Interview with Claire M Caterer, Author of The Key and the Flame

Claire M Caterer is our special guest today.  Please welcome her to the virtual offices!  Claire is here to chat about her MG release, The Key and The Flame, which hits shelves in April.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Describe yourself in 140 characters or less.

[Claire M Caterer] I love great stories in all forms; music I can sing to; animals of all sizes; travel & nature. Mostly introverted, sometimes a showoff.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Can you tell us a little about The Key and the Flame?

[Claire M Caterer] Eleven-year-old Holly Shepard, who leads a very ho-hum kind of life, receives a strange gift from an elderly British caretaker. The gift is just an old iron key, but when Holly discovers an ancient tree that contains a keyhole, she finds that her key unlocks the portal to a medieval world of danger and magic. Along with her brother Ben and their new friend Everett, Holly travels there, and the kids find themselves locked in a battle for their lives as a ruthless king attempts to wipe out all the magic in the land. It’s the first in a five-part series, the second book of which will come out in summer 2014.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How did you come up with the concept and the characters for the story?

[Claire M Caterer] The forest is a magical place to me—huddled in its own ecosystem, cut off from the world, quiet and green. One day on one of my favorite walks, I came upon an incredible tree and thought, “I wouldn’t be surprised if this were a portal to somewhere fantastic and magical.” Holly as a character grew naturally out of the plot, because she is a person who can be very quiet in the natural world and listen for the things that other people miss. She shares some qualities with me, including her eyeglass prescription. I identify with Ben in other ways, particularly his allergy to horses.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three words best describe Holly?

[Claire M Caterer] outsider, adventurous, honorable

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If Holly had a theme song, what would it be?

[Claire M Caterer] The best I can come up with is an old Cole Porter song—“Don’t Fence Me In.” Holly’s not a cowboy, but that is her ethic. She just wants to be free to be herself, not to be hobbled or tied down to convention.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Name one thing Holly won’t leave home without.

[Claire M Caterer] Her compass. Holly needs to know where she’s going, and she trusts science and nature to get her there. It takes her quite awhile to trust her magic in the same way.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is Holly’s most prized possession?

[Claire M Caterer] Her magic key. What this key opens, and what the key becomes, makes it her most prized possession. It is her power.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What are your greatest creative influences?

[Claire M Caterer] As a kid I read and reread The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I also loved Roald Dahl, J.R.R. Tolkien, E. B. White, and Madeleine L’Engle. And there are so many others!

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What three things do you need in order to write?

[Claire M Caterer] Ideally I need quiet, my cup of coffee, and my computer. While I can write longhand, I love the convenience of having the delete key! The coffee is more of a crutch than a tool. I like to have the cup next to me, but if I really get going it just sits there and gets cold. As for quiet, some noise is all right, but I absolutely cannot write if there’s music playing. I get caught up in the music and can’t get immersed in my imaginary world.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What is the last book that you read that knocked your socks off?

[Claire M Caterer] A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness—I read it last summer. I was able to crawl right inside that character and feel what he was feeling. The pencil drawings are exquisite—so evocative. I loved that marriage of illustration and text. The writing is sharp, beautiful, horrifying. And it made me cry, which most books don’t.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] If you had to pick one book that turned you on to reading, which would it be?

[Claire M Caterer] That’s tough, because I’ve been a reader as long as I can remember. But there was a marvelous book that’s out of print now called The Hidden Cave by Ruth Chew, about some kids who found a cave in an old sewer pipe in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. In the cave they found Merlin the magician, who led them on some interesting magical adventures. Ruth Chew was a wonderful writer of short middle-grade fantastic fiction, and she drew her own illustrations, which I liked. I probably started reading her books in second grade and couldn’t get enough of them.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] What do you like to do when you aren’t writing?

[Claire M Caterer] I read as much as I can. I don’t watch a lot of television but am very devoted to the shows I do watch, especially British comedy and drama. I also love going on outings with my daughter. We go to parks and nature trails and the arboretum and botanical gardens whenever we can. I like to wander.

I love to travel, but don’t do as much as I’d like. Otherwise, I’m home with my dogs. I crank up something like the soundtrack to Mamma Mia! and dance around the house.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] How can readers connect with you?

[Claire M Caterer] I love talking with readers, and they can find me at my new-fangled website and blog, my Facebook and Twitter pages, and on Goodreads. They can also email me to ask questions or just to chat at readerchat [at] cmcaterer.com.

[Manga Maniac Cafe] Thank you!

You can pre-order The Key and the Flame from your favorite bookseller, or by clicking the links below:

 

About the book:

Eleven-year-old Holly Shepard wants nothing more than to seek adventure outside of her humdrum American life. She gets her chance at last when her family travels to England and Holly receives an unusual gift: an iron key that unlocks a passage to the dangerous kingdom of Anglielle, where magic is outlawed and those who practice magic are hunted. When her friend Everett and brother Ben are captured by Anglielle’s ruthless king, Holly must rescue them. But that means finding—and using—the magic within herself and learning which magical allies she can trust.

The Key & the Flame is the first in a brand-new fantasy adventure series for ages 8 and up.