm phone system. Is that wishful thinking on your part? I ask because I'd certainly love it if AT&T were to come up with a phone that showed my husband in miniature when he called home from some exotic location (he travels to really terrific places without me).
KR: Oh yeah! I just thought that it would be such an awesome way to communicate! I had a lot of fun with that idea :)
BF: The cast of characters in Root Karbunkulus is pretty large, as is the number of creatures that they encounter. Would you consider adding things like a map, a cast of characters and list of creatures in future books?
KR: I put a really detailed list of all the characters and beasts on the website but, yeah I still think, with so many of them a companion guide would be useful. But someone else would have to do the maps. I'm terrible at that, always forgetting how I got somewhere and getting lost. A lot like Geckerling Pint running into the same Oxbush over and over again. But as the books continue, it will be easier as we focus more and more on the main characters. The first book, as in the first act of a play, seems to always be the most expository.
BF: Dre'Amm is not a perfect place -- in fact, it seems to be battling a curse. I think that's one of the characteristics of the novel that I liked the most about the book. If you had a choice, would you live in Dre'Amm or on Earth?
KR: Hmmm...that's a toughy. In so many ways DréAmm is Earth at its best, the flowers, trees, water, everything is more pure and vivid in sight, taste and smell. But then there is this magic that seems so volatile in DréAmm. Hmmmm...gosh, y'know I guess I would have to say...DréAmm...but only if I could have my daughter and my 'Hovers" and my mum and George Clooney there, too :)
BF: What's your favorite place on Earth?
KR: I have a dream of one day living in my garden house in the mountains on a beautiful lake with crisp scented pines and soft, soft grass. That is one of my favorite places.
BF: How long did it take you to write Root Karbunkulus?
KR: Well, after I got the inspiration from the "Race", I took off with it. Every morning at 4:30 or 5 I'd go at it. It took about three months. But as every writer knows writing is re-writing and so in the end it took about a year.
BF: Please list a few favorite books and authors.
KR: Oh gosh, how to pick. Well, for children's books I love, love, loved Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Now, I really love Angie Sage's Septimus series. In adult fiction I love Terry Pratchett and I really enjoyed Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Love, Pray recently.
BF: Have any of your favorite authors influenced your work? If so, how?
KR: I have to say JK Rowling influenced me, not necessarily her writing, even though I loved the Harry Potter series, but because at the time I could relate to her single motherhood situation and that really gave me the boost I needed.
Great answers, Kamilla! Thank you for taking the time to share with us and good luck with your book!
Next up: A review of Anne of Green Gables (hopefully, a brief one -- still working on the brevity issue, obviously).
I hope to return to the regularly scheduled Wahoo Wednesdays, next week. Happy Reading!