Today I’d like to welcome Anita Kovacevic, author of both an adult book, The Threshold, and children’s books, including Winky’s Colours: A Penguin’s Story.
Can you give us your quickest description of your books?
My adult books are almost always a mix of reality and fantasy, with elements of fantasy, paranormal, even horror. (This is not done intentionally, but makes editing a real challenge.)
My children’s books stem from storytelling while teaching English (my full-time job/vocation), so they always have a semi-hidden educational element in them, empowering children (and adults) to stay positive, inspire and strive for improvement.
Still haven’t published a poetry book, but it follows the same pattern.
Do you find that your children’s books are easier to write or come more naturally, since you’re a teacher, than your adult fiction?
Well, I wouldn’t say they are easier to write at all. They are shorter, that’s for sure. They are much easier to tell, because storytelling is driven by the children’s energy and my teaching experience and it is direct communication. When I write children’s books, it is much more difficult to find the right level of phrasing things, to keep it challenging enough, yet not too complicated for children, and to keep the rhythm of telling more flowing. When it is storytelling, I adapt my voice, phrasing, even noise level to suit the kids, and their interruptions do not bother me – I welcome them, because they are a sign of active listening. When you write it, there is nobody to bounce it back from in a way.
What is definitely easier with children’s books is that they are so positive, magic comes easy, and writing and telling them is pure joy. With adult books, as with the adult world, there is so much ugliness, negativity, stress, that it inevitably sneaks into your writing. I cannot help but infiltrate some magic or paranormal into that, too, for balance, which makes editing awfully hard because I keep hearing ‘mixed genres don’t sell’ and ‘keep it simple for your target audience’! But I write what I feel and because I need to. I have never been a business person.
I completely sympathize with what you’re saying about adult fiction. So what are you working on currently?
Teaching mostly, and trying to preserve the quality of my family life and friendships. 🙂
As for writing, I have three WIPs going on – a finished adult novel (waiting to be edited) about a family which goes through fundamental changes, moving to a small place to find peace when – lo and behold… The second one is a chick lit book about a daydreamer looking for love in all the wrong places. The third one is a children’s book about a little squirrel who discovers the beauty of being able to do things herself. Editing for another author, helping some author groups and book clubs with promotion services (hi, wonderful people, thanks for having me – you all know who you are) interviewing and reviewing – these are all just ‘side gigs.’
Busy, busy. 🙂 Are you an author who makes time every day for writing? Or do you just get to it whenever you have time around everything else?
It would be such a pleasure to be able to set a time for it every day. I try to, definitely. But family life comes first. My husband is really supportive, but our kids have their needs and they come first. Day job, too. Then you squeeze in whatever time is left. I suppose we all do, unless we live only off our writing, but I don’t.
What is your favorite scene you’ve written? Can you give us a peek?
There are quite a few, even the ones that gave me nightmares. But I will share a sweet one from a children’s book, Winky’s Colours, when a boy penguin, who (spoiler alert) almost drowns in an oil spill while searching the world for colours, wakes up and sees – her. This scene is simply wonderful when I do storytelling – the children’s reactions are precious…
Winky wakes up. Someone is moving in the igloo and it isn’t Sarah. The walk is funny and kind of familiar. He opens his eyes. Everything is still fuzzy, but he manages to see something.
‘Colours?’ he whispers.
‘No, I’m Betty.’ The voice is snappy and it speaks fast.
‘Colours?’ he says a bit louder.
‘No, no, no, no, no. Be-tty! I’m Betty!’ She sounds a bit angry now.
‘Co-lours!’ Winky said, thinking he is still dreaming.
A fin grabs his lock of hair, pulls it upward and raises his head.
‘Oh, come on, snap out of it! I’m Betty. B-E-T-T-Y. And your name is?’
Two curious green eyes are flashing at his face like road signs.
(From Winky’s Colours)
That sounds quite cute. Do you read to your students and try out stories on them before you publish?
This scene comes right after a cliffhanger, so I love it.
In all honesty, every story or rhyme I write for children was originally written for my lessons or my children. I never write to publish. Some of my teaching colleagues are actually the ones who have encouraged me to even think of myself as an author. When I read or tell stories to my students, I never tell them they are mine, because I want honest feedback. They don’t even know I publish. Kids love stories; they don’t care who wrote them. They train my ego well.
Haha. What is one question about your books that you wish more people would ask?
‘Where can I get it?’
Hahaha… No, seriously. That is the question.
Yep, that’s the one we all want to hear! Haha. Where CAN we get it? Do you have a preferred retailer?
Not really. My books are available on Lulu, Amazon, Kobo, iBookstore, Barnes&Noble, Nook… Readers choose what suits them.
Who inspires you to write?
Everything and everyone, words, scents, my family, my students, my friends, images, nature, music… The Threshold was inspired by that same word – threshold, mentioned casually in a landscape description in another book I was reading. I had to put that book aside and wrote every night till The Threshold was finished.
There is a story in everyone and everything around us. I teach creative writing and have a method which gets students to write a three-word sentence into a 40-word sentence in 3 minutes – it just takes focus, imagination and some empathy. We all have that! I never lack inspiration, only time and peace. If inspiration comes in abundance, even insomnia kicks in, just to make time for writing. But creating something out of nothing like that really fills me with positive energy. I think writing makes me a better person – it makes me happy, clears my head and heart, and that makes me a better wife, mother, friend, teacher… I hope.
What a great way to look at it – creating helping us to be better people! And it’s amazing what little things can often trigger inspiration. Can you tell us a little more about The Threshold?
It’s the first thing I wrote as an author – it actually kept me up till it was finished. It’s a slightly creepy urban fantasy about a man who builds himself a house to be proud of, only to show well-hidden vanity. In the process, he violates several laws of nature (trying to avoid spoilers), for which he pays dearly after crossing the threshold of his finished house. The threshold hides a curse – makes you face…. No, not telling you! 🙂 The house remains untouched, infamous and owned by the city. Many years later, another media tycoon of the modern times tries to acquire ownership rights to that same house, by striking a deal with the city leaders to organise a ghost-hunting reality show, which would draw attention and tourists to the city. As is often the case, a completely average person, a curious student finally…
Well, read the book! It’s really short! And, in the words of Evie from The Mummy movie – ‘No harm ever came from reading a book!’
Thank you, Anita, for sharing!