I (Lizzie) am excited to welcome Trista Shaye to Lands Uncharted today! Trista has written young adult, middle grade, and chapter books and is a voice over artist. I've enjoyed reading her MG book Diana Alderroot and the Gilded Mage and her Big the Barn Cat chapter book series and am excited to hear what she has to say.
Welcome, Trista! Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got started writing children’s books. And congrats on the release of the latest Big the Barn Cat book The Amazing Misty Bird!
Hello! Thank you for having me. I’ve been writing stories since I was little. I used to have a ton of note cards with “book titles” written on them of books and series I wanted to write. None of those have seen the light of day. I also grew up reading fantasy stories, particularly ones with dragons in them.
I live with my husband and my crazy kitty, Beans. I work as a voice over artist - mostly narrating audiobooks at this time - and on the side I’m an author, crafter, song writer, and illustrator.
I’ve always wanted to write stories that the entire family could enjoy together. This has led me to write mostly for Middle Grade and young YA audiences, and now younger readers as well. I love the idea of stories that are ageless - the ones you pass down to your kids or nieces and nephews and enjoy rereading yourself.
Tell us about the inspiration for Big the Barn Cat and his stories.
Big, the main character in the Big the Barn Cat series, is based off my kitty I had growing up. His original name was Cotton, but as he grew up, he earned the nickname Biggest One. This was later shortened to just Big. All the characters in the stories - critters and people - are based off of my family and the animals we had on our farm. The farm itself is also based off my parents’ farm where I grew up.
I love being able to capture some of the memories I have from my childhood years and put them into words, adding a fun twist to it with the kitties’ adventures. Every story has several larger elements from my past, and a few Easter eggs thrown in - if you know where to look.
A fun random fact from book 1, is that in the story, The Backward Kitty, Big and Skiziks meet the woolly bear named Fred in the woods. Fred tells them all woolly bears are named Fred. This is a fun extra I tossed in. I used to collect woolly bears and help them weather the winter months until spring. I collected so many one year, I didn’t know how I would ever name them and remember who was who. So I simply named all woolly bears, past and present, Fred.
How fun! I love that. Fred is a perfect name for woolly bears. What age groups have you written for? How is writing for young children different than writing for older children and middle grade?
I’ve written for Middle Grade, upper Middle Grade, Young Adult, and now lower Middle Grade/Young Readers. I think the biggest difference that I noticed between my upper MG/YA writing and these books, has been the length of the stories. Writing for younger readers and trying to keep my word count between 20-26k was actually a real challenge to begin with. It seemed strange to have a story so short, at least in my mind, as I’m used to writing 50-90k novels. But it’s been great for me to learn how to shorten the story and turn it into a chapter book that’s easier for younger children to digest. I love a fat novel and I can’t lie. But I think since writing the Big the Barn Cat books, I’ve come to realize my love for chapters books as well, and it’s honestly changed the way I’ll publish several series in the future.
Do you have any tips on writing for children?
When I write any genre or for any age group, I simply take this approach: is this something I would have liked to read when I was that age? Would I still read it now? Is it fun? It is wholesome? Does it teach you how to live better and grow in areas you might not have thought about?
There’s heaps of stories out there that have subtle messages for kids that I don’t stand behind - such as sneaking behind your parents back, lying, breaking the law, etc. I try to write more family-focused stories with good morals and virtues without being preachy. Make the readers laugh, the kids and the parents, in wholesome good ways. Create characters that are memorable, use elements from your life and incorporate them into the stories, and have fun. If you don’t have fun with the story, your readers won’t have fun either.
I agree about not liking many of the things in childrens books—the lying, etc. I found your Big books to be a lot of fun and have good morals, so I think you succeeded. Do you have any tips on marketing children’s books?
I think my one tip is a reminder: while you are marketing the book toward children, you’re also marketing it toward their parents, teachers, grandparents, etc. When you write for a younger age group you have to remember your book will likely be going through the protective gates of their parents or teachers before it gets into the children’s hands. Keep this in mind as you write, determine what type of art goes on your covers, and how you present the final product. If you’re writing with the whole family’s enjoyment in mind, then you’re on the right track!
We’re all about exploring new worlds here at Lands Uncharted—if you could choose one place to visit, real or fictional, where would you go?
Middle-Earth. In 2019 my husband and I got to visit Hobbiton in New Zealand and I would love to go back! But to actually go to Middle-Earth … um, yes please! Hobbition, Rivendell, and Lothlorien would be my top three places to visit. Provided there wasn’t a war on.
I agree about no war! I’d love to visit those places as well. Can you give us any insights into your next project(s)?
I’m working my way through the Big the Barn Cat series, of which I’ve planned fourteen books in total (as of right now). I’m hoping to publish my very first NaNo novel I wrote in 2012 this year. I also have an MG fantasy adventure I’m gearing up to write, a second draft I have to finish for a MG/YA fantasy novel, and over a hundred other projects that are waiting for me. Sometimes it’s hard to pick which one I want to work on next because I want to write them all!
Fourteen books! Big has a big collection! I’m looking forward to them. It’s wonderful you have so many projects, and I understand the strain of picking just one to focus on. Thanks for visiting Lands Uncharted and good luck with your books and other endeavors!
You can connect with Trista and find about more about her work through links:
Hey Trista! I’m here!ReplyDelete
This interview is so helpful for getting to know you. Thank you for sharing
I have been reading the Big the Barn Cat series to three of my kids (13, 11, and 9 years old). We are enjoying them tremendously! It is funny and surprising written in the cat's voice! We love them!ReplyDelete
These books sound cute and fun! And I love kitties.ReplyDelete