Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Cristy Burne, Takeshita Demons

AUTHOR: Cristy Burne
BOOK TITLE: Takeshita Demons
GENRE: Children’s adventure fantasy
PUBLISHER: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books

Please tell us about yourself.
Green. Scaly. Good at martial arts. Likes purple. Oh, no wait. That’s Donatello.
Left-handed. Plotter. Scientist. Joker. Tea-drinker.
More about me:
- I studied science, which was super-interesting and full of fun people: I was working at CERN in Switzerland when they turned on the atom-smashing LHC.
- I have worked as a garbage analyst (smelly), patent translater (slow), Santa’s helper (fun), editor of Scientriffic (awesome), editor of SGTW (busy), performer in theShell Questacon Science Circus(noisy) and mother (yikes).
- As a feature writer, I’ve researched giant wetas, DNA technology, women’s boxing, Japanese paragliding, killer tomatoes, trends in tea…you name it!
- I have a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology, a Graduate Diploma in Science Communication, and a Masters in Professional Communication.
- My first children’s manuscript, One Weekend with Killiecrankie, won a “Young and Emerging Writer” fellowship at Australia’s Varuna House and went on to win the 2008 Voices on the Coast writing competition, held in Queensland as part of the Voices on the Coast literature festival.
- I work as a freelance editor and writer of magazine features, popular science and children's books. My first ever article was about ear wax.

Are you a full-time writer or part-time, and how do you organize your writing time?

Part-time. I write when my children are asleep, so usually in the evenings for a couple of hours. I used to be a full-time writer and found it really hard to stay motivated all-day every-day, so part-time is actually more exciting and fulfilling for me.

What inspired you to write your first book?

I always wished I could write my own book. But, I didn’t know how to write a book, and so I never tried.
Then, one day, I grew so sick of my own procrastination that I challenged myself to write a 30,000-word manuscript in 30 days. And I did. It was hard work, but it felt great. 
What do you do when you’re not writing/editing or thinking about writing/editing?

I love presenting at Writer’s Festivals, attending Writer’s Festivals, teaching at Writer’s Festivals and night schools and arts centres. Basically, I am a reading-writing junkie. Even when I’m playing with my kids or folding clothes, I’m thinking about writing.

Do you ever have writer’s block? If so, how do you get through it?

All the time. But writer’s block is just procrastination. So, get up off your seat, go for a half-hour walk at top-speed, then come back and WRITE!

Did you learn anything from writing your book, and what was it?

I learned I could write a book, which was a big first step. When my first book was published, I learned I could write a publishable book. Now, three or four books in, I’ve learned writing a publishable book is mostly about hard work, not talent.

Who is your publisher and how did you connect with them?

I was first published by Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, and came to their attention when I entered the Frances Lincoln Diverse Voices Children’s Book Award, which is a competition for new and multicultural voices in children’s fiction. I really recommend entering reputable writing competitions, run by publishers or city councils, etc.

How can we find you?

Tell us about the current book you’re promoting.

Takeshita Demons (pronounced “ta-kesh-ta”) an adventure story featuring creatures from Japanese mythology. The creatures and some plot lines are based on Japanese myth and legend, so it was great fun to research and write.

It’s exciting and fast-paced and funny: sort of Famous Five meets Japanese fantasy.

What other types of writing have you done?

I’ve always written. First it was diaries, every day, every year for more than a decade. Then it was writing for uni: essays, scientific papers, assignments. Then it was writing for work, and luckily, that included things like blog posts, magazine articles and science theatre. I was hooked on writing!

Today I write almost everything: technical scientific papers, museum exhibitions, children’s non-fiction, children’s fiction, feature articles, travel articles…you name it. If it’s words, I love it.

Do you have any tips for writers who are new to children’s literature?

Read and write children’s books for pleasure. If you find you’re enjoying it, read and write some more. If the hours disappear and you wonder where they’ve gone, then you’re doing something you love, so keep doing it.

What book are you currently reading? What do you like or not like about it?

Duck for a Day, by Meg McKinlay.
It makes me want to hug a duck. Even a muddy duck.

What is the strangest thing a reader asked you?

Are they your real teeth?
Answer: Yes.
(Also answers the “Most embarrassing moment” question )


Are you afraid of ghosts and evil spirits, or the black space under your bed? If you are, then put this book down right away and choose another. If I were you, I would choose a book about teddy bears and bunny rabbits, because then there’s a good chance that you won’t be reading about floating heads or evil spirits or any of the other things you’ll find inside this book. If I were you, I’d do that. But for me, it’s already too late.

I was born in a small town near Osaka, in Japan. My family moved to England just over a year ago, after my grandmother died. But our troubles started long before that. Looking back, I should have realised earlier.

My father worked long hours for his office job, so he didn’t realise either. He was never at home to see what was happening. My brother Kazu was too little even to notice; he was still a baby back then. And my mother was always busy with Kazu or her English class, plus she didn’t really believe. That just left my grandmother, Baba. She understood better than all of them.

Baba knew all there was to know about spirits and demons, good and evil, and she took care to protect our family from them. She kept a cedar leaf over our front door to ward off evil, she always left toys and games out for our house ghost, she even kept a pair of shiisa lion-dogs on the mantelpiece, bought during a beach holiday to Okinawa when my dad was just a boy. She never got sick or forgetful or even caught a cold, not in the whole time I’d known her, which was all my life. But towards the end, when she got really old, she walked with a stick and her hands shook like leaves whenever she used her chopsticks. She died when I was only eleven.

I cried and cried at her funeral, I didn’t care who saw me. People from all over Kawanishi sent in envelopes of money and wreaths of flowers. The entire room was filled with light, and the priest was ringing his bell to keep out the bad spirits and bid farewell to my grandmother on her journey to her new place. Afterwards my family served a feast of noodles and tempura upstairs, but nobody ate. Instead the rows of guests, all dressed in black, just knelt on the tatami mats and made smalltalk about the seasons. The noodles went cold and the tempura went soggy. Baba would have thought it an awful waste.

But what does all this have to do with floating heads and evil spirits? I didn’t know myself, not back then. But Baba knew. So just remember: it’s not too late to close this book and read about something safe instead, like teddy bears and bunny rabbits. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

1 comment: