Also today, I have a fab and heartwarming Meet the Author interview for you. We’re talking to Elizabeth Jade, a young and inspirational author of books for 7-11 year old, who talks to us about her amazing love of animals and her connection with them, her challenges in life and how she overcomes them, and her book series about Akea, a beautiful wolf/husky……..
Chapter books for 7-11 year-olds
Tell us a bit about yourself:
I’ve always had a unique take on life, understood animals on an almost telepathic level, but found people impossible to handle. So being diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome when I was eighteen made a lot of things make sense. It was just a shame that I had struggled with school, anxiety and depression for so long before finding out why.
I was home educated from the age of seven and I feel that freedom allowed my writing self to develop. I have volunteered at a number of animal rescues where I have put my natural bond with animals to good use. Sadly, it’s always my difficulty with people and the anxiety that comes with that, which gets the better of me in the end.
At the moment, I spend most of my time writing, caring for my poorly pooch and working in my vegetable patch.
What inspired you to start writing?
I started writing seriously at the age of fourteen when I began to struggle with depression and quickly found my ideas pouring out faster than I could get them onto paper. I was inspired by the strangest things: a conversation, a photograph, even a YouTube clip. I found it hard to keep up with the speed my mind was working at, and I have a box in the bottom of my wardrobe full of story ideas and part written stories to prove it.
How many books have you written and published?
One and a half! My first illustrated chapter book, Akea – The Power of Destiny, was published in 2017 and is the first in a planned series of husky/wolf stories told through the eyes of the animals. The second book in the series, Akea – His Mother’s Son, is with the publisher for formatting and cover design etc, and I am excitedly waiting for a publication date. Although aimed at 7 to 11 year-olds, they can be read to younger children (minus the sad bits) and they make a captivating light read for adults too.
Which book, out of all the books you have written, is your favourite and why?
It has to be book 6 in the Akea series. I confess that I’ve only written parts of books 3, 4, 5 and 6, so there’s a lot of work for me to do before these can be published, but there is something about book 6 that gets me excited every time I work on it. The main plot is amazing, a number of minor characters have their own sub plot, and you really get a look at the underlying story arc that’s steering the series. It’s almost a shame that I have to finish and publish books 3 to 5 first. Fortunately, I can write more than one book at a time and I don’t have to write them in the correct order. Somehow, my mind knows exactly what’s going to happen in each book before I do. It may sound a bit crazy, but I guess it’s one of the advantages of my Aspergers.
How do you choose the names of your characters?
For some of my characters, the name comes from a moment of inspiration. Take Akea for example. I was looking for an image of a dalmatian with a husky for a dalmatian story I was planning. I like to have the image in front of me when I’m working. When I finally came across an image that felt right, it was like the husky spoke to me, not the dalmatian. She told me her story and her name – that’s when I wrote Akea – The Power of Destiny.
For other characters, the name has a meaning which goes with their personality, lifestyle or role. For example, the other major character in the Akea series is a lone wolf called Kazakh which means ‘Nomad’. And then there’s Akea’s mother, Eacnung. Her role is to produce the next generation of sled dogs, so her name means ‘Bearer of Children’. I use various websites to help me find names with the meanings I need and if I can find a way to include the meaning in the story, then I will.
Which of your characters would you want to be stranded on an island with, and why?
My first reaction to this question was: It would depend on the weather! If it’s hot, I’d like to be with a wolf with a short coat, so we can snuggle up without getting too hot. If it’s cold, I would like to be with a wolf who has a shaggy coat to keep me warm. If finding food is a problem, then I guess I’d like the wolf who is the best hunter.
However, if my choice was down to personality, then I would not choose a wolf at all. I would choose the main husky character, Akea. She develops so much as a character through the first book and, as she is a lot like me, I think she could help me find the greatness in myself.
Who is your favourite author and which of their books is your favourite, and why?
I’ve really enjoyed books by Brian Jacques, Gene Rodenberry and many others, so picking a favourite is a really difficult thing to do. If I really had to, I could probably narrow it down to the Redwall series by Brian Jacques, but I really couldn’t choose between them.
What is the first thing you can remember writing?
When I read this question, my first thought was ‘The letter A’ because that’s the first thing I wrote in school. I actually remember tracing letters over and over, and thinking how frustrating it was. Anyway, I’m assuming that’s just my autism taking the question literally, but it did remind me of the equal frustration of being told to write stories on specific topics like what I did in the holidays – where’s the imagination in that.
Aside from experimenting with some short story ideas and some picture based stories, the first full story I wrote was One Last Run. It was about a racing stallion called Marquis. Marquis had always dreamed of freedom and one fateful night he had the chance to fulfil that dream. His quest for freedom would bring joy and great hardship to both himself and the new friends that he makes on his journey.
What other jobs have you done other than being an author?
Since I have such a natural bond with animals, working with them was just one of those things that was bound to happen, and I’ve particularly enjoyed working with horses, dogs and cats. When I worked with Cats Protection, I was affectionately referred to as The Cat Whisperer as I was able to calm even the most troublesome characters. I held my first book launch at the Cats Protection Rehoming Centre and still sell some of my books there with part of the proceeds going to the centre.
If you could get in a time machine and had one chance to travel, where would you go? (Backwards or forwards!)
To a germophobe like myself, the past was far too unhygienic to be a safe time to visit, although I admit to having a fascination with ancient Egypt. I think the future would be an amazing place to go, but it would have to be a big improvement on today, particularly in the way we care for the environment and the amazing animals that live with us on this planet.
If you could have one conversation with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
I think I would enjoy talking to any of the key figures in history to find out what really happened in their day. Do the history books have the events and the speeches down correctly? How much of what we know is inaccurate or even just propaganda?
What are your favourite things to do?
I enjoy making things – model making, writing, growing veg etc. Most of all, I enjoy spending time with my dog Kizzy. I’ve trained her to do so many amazing things and we have such fun doing it that she often chooses training over playing. I also enjoy visiting historical places, especially from periods that I’ve researched.
What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you?
When I was working at Cats Protection, a complete stranger walked up to me and said how much he enjoyed reading the newspaper article about me in the local paper. It turned out that it wasn’t my achievement as a young autistic writer that had caught his interest, but the fact I had been so open and honest about struggling with anxiety and depression. Feeling a little overwhelmed by his approach, I had already sat down on the floor of the visitor’s area, so there we sat – myself, my support worker and the man I now know as Phil – discussing mental health.
If you could give your younger writing self any advice, what would it be?
When I first started writing, I had the peculiar idea that my chapters should be of a particular length. I would count how many pages my writing had covered and when it was the same number of pages as the previous chapter, I would finish the section and start the next chapter. I have no idea why I did it, but it’s something I have learned from and the length of both my chapters and my books have grown since then. So the advice to my younger self would be to not set limitations on yourself.
Name one book you think everyone should read!
The bible – because even if you are not religious, it contains practical advice that can make anyone’s life happier.
And finally, tell us about your most recent book and where we can find it?
Akea – The Power of Destiny
Akea is born into a family of sled dogs and a life that should follow a predictable path, but from the day she first sees the lone wolf, she knows her future lies beyond the safety of her home. Through the twist and turns of the story, she eventually finds her place in the world and fulfils the destiny laid out for her by The Great Wolf. Although a journey of self-discovery for Akea, the story also teaches children the importance of loyalty, friendship and belonging.
The sequel – Akea – His Mother’s Son– will be available in a few months.
One of Akea’s pups is captured by humans and must adjust to a life in captivity, leaving his family to face an uncertain future without him. When The Great Wolf entrusts him with prophetic dreams, young Salvador discovers his family’s survival will depend on him, and he must convince his new friends to help. Through this dual narrative, readers experience both sides of the experience of loss and change, and what it means for Salvador to be His Mother’s Son.
Thank you Elizabeth Jade for this fantastic email. I have a Nephew with Autism and your interview and 100% touched my heart. I love your passion for animals, as I’m a massive animal lover too and love your view on them and the fact that you have an amazing connection with them. I really hope to read your books soon – I just hope they don’t make me cry!! I also hope you’re dog gets better soon!
I’m sure you’ll all agree that this is a fabulous interview! If you have any questions, then get in touch!