I fell for Cristy Burne in a big way when I was sent Takeshita Demons to review last year. I loved that it made use of a mythology I knew so little about, apart from the anime Hellboy movie: Sword of Storms, I had not heard or read much about Japanese folklore and mythology, which, considering that folklore and mythology is totally my "thing" is actually embarrassing.
I received Cristy's second book: The Filth Licker to review too (review here from yesterday) and I have to say, the stories are going from strength to strength. But, before I ramble on too much like the fan-girl I am, here is the blogpost Cristy did for us about writing and research for Miku's world.
|Cristy and her friend, The Head|
1) Can you tell us your route to publishing?
I don’t have an agent and I have never been plucked from a slush pile, but I have always entered writing competitions, even when I was at school. Although I’ve long-forgotten the competitions in which I got nowhere, I will never forget the buzz of being short-listed or winning other competitions. Getting feedback on my writing in this way was really important: just hearing someone who wasn’t my Mum tell me that my writing had promise was invaluable. It gave me courage to keep writing through the times when I’d think, ‘this is rubbish, why do I bother?” And then one day, in 2008, I spotted the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Childrens Book Award (http://cristyburne.wordpress.com/2010/05/27/the-frances-lincoln-diverse-voices-childrens-book-award/). I knuckled down to write Takeshita Demons and entered it into the award and voila! I was short-listed and won. Part of the prize was publication, and that was my foot in the door. Since then I’ve pitched six books to Frances Lincoln Publishing and they’ve signed three of those books so far.
2) What kind of research did you do for the various creatures?
The creatures featured in the Takeshita Demons series are mythological Japanese monsters, called yokai. I began researching yokai while living in Japan, nearly ten years ago, but I didn’t ever plan to put them in a book. I was just asking questions about some of the weird and wonderful ghost stories and traditions in Japan’s history. When I decided to write Takeshita Demons, I began my research in more earnest, using websites and texts in Japanese and English, as well as traditional art, stories and general chat with Japanese friends.
3) How did you make sure the demons fit into your story?
I am a plotter, not a pantser, which means I drafted the plots of each Takeshita Demons book before I started writing them (while sitting pregnant in a Starbucks at Angel station, to be precise!). In each case, the plot is driven by the needs of the human characters – Miku Takeshita and her pals – and the yokai they meet along the way also influence what happens. I find that if I don’t draft the plots, I write myself into boring spots or dead ends and end up very stressed and unhappy. Pre-plotting means I love the book right from the start.
|Cristy at a signing with some fans!|
It has been fabulous! Many British kids already know some of the Japanese yokai, from manga and movies, and they’ve loved the books, which is great. It’s really fun to find other yokai fans out there. Some yokai are so quirky that even Japanese people haven’t heard of them, and that’s been fun too. But I think the best bit is that Miku Takeshita is seen as just like any other kid. She speaks Japanese at home and eats Japanese food in her school lunch, but she still freaks out when her supply teacher turns out to be a cut-throat demon. I think there’s something of Miku in every kid. We can all relate to her adventures.
5) What is the best advice you were given as an aspiring writer?
“Read, read, read”. I think it’s useful to read great books at any time, but if you want to be a writer, you need to read, read, read from a young age, so the love of words and stories is a solid, breathing part of you.
6) What is your advice now to aspiring writers?
Enter writing competitions! Pick and choose the competitions you enter (I would only enter if they interested me, seemed reputable, and had a low or zero entry fee) and then forget all about your entry. Just move on with your next writing project. That way, if you get no news or bad news, you’re already engrossed in a new, more exciting project anyway. And if you get good news, well…that’s just a wonderful surprise! Good luck!
And, because Cristy is cool and she knows what big fans we are, we get to show a sneak preview of the cover for Takeshita Demons: Monster Matsuri, released in June 2012:
Isn't it fabulous?