What I’m reading now is The Kelpie from author T.J. Wooldridge, a book I’m particularly excited to share with my kids. As a special treat, I had the privilege of interviewing Wooldridge and here are the highlights of our conversation.
Most often Wooldridge’s novels and short stories start with a vision of a scene that appears in her head.”The scene just sort of comes to me as a vision,” she explains, “and in this particular case, it was of a child seeing a Kelpie rising out of a loch near her home in Scotland.” Wooldridge’s newest novel, The Kelpie, appeared on the literary scene just a few weeks ago from Spencer Hill Press, and between her short stories, editing and other projects, we shouldn’t be surprised if 2014 is the year of years for this rising fantasy and middle grade author. While her previous projects are not for children, appearing in anthologies such as Bad A$$ Faeries, it’s anybody’s guess as to where her work will appear next.
In the current book, the main characters, an 11-year-old girl and her friend, the Prince of Wales, must stop the Kelpie from abducting local children. A Kelpie is a horse-shaped figure from Celtic folklore that haunts lochs across Ireland and Scotland. Wooldridge has extensive experience with horses from many years volunteering at a horse rescue. “I’ve seen horses when they’re upset; some of those gestures are scary, which brought me to the myth of the Kelpie,” she explains.
Wooldridge works on the story or novel from there, using that initial scene as a jumping off point. Most often that first idea ends up as the start of the story. “I generally like to open the book in the middle of the action,” Wooldridge adds, “so that the reader sees the main character in trouble and then now that character clears up the problem.”
Point of view is of particular importance to Wooldridge. The Kelpie is in the first person and when she talks about it, Wooldridge is passionate. “It’s all from Heather’s point of view and Heather is a slightly snarky 11-year-old,” Wooldridge laughs. “She is also very observant, but while she sees everything, she doesn’t interpret it all.” For example, Heather notices a look between her friend another person, but does not realize that her friend has a crush on her. Readers, who Wooldridge trusts to make interpretations, would understand the look before Heather, who is, after all, still 11. Wooldridge says that she had a lot of fun with jokes like that when she considered her readers. The young adult set will understand the plot, but there’s a whole other layer of consideration for an adult reader.
Wooldridge wants her readers to connect with her characters. “I would know any one of them if they walked into the room and that’s how I want readers to feel,” she says. To do that, she incorporates things like a nervous tic such as finger tapping which might annoy another character. Those are the things that make characters real.
As a writer myself, Wooldridge’s careful attention to detail with regards to her characters and point of view is something I strive to emulate in my own work. The Kelpie is great reading for the start of 2014.