I was privileged enough to get to interview the lovely Rena J. Traxel. Rena writes fractured fairy tales which I think is wonderful, as I am a huge fairy tale fan. Earlier this year, I predicted in my post Midday Coffee and Fairy Tales: Trends for 2012 that fairy tales would be the "what's in" this year. What do you think?
Rena, thank you for joining us. It's been a pleasure.
- Rena J. Traxel creates stories and poems for children. She is obsessed with fairy tales. Her obsession sparked the idea for her debut fantasy series loosely based off a fairy tale. She recently won Miranda Paul’s Mix-It Up Writing Contest for her fractured fairy tale – Totenkinder: sweet old lady or cold hearted murder? You can read more about Rena here.
1.) What made you want to be a writer?
- I’ve always loved writing but it wasn’t until I took a class in children’s literature that I realized I was supposed to be a writer. I wrote an original fairy tale for the class and my teacher loved it and encouraged me to get it published. Writing that fairy tale reminded me how much I loved writing and I finally had the courage to pursue my dream job.
2.) How long have you been seriously pursuing a career in writing?
- Three years ago. I withdrew from the sociology program at the University of Alberta and transferred into the Professional Writing program at Grant MacEwan University.
3.) If you had to choose three words to describe your writing nook/office, what would they be?
- Library. Post-its. Window.
4.) Where do you draw most of your inspiration from?
- I read a lot. I also happened to be married to an overgrown child a.k.a my muse. He works hard so that I can stay at home and write, having someone believe in you that much is powerful. Anytime I feel I can’t write another word my husband reminds me that I can and if I’m really stuck he talks the problem out with me. I also turn to my favourite books: Spiderwick Chronicles, Shifter, Black Book of Secrets, Hug Time, How to Train a Dragon and remind myself that all these wonderful authors had to start somewhere. I study their books and take note of what works and then think about what is working in my own writing.
5.) Give us a one sentence pitch for your first novel.
- After refusing to turn over the Black Witch’s magical book, Alivia Fair finds herself trapped inside an enchanted castle where she comes face-to-face with the legendary Sleeping Beauty, whom Alivia is destined to kill.
6.) What are some of the projects that you are currently working on completing?
- Death of Sleeping Beauty is the title of book one in my middle grade fantasy series. It is complete and I will begin the pitch process in the next couple of months while writing the sequel The Cursed Mirror. In between writing a novel I’m working on some short stories and poems that relate to my novel in someway (mostly fractured fairy tales) and getting them ready for submission to children’s magazine. But some of my poems and short stories I share on my blog.
7.) What are some of your recent publications?
- I’m constantly posting new material on my blog. I have a handful of articles in the local newspaper (Stony Plain Reporter). I’ve turned to my attention to getting my stories and poems for children published. Recently my fractured fairy tale Totenkinder won Miranda Paul’s Mix-It Up Writing contest. My story can be found on my blog or on Miranda’s blog.
8.) Are you an outliner or a seat-of-your-pantser?
- I’m mostly a seat-of-my-pantser as a lot of my ideas come to me in the middle of the night and I just go with it. For my debut novel I had to go back and create an outline to double check that I didn’t miss anything and it will help keep on track when I start writing book two, three, and four in the series.
9.) If you could only own one book, what would it be? Why?
- Spiderwick Chronicles: The Completely Fantastical Edition by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi because I re-read it all the time. The story is a simple, entertaining tale about fairies, and monsters. I get to transport myself into another world while reading these books. I want my novel to have the same effect on my readers.
10.) Favorite childhood book/books?
- Berenstain Bears, Nancy Drew by Carolyn Keene (I have my entire collection on display in my house), and Goosebumps by R.L. Stine. I also liked (and still do) Archie and Spiderman comics.
11.) If you could meet any author, living or dead, who would it be? Why?
- This is a toss up between Janice Hardy and Arthur Slade. I’m constantly referring to Jancie’s blog The Other Side of the Story for help with writing my novel. Arthur Slade is award winning Canadian author. Both of these authors could provide me with a wealth of knowledge about the publishing world and writing in general. My interactions with Arthur on Twitter leads me to believe he would be an approachable and cool guy to go and have a coffee with. Janice is constantly giving back to the writing community. I have no doubt that she would be a nice, down to earth lady to talk to.
12.) If you could meet one character in a book, who would it be? Why?
- Dark Wing Duck because he is silly and he was one of my favourite childhood heroes. I actually met him as a child when I went to Disneyland. I still have his autograph somewhere. I remember there being long lines to meet the princesses and all I wanted was to get Dark Wing Duck’s autograph. Characters like DW remind me not to take myself so seriously and infuse my work with humour.
13.) Where do you hope to be as a writer in five years?
- I hope to have book one and two in my fantasy series published and book three on its way to publication. I also want to have handful of stories and poems published in various children’s magazines. I’m obsessed with fairy tales and my work is influenced by this obsession. But my biggest problem with traditional fairy tales (Basile, Perrault, Grimm) is the way women are portrayed in them. I want to empower women through my writing, but I also want to encourage children to be children. Someone once told me that Canadians couldn’t write. Practicing my craft in a way is a reaction to that comment. In five years I’m hoping I will be a better writer and I will be known for my fractured fairy tales.
14.) Favorite quote/personal motto:
- “Don't part with your illusions. When they are gone you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.” – Mark Twain
- “Remember your childhood… and pass it on.” – Mike Kunkel
15.) If you could give any advice to other writers, what would it be?
- If you need help ask the writing community as writers are generally giving, but make sure to give back and always thank those who have helped you.