Showing posts with label Lari Don. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Lari Don. Show all posts

Saturday, 30 June 2018

the pictures in the reader’s head - Lari Don

I’m always keen to know how young readers see my stories, in their heads, when they read the words on the page. So it’s always lovely when I receive an envelope of pictures from a class who have read my books.

It’s fascinating to see how their images of the characters differ from the covers of the books, and interesting to see what specific scenes they were keen to recreate (it's often fight scenes or chase scenes!)

I recently received pictures from a class who had read all three novels of the Spellchasers trilogy this year, so it was great to see pictures of lots of different characters and scenes, not just the ones who appear in the first book or on the first cover.

With an eye to creating the next series and auditioning my next set of characters, it’s interesting to note which characters out of a team of magical creatures and a battalion of baddies inspire the readers to spend time drawing their own versions. And this time around, it turns out that creating a goth dryad with purple hair was the clear winner! They may well have run out of purple ink in West Lothian…

The summer holidays have just started in Scotland, so I won’t be getting many envelopes of pictures for a couple of months. I’d better spend the time writing more words, in the hope that they might inspire more pictures in the future…

Lari Don is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for all ages, including fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales, a teen thriller and novellas for reluctant readers. Lari’s website 
Lari’s own blog 
Lari on Twitter 
Lari on Facebook 
Lari is on Instagram as LariDonWriter

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Why picture books are all about the pictures – Lari Don

I’m not an artist. I’m a writer, and my passion is for words. But when I write a picture book, I know that my words can never be as important as the pictures, for creating the overall feel of the book, or even for telling the story. It is after all, a picture book, not a word book!

Which means that the role of an author writing a story for a picture book is very different from the role of an author writing a novel.

When I’m drafting a novel, my aim is to put pictures - of the characters, the chases, the magic, the monsters - into my readers’ heads. But when I’m drafting a picture book text, I know that the story will be brought to life by the skill of an illustrator, so my words have a different function.

One of my responsibilities as a writer of picture books is to create opportunities for wonderful illustrations. When I write a picture book, I weigh up the plot not just from the point of view of the characters and the readers, but also with the aim of offering the illustrator plenty of chances to create original, magical and dramatic pictures.

For example, when I started writing The Treasure Of The Loch Ness Monster, I wanted to give the artist scope to create as full a world for Nessie as possible. That meant not only pictures of the shores and surface of Loch Ness, but also at least one underwater scene. So I searched for plot ideas that took the characters and therefore the readers down into the depths of Loch Ness. I didn’t know what the illustrator Natasa Ilincic would draw for that scene, but I did know that I had to write a plot which gave her the chance to explore it.

One of the strengths of a picture book is that it’s not just the writers’ story. A picture book (unless it is created by one of those amazingly talented people who can write AND draw) is created by two people’s imaginations. The world of a picture book is not just the writer’s world, it is the illustrator’s world too: a shared world that has been enhanced and deepened by both our imaginations. When the illustrator is someone as talented and wise and deeply immersed in folklore and history as Natasa, then the illustrations bring a huge amount to the story’s world.

I love being surprised by someone else’s vision of the story. In this book, the treasure chamber that Natasa imagined under Castle Urquhart took my breath away. I’d imagined a small dark room containing not much more than the treasure necessary for the plot, but Natasa drew a huge arched chamber filled with fascinating objects from legend and history. I see something new everything I look at it! And that’s the joy of writing picture books. I knew what I needed the room to contain for the characters and the narrative, and Natasa drew that perfectly, but then she added her own magic, her own vision, and she made the story so much stronger.

And that’s why the pictures are the heart of a picture book!


Lari Don’s most recent book is The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster, published by Floris Books. Lari has written more than 30 books for all ages, including fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales, a teen thriller and novellas for reluctant readers.
Lari’s website 
Lari’s own blog 
Lari on Twitter 
Lari on Facebook 
Lari is on Instagram as LariDonWriter

Monday, 30 April 2018

When being a writer doesn’t mean writing – Lari Don

I am a writer, therefore I write books. That’s my job. Simple! Or not so simple…

It was a slow-dawning realisation for me, after the publication of my first book, that the job of a writer isn't that simple. That as well as writing books, I have to promote those books: school events, book festival events, bookshop signings, writing workshops, blog tours, maintaining a website, being cheerful about writing on Twitter…

All of that promotional activity, time-consuming though it is, at least has a direct connection to my writing and my books, and sometimes even to booksales. But recently I’ve noticed I seem to be doing more and more things that I never anticipated doing as a writer, and that have very little direct connection with my own writing.

Here are some things I've been asked to do recently: 

judge and write feedback on work by members of writing clubs

mentor a teenage novelist / storyteller

create a storystarter for a digital learning project

tell stories to librarians at breakfast

take part in a photocall to promote a book tour (not my book!)

take issue on late night telly with an academic study on how kids read books

and give a lecture on Why We Love Monsters alongside scientists talking about dinosaurs.

I’ve also realised that I’m rubbish at saying no! Mostly because these all of these projects seem interesting, challenging and potentially inspiring.

I should stress that I do sometimes say no, and that when I say yes, I'm usually paid the going rate for doing these projects. I should also stress that a couple of the projects above have been genuinely wonderful and creative experiences.

But it does throw up a few questions:

How do writers balance all these demands on their time, and still find time to write?

How do we choose which things to say yes to and which to say no to? (I find the Kessler equation handy, though I suspect I don’t use it rigorously enough.)

Why do people think writers can do all these varied things? What is it about writing books that makes people think we can do so many other things too? (Or that we would want to…?)

And what odd things have other writers been asked to do?

Almost all the things I’m asked to do have at least a tangential link to writing, though not always to my own writing or my own books. and I’m usually delighted to be asked. But this is not what I thought I’d be doing when I started on the path of being a writer. I thought I’d be sitting at home with endless clear hours ahead of me to play with stories and to imagine worlds, rather than snatching time to scribble down dialogue while travelling between school events and judging panels…

However, I believe stories can do anything, and the more unusual projects I say yes to, the more I test that belief. And the more readers, writers and booklovers I meet, while doing all these slightly odd and unexpected things, the more my own love of stories is expanded and enhanced.

But right now, I’d better get on with writing the next book! Because despite all the other distractions and demands, that is still the heart of my job…


Lari Don is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for all ages, including fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales, a teen thriller and novellas for reluctant readers.

Lari’s website 
Lari’s own blog 
Lari on Twitter 
Lari on Facebook 
Lari is on Instagram as LariDonWriter

Friday, 30 March 2018

Picture books are teamwork, all the way to the launch - Lari Don


I usually launch books on my own. (Well, with the help of all the lovely people at my publishers and a cheerful audience of family and friends. But it’s usually me standing up at the front on my own…)

However, last night I launched a book as part of a team.

I stood up beside illustrator Natasa Ilincic, and while I read the story of The Treasure of the Loch Ness Monster, she did live-drawing of Nessie.


And it was great fun!

I only had to do half the work of keeping the (very wide age range) audience entertained, and I found out a lot more about how an illustrator does their job!

As Nata and I chatted about how I wrote the story and how she drew the pictures, I discovered how many sketches she draws for one spread, how she makes a illustration look action-packed and dramatic, how she makes sure her characters’ faces and characteristics stay consistent through the whole book, and how she showed emotion on a monster's face.

I found it fascinating, and the reaction of the kids in the audience suggested they found it fascinating too!


I’ve always thought of writing a picture book as teamwork – the author, the editor, the art designer and the illustrator – but it turns out that the best picture book launches are team efforts too!

I hope to do lots more events with the wonderfully talented Nata and her beautiful Nessie!  



Thanks to Waterstones in Princes St in Edinburgh for hosting the launch, to all the wonderful staff at Floris Books for organising it, and to whoever baked the little Nessie cakes…




Lari Don is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for all ages, including fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales, a teen thriller and novellas for reluctant readers. 
Lari is on Instagram as LariDonWriter
 

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Creative Disruption - Lari Don

This week and last, I've been trying to write with workmen in the house. And it’s not gone very well. I haven’t written any of my current novel. I’m even struggling to concentrate on blog posts and emails.

I’ve escaped to cafes and libraries, and I've done some useful reading and research. But I haven’t done much writing, even in my favourite library.

I've also done a little bit of thinking about disruption, and its effect on creativity.

I don’t need peace and quiet to write (I once wrote a fight scene in a library that was hosting a Bookbug nursery rhyme session.) I don’t need comfort or space (I wrote my most recent picture book in a cold spider-infested shed.)

But I do need clear head-space and a clear stretch of time ahead of me. So sudden crashes (wait, what was THAT? Should I go up and see?) or irregular queries about tiling and plastering, keep knocking me out of my creative zone. And I suspect that coping with disruption of my domestic routine uses up most of the energy that I should really be directing towards my story.

So, I didn’t get much writing done this week. 

Which reminded me of a novel that I abandoned five years ago. I had written about a dozen chapters, when the story suddenly ground to a halt. I couldn’t see any further, I couldn’t work out what to write next. I didn’t even know what questions to ask of my characters… That story fell apart in the year I moved house twice. And I've never been sure if the idea wasn’t strong enough, or if the constant domestic disruption pulled me out of the story so often that eventually I couldn't find my way back in.

But now I’m fairly sure it was the house moves, not the idea. So perhaps, sometime, I might revisit that story.

And this current disruption hasn’t been all bad. When I was walking around central Edinburgh last week, to get away from the plaster dust, I had a bright shiny idea for a new picture book!

So: disruption, is it good or bad for creativity?

My experience suggests that for me, disruption doesn’t help with steady creation of an ongoing project, but it might provoke new ideas…

I wonder what other writers feel disrupts their creative process, and what supports it?



Lari Don is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for all ages, including fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales, a teen thriller and novellas for reluctant readers. 
Lari is on Instagram as LariDonWriter

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Location research: finding what I wasn’t looking for – Lari Don

I recently went as far north as it's possible to go in Scotland without a boat, to Sutherland, because I hope to set my next novel there.


As I marvelled at the November beauty, and shivered in the November cold, I wondered: why do we bother to research our novels?


Why do we want to get the facts right, when we are writing fiction?


I searched for a fairy mound, a magic stone, and a wise woman’s cottage; but I found an outdoor art gallery, a healing loch and a new way to listen to water…



I found a snippet of ancient folklore which links to an book I’ve already finished writing. I witnessed a new piece of folklore being born.


And I filled a notebook with cramped frozen-finger scribbles, wrinkled rainspots and muddy splotches.


I went north with a list of queries I wanted to answer and facts I wanted to check. I didn’t come home with any of those answers or confirmations…


But I did come home with a much clearer idea of what my story might be about, and what my characters might want.


And with the realisation that, for me, the main value of research is not to find answers, but to prompt questions…


Lari Don is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for all ages, including fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales, a teen thriller and novellas for reluctant readers.
Lari’s website 
Lari’s own blog 
Lari on Twitter 
Lari on Facebook 
Lari is on Instagram as LariDonWriter

Monday, 30 October 2017

Keeping the story warm – Lari Don

Many things get in the way of writing a book. (Over the last few years, I’ve struggled through moving house, teenagers with exam leave, and constant elections and referendums...) But one thing that regularly gets in the way writing a book, for me, is promoting the previous book.

It shouldn’t take me by surprise, but it seems to ambush me every single time.

Whenever I finish a novel, I allow myself to start investigating new ideas, I get excited about one particular idea, I ask deliciously intriguing questions about that story and begin to consider the answers, then just when I’m ready to start writing – boom! Suddenly the previous book - the book I’d already said good bye to – is published and I have to start promoting it. The time and energy required to launch a book means weeks or months when it's hard to find time to settle into writing the next book...

I’m not complaining. I’m really not. I love that I have a publisher, Floris Books, who care enough to host a launch party, and send me to Aberdeen, Newcastle, Wigtown, St Andrews and all sorts of other places to talk about my books. I love meeting librarians, teachers, parents, booksellers and READERS! I love that. But at the same time a small quiet part of me just wants to settle down into a new story.


So, despite the fact that I have been out and about for all of September and most of October telling people about the Spellchasers trilogy, I have been trying to keep the new story warm.

I knew that if I waited until everything calmed down, if I waited until I had perfect writing conditions, I might be waiting around for ever. And I might lose the ‘what if’ and ‘what happens next’ excitement that makes me want to write this new story. So I tried to keep the story momentum going, even if only a little bit a day...

notebooks, on a comfy bed
Therefore, while touring with the Spellchasers trilogy, I have been reading 18th century collections of folklore on trains, scribbling ideas in notebooks while teachers sat kids in front of me in neat lines, asking my characters vital questions in bookshop cafes. And I have been writing actual words in actual sentences in hotel rooms (never easy, with a comfy bed right there, just asking to be snoozed on...)

But I honestly, I didn’t think I was getting anywhere. I thought I was just making a token effort. I felt like I was only writing tiny slivers of story. Half a scene here. Half a scene there. A snippet of dialogue. A thought about the baddie. A hint of a character’s true voice.

I thought I was just trying to keep a foothold in the story’s world, so that when I finally got time to think about it in peace and quiet at home, I might still have a wee bit of momentum.

But last week, I finally got a chance to stand back and look at what I have. To see how (whether!) all the half-scenes and snippets of dialogue fit together. I was delighted to discover that I had written 10 chapters! They need a lot of tidying, but the characters and their problems are there, and I'm now ready to write forward...

So taking the time to promote the previous book hasn’t stopped me writing the next one at all! All I had to do was keep the story warm, and keep my notebooks close by as I travelled...



Lari Don is the award-winning author of more than 20 books for all ages, including fantasy novels for 8 – 12s, picture books, retellings of traditional tales, a teen thriller and novellas for reluctant readers. 
Lari is on Instagram as LariDonWriter