We are happy to welcome Christine Brodien Jones today. Christine is the author of the upcoming middle-grade novel, The Owl Keeper.
Describe your book in five words or less.
Mystery, fear, friendship, magic, hope.
As a debut author, what has your road to publications been like?
You could say I’m a debut author in this century, but I also published a book last century! In 1992 Macmillan/Bradbury Press published my middle-grade fantasy THE DREAMKEEPERS. I’d written the book on my Mac Classic—considered cutting-edge back then—and sent it out without an agent. In those days the Internet was still evolving. I remember that Macmillan still had typewriters in its offices!
The following year Macmillan went under financially and my editor moved on. I continued writing novels and sending them out, but life was hectic with two teen-age sons and my teaching job left little time to write.
The turning point came in 2006 when Peter, my husband, encouraged me to quit working and write full-time. It was a risky leap. While searching for an agent, I discovered that Stephen Fraser (who’d shown interest in one of my manuscripts while a senior editor at HarperCollins) was now an agent at the Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. I sent him THE OWL KEEPER and he called to say how much he loved the book. Steve found a home for it with Krista Marino, a senior editor at Random House/Delacorte Press. I’m so fortunate to have them both, because they’ve backed THE OWL KEEPER every step of the way.
What kind of research, if any, did you do for The Owl Keeper? Do you have a special process for researching that you like to follow?
I researched owls – their habits, physical characteristics, hunting skills, behavior, etc. I didn’t try to be too specific, however, because Max’s silver owl is unique and in a category all her own. One thing I found fascinating about owls was the way they make ‘pellets’ out of undigested bones, plants, feathers and other materials, and I used this in the book.
While writing about Max, the hero of THE OWL KEEPER, I was influenced by a New York Times article about children with a rare genetic disorder, xeroderma pigmentosum, or X.P., that makes them unable to tolerate ultraviolet light. I also saw Alejandro Amenábar’s film “The Others,” which features a brother and sister who are fatally allergic to sunlight. I couldn’t stop thinking about what life would be like for a child who can only go outdoors at night. I decided to give Max an allergy to the sun, which means he’s confined indoors during the day and can only leave his house after sundown.
The cover is gorgeous! What was your reaction to seeing it for the first time?
Amazement. I thought the owl was stunning, exactly the way I’d imagined her. The owl’s silvery sheen, the moonlight, the branches, the spooky houses – it all captured perfectly the magical feeling of the book. The cover’s artist was Fernando Juarez, who lives in Madrid. He’s done some quirky, extremely imaginative work.
I might add that there are also interior illustrations which are eerie and beautiful, done by British artist Maggie Kneen. Like the cover, they’re mesmerizing…
What is next for you with your writing? Have any special projects that you are working on?
I’m currently working on an adventure-fantasy novel set in Morocco, in the Sahara Desert, which Random House/Delacorte Press is also publishing. A feisty young girl named Zagora is the heroine.
Thanks Christine for stopping by! It was a blast getting to learn more about Max and The Owl Keeper.
The Owl Keeper releases on April 13th 2010 by Delacorte BFYR.