'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Saturday 28 September 2013

Author Interview: Sophie Masson

Kids' Book Review is delighted to welcome well-known Australian author Sophie Masson to chat about her latest publishing project, new niche publishing label Christmas Press and their launch title Two Trickster Tales from Russia.

Sophie, is this your first picture book? What age group is it aimed at?
Yes--I've written many novels, but this is indeed my first picture book--very exciting! It's aimed at a wide range of children--from the very young, who will enjoy having the book read to them, to older children, who will enjoy reading it by themselves. And we hope adults will enjoy it too!

Tell us about the two tales in this book and why you chose them. Do you have a particular fascination with Russian tales?
Masha and the Bear and The Rooster with the Golden Crest are two folk tales that are well-loved in Russia, but not so well-known outside it. I chose them because the two of them embody a lively sense of fun--it's great to see the small and apparently powerless outwitting big brutes or cunning schemers! There's also a strong feel of the woods, which are so much a part of Russian life and culture. And there's a great rhythm to the stories which I've added to by having little verses here and there.

Yes, I do have a particular fascination with Russian tales--though I love most traditional tales, really!--because I have a strong interest in Russia. It’s a country I've been fascinated with since I was a child, and which I've now visited twice. It is just such an amazing place and its culture is just extraordinary--Russian folk art for example is probably the most beautiful in the world, and its literature of course is amazing.

I am really happy that with this book we are giving a flavour of this distinctive, rich and beautiful traditional culture. With my text, I've tried to convey that sense of fun and sparkling wit that you so often find in traditional Russian stories and David's gorgeous illustrations, inspired by classic Russian illustrations, really convey the beauty of it.

What is a ‘trickster’ tale?
A trickster tale is a tale of a battle of wits--in the case of our stories, in Masha and the Bear, Masha outwits the stupid bear; in The Rooster with the Golden Crest, the trickster fox is outwitted by the others--the trickster tricked, if you like!

What was the inspiration for the book?
Russian folktale and art.

How did David Allan become involved? Is this David’s first children’s book?
David is a good friend, as is Fiona McDonald, the designer. We had always wanted to do a book together--and one day just decided we'd do it! And yes, it's David's first children's book--his first book, in fact. Very exciting indeed! (Fiona, who's an author and illustrator as well as a designer--and dollmaker!--has had 10 books published, including one illustrated novel for children.)

What kind of art medium did David use for the illustrations?
Watercolour and pen and ink. There are both full-colour illustrations, and sepia and black and white ones, in keeping with that classic feel.

You self-funded this book – how was this process? Who published it?
We 'crowdfunded' part of the printing costs with an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign, and raised 65 percent of the fuinds we needed that way--had such wonderful generous support from readers, fellow authors and illustrators, and other people in the book industry. It was a great experience!

We are publishing the book. We (me, David, Fiona) have started a small picture-book publishing house called Christmas Press. Two Trickster Tales from Russia is our launch title but we hope to publish many more. We are going to be concentrating on the format we're doing now with Two Trickster Tales -- traditional stories from different countries, retold by well-known authors and stunningly illustrated in a classic style inspired by the place the stories come from, and designed and produced to a very high standard.

As a small publisher we feel we want to concentrate on that niche and to do it really well. And we are really thrilled because readers, booksellers and libraries really seem to be responding very warmly to our book! Really confirms our belief in it.

What was the funding and self-publication process like? Would you do it again?
Absolutely--it's been great. Quite a bit of admin/bureaucracy involved in starting the business of course and quite a few anxious moments in getting the file ready for printing--but everything worked out so well! The book has just been released but we are already planning to get started on a new book to come out maybe in May or June next year--watch our Christmas Press website for more info!

What did you enjoy most about publishing this book?
The fact we were involved from beginning to end! So satisfying!

Which genre do you enjoy writing in most?  Adult, young adult, junior fiction or picture book?
I especially love writing for YA and junior fiction, but I also love the picture-book experience! And I also enjoy writing adult fiction--even though I haven't written many adult novels (five, if you count my Forest of Dreams saga as three books). I've actually got a psychological thriller on the go now…

What do you hope Two Trickster Tales brings its readers?
Great enjoyment and pleasure!

What’s next for you?
For me, personally, there's a novel to finish (for older readers, 11-13 or so), as well as the previously mentioned psychological thriller for adults, and a YA novel at the back of my mind too! For Christmas Press, we are looking to release as well an audio book of Two Trickster Tales from Russia, in time for Christmas hopefully, as well as selling the print book everywhere! And we are also planning at least another two beautiful titles next year, with some well-known authors to retell traditional tales (all a bit hush-hush at the moment, but watch our website for more news!)

Visit the Christmas Press website for more information about Two Trickster Tales from Russia and updates on future Christmas Press titles.

If you are in Sydney, you can also attend the Two Trickster Tales from Russia book launch.

When: Wednesday October 9th, 6.30 pm.
Where: Australian Society of Authors, Suite 1.06(first floor), 22-36 Mountain Street, Ultimo, Sydney NSW 2007.
Details: Two Trickster Tales from Russia will be launched by best-selling author Kate Forsyth. Free event. All welcome. Refreshments provided. Books available for purchase and signing. If coming by car--free 3-hour parking in nearby Broadway Shopping Centre available, as well as paid street parking.