Interview With Author Kristin Butcher

Hi there.

My name is Kristin Butcher and I am in love with story. I always have been. I was a voracious reader as a child, and writing naturally grew out of that passion. I began by dreaming up new adventures for the characters in books I deemed had ended too soon. I didn’t write these sequels down—just imagined them. Making up my own stories came after that, and by the time I was in seventh grade, I was writing my first novel. I never completed it, but the process showed me that writing gave me power. In a story, I could make anything happen.

But writing had always been something I did for myself, and I never considered it as a career. That was as unattainable as becoming a movie star or music celebrity. So I became a teacher, and to better in touch with my students I made a point of reading the books they gravitated to. I was still writing myself though, and one day, after finishing a novel by a successful children’s author, I said to myself, “I can do that.” So I did. And the rest, as they say, is history.

I was first published in 1997, and since then I’ve seen 30 of my books go to print. Many have also been picked up by foreign publishers, so I have books, in French, Slovakian, German, Swedish, Korean, Chinese, Spanish and Dutch. My books are intended for readers from 9 – 18, though it seems adults like them too (https://www.kristinbutcher.com/books).

It all began with The Runaways (Kids Can Press).

My current project is a fantasy trilogy for middle grade readers called The Seer Trilogy. The first book came out in 2020 and Book II will be released in September of 2021.

On Creativity

I live inside my mind. Oh, I still clean the bathroom and go grocery shopping, but even while I’m doing other things, my mind is going a million miles a minute. Some people say they have trouble coming up with ideas. Not me. I am inspired by just about anything. I thinks it’s a matter of being relaxed. I don’t look for ideas. They find me, because the door to my mind is always open. I have written entire books based on nothing more than a title. That’s where The Hemingway Tradition came from and Return to Bone Tree Hill too. Also a short story called Waltzing Annie Home.

My Audience

Before I was published, I wrote for myself and was quite satisfied with that, but after The Runaways hit bookstores, I realized that publication meant the story no longer belonged to me alone. Every person who read it came with a unique history and agenda and as a result readers interpreted my story to fit their particular view of life. That meant I was only part of the equation. I contributed half of the story and the reader brought the other half. That revelation—though interesting—hasn’t really changed how I write or what I write about — time and honing my craft have done that — but I’m more aware of readers as I write now, and I consider how they might interpret a passage. The factor that has probably had the biggest influence on the subjects I choose is the market. If I want to be published, I have to be in tune with what is selling. Because of that, many of the stories I’m truly in love with are taking years to write. I know they are not an easy sell. so they continually get pushed to the side in favour of something for which there is an established audience.

How I Work

When asked for writing advice, authors often tell beginners just to get it written. Get that first draft down and then you can rewrite. They preach it like it’s gospel. So would-be wordsmiths sit themselves down and start to write. Many let the story decide where it’s going. A writer-friend of mine happily admits she keeps 400 of every 4000 words she writes and can get 2/3 through a novel and still have no idea where it’s going. I’m not saying that is wrong; but it doesn’t work for me. I’m a procrastinator by nature, but when I finally get to work, I’m nothing if not efficient. I generally plot a novel before I begin writing. That means a 2-3 sentence summary of the content for each chapter. There is no detail, just a statement of the must-haves to be included. This allows me all the creativity in the world, but it also provides me with a trail to follow through the woods of my story. I can write with confidence, because I know where I’m going. And I don’t do a first draft. I do one draft. Contrary to accepted opinion, I revise and polish as I go, so that by the time I write THE END the book is ready for submission. For me, that continuous tweaking stimulates ideas going forward that a quick first draft would miss. I’m not saying this process will work for everyone, but it works for me.

Bad Reviews and Negative Feedback

I’m not going to lie — they hurt. We writers are putting ourselves out there, so of course we want readers to love every word we write. But they’re not going to. When a book is still in the beginning stages and feedback is coming from an editor, I try to be objective. I ask myself if the changes the editor is proposing will improve the story or merely make it different. If it’s a lateral move, I will likely resist the change. But if I can honestly admit that the change will make the story better, deeper, stronger — then I suck up my hurt feelings and get to work rewriting. Reviews are different. Those are often laymen’s opinions with little professional expertise behind them. If they are complimentary, that’s great, but they aren’t always, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Writing Rewards

No, it’s not money. At least it isn’t for most of us. After 25 years in the business, I’m still not making a decent living as a writer. But I’m making a good life. I get to make up stories and write them — everyday — in my pyjamas. I get to walk into bookstores and see my books on a shelf beside Judy Blume’s books! Sometimes I get interviewed for the newspaper or an online journal. I get nominated for book prizes and get to attend galas. Sometimes I even win! I get to tour the country and visit schools and libraries and share my love of books with thousands of young readers. I know a ton of writers, editors, and publishers. I’m in the Canadian Who’s Who. And I get to stay a kid forever through my writing.

Future Books

First and foremost, I have to finish writing the third book in The Seer Trilogy. It’s titled The Sorcerer’s Revenge (unless the publisher decides to rename it). And then my options are wide open. I have an historical, murder mystery fantasy for YA readers I need to make some changes to and then find a publisher for. I love that story but it doesn’t fit neatly into any specific genre, so it’s a hard sell. I have another historical fiction novel for middle grade readers that needs a new ending before it can find a home. I also have a middle-grade novel set in modern day that a publisher is interested in if I add another element. So I can work on that. And I have another fantasy trilogy for MG readers I’m working on. The WIP calling to me loudest is an adult novel based on the horrendous life of my great grandmother. It is set in the late 1800s in the east end of London and I think it is going to be really good, but I may have to find an agent if I’m going to break into that market. Did I mention that I would very much like to write a picture book too? And then there’s … (It never ends.)